What A Time To Be Alive!

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To see the rot in no disguise – Oh what a time to be alive!  The scum, the shame, the fucking lies – Oh what a time to be alive!   We can’t pretend to be surprised – Oh what a time to be alive!  The seasons change and some survive – Oh what a time to be alive!  Oh what a time to be alive! – Superchunk

 

Idle Ideals

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Mom, when I grow up, I want to be just like you.  I want to do nothing!  I want to be nothing! – Kelly Bundy

Jerry:  So what did you do last night?

Elaine:  Nothing.

Jerry:  I know ‘nothing’, but what did you actually do?

Elaine:  Literally nothing.  I sat in a chair and stared.

The above sample of Seinfeldian dialogue probably wasn’t often quoted at water coolers during the sitcom’s heyday, but it was a line that filled me with inordinate glee when I first heard it.  It was more than just a nod to the virtues of laziness – it was a much-needed clarification of what it truly means to do nothing.

Nothing.

What a beautiful, inspiring word.

I think that if there is indeed some sort of magic key to happiness, it lies in behaving according to your own natural desires as opposed to ideals – or, if you prefer, desires that you desire to possess due to their cultural popularity yet for some reason don’t ever become real heartfelt desires, as evidenced by your behavior to the contrary.   Forget about that shit.  It’s nothing more than the human equivalent of chasing your tail.  You cannot force yourself into acting and feeling like anything other than what you are.

Incredibly, we’ve been bombarded by such constant encouragement to aspire to the vague ideals of society for so long that many of us have no idea “who we are”.   Many of us even attempt to make an educated guess as to the type of person we’re “supposed to be”, never realizing that we are using collective standards to analyze a uniquely individual experience.  Also, we forget that fluid experience is all that we are and thus there is no “self” or soul necessary to explain or justify our actions.

But cutting through all of that noise, both internal and external, to reflect on your earliest, untainted desires is easier said than done.  Personally, the earliest memory I can conjure of a probable insight into my own basic nature occurred at about 5 years of age.  This is the age when most kids first entered kindergarten in the days before womb-to-daycare childhoods.  We had all just experienced the first five years of life in utter bliss, though we could only see this after we’d been cruelly thrust into a world of schedules and expectations and responsibilities, none of which we were consulted on, by the way.  The salad days of flopping on the couch watching The Electric Company were suddenly cast aside in favor of learning the pledge to the flag and lining up single file for milk.  This did not sit well with me at all.  Truth be told, it still doesn’t.

Thus, my childhood fantasy world was populated less by space battles and cowboy duels and athletic glory than it was by plotting to maximize my down time.  I would close my eyes and picture myself grabbing my pillow and walking out the front door with a flippant, “see ya later” to my puzzled parents as I embarked on a journey to find the perfect secluded spot where I could lay around like a lump, undisturbed and worry-free.  Then what, you ask?  What more do you need?  Pillow, lack of parental authority and quietude were sufficient to my boyhood mind.  I couldn’t imagine aspiring to more.

I still can’t.

I’m embarrassed to admit that at present, 48 years into this consciousness of fluid experience, I still haven’t figured out how to make do with the basic ingredients of my aspirational fantasy.  In order to do nothing and remain free from anxiety, I need to have a roof over my head, at the very least.  Granted, as roofs go, they don’t get much more modest than the one that keeps my noggin dry, but it still costs money to keep my head positioned beneath that roof and that necessitates that I go to work.

Granted, as jobs go, they don’t get much more rote and stress-free than the one I’ve got, but it still requires that I put out the effort to get out of bed five mornings a week and show my mug at the office.

So though I probably am behaving largely according to my true nature, it’s by necessity imperfect.  Were it otherwise, you’d be able to tell by the fact that my muscles would have atrophied long ago.  But they haven’t.  These words would not be appearing before your eyes were it not for the effort of my fingers and I’d appreciate it if you’d acknowledge the courageous self-sacrifice inherent in the composition of this post.

I am an observer.  I observe everything that my senses can glean, but without ostensible purpose.  Regardless, observation has taught me a few things.  It taught me that almost everything we do in life is an unnecessary over-complication.  It taught me that people in general are FAR too prone to boredom.  It taught me that approximately 90% of all conversation is meaningless noise and that the only way to find some relief from the cacophony is to avoid the act of speaking as much as possible.

