On Caged Birds

I’m not normal.

But I never said I wanted to be either.

Sentence’s as paragraphs aside, I haven’t vomited words in a bit, so let’s get this out here: I have very high empathy, and a conditioned need to love things — all things — unconditionally, even the things which are not worthy of love or affection. It can be a sincere pain.

For example, I’ve been reading Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and it is, unsurprisingly, some powerful stuff. It hurts and its sentences make me delicate and confused; and I don’t know how to process all the things that are thrown at me with the casual chaos of a good writer. Whose sentences are composed like Jackson Pollock, but have the distinct flavor of intent. And whose smell is that of bread drying on the sidewalk. Hot and gritty and unnatural, but honest.

Man, my attempt at that sucked.

But anyway, I passed the point recently where Maya is working for a Mrs. Cullinan. Mrs. Cullinan is described as functionally awful: overweight, supercilious, punctilious (Double ilious is no bueno), morbid, and borderline psychopathic; and she gives Maya a name that isn’t hers: Mary.

The sequence adequately conveys Angelou’s frustration and disdain for a creature who could change her name willfully and capriciously; for whom this little black girl is just another doll, subject to name changes. The casualness boils the blood.

But then, Maya does something that upset me.

At the suggestion of her brother, to be fired, she breaks Mrs. Cullinan’s fine China. The China belongs to Cullinan’s mother and sends her into a hysterical fit, a paroxysm so violent her grammar fails her. The disdain that most reader’s feel should be just, and fully sated with the kind of sadism that’s culturally acceptable when someone’s awful.

But it fucked me up, so much.

For a moment, instead of seeing what I was supposed to see: the reclaiming of agency by an young black girl and destroying the precious objects of someone so callous;  the reclaiming of a life. All I could hear was someone horrified and heartbroken by the breaking of a piece of fine china.

For most people, that’s stupid, and silly, and there’s no reason to get upset over something so trivial, especially when the person is so utterly repugnant in the story.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about Cullinan’s actual response “Momma I sorry”. I played the imperfect smoky crystal image spun by Angelou’s hand of a fat, old woman, with few close acquaintances seeing a connection to her mother – a precious connection – willfully destroyed to prove some point.

I saw Cullinan at a younger, more graceful age, coveting that china in her youth; I saw her aware over time that she was fat;  I saw an intentional unawareness of the inherent cruelty of her existence, to forestall the truths that she was a bad person. I saw loneliness and misery that accompanies getting older. The progressive realization that you are no longer beautiful, if ever you were, or the progressive realization that you have become uglier.

I saw Cullinan elevate this ugly piece of china because it reminded her of the one thing in life she loved dearly: her mother. And perhaps the only thing that truly loved her. I saw the painful awareness buried deep in punctilious supercilious behavior that kept it from becoming apparent that this woman was miserable.

I saw the abstraction fall apart.

And when I saw that, I saw the actions as painful, and unjust, no matter how just they seem in the context of the narrative. All I could focus on was the sense of utter exhausted pain of Mrs. Cullinan losing that one fragile connection to love.

And sure, that’s all invention. I didn’t know this woman. I don’t  know Maya  Angelou. But whenever someone suffers, when someone commits acts of violence, when someone says something cruel to someone; when someone acts in anger, whoever they vent themselves to is not an abstraction to me. Nor are they an abstraction.

I become filled with the awful realization that people contain a sea within them. A vast universe of desires and experiences, a collection of little arrhythmias and scars, thousands of days stacked on top of each other progressively to make them who they are, and react  how they are.

It’s  why, when I found out that Hinduism – at least the kind I practice – was all about the non-rightness of paths. When I learned that it featured radical acceptance. Unconditional love for people, no matter what they are. It appealed to me deeply. It filled me with a sense of non-truth, and non-rightness, that still felt right.

Because I can’t turn off that pain. Even if I wanted to. I can’t make the suffering of others leave my heart. Even if culture decides they deserve it. I can’t compel myself to suddenly reduce them to objects; to rob them of the rich universe that is inside them. The galaxy of stars that surrounds the supermassive black hole that is the indefinable self, centered in the hearts of all people, around which the light remains unbent.

I can think of nothing crueler than that. And that makes me weird; and that makes me unjust, and a bad person too, to some minds.

But if I didn’t feel the pain of others so deeply, I wouldn’t feel their joys, and happiness either.

And the world would be so much poorer for it.

On Purpose & Redundancy

What am I doing?

That’s a rock-solid question to ask yourself periodically when you feel lost. That is, the bad kind of lost. I’m currently lost in the sense that my lack of direction has taken a cloying turn. I blame no one but the moment, and even that I cut some slack. I am eternally unresentful of things.

It can be a challenge.

Hating nothing is impossible, this much is more or less verifiable; but it is always possible not to act on anger. If you get angry, you can hold it in, you can focus on it, you can restrict and vent, and shift. You do not have to get angry.

I don’t know what I am though, and that is Ok.

That non-sequitur is due, in part, to mal de vivre that people seem to be indulging in re: losing your shit over the tiniest little things repeatedly and outrageously. It would be callous for me to say that people flying off the handle is a bad response to things. I’m too amoral and morally relative to believe that expressions of Anger are “Bad”.

But man, there are, in point of fact, better ways to deal with these things.

Because the shitty truth is that people react to anger with a sense of fear; they react to it on the assumption that their life is threatened meaningfully: people react to anger with anger, to protect themselves. Even if it something as trivial as the fact that Bob Dylan’s music is fucking annoying (just an opinion, bro) and pretentious; to the more serious issues like “Black People have voices, fucking listen”.

