30 December 2008

Rite of Way

I've only got one chance at this, so I'm taking it now; it's nearly a new year, and I can't very well just let that slip by without my acknowledging it.

Rites and rituals all around this time of year, after all. It seems that everyone has their vision of the perfect holiday season -- a white Christmas, a warm fireplace, a creamy hot chocolate on a crisp winter night. Gathering with family, or with friends, or curling up alone and dwelling on the events that have gone before us, and those which lay ahead. A quiet contemplation or a raucous year-end bash blasting music until dawn.

Each of these is a personal journey, and one into which we invite our loved ones, our friends, our colleagues. We all form our own ideal, and attempt to achieve that alongside those with whom our ideals may clash, may coincide, may be alien to. Rites and rituals, storied traditions and emergent trends, and always a call to the past with each frosted breath curling foglike into the air. We seek to embrace the future, ever hoping that it will outshine the past, never mindful of the fact that we perform these rotes in cyclical repetition, always thinking that this time, it has to make things better, make things bigger, make things greater than they have been. We always seem to hold to the childlike faith that "someday" is better than "today" and that when the clock strikes 12 and a new year unfurls in moments, hours, breaths ... that the change must be for the better, that we can leave behind each unpleasant memory and unwanted regret, and that we cast aside all that which has passed in favor of a new, improved existence.

Rites and rituals, whether we come together as a group and celebrate the successes of a year well spent, or stare coldly into the stars above alone and pondering the breadth of our own mental landscape as we feel the spinning of the wheel bringing us back around for another try, another turn at making the most of our 365-day lifespan. We turn our eyes to the heavens, or to the TVs blaring garish throngs of screaming revelers waiting for a ball that dropped two, three hours hence, to displays around the globe of partiers rushing headlong into the unknown, we turn our eyes to the faces of our families both here and gone, to eyes that once held that same youthful exuberance, to eyes which strain against the growing time-worn wisdom, to eyes which flare and sparkle and burn for something better, for something forgotten, for something not yet known.

It is not often that, through our disparate cultures, we approach an event as a planet, as a race of people rather than people of different races. This moment, this crease in time, transcends our nations and our religions, upends our fractuous desire for unique identity for a moment to connect with all around us, to bring together neighbors and friends and strangers and enemies and everything in between, shedding our petty disputes if only for the few weighted moments that it takes to say, "Happy new year".

Rites, rituals, rememberance; 2008 draws itself closed to the tides of time, and a new dawn bears down upon us. Let us hold to the hope that it will be a better one, and let us, in our own ways, live our prayer to see a brighter tomorrow.


04 November 2008

Crisis of Culture

It's election day, and that means -- free Starbucks' coffee, status-symbol stickers to venerate the brave souls that waited in line, and staying up late to watch pundits argue about whether or not any given state can be considered "called" for one candidate or the other, flipping channels on occasion to see the blue and red switch up in the so-called "swing states" and other locations throughout the country get reassigned like a game of Risk gone awry.

Of course, it also means that by the end of the day, we'll likely have a good guess, at least, as to who our next President will be. While I'm not an active participant in the system -- at least, not this time around -- that's still a pretty big deal, and I can't really deny it. What this election really represents, though, is a division in the country that no President, past or future, is capable of reconciling. We're a nation divided, full of different opinions and wholescale fundamental disagreements that drive us apart from each other more than the Rocky Mountains or the World Series ever could. And you know what?

That's awesome.

I'm glad that I live in a country where people can disagree with me. I'm glad that I live in a country where people can hate me for thinking the way that I do. I'm particularly glad that I live in a country large enough to keep some open space between them and myself on the whole. That's what freedom is, what democracy is -- it's the ability of the people of one nation to unite, divided, against themselves in generally nonviolent war, a war waged with sandwich boards and televised promotions of pet causes. A war that burns in the heart of every American, legal or illegal, voter or non-voter, partisan party-man or split-the-middle independent.

A nation espousing a singular ideal is, in my opinion, fascist. That's the embodiment of everything that we should abhor, at least so long as it wears the guise of choice, and which has no place within a country such as our own. While I don't feel strongly enough this time 'round to vote for one candidate or the other, the fact that I could -- or that I could cast a vote for some crazy third-party whackjob that hasn't a snowball's chance in Hell -- is a wonderful thing. The fact that people get angry when I tell them I don't vote is even better. I encourage everyone that can to get out, vote, make your voice heard, all that fancy junk. Me? I'll keep to myself, thanks, until an option I like pops up. I'm not holding my breath.

