These individuals make statements like, “People are more important than animals” while failing to note that a.) humans ARE animals, and b.) no one asked them to pick a team. They observe people with special affection for non-human creatures through a judgmental lens, and feel justified in doing so. This is illustrated through a recent knock-down drag-out in the comments section of a KATU news story about a woman who found an injured dog. The dog was found with a badly damaged leg, and was brought to Dove Lewis and then Multnomah County Animal Shelter. A staff member at the County recognized the dog as belonging to a homeless man. The individuals commenting on the story were basically divided into two angry camps: 1.) Those upset that the woman who found the dog was more concerned about the fate of the dog than the fate of the homeless man, and 2.) Those who used this as an opportunity to soap box issues about mental illness and the homeless — despite there being no evidence that the homeless man in question suffered any sort of illness. The dog was returned to the homeless man (despite terrible injuries of nonspecific origin), and there was very little discussion of the fundamental difference between the man and his dog. While it’s unclear what the mental state of the man in question is, the one thing for certain is that the dog is not given choices. There was no debate as to whether the dog would be placed in a home with a roof instead of returning to the man, and he certainly wasn’t asked about his feelings about an ongoing outdoor existence; he was immediately transferred to his owner.
So the question then becomes: what responsibility do we have to those animals in our charge? What do we sign on for when we adopt animals and agree to feed and water them and care for them every day? For me, this means we agree to observe them as living things and not stuffed animals. Living things have needs, desires, thoughts, ideas, and feelings. They are sometimes sick and sometimes well, but a social contract is formed in which we agree to care for them, even when it challenges us mentally or puts a pain to the pocketbook. We acknowledge their autonomy, their lives, their choices.
There are, of course, exceptions to this. Like humans, sometimes animals cannot integrate with other animals or humans, and threaten the community. In these instances, it’s in the best interest of everyone for the animal to live elsewhere, or (if necessary) be put down. I’ve known many people who are strongly against this idea until they encounter a dog or other animal who appears irreparably damaged in some way. It’s then that we learn that Death is also compassionate.
When I set up a fundraiser for my beloved cat Winston, I did so with the understanding that he did not and does not want to die (yet). Since I took him in as my own I’ve made the commitment to provide the best life possible for him and his adopted brothers. This means not just interacting with him for self-serving reasons, but observing him. As an individual, Winston likes people and what they offer, and interacts with them with compassion and love the exceeds the average human-cat interaction, thus directly feeding community. Is treating Winston for renal failure excessive? No. To not treat him would be violating our social contract, and the community he’s influenced. I have chosen to love Winston, and part of that love is observing his illness, and treating it when it can be treated.
Additionally, each year, I work for numerous nonprofits to raise millions of dollars for people. Why? Because I think there are many nonprofits doing excellent work. Sometimes, these nonprofits extend benefits to people who will never be doctors. Lives will be carried out without inventing anything new, solving world hunger, or making a special mark on all of humanity. The ripples these organizations make are often small ones — but they are still ripples that are felt by some people quietly, and others in profound and life changing ways. Even if I start out uncertain as to the benefits or unclear as to whether or not such work ultimately makes a difference, I usually come around and see clearly that my initial perception was clouded by judgment and my own limitations. In other words, slapped in the face with what I don’t know yet.
While most people can comprehend my decision to work for nonprofits, some struggle to comprehend empathy and commitment with regards to other living creatures. Perhaps it’s out of fear of sensory overload. When you cut down a tree, you’re not just killing a tree (which is alive, btw) but you’re displacing the animals that lived within the tree. You’re compromising the health of nearby trees, which might have relied on the felled tree for nutrients, shade, etc. You’re compromising the health of humans who rely upon trees to breathe. Despite the cheesiness of the notion, it really is a circle and not a straight line. There’s not a singular winner or loser, there’s no king of the jungle or master of the ocean, it’s a relationship that some folks choose to ignore so they don’t have to think of the consequences of their actions. This allows people without herds of children or heavy machinery to justify purchase of an SUV, people to prioritize the convenience of shopping at a big box store over supporting a local business, and people to neglect farmer’s markets because they don’t want to clean their vegetables prior to consumption. It’s all self-serving human laziness that we cast in other shadows so we don’t have to confess our deficiencies as a species.
So what does Winston have to do with any of this?
