As I Read On And On About Slavery

27 02 2007

Quote from somewhere in the Internets …

Shouldn’t “African Americans” be apologizing for slavery as well, being their ancestors in Africa sold one another to the white slave traders? As for me, none of my ancestors owned slaves so I am offended by this apology cr**! And instead of whining about the past, people should be thankful they were born in and live in this country…they could be in Africa had it not been for slavery, and some of them wouldn’t have even been born had their ancestors not been brought over here. Think about it….the only people in this country who have a right to complain are the American Indians. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

When I can find the time, I will try to put together my particular views on individualism, multiculturalism, and the American creed (or ethos).

Fields

“Energy propagating in a fluctuating way,” I hear, “It moves, feels,” no I mishear, “in fields.”

The girl in front of me is taking notes. She has the chapter highlighted already. Her penmanship is girly, but it has a precision, a fixed dedication. There is a persistence in her writing, she is fervently managing to ignore the lecture.

“Electromagnetic waves; the speed is constant is equal to c, three times ten to the what is it class? Eight. To the eighth meters per second. One and a half seconds to get to the moon, one and a half to get back.”

I think about synaptic transmission and how it pales in comparison to light speed. I think about her penmanship, the curls and swirls, and I imagine that the distance to the moon might one day not be so great.

A prose-poem below:

A Story,

I want to turn this relationship inside out, I want to make it all end, break your heart into pieces on the floor.

Why

Because it’s been months

Of this, of constant bickering, but I’m fine, I’m happy – I love you and you want it to go away.

Currently working on a short-story about a girl named Deborah

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I Cannot Imagine

11 11 2006

An Excuse To Live

She pretends to be something for tomorrow because she is not anything today. Between the measures of talent and effort, she certainly leans on the latter, but to say she is verdantly alive, struggling against the tides of the world, is only to believe what she would have you believe. She simplifies the present to convert it into something manageable: I am her lover, you are her audience, and the world her vice. Should I say she is alive? Perhaps, the singing voice in the shower tricks me, makes me believe so.

Life is not life, if it is unexamined. Love, too. She walks by, on the street with not so much as a passing thought on what it means to be human, only concerning herself with the style of the day. I see her, and I see what she would be without me, I can taste the lip gloss on my lips, feel my hand on her bare waist, see the mascara that shades her eyes like a second blindness. The tasteless fashion of it all, and none of it her taste – only that preordained by everyone else. Beyond this, I see the expression of an unneccesary individual’s soul, like an imprint, transformed out of nothing.

To be in love, to fully dissolve into another’s soul; a fertile, restless union of souls binding upon itself, clamoring, not man or woman, such love cannot grow from this sort of ghost. She trusts in me, like a blind man led to his execution, but not innocently. It is a perverse trust, one that presumes too much, one that casts off her responsibility. Her emotional fragility, this feminine construct, is merely a guise (unconscious as it is) to draw me closer. In her opinion, the past is irrevocable, mistakes or not, and therefore not worth consideration. But in her future, so fantastically intangible, she finds redemption, glory, and the person she would like to be. Perhaps she has not become this person, perhaps she is not on track to become this person, perhaps because she is, quite simply, not this person.

I asked her today: tomorrow morning, what will you believe is worth living for? She said, “You.” So tragically rehearsed. So mechanical. But her reflex was like yours; why do you live – love, kids, spouse, family. When we are young and therefore immature, we live for ourselves and those around us live for us as well. When we are older and therefore mature, we live for ourselves and pretend we love. We are so secure in our fashions, we believe that no one completely understands love, that everyone experiences it, that no one can judge it, and all so that we never question anything. We fear “cognitive dissonance,” when actions and beliefs conflict, so much that we cannot imagine comparing these two. So we all live for love, a love of others that we cannot define, cannot substantiate, cannot prove, show, or reproduce. Convenient.

She does not live, but merely pretends to, along with everyone else in city, save for a precious few dying souls seeking out each other desperately. These souls, I fear, walk quietly, because to be alive is more than can be seen. To be alive is to ignore what is not inspiring and rise above it, which is I fear not to listen to the noise sometimes. I do not owe her anything, to be bound to someone in terms of a relationship or anything, requires more than a passing shadow to be attached to. And so I pass, under the guise of being a good honest gentleman, privately dating to find another soul worth loving. I cannot imagine a more honest life.