When faced with someone yelling, the go-to is not “Oh, let me hear what this person has to say, parse it out thought by thought into its basest meaningful elements, and develop a cogent response that both factors in their feelings, and also re-iterates my level of agreement”: that is a trained response. You have to fight to learn it.

No, most people’s response to someone getting outraged is to what? Get defensive as hell. Even when their argument has no water.

I love humanity for the fact that it’s optimistic about the abilities and function of the brain. But most of our neuronal function is autonomic, and the parts of our brain that directly act against things like Anger, and Danger, and Threats is part of that autonomic segment: the part of your brain that doesn’t think consciously.

I get immensely frustrated, and exhausted, and drained by the attempts at rationalizing why anger is the only way to handle these things. Sure, the point may be accurate – it may even be necessary – but reacting with rage only induces a Fight or Flight response, no matter how fucking stupid Bob Dylan’s music is.

If anyone read this, I’d likely have a queue of 14 point comments about why the above statement is completely untrue, even though it is a.) my opinion, and therefore not an observable, falsifiable fact and b.) arguing about such trivial things is silly and non-sensical.

And this shit impacts me daily: I absorb anger and feeling like a sponge. Being around the enraged people is sort of like having someone sit on my amygdala making me want to shout. I don’t, because I have a modicum of self-control; but the point remains.

And that anger wheel, much like a child-star’s hedonic wheel – presses over its point of diminishing returns quickly, and leaves me exhausted. And then I get the shitty kind of lost.

Because when you’re tired, you wander, but you don’t control it.

There is beauty in getting lost, a fact on which I rhapsodize regularly, and passionately; there is beauty in asking questions; there is wonder in healthy skepticism; and there is value to the scientific method.

But god man, I’m growing to despise it all.

And it’s even worse because I know the fucking necessity of it. If I thought that all this anger was useless, I would probably have a legitimate hissy about calming the fuck down. But, I can’t. I can’t engage with it, because getting angry at people is not something I’m particularly good at, or find particularly useful.

Hell, I’m not even mad at the angry people. I’m just protecting the sense of ego that is under constant assault by the perpetual pessimism, and outrage.

Maybe that makes me a bad person, I don’t really know. And I get this way sometimes, so maybe I’m just in a bad mood; I freely admit that I am a contradictory creature of meaningful impulse, pulled in opposite directions practically daily.

But I know that Anger isn’t as useful as we want it to be. It’s too drug like, it feeds too many unquenchable fires.

I prefer, instead, compassion, and kindness, and empathy.

I prefer listening, and feeling what someone is saying. I prefer accepting the person as they are. I prefer finding a solution from my vantage that accounts for theirs. It can be done, I do it regularly, it’s part of my day job.

I don’t even know why I’m writing this, outside of a sense of redundance and exhaustion, which comes from the wrong kind of lost.

The sky is grey, and I’m walking somewhere, and I’ll be fine when I find the wrong turn I’ve been looking for. But for now, I’m just floating along in a perpetual state of exhaustion.

And I’m not sure why I’m doing it, but I know that I have to.

Sings Only the Lonely

To plan, or not to plan, that is the question?

I feel like some planning is good. Not, you know, intense planning, but setting something’s just so, and then other things not-just so, and then watching it all fall into place. Otherwise it’s just confirmation bias.

I’m in a weird non-sequitur space right now. It’s one of those things that is and isn’t at the same time. Where the interjection of conjunctions is just the tiniest bit off, and my malapropisms are beautiful because I’m not putting an excess effort.

I’m fucking lonely tonight.

But that isn’t anything new. I am a lonely human. I  have always spent time lonely. I have learned how to sit and be lonely…or rather, I have learned to sit and be alone; and if you don’t know the difference, well, good for you.

Being lonely is one of those things that is an acquired skill. It doesn’t come over night, either. Some days, you wake up to that absence – the abnegation (pretty) – of humanity. You’re just…aware that around you is the vacuum where people are supposed to be, and are, and it makes you very small.

And it is a very wide vacuum that has forced me, always, to consider my insignificance, to varying degrees of reflection.

When the loneliness isn’t solitude, when it’s active, it’s a clawing beast. It’s a sensation that don’t  know is even possible. It’s like your skin being sewed onto your body a milimeter off…like a pair of jeans that keeps twisting the wrong way, so your crotch feels awkwardly placed. Your skin and muscles are just…wrong, and no matter which way you twist and turn, no matter how you adjust, that wrongness is a seeping wound of frustration.

But sometimes the loneliness is a blanket. Sometimes it’s really just solitude. It’s a comfort, a yawn, it’s the sensation of being warmly in love with yourself. It’s hot chocolate and a show to binge-watch. It’s the sensation of freedom.

My arm looks like a chain was taken off cause of my watch.

Sorry, that was me trying to be non-sequitur thematic. I’ll stop

But this loneliness it’s a little heavier tonight. Maybe gravid is the right word. The suggestion of pregnancy appeals to me in some perverse way. The air feels like an Andrei Tarkovsky shot from his slower films. Meditative, overlooking the abyss, being pushed down with perpetual weight and then…release.

But it’s ok, I’m used to it; and that doesn’t even feel like a denial anymore. It’s just…what it is. And I know that loneliness is some sinful state of being, in this culture. Maybe that isn’t appropriate, but it’s not a desirable state. No one in our culture tells you: Hey, it’s ok to be alone, unless you really need to hear it because life is a big ol’ bag of suck right now, and they don’t want you to harm yourself in despair.

But really, alone-ness is our natural state. And I champion the unpopular views – when it feels necessary – and the value of loneliness is often overlooked; mostly cause it’s called solitude, but whatevah.