When people question my decision to dedicate personal funds (and donated funds) to his well being, they do so with absence of empathy. They have not considered the physical pain he might be experiencing. They have not considering his willingness to live, and the frustration he might experience trying to communicate exactly that. They have not considered his relationships to other beings, or his contributions. The answer comes exclusively from a place of dollars and cents, which is an unemotional realm that favors a privileged few. Others suspect I’m allowing my own desire for him to live to trump his probable pain and suffering, and am forcing him to zombie through another round of life against his will. Both of these assumptions question my ability to observe an animal who has been a fundamental part of my life for more than ten years. I’ve been accused of many things (sometimes accurately) but “shitty observer” has never come up.
Then, there’s this: why are some threatened by my capacity for loving a cat? My ability to love cats directly feeds my ability to love people. I trusted cats first, and their willingness to offer themselves as companions, despite the ability to leave at any time. Through observation of such unselfish gifts, I’ve been able to see this ability within myself, and others.
No one has to take part in this fundraiser. An invitation is not gun-point. It’s not for everyone, and I never claimed it was. You’re within your rights to dedicate all of your funds and energy to creating a giant room of Apple Jacks if that’s what tickles your fancy. I might even contribute to the creation of said room. This is not an assault on your bank account or your values, or a demand that you immediately reorder your way of thinking to celebrate cats and all their amazing eccentricities. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t host a fundraiser for a niece or friend who had renal failure, or that I won’t contribute to a leukemia fundraising for a child. It’s simply what I am choosing to do with my time and money to honor my long-term relationship with a beloved companion. It’s not up to you to determine his value, or the value of animals in general.
Winston is a part of the circle, even if his ripple is small.
Anyway, as I sit in this coffee shop watching people wander by in the green and white and yellow scarves that are the calling card of a local soccer fan, I search myself for the center of this storm, the calm part of my consciousness better equipped to process the too much information. Though it happened hours ago, I still have not released the memory of blood splattered streets, a fluid filled abstract expression, a collection of ink blots with DNA imprints a doctor will press to medical files if you’ll just offer what you think it looks like. That one looks like a butterfly…like a man on a horseback…like a viking raider…like a rose cut off at the petals.
Yes, please go on.
American martyrs tallied on the screen, portraits of violence in the street. Cops grasping radios and guns hunting frantically for the source of smoke and fire. People wrapping belts and ties around legs to secure gruesome wounds until emergency workers arrive and offer boards and syringes and speed. These faces offer no anger or resentment or fear, just the locked expressions of people high-tuned into urgency. As of this writing three people are confirmed dead, and approximately 100 are being treated at area hospitals; 15 are in critical condition. In the coming days these numbers are likely to rise, and more information will be released regarding severed limbs, permanent loss of faculties, ongoing surgeries and treatments, and what exactly shook people off their feet and switched cheers to screams.
Meanwhile, frantic social networks spool public reaction, even before Google News begins reporting the first embers of St. Elmo’s fire. Major news sites choke on the flood of inspectors tallying information about the outcome. Many will read exactly enough to feed their faces a full second, and will then post lengthy complaint about the coverage, their feelings about who did what and the Great Big Why. It’ll be like school shootings, only with less wonder of how someone could do such a thing, because whoever did this is definitely Not Like Us.
Everyone is busy today. One: people who perceive this as a great opportunity to talk about the capitalist/imperialist tyranny of America, pointing to instances of especially violent political idiocy (both previous and ongoing) to underscore the sentiment that citizens should get over this through acknowledgement that our own government is dastardly on the daily. Two extremes should cancel each other out and set your cry meter to neutral; you’re a terrible fascist if you feel otherwise.
Two: people using this as a chance to express personal prejudices with new justification, despite an absence of information regarding the identity of the perpetrator(s). The (insert religious/political/nationalist group here) are exactly the sort of sand demons we’ve always imagined them to be, so let’s launch a campaign with a title plucked straight from a video game and packed with onomatopoeia until their death toll defies numeric descriptions. Operation Whistle Bang. Operation Fist of Death. Operation Fizzbang. More than one online source has already called dibs on Operation Tea Bag.