Ice Like Sky

4 10 2006

My psychology textbook reads to me: “To survive, we must know the world around us.” People ask why my stories are depressing; if they could defend themselves, and I am sorry that they in themselves cannot, they would say that they are not sad, but instead real. And in that reality, there is a tangle of light and dark, suppressed joy, limited sorrows. Life is far more suited to sadness; maybe we need to take a deep breath, swallow our pride, accept life’s flaws –that it is innately flawed, and instead seek out the glimpses of perfection that sometimes bleed through the smog. A friend, though I haven’t seen him in so long and he doesn’t respond to my correspondence, once told an English professor of mine, who in turn passed on to me, that he would be content if for just five times in his life he was completely happy. To reach nirvana five times and to descend again. Strange, so strange, so miserably painful, to pass through the years of college. English was a good class (reminded me of high school, except we bought more books, spent less time talking, more time listening). When we write stories, or when we share them out loud over a dying campfire beer in hand with the moonlight eroding into sunlight friends all around yellow haze little fireflies, we have an audience, right? That audience we share with, they the listeners, are touched throughout life by experience. So really a story is just one person’s life trying to cross that gap, the space between, to someone else.

I’m always talking about relationships in stories; the bitter joy of a relationship with another. And so I’ve covered something of a range of “events”: adultery in the woods, a lesbian looking for sense and sensation, a lover looking on at a relationship consumed by fire in the distance, and a girl looking for anything. I have not quite yet explored relationships gone stale, maybe that’s worth going into. Passion lost, however, is not quite as interesting (as happy) as passion found. So I try, but of course, reality sets in and everyone rolls their eyes at my stories. My girlfriend, too, sighs at the stories. “Is this one about me,” she asks. “No, but it’s based on you.” Stories approach reality. And that depresses my readers, my fragile and tired audience. But I’m there too, I’ll finish a story and if I engaged it, I cannot remember how it began, so I read from the beginning. And I don’t want a sad story – my life is enough a sad story, just like everyone else’s. But it has to be real, so when we want a happy story, we really only hope for an escape or at best a nirvana-moment. Relationships are just a platform to explore the monotony of life.

I watch a mother leave her crying child in the alley behind my row. Something in my mind brushed a smile onto her face, some pleasure of the strong washing over her sin. I could not care to listen to her cries mixed with the infants’, instead I shut my window. Disappointed in the thoughts I had read upon her face, I began my attempts at rationalizing her motives. She somehow became detached from the crime itself, and when the police came hours later this is all I could recall. Some pleasure of the strong washing over her sin. I could not identify her. She became another story. And it is in the gaps we divide ourselves with that we find ourselves lost in, looking for life – a fully fleshed, joyous and colored in, intelligent life, one painted in the moment.

Just like a mother can so willingly abandon a child, I too, often abandon my craft, my stories. I let them out, never speaking on their behalf (like every author that maintains their own view of a story but accepts and encourages every one to come up with their own, just because it sells more books if they’ve got to try to get it on their own). And everyone to some extent has to let go of their product, or else they get consumed by it; parents know this lesson best of all. And children too, if they can flee the sanctity of impenetrable innocence, if they allow themselves to be poisoned by maturity (it’s both a blessing and a curse), if they choose to see life for what it is (a teeming swamp of failure attempting to save itself from the dredges) instead of what it might be (a swimming pool where everyone gets their fair share and people ask first before jumping in and no one eats less than thirty minutes before getting in). So to grow up, to embrace story, to embrace what we feel is both never true and potentially true, to embrace sadness and look at it not as some morbid fascination with the negative but instead as a genuinely positive perception of what life is, to embrace such a view and learn from it, to do these things, that would be a lot of growing up, and from what I’ve seen, the adult world has a long way to go.


So thanks to my girlfriend because yes, our problems were sometimes cast in slantways light so that I could record (for myself and others maybe too) what was real to me at a time in my life. Thanks to my dad, for giving me the best lie (or double-talk) I could learn from, that we can be optimistic in looking at every potential problem. Thanks to my mom for teaching me that no one wants to read my stories, but that some will do it out of obligation. And thanks to everyone who’s come up to me and shared how depressing my stories are, and have, out of sheer kindness, worried for my life – for you who have stressed about my depression, thanks. I have only embraced the depressions of life, I promise – nothing more, and am wholeheartedly content in knowing my humanity (my depravity?). To more people, so many more, from whom I’ve borrowed incidences of your lives, thank you and sorry and I-hope-it-all-worked-out and a million little emotions I can’t explain; I’ve used your lives as both a canvas and a mirror.