Tout-Le-Sigh.

When you’re in the shitty loneliness, all you can think of is how to get out of it. How badly you want to be somewhere else, anywhere else. You just need. to be. elsewhere. And hey, that’s ok.

But it’s like all things in the world: the harder you think about what you want, the more likely it isn’t going to happen.

It’s like some observer effect of some kind. The harder you reach, the more out of reach it is, like licking your elbow, or grabbing a laser; or hopefully not grabbing your shadow.

Loneliness of this kind is often self-perpetuating, and a positive feedback loop of shit. I’ve dealt with it regularly time immemorial. I don’t blame anybody for it, though, often, I’ve been told to blame myself for my loneliness.

I don’t begrudge – or try not to – people who tell you “you don’t have to be alone” or “if you don’t want to be alone, just talk to people”. For those people, I would like to share a tiny story.

I used to talk to people all the time. I would say “hi, what’s up”, I would make artificial efforts to fill the void that was my empty social life, staring and refreshing my computer regularly for some paltry notification that hey, my life had some validity to others, and I wasn’t completely fucking worthless.

Then, one day, I decided “Fuck it, I’m going to go a week without talking to people, and see what happens”.

Do you wanna know what happened?
Nothing.

Not a single person decided “hey, where is Eric?” and reach out. I had less to do, so I stared at my room, walked around, and waited for someone – literally anyone – to notice that I had stopped existing digitally: no one did.

If you’ve never done that, I recommend it; just spend 168 hours in isolation, unintentional preferable. It does things to you. It fucks you up and makes you furious in ways you didn’t even realize were possible. It makes you some micron in some grandiose indifferent cosmos, except even the people around you don’t care.

It hurts, man.

And I can’t say it didn’t make me bitter, or that I don’t get upset thinking about it now: it’s upsetting. Knowing that – at the time – I could go for a week without existing, invisible, unseen, unheard, and nothing changed, that’s a kind of pain you have to know to understand.

Fortunately, and I do mean it, fortunately, most people do not know what that feels like. Most people have a support structure, and people who care. Most people have friends who get worried. I have that now…at least more than I used to.

But more than that, I’m comfortable in my insignificance. I know that, even if I did matter, it would still be more or less a paltry state of affairs in the scheme of the cosmos. I love myself now: that makes everything easier.

But most of all, I love freely others, and I don’t make plans, and life tends to work itself out. It’s been around a lot longer than me, I figure it knows what it’s doing.

If you read my musings on nothing: thanks, I appreciate it.

If not, well, I’m sure you’re doing something better with your time.

An Ode to Spam Emails

I’m a connoisseur of spam emails.

I always thought I knew how to spell that correctly.

Spam is kind of an art-form if taken from just the right angle. Which is to say, completely unseriously. But it can’t be any spam. It has to be a certain kind of spam. It has to be artistic spam.

And trust me, there is some artsy fucking spam in the weirdest places.

Sure you have your generic “Grow your dixxx w/ these pills” and “Hot ass this blog,clickheredude”. There’s the casual “I have this important file to sharexcvobxjcoijaerg.org.cn” with malware. There’s the Phishing “YOU’VE BEEN HACKED, CLICK THIS SUSPECT EMAIL NOW TO ACCESS YOUR FILES” emails. And then there’s just sadness of SEO scams, et. al.

Then you have the spam that’s in a bit of identity crisis. The spam that has a lot more to do with the fact that it was just sent to the wrong place, at the wrong time. This spam is like Einstein’s theory of relativity: it’s not fixed spam.

Then, there’s the art spam.

I often find the art spam to be those stories from “Rich Widows”, the Nigerian Princes; they’re the ones that want to make you rich, provided you provide your wire number, and send the money first. Obviously.

These spam are more fun, because they come in every language – I saw one in german once, one in french – and they almost always start out as the Spam that would also be comfortable as the macguffin for a James Bond film.

“Dear Esteemed Sir, my husband was a very important businessman, being investigated by SEC. In order to maintain our trust, we had to find our closest living relative. That is, by fortune, you. If you reply to this email, we will wire you millions of dollars”.

That is a James Bond film, sent daily to every swinging dick on the internet.

Just imagine what would happen if it was straight true, too.

You open the email, and suddenly the FBI Bursts in: STOP RIGHT THERE MISTER.

Then they give you the act 1 shakedown: you’re going to infiltrate this person on the behalf of SEC, we’ll front the seed money, and you’ll get dressed up. You’ll be so fucking confused you won’t mind that they walked in on you pondering Penis Enlargement pills. They’ll take your computer for security reasons.

Then you’ll go through the Act II dossier: what is this guy’s deal. You’ll talk with Q and get nifty weapons. Suddenly you’ll be thrown into a training montage, and become a deadly weapon like Nic Cage in con air.

You’ll reach the Act II Midpoint and the babe will walk out of the water in the most enticing bikini you’ve ever seen. You’ll be on some tropical beach, wondering what kind of mistake you made to end up here with a gun in your holster.

Then you’ll be suave, and charming, because fuck it, life’s gotten a little too unreal anyway.

Then you’ll be captured by the slightly-deformed woman who sent you the email initially. Not deformed enough to make the villain socially unaccetpable; just deformed enough to be deadly, and oddly compelling romantically.

God, James Bond has a fucking troubling structure.

Then you’ll make the wire transfer in a secret lair under a volcano. There will be a shoot out, you’ll get the girl. Then you’ll get good at spying and they’ll make you a spy for true.