Three: conspiracy theorists, currently gathering and simmering just the right stew of information and speculation, likely to be served with a side of photographs blown up in isolated places and hastily circled with editing tools. Conspiracy theorists need to set every dot on the table before connecting them, before they’re certain the event exists to distract from another event, and while frequently there’s a nugget of terrible truth the full truth often emerges as more warped and depraved than what can be conjured by all but the most creative minds. I learned this lesson reading the book Area 51, which poses the theory that the so-called aliens occupying the dark corners of Hanger 18 are actually the unfortunate results of Russian genetic experiments that created creatures to capitalize on War of the Worlds hysteria. This was beyond what my own brain could cook. I actually like the aliens idea better. I will likely also like aliens better than whatever truth emerges about Boston.
The speed with which people enter a place of criticism and speculation with no opportunity for mourning leaves me lingering on the emotional constipation of our nation. Armchair utterances often erupt from angry self-righteous places, perhaps perpetuated by people who find compassion in the immediate aftermath uncomfortable. Empathy is not a comfortable feeling; it challenges your own shoes, where the emotional pallet is familiar and organized. Empathy is spontaneous. It’s derailing. In this instance, it requires the acknowledgment of pain. Still, it is possible to simply feel, even when it’s inconvenient, unscheduled, and awful.
And yet, I get it. This isn’t easy for me, either, and I’m not discounting anger as a valid emotion. Can feel snark gurgling in the back of my throat and threatening to surface in a blast of adolescent expression. There’s a desire to carve distance from people who live in another city and another state that I can’t verify the existence of unless I fully trust the narrative of headlines and history books. With such energy around this event, this isn’t just distance, it’s isolation; it’s preservation of the personal sphere to a degree that strips the existence of something greater. These thoughts of anger and confusion and bitter humor exist but won’t yet leave my mouth, because today is for Death to complete his horrible harvest, while we hold space and offer help and accept that no scientific innovation or preemptive strike or isolation will spare us from surprise.
This thumbs up is brought to you by the end of January, the end of February, the end of every awful month that seriously needs elimination from the calendar. There’s never been a better case for hibernation than a slow walk down a rain drenched street on a shivering day where every shop owner says fuck it and just closes at five to retreat to the nearest bathroom for a little private mutilation. The rest of us adopt yellow pallets and stone sunk eyes, characteristics previously thought confined to addicts and dystopian novel characters, trying to summon inspiration through a cocktail of Vitamin B and Vitamin D and herbal hoodoo woowoo alongside wanna-be sunlamps and cancerous tanning beds. These attempts to self-resuscitate are chronicled on blogs and tweets and facebook, because internet communication is the only acceptable sport for sanitary sorts who arrive at Portland’s borders and instantly fall antisocial and ill. It’s retreating to caves, coughing and brooding, waiting for the rain to make moats and moss and green scenes so we remember what we’re doing this for. I hate you I love you I hate you I love you.
This is my oldest Sid and Nancy romance.
I’d like to reveal all the excellent events that have unfurled in the past few months, but as I already mentioned January and February don’t actually exist except to file your taxes and force you to attend expensive parties. What I really did was rewatch all six seasons of the Sopranos, and then spend hours considering minor scenes that involved submersion in water and horses, and whether or not Tony traded places with death, and what it all means in terms of self-absorption and the level of denial required to ignore or participate in heinous things. Yeah, that’s it, like the Milgram experiment that explained how the Holocaust could have happened, with the dude being shocked and people still pushing the button and maybe crying and still pushing the button, and…
Still: television exists to remind us that we’re all going to die, and none of us are going to wish we had watched more things before it happened.
So: Last night I organized my selves into a skin and stood while other people sat and made talking noises while dressed as a blue Keebler elf. This is apparently known as a reading, and it took place at Rain or Shine Cafe on Division at 6:30, and I sold four books. Two were sold through the Square, which is a stamped size piece of science you plug into the larger rectangle used to microwave heads, and then money happens. This is a much better use of a smart phone than talking. If you haven’t yet received this fantastic device in the mail, I highly recommend signing up. For all the complicated technology I can’t grok, my brain meats totally tossed this salad without error, and for the first time since its purchase I dared to love my Android phone for the three more days I’ll have it.
The crowd was also neat-o, and contained many of the kind Kickstarter contributors that allowed Psychopomp Volume One to make it to print. A small part of each of the three sections was read to introduce each of the four characters to the herd. At the end of each section everyone pawed the ground and cried “Four legs good, two legs bad!” so I knew I was really on to something.