I'm sure I've got more to say, but I can't think of it right now. It's not as if anyone reads this, anyhow, so I'm just expressing my own opinion recursively to myself. Not much to get excited about there, I suppose.

Until next time, dear reader! (Yeah, that's me, what now?)

16 September 2008


I'll preface this by saying the following as bluntly as possible: I hate election years. I hate the bipartisal system. I am not a supporter of John McCain or Sarah Palin; I am not a supporter of Barack Obama or Joe Biden. I do not support some left-field party hoping to "break ground" and be the first real threat from a new ticket. I'm not Green, Libertarian, or Prohobitionist. I'm an American, and nothing more.

I really hate election years. They bring out the worst in absolutely everyone; suddenly, mudslinging is the new black, and everyone's a Paris-bound fashion mogul. I'm bombarded from all sides with tales of how Candidate X wants to tax the poor but Candidate Y wants to give them handouts and dive national debt. Debates fling across networks, campaign advertisements plague every channel, every lawn, every news article. Everything -- even new scientific research -- comes with a left- or right-wing pundit heralding the advancement of the human race or the degradation of its morals. There's not a single American news report, nor news report about America, that doesn't include a political sideline, footnote, or other jab; anything left untouched by the writers and editors is quickly picked up as a banner by one camp of commentors or another, and soon, it's as if any given website is the central hub for pre-election coverage of the rampant hatred seething under the skin of every principled American.

The real kicker, I think, is that everyone thinks they have an obligation to vote. An obligation to support one of the major tickets. An obligation to empower a half-formed opinion bolstered by party lines, colorful speeches, and media-frenzies based on half-truths (Palin book banning) or association (Rev. Wright) -- things with no real relevance to the task at hand. I challenge this obligation by choosing not to vote; this isn't a refusal or decision to not voice an opinion by any means. Voting is a process by which any given individual pledges their support for another individual based on their personal feelings about any of a number of various factors -- some people vote "party line", some vote because they believe in one candidate or the other, some vote along the "lesser of two evils" line, and some for reasons that I don't know or don't care to list here. Those are all well and good for those people, but I feel that it's just as valid an option to refuse to vote if there are no candidates on the ballot that I can support in good faith. It's like the conscientious objector for the new age, and damned if it doesn't carry a similar stigma.

The real thing that gets me irked, though, is just the increased level of aggravation, of spite, of spitting venom at one another. Everyone gets caught up in their own digs, in their own pseudoreligious fervor for their Chosen One to Whom All Truth Shall Bow, and we spark intense, raging arguments and fights with one another on things that are entirely unrelated! There's just such an overflow of sheer irritation with the Other Side that people are testy about any subject, and are willing to preach their platform on it, going so far as to sever ties that have outlasted several similar elections before. We forego the notion that we are all Americans, and we become only Liberals or Conservatives, drawing battle lines as clear as we did in 1861 with the onset of our nation's civil war. It's as if we forget that after the election, we're going to be forced to continue living with the folks that we've so strongly opposed in the weeks and months leading up to that magical date.

As for me? I'm not voting in this election, nor do I plan to in any election hence. Call me when one of the parties finally admits their facist regime and is ready to make it happen.


09 September 2008


Life comes at you fast, and if you fail to keep up, then the road is going to rise to meet your face before you even realise that your gravity is off. You have to keep on running despite any hurdle that throws itself in front of you, or you're never going to make it to the next one; even when you fall, you must do so with enough forward momentum that you can continue, uninterrupted, to the next event unfolding before you. There's no pause, no stop, no time for a Slo-Mo replay examination of your latest success or failure. This is the big leagues of universal participation and everything is on the line with each move you make; chances are, just by taking the time to read this paragraph, you've missed something that could have been vitally more important than doing so. Of course, reading this could also be the single most important thing you've ever done, or will ever do. Gotta take chances, I guess, if you're looking to find prizes at the end of the tunnel where the light fades off into the blackness of the unknown, sometimes referred to as 'tomorrow' or, stranger yet, as 'yesterday'.