I’m at a turning point in life, another disillusionment from the inside, from which I’m unsure where everything is going. Part of me wants to sort it out in a sudden collectively perfect day, like I used to back when I was younger (back when I could?), but part of me knows it will be sorted out in odd ways knee-deep in a substance I can feel but not understand. And I’m fascinated by the liquid, could it be life, could I drown in it, or could I breathe it, could I escape and walk above it, or float, or rinse my face, is it clear or sticky, and most of all, a question that should put our post-modern sex lives on hold: is it right to introduce someone else to this, can you ethically reproduce without having sorted out what life is or means, or at least whether or not life is honestly worth living. If I could, you know, go back to being a soul and nothing more, just an angel floating above watching people cry, smile, live, I would. But in pursuit of putting on a good show, I go on, for those lucky enough not to live and those who have suffered enough that they’ve stopped living. Maybe this reads like a suicide note to you, but take it instead as a letter, maybe not a “happy” one, but a real one, from me to you, from a friend, a living friend willing to look at life for everything everyone’s prepared an excuse for; I’m against cynics, inside I’m so much the Romantic: feeling is everything, feel the sad, feel that happy, but feel it all at once, let it dance in the icy skies.





On Learning

7 09 2006

No one knows everything, but allow for the chance that once in a while someone can come across, younger, and know more than you. And I don’t just mean books.

In Good Will Hunting, Sean (Robin Williams) leans over in a “Taster’s Choice moment between guys”, talking to Will Hunting (Matt Damon), saying “So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that.” And so what? “You’re just a kid, you don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talkin’ about.” Even more, Sean seems to have the upper hand. But what makes his understanding so much more precious? Sure it can be said that he has “lived life” or that he’s been there. But if you haven’t gone to Vietnam, haven’t “held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help”, then how could I possibly understand it to that extent? What good is knowledge if it can’t be communicated? A better question, the one I pose to those who feel they know more about life, love, and such because they’ve “been there” is this one:
If you presume to know more than me because you’ve been there, and that all I can know is just from secondhand accounts from books and such, what good is it for you to give me another secondhand account? You’ll still “know” it better than I can, under your guidelines, because I still won’t have experienced it.

So here’s my take. I think you’d much rather I completely see it from your perspective (sort of like trying on your shoes in some virtual reality of sorts), then after I’ve seen it from your way, and just exactly your way, then I can make my own understandings. Let me listen to you, add your perspective, but just because I don’t see it through your eyes completely doesn’t mean I’ve ignored you or not learned. Let it go, and ask yourself if the secondhand advice I hear from you is advice I’ve heard from “They Things They Carried” or “Hamlet” or “Anna Karenina” before you immediately charge into telling me things I “cannot possibly understand.” They inspire soulful discussion, growth. Ask yourself, who communicates Vietnam better: you or a person whose entire career is defined by it. Who can talk about marriage better: you or Leo Tolstoy. Allow for the fact that I just have to experience some things as I go along. But understand that some experiences come before others in your life, and that I may not have to experience such misery to understand pain, or to watch a friend commit suicide to understand depression, or to total a car to understand what it means to take senseless risks.

Everyone’s life is different. A subtle touch more understanding and such. I’m willing to hear, but don’t act so condescendingly. Think, maybe he’s aggregated more information, maybe I can learn from him. And when you all begin to think that too, it might not be so one-sided. Remember those who lecture in the ways of old will never learn anything new. Try to understand these things everyone. Because I’m willing to learn from you.

 [ note: the repetitive, somewhat hypocritical, confused nature of this post is a mistake.  when reading this keep that in mind and fix accordingly.  ]





On Change

25 03 2006

“All Different Now”

Isn’t it just strange the way everything changes? We live two steps into the future, forcing the ignored past to catch up with us, then time slows down, the past and the pending collide, and suddenly everything’s different. I woke up one morning and I found that change itself has a sliding scale. Mathematically, it’s a second-order derivative; there exists a concrete rate of change for the rate at which things change. In physics terms, we’re talking acceleration or deceleration. Changes are inherently linked to perspective and with that, our concept of time. It’s been proven that our mind can actually function faster than it does, slowing down our perception of time enough that car accidents or knife fights are actually perceived in slow motion.