And then you’ll get tired, and bored. You’ll realize it’s only an adventure if it’s once in a lifetime, and otherwise, it’s just work. You’ll start drinking too much. You’ll do your job worse and worse. Life will become a miasma because you know how awful the dark side of it is. You’ll wish you had never opened that email, to reveal this whole side of life.

Or, you know, you’ll get swindled. But I like my imagination more.

Then, there’s the art.

These spam emails are emails that are non-sense. They’re like Finnegans Wake except even less sensical than that (which is a perfectly straightforward book, thank you very much). These ones are by guys named Zoltan about poisoned water supplies; written in a dream-y illogical writing style that’s all nouns. The zygotic combinatorium of influence is undeniably catastrophic, and the isochronal isoceles alien structures, clearly indicate some tessractional possibilities from Gleeb, the inter-dimensional shitting dick nipple alien lizard. If you download these articles, and read my newsletter, you’ll be able to see THE TRUTH, man.

Then there are the unintentionally beautiful poems made out of random strings of words enigmatic matriculate coagulated dike ration unwashed prenecessitate discontinuously. These ones are my favorite. The reductio ad absurdum of spam. They are just the meaningless entropy you seek to avoid.

But Spam is only spam, because you want it to be Spam. For some people, the promises of a better life, the promises of the truth – the promise of sex – is such an appealing fantasy, that it doesn’t matter that someone is trying to feel you up to steal your shit.

There is such an endless appeal to the feeling of being wanted, that makes spam a treasure to me. It’s seeing how these failures of logic suddenly become imperfect, smoky crystals of art. How these attempts to swindle, once robbed of their reality, become these moments of time captured in a petty, humorous lucite.

It’s beautiful to me.

So I love it, and I adore reading good ones.

And that’s what makes me a connoisseur of art, too.

 

On Consequence

I don’t know where to even start.

Literally, I’m a little to literal for my own good, sometimes. But currently I’m the kind that feels like a too-drunken mix of XTC trying to be the Beatles, and a guy sitting cross-legged in front of a laptop, believing in his own relevance and simultaneous insignificance.

I put words together good sometimes.

I have thought increasingly about process. Which I think at this point is more or less completely redundant, but also totally a propos of where I am right now. I fucking love that word.

Honestly, I may just be a reaction formation to the current state of the world, but I see the process/consequentialism issue as a big part of it. Because, I don’t know about y’all, but America is all sorts of consequentialist. I don’t find its behavior even a little surprising, given that context.

But I imagine you don’t geek out over philosophy quite as much as me, so let’s break this down: A consequentialist is someone for whom the Means are always Justified, if the conclusion is. Like, as long as you save the damsel in distress, it doesn’t matter that you had to mutilate some random civilian’s arm.

In fact, it’s a central conflict in shows like The Shield, Justified, and is more or less the entire problem with both DC’s initial attempts at a Cinematic Universe, and their systemic problems. They’re so focused on a certain result, that they don’t care how they get there. But how they get there is not only the entire process of fucking existing, but it’s also how you do it right.

We live in a culture that emphasizes greatness at such a sickening pace it’s impossible not to feel inferior by proxy of a facebook account, which 2/7th of the world currently use. We see examples of greatness, and we all want a piece o’dat sweet ass pie of feeling significant. I know I do. I’m no longer so conceited as to believe that it’s humble to say “Nah, I just want to do good”

Significance is a legitimate and thorough desire, and the pursuit of it drives human behavior to an absurd degree.

But now, in an age where you can basically get whatever you want if you pay the price, consequentialism has taken a huge step forward…with all its attendant bullshit.

But you still don’t really know what I mean. So let’s maybe change the example to something more relevant to you.

Let’s say you want to start a youtube channel, and you want to make monies off it. But, you don’t want to actually do any of the really significant leg work, you don’t want to study, and you don’t want to make anything really meaningful. This sounds like a silly example, but it isn’t.

Or maybe what you’re interested in is so niche, it will never be seen by three people (clears throat expectantly): you can choose to be patient, and build up a base. You can make meaningful content. You can learn and grow, and change and be a generally compelling human being. You can fail, and fall apart, be prone to doubt.

Or you can pay some bots to view your shit, and get you significance thrill that way.

One is difficult, and time consuming, and not guaranteed. The other costs money, but you achieve exactly what you ask for.

That second one, it’s bullshit.

But it’s how we do things in this culture. These days, having a million views is almost as valuable as how you got them. For every guy like Chris Stuckmann, or Jeremy Jahns, who put together meaningful interesting content about the shit that interests them, you have some douchebag who just paid to have his views upped, because he wanted a million views for some non-meaningful video. Sure, you’ll never hear about that guy. But he also has no reason to grow, and barring some straight dick-head level idiocy on his part, he’s not going to disappear.

So now we have this theoretical guy who has not been given the exact feeling of significance he sought. Now what?

If he’s anything like the rest of the internet, he’ll start believing he deserved it. And he will continue to seek to enable his opinion. He will enable himself continuously. He will use confirmation bias to the point of absurdity, and then make no meaningful progress towards anything.

But he felt significant.

And this extends to so many other things, and I get why: life never stops moving, that’s its key feature. People invent shit, or come up with mindblowing discoveries. I recently learned the Voynich manuscript has finally been figured the fuck out. I wanted to do that. I’m straight disappointed.

But this kind of philosophy is grating. It places the object over the subject; it is the equivalent of creating a shitty sentence composed of reality; and reality has it backwards.