I've been out of sorts lately. Work has been unkind, and life is curving like an acid-dosed python in a wind tunnel full of rat scent. Twists upon turns upon coils of what looked to be circles but in the end are only spirals further into some depth yet unfathomed by Man. Sleep is lost as the hours fade into days taking up the weeks that build and build and build to join up to some cataclysm that looms. I think maybe it'd be nice if the apocalypse happened, if only because then the chaos that is my head might splash out across the CNN website with vivid color and broadcast with unique theme music that captures the sense of not knowing what's going on. For all the uncertainty about the future, we still seem so focused on it. Projections, predictions, prophecies all, like oracular divestitures of ages long since passed and soon to come again.

This, too, shall pass.

All things must end. All ends must have a means. All means must have purpose.

When life is turned for the worst, it is important to remember that no matter how terrible, how depressive, how distraught, it will end. It will change. Things will be different.

When life is bursting with greatness, it is important to remember that no matter how wonderful, how elating, how fantastic, it will end. It will change. Things will be different.

The only cosmic truth is that there is no truth to the cosmos. Science disproves itself on a nigh-daily basis now, refuting the foolish predispositions and conclusions of great thinkers of the past. How much further before they all realize that no constant needs to remain? Seekers will always seek, and will never find, for that is not their purpose. Anything collected on the path of the Seeker is not a truth, but an evident footprint from where the truth may have stepped while sprinting headlong into wherever it's hiding now. Ask the quantum-theorists. They ought to know where it's gone by the time I've finished wondering if I should even bother asking.

I guess what I'm saying is that I know there are no answers, only questions. But this, too, shall pass! While answers may not exist, the simple fact of shifting truth must dictate to itself that eventually, the eventuality of events will evince the evident evidence of itself. I can't even make sense of it myself, but I can't imagine it any other way.

I think I'm just confused and confounded by the way that the path interacts with the traveller, inexorably editing the predestination percieved by the one who does the travelling, thus changing the place being travelled to. What we expect is not what we recieve. What we recieve is what we should have expected. We've been through it all before, but refuse to learn anything new about the processes that dictate the facts of the case. It's all laid out, cut and dry, but the jury is refusing to cease deliberations, and I'm pretty sure the judge paid the bailiff to block the defendant's entry to the room.

22 August 2008


This once-a-month posting thing has got to go. I've been trying to hard at other things to even remember that I need to write from time to time to anchor myself to sanity; coping mechanisms have been one of the things I've spent a lot of time thinking about lately, and frankly, there's a lot to be said for having those things to which one turns when the weight of the world itself seems too much. With so many terrible things being splayed out across the globe and transmitted to us direct by satellite in High-Definition, it's easy to be overwhelmed, to find oneself lacking in means of dealing with the harshness of reality.

And so we cope. We drink, we gossip, we catch up on celebrity dirt. We write, we read, we go for long walks on the beach. We listen to music too loud, play sports with our friends, slice our flesh with razors; we cry, we laugh, we crack jokes that we secretly revile for their content. All told, everyone comes out equal in the end, and we're all just trying to make it through the day; the most confident man is still inspired only by his drive to succeed, and the loneliest still held together by the hobbies that fill his time to keep his brain from realising that it isn't pleased to be where it is.

What's curious to me is the variety of ways that people describe their coping mechanisms. Some people say that they just do what comes naturally; others fret over whether what they're doing is avoidance of issues. Some pursue their interests out of a stated goal to be healthy, or wealthy, or happy, while some prefer to maintain that they're only interested in making it through another day by whatever means necessary. We rationalize and analyze and break everything into neat little segments to make them easier to mentally digest; we all offer our own take on the things that we do, and we all have our own way of brushing off the descriptions that others use ("He says he just does that for fun, but it's obvious he's just trying to keep his mind off of what happened...") -- we invent labels for the actions and intentions of ourselves and others, because they're more easily tied down than the people themselves.

Actions can't lie; they can't be made to be false, even when the motives behind them are false or they are being done for reasons explained only in untruths, even when one is doing things that they would rather not be doing for whatever reason -- such as fitting in, or seeming calm, or just keeping up appearances -- the action itself is a pure thing, a thing which cannot by its own nature decieve. Whatever the reasons, whatever the justification, whatever the consequence, the action simply is. It displays itself without remorse and breaks the mold of simplicity in so doing; whenever one does something, that something becomes an expression of the self, which reveals some part of oneself. That facet may be conceived through falsity, but the action remains the same, and continues to remain the same, to carry the same result within its own confines; the difference is in how the world reacts to the actor.