It went well, and I hope to do more things just like this in the future.
The kind words that followed the reading made me think an audio production of the book should be in the works. When working on this beast I read it aloud to myself anytime my apartment was empty, a tip dispensed by more than one of my writing professors at Ohio University. This is a great means of detecting punctuation errors, and measuring whether or not dialog sounds authentic or like something Bob Saget would say when he’s under contract at a major network. It also zeroes in on garbage words and phrases that are utterly out of place in a paragraph and therefore need to be deleted. I used to consider this heartbreaking, but if you’re a writer you’re always going to write more. Clinging to a phrase you hope will one day arrive as someone’s tattoo to the detriment of the chapter results in a lot of people with ink they don’t understand.
Otherwise, I’ve been in a state of afterbirth, trying to get my body back, knowing all the while that the minute I can pull off a 50 mile bike ride I’ll be pregnant with book again. I mean it, pregnant: The time spent working on it is weird aches and pains and hormonal surges while fielding questions about how far along I am and whether or not I’m ready for this. When the golem makes its painful escape there’s no expectation of having to feed it and water it and clothe it and take it all around town in one of those strollers that swallows the sidewalk, smiling and squeaking, “Excuse me! Don’t you want to hold my baby?”
Then comes the doubt: what if I created a dumbass? Why did I bring this THING into the world to defecate in its pants? It’s totally gonna throw a tantrum in the coffee shop, and I’m going to have to sit there and rub it on my boob while everyone averts their eyes while circling me like the sun. This is bullshit. Who can I get to watch this for me? Can I leave it at Center Camp at Burning Man while I cover myself in blinky lights and run at the fire? I’m the Joan Crawford of authors, wearing lacy nightgowns and painted-on eyebrows and the sneer of someone who hasn’t had a pleasant thought in a decade. One minor disappointment of little consequence and I’m a tabloid, beating it with wire hangers, complaining about ingratitude for all I’ve sacrificed and how no one appreciates nice things, before I leave my book with the nanny and escape for another bender.
Still: I’m on the verge of my Steve Martin moment, where the sour is replaced with the glassy-eyed smile that makes parents often love their children despite their tendency to break things.
In the coming months I’ll be weaning, sending out more review copies, getting the ebook online, booking more readings, and trying to get Psychopomp to take care of itself. Then, Channel Insomnia and Psychopomp Volume 2, and with any luck I’ll have a crowded house and will feel overwhelmed all over again, which is a much more wonderful thing to experience than a hollow, empty bookshelf.
The interior layout of this book comes courtesy of one Mr. Clay Fouts, who used GIMP to make the formatting a bit prettier than what’s found in the softcover edition. The cover and dust jacket are the handiwork of Nolan Ashley and myself. You’ll also note some new quotes making their debut on the back, including a few plucked from kind Amazon reviewers who also granted me permission to use their names. I was particularly pleased to receive a quote from Jack Matthews, a former mentor and National Book Award finalist who also happens to be the inspiration for a professor character named Daryl Gates.
All are encouraged to send comments to amanda (dot) sledz (at) gmail (dot) com, because I really would like to know if you enjoyed reading. Thus far the only person with the guts to confess not liking it is my younger sister, who didn’t like the “three stories mashed together” style. Fair enough. It’s not for everyone. I hope it’s for you.
Should you find yourself declaring: “HEY! I want Volume 2!” know that I’m in the process of writing a few grants for myself, in hopes of earning sufficient funds for a month long hiatus from everyday life for the sake of Volume 2 completion. The goal is to complete it by January 2014…in Hawaii. Aloha!
There are some events coming up, starting with a reading at Rain or Shine Cafe on March 28th at 6:30PM. If you haven’t already given my author page a “like” button on Facebook please do. I’ve also been maintaining an author presence on Goodreads, so don’t hesitate to “fan” me there, too!
When I’m not embarrassing myself in front of literary sorts, I’m finishing up Channel Insomnia. Fans of memoir/essays I’ve written over the years may find themselves more drawn to this collection. Much of it was written almost accidentally when insomnia left me nothing to do but monkey slap my keyboard and wait for the sun to rise. This affliction tends to hit me the hardest during daylight savings crime, so this book will likely arrive at completion in April and go to print in May. I’m doing softcover and ebook exclusively, which makes it less useful as a weapon but more useful as a pillow. I always think of you.