When the object takes precedence over the subject, then human suffering, lasting design, and meaningful contribution are all things that are functionally irrelevant. I want to remain significant, and feel good, so I will withhold my true feelings on things; and, instead, I’ll share some meaningless platitude of the moment justifying everyone else’s deeply held opinion that I’m scared to challenge because, hey, I like my friends, and I don’t want to lose them, because my thoughts differ from theirs.

Consequentialism makes the capital sin a mistake. Because being amoral in pursuit of your goal — if the goal is worthy enough for society — is A-Ok. But being human? Being prone to failure? Making a mistake? No, you can’t do that.

You can’t fail honestly, and build, and make yourself better, when you have an objective goal. You can only succeed.

You’re not allowed to not know what to say, or be confused. You’re not allowed to believe that the solutions presented are not binary; that you can choose patience and nuance.

Not everything needs to be now.

But, then again, what do I know? I’m a guy who prefers fucking up, and growing.

On Straw Dogs

Sometimes, I really don’t know what to say.

I like those times, at times; but most of the time, they’re just frustrating. They make me feel the frustrating kind of redundant. There’s redundancy in this paragraph, for christ’s sake.

Anywho, I’m at a loss. I’m too torn between the need to be righteously upset, completely frustrated, and overwhelmingly anxious. But I’m failing even at that. Because, you see, meditation makes you really good at detachment.

Detachment is a two edged sword, sometimes, for moral humans, such as myself.

I think there’s something obscenely wise in the way Lao-Tzu (my homeboy) treats sages, in his texts. He never says “Yo, sages are great, listen to them”; he never says “Sages have your best interests at heart”; he doesn’t even say “Sages are good”.

He’s just honest: sages are detached, and they are neither good, nor bad. They are. As a result, they come off as aloof, and/or dickbags, depending on your level of engagement with the world’s many kinds of steaming bullshit.

He is the old master for a reason. And now all I can think about is Dustin Hoffman murdering folk.

But since I’ve started meditating, my ability to be passionate – in certain ways – has diminished drastically. A propos of my desire to work towards the perfect process, and not the product, I don’t get angry like I feel I should at Social Justice issues. And no, it has nothing to do with the fact that I glow in the dark from being white.

I used to get unspeakably angry about the shit in the world. I used to recognize my contribution to the morass, even if it was, ultimately, a passive role. That’s the shitty thing about being a dominant subgroup of a stratified society, and also having empathy: you see how much your dominance fucks everything up. I would call it White Guilt, but that would require me to be ashamed of my whiteness.

Just so we’re clear, eh, I’m not proud of my heritage; but I don’t hate it.

And right now, that’s not the tenor I’m allowed to take. I cannot be, by the strictures of social outrage, indifferent to my race. I have to be actively acknowledging it; and I have to be outraged by it. I have to see how my very blue eyes, and my white skin have contributed to the systemic degradation of an entire group of people, and led to an existence of fear, anxiety, and otherness that one with any semblance of conscience would not wish on their worst enemy.

Again, eh, nah.

That milquetoast response can foment anger to such a degree, I have no conception of how to deal with it. Especially with my increasing detachment.

But what do I mean by detachment?

Well, I don’t really know. I still feel things — a lot of things — all the time. My darkness spans waves; my sorrow is as deep as the ocean; my joys are ecstatic, if simple. But I don’t get impacted it in quite the same way as I used to.

It makes me sad, distantly. Although, from a standpoint that I would call “Objective” (it isn’t), it is emotionally richer, and infinitely healthier.

But this newfound internal silence. This de-cluttering of the mental headroom; the shel silverstein cobwebs pulled off thread by thread have revealed something frustrating about my current situation.

I can’t fall into the anger that I know I need to. I can barely even condone it.

And to be clear: it’s necessary. It is the fire that surrounds the crucible that is the world right now. It will create glass of the future, from today’s coarse heady sand. But I can’t indulge in it.

Nor do I feel that I can celebrate my existence.

I only am.

I can’t pretend that I’m some sort of enlightened master. I’m too unfailingly human and contradictory to be something so spectacular and removed. But I understand why Lao-Tzu doesn’t herald a sage as a good person.

A sage does not watch good or bad; nor does he feel that good or bad strictly exist. I’m more or less a morally relative individual. It suits my fancy. The sage just sees the world turning, and moves along the river with it. There is no separation of good or bad.

And that’s hard to do. In fact, it’s harder than being outraged. It requires you acknowledge that somewhere, outside yourself, in the vastness of infinity, there is an indifference of such power, borne of the peaceful silence that sounds like the vacuum of space, that just. doesn’t. care.

That’s hard man.

I’ve had to reconcile that my heritage – though Jewish – is still fundamentally oppressive. I’ve had to reconcile that, even by the proxy of my whiteness, I’m not a good person. I’ve had to accept, under threat of social exclusion, and pariahhood, that I’m immoral, by dint of my unstated, uncreated role as me. And man, that sucks.

And even that cannot arouse the anger that it would in any normal person. In some distant way, I’m grateful to that.

Because honestly, the peace is powerful. It feels like a rock. It feels like a solid piece of my inside an ever-changing universe of infinite variation. It feels like I’m not alone. I feel one. I feel that I am the universe, and the universe is me.

It’s the least lonely feeling in the world.

It would be nice, though, if it didn’t require me to act like the loneliest person.

 

A Small Infinite Loop About Nothing

something both comforting and distressingly real about infinity.

Lamniscates hold a fascination for what seems like every great thinker of the modern day. Whether it’s David Foster Wallace, or poor Kurt Gödel (yo-de-lay-hee-hoo); from Joyce to DeLillo to why am I only thinking of writer’s.

There’s something comforting about infinity because we can’t really verify it empirically – we live in a finite universe made of limited particles and atoms – but we know it’s there.