These collisions of the past and the pending constitute change in the larger sense. Change, by which I mean a significant and perhaps largely unnoticed and subtle change in life, is created when the mind no longer ignores the past, thinks in the present, and understands the transient nature of the future. I’m not sure whether or not these epiphanies can be induced consciously or not, but they do occur. Of course time does not actually slow down, not even necessarily in our minds, but what I’m postulating is that the equivalent occurs subconsciously allowing the brain to process everything sufficiently that it appears to be a sudden consclusion.

Life is motion all moving in every direction but summing up to zero. Imagine, however, that you are alive and that as you age things happen at a fairly predetermined speed. You pass through grade levels year by year, you enter the work force and you get your promotions and maybe eventually a pension, then you retire and die. Motivated people speed it up, apathetics slow it down, but more or less, life is a straight line with a few rough edges. When we notice a significant change in life, it is because (again consciously or not) we ignore the linearity of life and our ability to determine what is to come in exchange for an introspective analysis of what has happened thus far. Our perception of significant changes comes in subtle epiphanies that appear to us as understandings that we’ve always had.

Initially, I spoke about changing this life-rate, that it can accelerate or decelerate. Whether that happens, whether or not you change what tedious events will unfold is up to you; no advice will be written here. I am writing about what I believe ‘is’, not what I believe ‘should be’. There is a unique difficulty in perceiving the past and present when we are changing the course of our lives; being so intent on the future eliminates our peripheral vision. This is an acceleration, where we consciously make efforts to break away from what the timeline has plotted out for us, taking an strong will and intense zeal and focus. Another shift in the change of life is a deceleration, where others impact your life (through accelerations or decelerations of their own), unwillingly forcing you into a separate life track. Though the phrase deceleration has a negative denotation and connotation, deceleration is not always bad. However, it is, by my definition, unintended. Decelerations work like the opposite of an acceleration; rather than inhibit our ability to perceive the past and the present, they tend to slow everything down for us. Sometimes, these events are tragic, like an automobile accident or a knife fight and sometimes they are not. Though both accelerations and decelerations are infrequent and perhaps elusive, they do occur, altering our ability to perceive change.

“I went out in the rain suddenly everything changed,” wrote Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. The Beatles wrote in Yesterday, “suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be”. Change, especially the kinds of change that deal with who we are and where our lives are going, is not always unexpected. We just have a lot of small changes unexpectedly catch up with us. Time slows down, the past and the pending collide.





A Sea of Troubles

9 03 2006

Lost

The world around me is plain, in hues of greys, black and white. What they say to me cannot hold me here for more than moments. I am terrified of the freedoms I possess, the seeming freedoms that do charge me to act, succeed, and live. It would be easier no doubt, to be in life swayed entirely by the tides around me. However I cannot take up arms against this, my sea, because I do indeed have my own strength, an independent will that governs the courses of my actions which flow out of my body and into that indomitable tide. To take up arms and construct anew this earth would be the same as to surrender to the waves; neither makes a difference. But to move delicately admist the waves towards the particulars in life that we desire, that and that alone is life for those who choose this woeful medium.

That, my friends, is where our life begins. At the recollection that all is the nothing you’ve always known it was. Life is not the absence of death, but the intermingling of death in the shape of flow, creation, and motion. The cold, unwedded sea does so toss and turn us that we are like prisoners, trapped. And this is what we have been spoon-fed as life. Life is that distant shore which the tides will not ever let us reach, though by ingenuity we create companions, ships, and sails. There is but death deep below, and life far across, and above there is only sky. Though our life now seems to be this impregnable vessel of despair, we must acknowledge the happy tides that sway and shape us, the shallow emotions we keep breathing for. To arrive at that distant shore is not a dream, but an impossibility.