Those I admire most are hobos and the hearing impaired.

This morning, a co-worker entered the office and said, “What did you do this weekend, Paul?”  I replied, “nothing”, as is my wont.  However, that was untrue.   “Nothing that ought to be of interest to you,” might have been more accurate, but think of how much time it would have taken to say all of those words as opposed to the one-word reply for which I opted?

But I’m working on it and I think I’m making some real headway.  There’s an impressively detailed depression developing on my sofa cushions that’s a veritable plaster cast replication of the ass-end of my supine body.  My antiquated twice-dropped-in-the-toilet flip phone still works perfectly fine due to the fact that I don’t really use it anymore.  It has dawned on me that when I pick up the phone and dial a number, frequently someone will pick up and then I’m stuck listening to this person speak at me about absolutely nothing for an extended period of time.  If I am successful in my goal, there will come a day in the not-too-distant future when that same co-worker mentioned above will ask me the same pedestrian Monday morning query but this time, when I say, “nothing”, it will literally mean that I sat in a chair and stared.

And if that sounds like a horribly boring way to spend a weekend, that might just mean you haven’t learned how to stop aspiring to other people’s ideals yet.  But if you attempt to force such laziness before fully embracing its subtle virtues, all you’ll be doing is embracing my ideals.  In an ideal world, every single one of us would be utterly free of ideals.  Then we could all get together, sit in chairs and stare.  The way life was meant to be.

The Big Gala Fucking Picture Show

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In times of fear, suffering and strife, many people embrace anew the theistic traditions with which they were involuntarily burdened in their youths. Others artificially inflate a sense of rugged individualism in order to view themselves as potential saviors of humanity according to their own value systems. A third class of individuals opts for a sort of infantilism in which they assume the fetal position and wallow beneath a comforter of gregarious self-pity. Finally, there exists an anonymous contingent of humanity that to all appearances remains entirely unfazed by the shifting winds of fortune, failure and fright. We often describe them as existing on the outskirts of the human drama, but in truth they are naturally interactive movements of the larger energy field whose un-self-conscious actions serve to stabilize the universal web of consciousness by balancing the force of stifling egoistic hypochondria with the graceful and potent silence of ambitionless inter-being.

All suffering and emotional confusion is a result of imbalance. The reason so many of us continue to struggle in increasing frustration with the quality of our experience is because we’ve placed such unjustified importance on this notion of “quality”. We’ve also sanctified the illusion of individual significance to such a degree that we actually believe we are all self-motivated and self-contained islands of consciousness bearing exclusive responsibility for the quality of our own realities. In other words, the side of the scale containing the ideas of I, Me and Mine cannot dip any lower because the unquestionably concrete sense of self we’ve nurtured over the millennia has pushed it straight to the ground while our rapidly fading understanding of the interdependent cosmic dance has all but disappeared.

I say “all but disappeared” because there are many vague messages arising from our technological Tower of Babel declaring that a tried and true method for alleviating suffering is to “let go” or adopt a meditative mindset. Admittedly, I have dispatched such specifity-lacking instruction countless times right here on this page, after which I briefly fooled myself into believing I’d provided some real inspirational wisdom to those who might read my perfectly useless esoterica.

An increasing realization of my own hypocrisy inspired me to earmark the month of February for a break from online interaction and essays rife with the same self-importance they purport to critique. Despite the self-consciousness implicit in my original motivation for the brief hiatus, I now realize that a significant change in perspective is taking shape because my habitual center-of-the-Universe vantage point is far weaker than I’d imagined. What I’m getting at here is a growing conviction that every form of mental noise is an obscuration — including those noises that I favor. The briefest moment of relief from such noise creates a critically important gap and it is within this gap that one can reclaim his or her inherent understanding of the unifying principle of interconnection.

Still too vague?  I will try to illustrate with specifics.  Imagine that you are having a cup of tea on a Sunday morning. The house is quiet and still. You feel peaceful and content. Suddenly, you get a text from your friend canceling the plans you’d made to take an afternoon hike in the mountains — the anticipation of which had been a contributing factor to your sense of well-being. In a split second, the atmosphere takes on a different and more desolate feel. An errant cloud passes over the sun and your seat on the balcony is thrown into cool shade. You were alone a minute ago but now you feel somehow more so — you’ve gone from alone to unbearably lonely. This is because a minute ago, you were already hiking down a forest path with your friend for all emotional intents and purposes – you had convinced yourself that because this activity had been planned in advance, the only possibility was that it would come to fruition. Buzz!! Just like that, you are brutally wrenched from your pleasant anticipatory stroll and thrust back into your lonesome, cloud-covered seat, somehow more isolated than before as if there could be varying degrees of solitude.