I’ll close by saying: the most important asset to authors (particular the unknown sorts such as myself) are reviews and recommendations. If you have the time and inclination after finishing Psychopomp, please consider posting a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, your own blog, etc. Each review (especially on Amazon) increases the likelihood that it will appear as a “Recommended” book to readers of certain genres, which means more sales from people who don’t already know me. Recommend it to friends, leave it in a bus station, pass it on to a neighbor, or display it on a shelf with your other treasures. Of course, you don’t have to do these things, but it would be nice if you did.
Again, thank you all so much for helping my first book find its way to print. Without your support, and the contract created by Kickstarter, I might have found cause to further procrastinate and hoard all my words on my hard drive. That would be a waste.
Thanks again, and enjoy!]]>
The man next to me is foam packed, bloated with winter. A crooked old man hand escapes his sleeve and pulls me from my hiding space. He points: “I want to murder those birds.”
Other men who are never not drunk barely hold themselves erect and have lived in these seats forever. Each wears flannel shirt and wool knit cap and missing teeth from intentions and accidents. Each has never been young, ghost locked at forty and remembering.
The bus stops and the smell of whisky and crackers staggers upright to challenge his prison. He yells at the door, neglecting to note the gesture required to opensaysme. Resting his forehead against the glass he yells DRIVER again and again until one man holds his jacket to keep the marionette from earning his mouth more empty spaces, while another holds open the door. He doesn’t recognize this crack team responsible for another day without a head injury. Waiting for him is a woman bright orange and shit talking and far away from her own AA coin, waving a giant pillowtop mattress sign, half turned to her drive-by audience.
I can’t picture this man drinking from a straw, or wrapping a present, or repotting a plant. I can’t imagine him looking at the lines in my hand and comparing them to his own, wondering if they overlap and if they do will they click to key so we can both remap. I can’t imagine him having questions for the pharmacist, asking for more foam on his latte, coloring as a way to relax.
He probably can’t imagine me at all.
Teenagers travel in packs, wearing insides out, congested with canned laughter. Heart shapes drawn on cheeks and decorating tights and desperation, while others announcing the discomforts of business casual balance tupperware containers emptied of sugary treats a little too close to my head.
Valentine’s Day helps women hate each other. Velour balloons announce confections and give my face another something to dodge. Fat wads of fast dying flowers peek out of backpacks and wink at the downcast face of the sour-anointed someone who might just fatten her social network with ruminations on being alone. She adjusts hairclips cast as flowers that resemble stars. If such devices were used to puncture, she’d be left with wind spun hair.
Evidence that meth remains a problem despite the state-wide ban on effective allergy medication locks us all in place. It reeks of impatience and is sponsored by Apple. Some fucking fuck filled rant about whether or not a transfer is still valid, yells to move back move back, the snap of a plastic container being pried apart for a taste of cake and a guilty grin. Unwashed hair in front of me. Bleached hair beside me. All of us are itchy.
We pass strippers arranging themselves outside of clubs to smile at those looking for love. The unmarked graves of Chinese men and women who built this city in secret. Two elderly women with careful grey curls, holding a soup bowl between them. A pack of people dressed as sharks with paper hearts glued all over their bodies, twirling red gift bags and giggling. A sign that reads: “The really dangerous power lines don’t spark or slither. They just lay there.”
Arms arranged in triangles clutch poles and trap sounds. A single seat remains unclaimed, no matter the claustrophobia of passengers. Wrist tattoos drawn with hands sloppy or steady snake away from skin. Me, hoping to claim them. Me, slapped alive by earphones gone wild, the mortified wielder of the whip apologizing more and more. A pant leg hides something yellow. A sneak at something pink. Four rolling can of ceremony.
My stomach is in my hands.]]>
My boss is wearing leather pants. She and her husband are sharing what most would call a midlife crisis, and what she calls remaining attractive. It hadn’t occurred to me to remain attractive post fifty; I figured as soon as your skin started sliding the best course of action was surrender.