It’s sort of like the mathematical equivalent of god.

Think about it long enough, and in the right weird romantic mindset, and it makes some semblance of sense.

You can’t look at something infinite; hell, you can’t even think of something infinite; hell, you’re barely capable of perceiving 100 people in a room accurately; hell, Dante’s inferno has limits to its perceptions.

But infinity can be represented in so many ways; but only finitely, weirdly enough.

You have the lamniscate — the figure 8 doo-dad — and fractals, you have recursive loops and places that begin on the point where they end — I see you Infinite Jest/Finnegans Wake/Hand.Cannot.Erase/The Wall/Nonagon infinity. The concept of things never ending is something endlessly appealing .

Man, I saw that pun from a mile away, and I let it happen anyway. Fate has a funny way of being like that.

But back to the endless: infinity is never ending, it’s shapeless, you can’t pinpoint it, you can’t control, you can’t limit it. It just is. It goes on forever. It has no start, and no end. You can’t even think of it, but it has the enviable quality of limitlessness.

It is everything that humanity isn’t.

It’s so distressingly hard to realize that in the realm of infinite time, and space, 1 yoctosecond and a Googoldecaplex (Googol folloed by ten googols of zeroes…wrong google) are the same amount of time relative to infinity.

Infinity doesn’t have to worry about looking good. Infinity doesn’t have to keep a schedule. Infinity doesn’t have to care. It just gets to be infinite, and unknowable.

It is all that is theoretically possible. It is the best versions of me that I’m too ashamed to admit I’d actually like to be. It is elegant and so large as to be humanly non-sensical, but utterly honest.

It’s a comfort.

It renders meaningless, those things we hold most dear. It is the what next moment you keep asking yourself. It is that second where you anticipate the next moment, and the next moment.

And it’s easy to fall in love with.

When there is no end, there is no end. Life continues on its spectrum, but will never reach its terminus. You won’t have Severian the Torturer holding a big ass sword to chop off your head. It’s the limitless potential of man. And I’m waxing way too poetic tonight.

But again, I love infinity. and I like being self-referential. Self-reference is a thing of beauty, when done correctly.

When you’re self-referential and utilitarian, you make statements about you, yourself, your art, and whatever else you were trying to say. You create a sense of illusory accountability.

When you get meta, it’s like anti-inception. You’re taking everyone out of the dream river you’ve been letting them float along. You pluck them from the Dorcan softness and golden haired grandmothers; and you put them back in reality.

You get to make sense, even though making sense isn’t very fun.

I think the most appealing thing about infinity is that it is nothing. It is the essence of paradox. It is the paradox of paradoxes. It is like something that is very very very hot feeling the same sharp intensity of a dagger against your skin that something very very very cold is.

Like the Taoists: everything is nothing.

And that’s why there’s…

On Dancing Like No One’s There

I wonder if I would censor myself if I knew anybody was watching.

That feels like the common stream of existence: you’re this awesome insignificant thing that has thoughts and feelings in multiplicity. Little universes of swirling emotions flit around the inside of your skull in a strange loop that decides one day to be itself, and then poof! you’re there.

That’s one more exclamation point than I am comfortable with.

But there’s something appealing about the darkness; or, at the very least, the illusion of being invisible. And holy hell, it’s an illusion for damn sure.

It’s that feeling like some Romantic Comedy slice of Bubble gum, overly sexualized to Mulvey’s male gaze, for whatever reason deciding that going about in her underoos in her pinker than someone’s repressed desires bedroom shaking it all in some weirdly sensual and silly dance, that is too much of one, but ends up being neither. It’s the weird sense of paradox.

I get that way, sometimes.

Granted, I have a lot less ass, and more belly…and other undesirable things that make it funnier.

But I love, love, love the feeling of dancing on the subway. It’s this freedom from the responsibility of giving a shit about society. I gyrate my hips; I move my entire body to its own internal prerogative: da beat, yo. I let the world drift by while my movements make me feel sensual, and real. But I’m not in some distant way. I feel like a character in a movie heightened our of proportion to lowly mortals. My tight jeans which define everything sharply enough to be at least moderately attractive let everyone know what I know.

It’s like being naked, and flipping someone off confidently, because of it.

But they never prepare you for the moment someone takes out a camera, and begins to film it.

I don’t even know if people are saving the video, or snapping it, or whatever. At a certain point I just stopped pretending it wasn’t happening.

And, for those out there who think you’re subtle by placing your camera two inches from your face, and resting it on your cleavage with a shit-eating grin…well, there’s a spy business I’m sure that’s waiting to sign you up.

But I should backtrack.

I was once on the subway lip-syncing (perfectement) to Hamilton. I was hitting every note; my foot was a bass kick perfection. My entire body was in tune and I was motion itself. The sun was setting behind me, as it likes to do on the good days; and I was Hamilton, and Lafayette, and Washington, write large against the uncomfortable plastic cushioning.

And a portly woman, I notice, has her phone resting just at the point where it would be inconsiderate to stare. She’s giggling to herself as she stares at the precariously balanced screen.

Directly across from me.

A jolt brings me to the awareness that my non-privacy is in fact public. I’m brought shamefully aware of the fact that I am not Lin-Manuel Miranda; that my body is not a perfect sync; that I have stretch marks, and I have ugliness, and I am common. No, that’s not really true. I just get angry.

Part of me wants to flip the woman off. Part of me says it would be just. But only part. Most of me feels the kind of ashamed that you don’t realize it’s shame because it’s all in the loose nausea of your limbs settling the shake. It’s the feeling of blood dilating in your vessels. And it’s the feeling of vomit that makes you want to scream.