What really happened in that hypothetical scenario? What happened is that your physical chemistry was altered by your expectations. The anticipation of a planned activity caused certain chemicals to flood the brain’s reward centers resulting in a sense of well-being. Then a signal alerted you to a brief text communication that seemingly altered the future, although such an alteration of an intellectual abstraction is by definition impossible.  Your expectation of the future changed and that alone is what instigated the sudden and dramatic emotional shift.

Everything I’ve discussed thus far is uniquely human and therein lies the other major contributing factor to our self-imposed misery.  Here’s some more unsolicited advice for those who may be prone to taking unsolicited advice from dubious bloggers: in speech and in thought, stop dividing the fauna of the world into people AND animals. People are animals.  This is critical to remember.  Our distaste for this curiously humbling truth may imbue us with a certain sense of pride but it also alienates us from our natural habitat. This alienation fuels the entire gamut of human neurosis. We have in the truest sense forgotten what we are, so is it any surprise that we still can’t figure out how to live in peace with our environment and each other?

We’ve replaced the natural interactive movements of co-operative experience with the artificial choreography of competitive society.  In this society, nothing is untouched by imagined self-importance. Competition is not confined to business, warfare and sports but infects all of our interpersonal relationships — even those we so reverently celebrate like family and romance and friendship. Hence, there is not a single one of us who has ever had an experience of untainted existence.  Beyond the first few months of infancy, no one experiences the only thing that can be considered our birthright because we have told ourselves endless stories that cause us to fear our natural state of being. None of us are happy because we fear the very mindset that would enable true happiness. We are afraid that if we release our iron grasp on the moment to moment unfolding of our lives, we will simply disappear.

On the morning of March 1, I gave myself a look in the bathroom mirror. I had not, in fact, disappeared. But there was a subtle involuntary smile on my face and I wasn’t besieged by my usual nervous twitchiness.  I chalk this up to the fact that I’d just spent four weeks engaged in an unwitting crash course in discovering “my” authentic self by acknowledging and assessing the value of everything except my precious sense of self. After all, without the self-righteousness that invariably accompanies an I-centric approach to experience, there is nothing left but to observe with detached curiosity. It’s like watching the frenetic machinations of a curious species through the eyes of an alien visitor, though the alien visitor isn’t trying to ascertain whether what he’s seeing might be a source of personal harm or gain. Regardless, this alien is fully engaged with and fulfills its purpose to the interconnected Universe because it can do so without resorting to self-aggrandizing philosophy. In other words, he’s just like every animal on Earth except one.

I gained a better understanding of my dog and the incredible creature that he is because I dropped the condescension of a master leading his pet. We are just two simpatico life forms that happen to live under the same roof. And on those frequent occasions when it seems like his enthusiasm for living dwarfs my own, he displays superior wisdom. I often trudge heavily through my days, but Jesse just rolls with what may come because he instinctively knows that a dance is best enjoyed in fearless spontaneity. Neither of us is superior to the other because the Universe needs both of us in order to function. And it needs you. And it needs every mosquito, manatee and marmoset that flies, swims or walks the earth. And, yes, it needs Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un and Kourtney Kardashian. Treating the punch line-in-chief as some type of unspeakable embodiment of evil by truncating his typewritten name to T***p simply reinforces my fear of such people and feeds into their illusions of power. It also contradicts my image-conscious public embrace of universal equanimity. So I will henceforth cease and desist with that silly and self-congratulatory Voldemortization of a name and simply refer to him by his agreed-upon moniker: Donald Trump.  Interestingly, I just found it important enough to make that decree at the same time that I find myself suddenly disinterested in discussing such topics altogether.  I suppose that’s the only scenario in which I could honestly make such a decree but now I wonder what delusional notion inspired me to make even that decree.  I decree no more decrees!