Those two have something worked out, and it involves shopping at stores with exclamations for names alongside teenagers trying too hard. There’s something delightful about this, like the garments are finally being assigned their appropriate owners instead of stumbling into someone for more of the same. No adolescent body can own such accents; either there’s too much insecurity crossing arms over chest and slouching posture, or it’s all on display and the vultures are circling. Even a legit complement must be chased with another layer of something colored and bottled and chemical filled applied to hide what isn’t even there to conceal.
Really, adolescence is simmering, and everyone young should know it. High school is prescribed to vacuum the intelligence and beauty from your being and 19 is set to restore it.
And really, like my boss I’d say, you gotta be grown to own it.
She in turn doesn’t say anything about the transparent clothing I wear without even noticing, and the unclassified insect infecting my eyes. This is a new world, one where I’m suddenly eating food with ingredients I can pronounce that arrives hot and aromatic and without foil covering. When a sound like a shot rings out it probably isn’t one. There’s a reason for going outside, other than to get to your car and to summon new complaints. There’s nothing to buy and I don’t miss it. Still, the startled expression translates to action and people with faces I can’t immediately read are trying to dissect what’s hidden. That’s mine. It’s in this place that I first consider snakes, as the sounds of coyotes bounce from hill to hill, chased by the returned cries of humans.
Her eyes track my descent, and fear of seeing one dim in my direction makes me a weaver of ladders.
My boss, she’s got scrolls of stories to unfurl. How she’s seen ‘O Brother Where Are Thou?’ too many times and is still going again next weekend. How the Kent State Massacre was a something that slid all over the country and made for strange days in Ohio. Boiling grief over the ongoing mass sacrifice of young men caramelized into a single incident. Being young then, boasting a body able to haul 50 pound bags of grain. Now she just wants someone to sexually harass her for God’s sake. She wants to retire with working heart and limbs. She’ll leave the work force before it leaves everyone else.
I wonder if the exclamation stores still find her. If her blackberry pie is still the best of them. If she knows it would still strip my insides to disappoint her, and that my clothes are soon slated for leather.]]>
Yes she/he does. Just stop ordering decaf.
Perceived absence of love could also be informed by an especially long day. During holiday shopping season people who usually frequent Starbucks exclusively suddenly manifest in fancy shops and don’t understand what a macchiato is, which is usually expressed with: “You made this wrong, and I wanted mine with caramel.”
Tips also sometimes take a turn for the worse, because these people don’t know what’s happening; they just have to buy something before their wallets run away from their faded ass pockets. The giant menacing jar in reaching distance seems like a potential source of cramping, interfering with successful package abduction strategies. Baristas should consider adorning these with festive holiday wrapping and clipped portraits of orphans with striking resemblance to their own hollow eyes and hungry frames. Or perhaps lighting them up like a tree to stimulate the pagan Pavlov to put something on it or under it.
It’s also important to not love your barista too much, unless you frequently see him or her in an informal fashion outside of the work place. Otherwise, it is a job, you are a customer, and kindness is optional (for both of you). They forgive me my occasional shifty-eyed morose days when I wander in with an exhausted copy of Frank O’Hara’s Meditations on an Emergency and don’t have anything witty to say about the weather. You don’t know what kind of tragedy Saturday night brought with such a wide assortment of shitty bands to choose from, or what sort of unfortunate growths their bodies are blooming underneath uncomfortable clothes. Lay your own egg.
Another arrived at this site after hunting for: precious daydreams strip club.
I’m not opposed to stripclubs, but there are few I’d categorize as “precious daydreams” and the ones that do earn that title reflect ignorant fictional construction of the eccentricities of Japan. This collage is crafted on Hello Kitty notepaper and includes anime presentation and lots of dye-hard kids in complicated outfits and pigtails flashing peace signs at invisible cameras. Imaginary Precious Daydreams features the predictable school girl outfits alongside the goth lolitas and glam kids and sci-fi creations sneaking from bodies with sharp angles and no muscle tone anywhere. Celebrities serve as reasonable accessories, little dogs in expensive bags.
This blog is not so precious or stripped, but it’s suitably daydreamed and heartbroken over baristas.
The bitter old woman in me
This afternoon I broke from a sweat-soaked dream of fighting bears and garden snakes circling my ankles, to thoughts of self-destruction strangling voices from my slow-moving generation of internet thinkers and human-interaction dodgers. Friends and colleagues endlessly struggling with project completion and personal progression, understanding of self as independent entity and self connected to greater whole. Friends and colleagues struggling with an understanding of self, as they hamster wheel into obscurity.