And it hurts, because I’m reminded that I don’t get to be private, in public. And maybe you say to yourself “Well, fucking duh”. But here’s the thing: it keeps me sane.

Life is such an incredible flame show of suffering and misery and obsessive compulsive restraints we call culture. Life is all about those bizarre rituals that, if you think about for just the slightest second too long, become aware are in fact, total fucking nonsense.

This is my nonsense ritual. This is my being me, merely because I need to be me, and this brings me there. And I get that it seems like I’m asking for attention. We often assume that that is the case; hell, I probably am, if I get freudian on myself.

But in the moment, whenever this happens, I’m not aware that I’m acting like a whore for attention. That I’m a 2 dollar trick for someone else’s Schadenfreude.

I’m the guitarist in my favorite band, and the elevated platform and electrified railing are my stage; I’m some lonely crooner who knows that, if she calls, it’ll be alright; I’m a punk artist; I’m rock; I’m motherfucking Alexander Hamilton and Crew.

But then I remember: I’m not those things. I’m being watched.

I always get on myself most, when I give in to my anger. I’ve flipped off people, when I catch them. it’s not regular, and it depends on my mood. Often I just do nothing. But I always scold myself when I give into that feeling of privacy invaded.

Because man, it ain’t just. I’m funny looking. If I take the headphones off, I’m some dude dancing to some invisible music that no one else can hear — sometimes I’m even singing along — and no one else has any frame of reference as to why. Unless they’re fans of that music, and that’s a big if.

I’m weird as fuck.

So I let women videotape me on their cleavage. I let the people giggle and watch, or show their friends that I’m just being me. I don’t really care that much, once I’m back to normal. And, I don’t really know if I’d  be any different.

But it certainly made me realize: you’re never not being watched, even when you feel invisible.

So I operate on that assumption, and let the rest work itself out.

On Getting Lost

I think the best place to be is wherever you are; failing that, being lost is pretty good too.

Which is convenient, cause that’s where I is.

I’m not lost in the physical sense; or even really in the moral, spiritual, purpose-y kinda way. I’m just lost. And it’s a little refreshing, though scary.

Being lost requires a few important components, I’ve noted. As a lost human, I’m probably talking out of my ass; but to be truly good lost, you sorta need the below:

1. A dandelion seed
2. A lack of fucks
3. A broken compass
4. Open-Mindedness

Now, the dandelion seed is metaphor: to get well and truly lost, you need to be able to fly to the whims of someone else’s desires. So a good way to get lost is to set a goal for yourself. In my case, it’s setting too many ambitious goals at one time. Like learning a bajillion languages (actual number), or listening to a bajillion musics. Or doing a bajillion things at the same time.

But then you have this short-circuit overload way in the wrong part of your brainstem, where you sort your shit out. Wernicke and Broca suddenly decide to switch places, and you read what you speak, and speak what you read. And life suddenly becomes this big ol’ riddle for you to solve.

And then you get upset, because really, who likes being lost? I know that, at least when I have places to be, I does not like being lost. I don’t like the sensation of wrongness that’s like a coat that you need to keep adjusting because it keeps shifting slightly to the left on your body.

That itchy sensation that you’re just doing something wrong. It’s like the feelings of eyes on your back, or that song regret plays when you done goofed’s overture. That kinda lost is bad.

But when you don’t give a fuck. When being late on the clock is just fine with you. When you have no friends, and nowhere to be, and you can just chill under the stars. That is primo.

When you’re lost like that, you’re just wandering. Your spirit is flying. You see little unknowns that don’t need explanation cause they just are. You let your feet clap the ground with whatever timbre your shoes need to make; and suddenly your somewhere else.

You end up like some cold short-story by some argentinian writer. The stars represent the Sephirot, and you’re on a mission that got totally fucked because you forgot the map, and you forgot the point. Then the ending is some big ellipses, because if you put a period on the end, then it would lose all its wonder.

Like Borges, or my recent j’adore: Clarice Lispector.

Mm. Mm. MM. Her prose, man.

Even when it’s translated it sounds like romantic love dipped in opium. It has that quality of music played at just the speed it takes to puncture the fine film of indifference the layers itself around your heart. It feels like Nabokov suddenly realized the terror that lies in the beauty of the human aortic; the sudden realization that yes, you too, are some atomic meaning; that your heart is not yours, and that it can be a perfect contradiction.

It can be a broken compass, where the point is sideways and southwest. Where a crack in the glass is the revelation. Where the fact that Hope means Cricket in portuguese is all you need in the world to exist. The fact that all your verbs in Romance are irregularities and variations on a theme suddenly takes on the profundity you search for in daily life.

It’s like Italo Calvino’s traveler has suddenly decided to jump onto your computer screen, while looking at the randomized images above, to tell you “Hey, dude, you’re on the right track”.

And when you look at that broken compass, you realize that it’s not really broken: not really. It’s just not pointing the direction everyone else’s is. The magnetic of its north is tuned just a few degrees past acceptable. And the sky is some big blue nothing that you need to stay alive.

I don’t even know what that means, but I prefer it to the sensation of having to find the right way. When the destination is all that matters.

When you’re good lost, you get to take wrong alley-ways, but they’re suddenly right. The night is alive with magic. Vibrations and christmas lights and strangers are set to whatever tune you wish. The moon decides to watch your glorious isochronal wandering with envy. Foucault ain’t got nothing on you. The moon is stuck in its regular celestial perambulation, destined to be the same speck of craterous beauty for eternity.