Writing is a natural activity upon which I’ve sometimes brought to bear an unnatural self-absorption. Therefore, fiction will be my venue for the foreseeable future. Erecting worlds that exist only in the imagination is a form of full-immersion meditation if the author is able to forget himself. So I hope that you will forget all about me and enjoy the stories that materialize here with detached interest. And when you’re done, I hope you will understand that these stories of imaginary people are just as real as your “concrete” reality insofar as it is all simply the phenomenal display of Mind.

Life is wonderful precisely because no single aspect of it matters in isolation from every other aspect. If we can muster enough humility to remove value judgments from our view, life becomes one big gala fucking picture show.  Before the house lights come back on, we’ll have laughed and cried and gasped and grieved, but when the projector stops spinning, we’ll all remember it was just a story.  Bring the popcorn and I’ll see you there.  (But don’t hesitate to cancel if something more interesting comes up.)

The Simpletons Are Armed & Dangerous

I originally posted this in September. The final tally of mass shootings in the US for the year 2017 was 345.

Spooky Action At A Distance

idiots_with_guns_11“Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face — not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival. It’s responsible behavior, and it’s time we encourage law-abiding Americans to do just that.” – Wayne LaPierre, NRA SpokesIdiot

 The above hysteria from the bespectacled, beak-nosed mouthpiece of the National Rifle Association is a perfect example of the recent Bizarro-World re-definition of machismo and masculinity.  Somehow, American men have been reprogrammed to believe that being terrified of every improbable calamity that could possibly befall them is proof of their manhood.  But since the typical pusillanimous American male isn’t frequently quoted in the press, how is he to prove to the world how manly he is?  That’s right: by strapping a firearm over his shoulder – preferably one with more fire power than he could possibly handle.

I’m sure I don’t need to cite…

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Mexican Radio

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The world unfolding is the mirror image of Mind shattered into 7.6 billion jagged shards.

Its massive vibration a cacophony of voices woven into an incomprehensible din of Spanish alto, English soprano, Arabic bass and Mandarin tenor.

In an effort to adjust, I tune the radio dial a half click shy of the dim signal floating up from Juarez and try to discern familiar phrases breaking through the static.

Peace brokers, marriage counselors and therapists make their livings from idle chatter. Everyone pays up because no one wants to be the first to admit they don’t understand.

Valida ella tus necesidades? Has estado escuchando voces? Compra ahora!

We fear the potential of our own creations —

¿Se harán cargo las computadoras?

— as our old inventions swallow us whole.

Money and romance / borders and pride / gods and demons / corporations and titles / warfare and friend requests keep us distracted ’til death. Game over.

Can a mind grasp the experience of nothing? Blackness and silence are experiential notions. Nothing is nothing. We’ve all been there before though there’s nothing to recall.

Cuando JFK estaba vivo, ni siquiera existía en potentia…

How can we fear non-existence? We fear only our own stories that call this universal fate into question. Fear of futility inspires manufactured meaning but it’s a cannibalistic commodity.

Ese compa ya esta muerto, nomas no le han avisado

A spectral voice projects vague urgency through the white noise so I reply from behind my wall of voodoo: “No comprende, it’s a riddle.”

 

*Gracias to Stan Ridgway and Los Cuates de Sinaloa

Please Stand By

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Spooky Action At A Distance will be on hiatus this month while its R&D Department goes offline to acquire fresh ideas through organic experience.

In the interim, feel free to plumb the archives for pointless diatribes you may have missed the first time around and stay tuned for the continuation of Idolatry next month along with a hopefully renewed enthusiasm for loquacious over-analysis.

Until the next time…

 

Reverberations

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We shriek and howl, beg and plead in plaintive wails / hit auto-tune / share / await commiseration.

When we’re small, we ask to be held.  When we strut, we take on the world.

Friendship is gauged by feigned concern in our echo chambers of conceit.  We build ramparts to keep out the whisper of truth / but still strain to hear our own names.

Shyness is a lonely suicide but that of the braggart is biblical.  When the book is set down and the last word is uttered, our dust will disperse in soft effusion / no faces no names – no shit.

A little girl sobs in the corner – she is the world on the brink.   We ignore her at our peril.

Angry mob storms embassy at dawn – a crying girl’s distraction when no one comes to dry her tears.

God or tribe, it’s all just you but there’s no you apart from me.  It’s all too much until it’s not and now it goes back ‘round again.

Stupid questions asked anew.  Weeping in binary code.

Sooner or later, we all fall silent / so why do we speak at all?