As the most thriving parasite on satellite earth with no nameable opposing force greater than outraged oceans and man itself, it’s reasonable that a certain segment would suckle suicide by time.
Some succeed in dumbing and numbing through intentional wheel-spinning masked as accident.
Others lock into directionless courtesy of SOMA-stoked bored contentment, memory tricked into knowing the times before as instances where they were not themselves, victim to erratic emotions, unboxed and venom-fanged.
Others still reprogram impressionable mind-meat into regarding unpredictable terrain and internal missiles as those engineered to thwart the influence of logic, until the boys-don’t-cry rhetoric of the 50s has been cloaked in the garb of SCIENCE to keep them quiet, confused, disposable, and apologetic.
The bitter old woman in me claims that those dodging the charms of self-destruction most completely are those willingly disconnected from a comprehension of self with greater relation to the larger world. Those whose world view is informed by their day-to-day needs and the acquisition of stuff, who complain about the cost of gas without dot-connecting to the origins, who neglect to note that many of us are born equipped with transportation courtesy of functional legs.
The bitter old woman in me claims that those immune to this elixir are those who will drunkenly announce themselves to be evolved, no longer seeking the answer since they fuckin’ found it. This holy-fuck-I’ve-done-it world view is succinctly summarized on web sites and readily available pamphlets and paperback best sellers endorsed by your favorite talking head and televised wank fest. This sort of trumpeting seems to catch the ears of invisible listeners, who can’t wait to help the self-annointed guru stuff too many people into a sweatlodge.
The people who actually do something
However: there are plenty who, by whatever fluke of science and nature and love and work, somehow manage to engage with day-to-day reality without so much pacing, who find ways to pacify dark thoughts of shame and insecurity to commit to achievement of vision. Many drinkers have mastered the grumbling understanding that a majority of the human populace is destructive or useless. Only a few seem willing to truly consider their own capacity for greatness, which can’t be measured by externally constructed models, but created ones with personal means of measurement.
(Side note: others still don’t think about this shit that much. These are the people who look at me exhausted and wonder if addiction-commitment might derail my internal circle-jerk enough to stoke forward some semblance of laugh-riot. Sorry folks. I’m the hole in your garden hose.)
In a few determined hours I could produce a toilet paper roll of 10 point font names of courageous individuals thwarting pressure to mirror-mumble until expiration date. Each instance offers evidence of a combination of luck-prayer-hard work-clarity of will-sacrifice, though only some would agree on this list of ingredients.
Some would dismiss the luck component, neglecting the winning lottery ticket of being born in America where we don’t have to fear being recruited into a machete-wielding child army after observing the massacre of people we once adored.
Others might laugh off the prayer with a ho-ho-ho they won’t credit to Santa, insisting their repetition of heart’s desire was just for the sake of clarity — nothing was overheard.
And some of this group of achievers won’t even clock their achievements, will even shun the word success based on a definition constructed by some other, and will therefore express ingratitude, an inability to comprehend such good fortune. These are generally those who have achieved in a realm undefined by material rewards, who interact with culture in its birth canal, their material sacrifice for vision-preservation a mark of bravery without the badge.
Few among us planned on the luxury of so many decisions, only some of us even observing how many options truly exist, and many observing the endless rings with panic and paralysis, not willing to risk drowning to join a more interesting raft of refugees.
It’s important to take a moment to be astonished by human capacity to accomplish nothing. Even with no prison sentence offering boxes and walls to circumnavigate, no international crime lord rifling through plastic surgery records to uncover an assumed identity. No demands from a family of thirteen that each mobile adult take an extra shift at the shirt factory to provide a bag of beans that will last a week. No full body paralysis to explain the catatonic state.
So how does we crack alive? How do we muster together art and words in the midst of base survival, which calls for day jobs over daydreams, doldrums over danger, donuts over….just donuts.
How do we create anything to completion in the stranglehold of sloth, how do we break away from this pocked understanding that with science on our side we’ll live forever?
How do we smother the perception that opportunities are to be considered, not seized, as there will always be another chance for life and love and greatness?
And is it fear of death that keeps us locked behind invisible bars, or fear of life and our ability to navigate new complications that will inevitably present themselves as our decision-making grows riskier and our life choices become harder to defend?