But you, you get to be a seed on the wind. You get to see the world change. You get to watch the birth of abstractions, and the flowing color of hair that adjusts to whatever fad is currently en vogue.

You get to watch the rise and fall of the universe in short form. A flash fiction on time’s grand wheel.

You get to dream, and hope, and not know what’s going to happen next. And it does not matter that that is the case, because all you really know is that you’re excited about that moment, when it comes. And then it does come.

And then, you reached your destination, and the journey ends. You didn’t know that the squeeze was the juice, until you stopped sipping. You accomplished the goal others wanted you to, and now there’s….nothing.

And so, with whatever the hell that was, I prefer to get lost. Have nowhere to be, have no plans. Because that means I get to be ambitious. I don’t have to use any goal to justify my continued existence.

I can continue taking turns into the next moment, and see what happens from there.

And right on the horizon, is something I know I want.

In Praise of Questions

Image result for the general patrick mcgoohan

Answers are dead things.

They look like decaying corpses, covered in cobwebs; accruing dusty and decay; desiccation and destruction.

And, like everything else in life, we seek them mercilessly.

Being raised Jewish, I was taught that you should always answer a question with another question. It keeps it alive. It complicates, confuses. It creates commonality in the field of ambiguity. When we’re insecure, we use answers to kill the monsters in our life.

Or, at least, that’s what I’ve found, lately.

I used to spend my time answering questions. Every day I answer questions from all manner of sources. Because I like my co-workers (and I like money) I give straight answers with straight reasons.

But there’s something beautiful about a question.

When you have a good question, it plants itself at the root of your skull, niggling like a cell-divided into a zygotic progression. First the question: What do I do with this? How do I do that? What is the best way to approach that feels like this enormous expanse. An abyss as black and singular as the gravity wells that lead to other universes.

Then. A spark

Ex Nihilo, in the expanse of your limitless brain, the question lights a spark. A kindling takes. You see the slow spread of fire-y realization walk and dance trails to the end of the stick like a fuse, a wick, ready to spread. The question gives birth to more questions. It multiplies exponentially.

Suddenly, one of the new questions answers one of the old ones. In fact, that light we call reason that was hanging dim suddenly shines at a new angle. The shadows have completely changed. Suddenly, the reaction isn’t a reaction, but a spontaneity. A suggestion that is.

The chain is helical and continuous and beautiful. And then there is a garden of questions, flowering, spreading.

You can walk in it, in the light. It’s almost overwhelming, the greens and greys and reds. The bright array like crystals that suggest infinite worlds.

What would happen if I did this? How does this work? Why?

The general fails to Patrick McGoohan’s ontology because Computer’s are logical. They don’t grow, they don’t mutate. They don’t subsume the question and make it their being. They have to get from Point A to Point B, and questions don’t get you there: Logic does.

But the illogic of situations is so lovely.

I love creating a world of questions. One where it’s like spinning light that shines brighter than the stars. Questions like Red Dwarfs, and Quasars, shining a light on my deepest impulses and desires. I like the feeling of walking along heat-filled ambiguities that have all the power of love, because I don’t know what they are.

Questions expand and expand and expand. They take on the quality of horror movie monsters, and magical creatures. They feel like bowing prostrate to god. They are a pursuit unto themselves.

And yet, we are doggedly married to those cold, dead things we call answers.

Causality is strict, but the human mind is putty. It’s moldable and malleable and all the other things in between. Point A molds into Point B. And don’t get me wrong, when you’re not a friend with questions, they’re scary. They poke holes. When they don’t have answers they can overwhelm.

Can I do this? Is this right? Am I good enough?

Well, this is where Answer’s become tricky. Because you can always say “No, I can’t” or “No, It isn’t” or “No, I’m not”.

And depending on who you are, that’s good: you decide to get better, you decide to not do something morally reprehensible; you decide that you are good enough.

But it’s just as easy, or even easier to answer those poorly, and decide you aren’t good enough.

You then get a series of answers that are equal untruths. Their causes too linear, their motivations to self-centered. The world becomes a self-absorbed place when you try to bring yourself down.

It’s hard to be aware of just how selfish you are when you’re a pessimist. I’m speaking from personal experience.

When I was young I needed answers, more than I needed questions. I didn’t know enough. Often, the answers left me cold. Those great big mysteries, the vastness of infinity suddenly took on a definitive shape. A sorrowful grandeur was missing.

But the answers I gave myself were just as wrong as the actual ones. They were too about me. They gave too much power to others. I would focus on how people were out to get me. I would get sad at the feeling I was incapable of being loved. The warm touch of another person’s hand was something which my unworthy skin could not assay.

My stretch-marks were not the result of medications playing rough-shod with my metabolism and eating habits. They were a symbol of my own lacking will-power. My ADD needed to be curbed. I needed to live on a schedule. I couldn’t let others see me with my shirt off, literally, or otherwise. I couldn’t let anyone believe I was actually worthy of love.

I worked hard at being a paradox. Someone desperate for affection, but doing everything in my power to push it away. Not answering people when I needed to. Clinginess, fifteen texts a day and all that insecurity. The feeling that being a good person was just beyond me, and desperately trying to prove myself wrong, but never getting any closer.

Then, a little while back, I started asking questions.

Can I do this?

Then, I didn’t answer that question.

I just did it.

And something happened.

It got better.

I let myself suffer, and let the questions expand. I stopped planning down to the micro-second every part of tomorrow. My plans fell through regularly. Instead, I asked the questions: can I do it?

And then I left it at that.

Tomorrow doesn’t exist: it hasn’t happened yet. It’s one great big question mark. It is the promise of life.

It makes those cold, dead answers, seem so silly, in the long run.