What then of love, of that appetizing dessert for the cynics? Faith is the substance that keeps us afloat, the empty fear that judgment will impound the soul. A faith in God is but an unnatural belief in the union of the plight of the many; it is a belief in purpose, a trust constructed by the people merely to function. Love, too, is cherishable in that same sense. Love unites the wandering souls in the tide, who by a combination of will, pursue in union their own goals. For many, that is life. A life where we can ignore the tides from time to time and instead rejoice in the perfection of companionship. I will not criticize these people, for I myself am but one of a countless multitude who have experienced such a union in varying degrees. They and by they, I too; love is meaningful, because rather than seeing the woes and struggles of life, we ignore that distant shore and willingly face the tides. Love allows the human race to cope, react, create, succeed, survive, be true, be emotional, be profound, and simply be.

And still I see the world in the fleshless tones of forgotten films, in that inhuman cinescape of black and white.





On Success

18 02 2006

It is one thing to believe in yourself, and another to understand your capabilities, and still another to push those boundaries. The first is raw faith in man’s ability to overcome. Untempered, this belief leads to the eventual and inevitable realization of man’s limitations through some self-destructive drive. Understanding your capabilities on the other hand guarantees safe, secure passage through life. Not necessarily equal to achieving a minimum level of success, a strict obedience to acting in accordance with reason generally leads to apathy as you achieve less and less relative to those who take risks and are talented or lucky enough to succeed. To push those boundaries is perhaps the most reasonable course of action, wagering a small chance of failure against the chance of succeeding.

Success, unfortunately, is not easily found in my vocabulary. Only a very few events call to mind successes in my life. For me I find it easier to account for every action as a failure to the ideal potential of that action or event. Thus, every time I hand in a paper late or disappoint my parents or fail to clean my car I can account for it as a failure the same as when I score an A- on an exam, play music that only appeals partially to my parents, or guess to put in nine gallons instead of ten gallons of gas into my car. Every act, thus, is a failure to some extent relative to the potential. It perhaps makes my days easier to think each event to be a failure so that I can minimize the scope of the action, berate my negative mind-set, and consciously punish myself in order not to face the magnitude large or small of the actual event. When I do “come to my senses” as you might call it, I begin to take pride in my “accomplishments” and grow arrogant for imperfect things; in short, by enjoying what most consider to be “accomplishments” I lower my standards and cheapen the true successes, and worse, I begin thinking that I am nearer to perfection for it. Thus, I have to keep my mind in the dark. Many of my grades are failures, many of my friendships are failures, many of my days are failed, pathetic, and unlived. For to think that my life is at all good would be to compare my life to a perfect life. And heaven knows we can’t have that.

What then is success, if failure is so well defined? Success is the perfected event where consciousness, destiny, time, precision and action mesh; not only is the errand satisfied, there is nothing that could nor will ever surpass it. Generally speaking, the unsurpassable nature of the particular event derives from the precise time that the action was carried out; any other time earlier or later would have marred the perfection. Furthermore, successes need to be momentous. If the event in question isn’t difficult, time-intensive, and well-understood by the general population to be an achievement, then there is no potential for that event to be a success. Thus, regarding my fuel station example above, there is no potential for the event to be perfected. Events such as that one remind us that we are continually imperfect beings bound to a world that does not necessarily give us chances to succeed.

It is my delusion that success exists and that I have tasted it that drives me. If I cannot delude myself, if I realize that man is but a “quintessence of dust”, then I would have to objectively concede that man has no purpose existing. Before you tell me success is impossible under my terms, consider the alternative.

On Success, In Love

At some point, you realize that no level of balance, no matter how many stocks you own, bike rides you take, poems you write, or friends you make will ever lead to a successful life. In response to “On Success”, I contend that poor, laughable, ridiculed reason for existence – love – to be greater than attempting to accomplish near-impossible feats. In love we excuse our shortcomings and praise our successes no matter how minimal. Though love bleeds warmth into action, it does not conceal the shortcomings themselves, such things are obvious, self-explanatory, and (another credo of the love manifesto) reparable. Love allows us to redefine success subjectively as opposed to objectively. Men would contend that this is bitchery, a cheap slide into the feminine nature, however, it is not. A life in love is spent fulfilled not out of that insufferable indefatigable “success” but in sharing thoughts and emotions with others. You could call it changing the rules, and cheating the system, but if you’re living as nothing but a “quintessence of dust”, you might as well not feel like a “rogue and peasant slave” and define your world on your own terms – ones that you can live successfully with.