So it is with coping with reality, for, like action, reality itself is intrinsically unable to lie. While I know from experience that my brain can lie to me about what is real (dreams, imagined sights in the corner of one's eye), reality itself is not the one at fault. What exists is what exists, depsite our best efforts to cloud our perception thereof, to make of any situation what we wish, to see only what we want to see and damn the rest. We lie to ourselves about reality and actions both, as a coping mechanism I think, because we need to be able to bring the whole affair that is what we experience into a cohesive focus, into a picture that is painted by our minds for our own eyes. To see the world as another sees it for even an instant could break even the most steeled mind.

How many times do we rewrite the past to arrive at a present that we can accept?

28 July 2008

Digital Wanderlust

It's, again, been a while since I had anything to say here, really. In the meantime, there's been birthday parties, housecleaning, and the Governator has started to ban trans fats from restaurants in California; some fires are still burning, but the sky is blue again for the first time in months (well, okay, it was a bit blue before, but now it's blue like it ought to be). Quitting smoking is not going well, starting a game up is going better than expected, and somewhere between all of these things, I'm slowly but surely being promoted at work, to a position that ought to pay more and certainly carries more things to handle while I'm doing it.

The simple fact of the matter is, I've gotta get myself fired up in order to say anything interesting, and that just hasn't been happening lately; at least, not in a way that's productive to comming up with cutting criticisms and witty insights into the world at large. I've been too self-focused, to internal, to let fly a rant, rave, or other diatribe about the state of the nation or the nation's states or whatever else might be stately or national. I'm waiting to see what the Beijing Olympics will bring -- not for the sports, mind you, but for the politics -- and until then, the Bush-bashing and political back-and-forth of an election year has really grown tiresome, leaving me more than just a little bit jaded about that whole set of affairs; national politics, it seems, quickly becomes short-term repetition of long-term ideologies played out over the last few decades but with nothing new to contribute to the conversation.

I think the real issue is that for me, it's all starting to come together. My family is growing together and doing well, the promotion has me less than concerned about the current state of the economy at most times, and generally, all the things that I would normally use to fuel my fire just seem trivial against the fact that, despite current apparent trends, I've got myself pretty much together and success is starting to form around me. It's like I've been paying off my karmic debt, and the office just realized that my last statement was overbilled; a cosmic tax refund for the terminally involved. They say that good things come to those who wait, but also that you reap what you sow -- that always seemed somewhat contradictory to me, as one seems to be rather passive (waiting) and the other rather active (sowing). Now, though I think I'm starting to see that these two images are one and the same; after all, one cannot harvest a field as soon as the seed is laid -- it must take time to grow, to be nurtured, to become that which it was intended to be harvested as, and one must remember to tend to the field rather than simply marching on and sowing something else in the next acre-block over -- that's the waiting for good things part, I suppose.

I've planted a lot of seeds in the past several months. I feel good knowing that it's harvest time right now; planting season will come again soon, though, and things will be tough, as they always have been through the history of humanity. I'm not about to say I think I've won at the game of life, or even declare a small victory for myself in any grander scheme; I will, however, say that I'm glad to have the life that I presently do, and I can hardly wait to see what's around the next corner.

30 June 2008

Sanitized for Your Perversion

Last night, I watched a zombie flick; this, in itself, isn't too much of a shocker. We watch these with some kind of regularity, ranging from the terrible B-movie "is that guy supposed to be dead?" variety on up through the multi-million dollar major studio productions. This one, strangely, managed to tread the line; the real curiosity, though, was the morality of the tale itself. The point of the movie, aside from the standard-issue scares about people who should be dead deciding not to be, seemed to center around the effects of mass-media, desensitization of the viewer and the cameraman, and whether or not humans are, on the whole, worth saving in the event of, say, zombocalypse (zombie-centric apocalyptic scenario); there was also a heavy lean on not believing what the media sells as fact -- news reports and whatnot -- and the power of the internet to spread the "truth" of matters as seen by the eyes and camera lenses of those who are there.

I'm not a film reviewer, critic, or what have you. I'm not going to get into whether I thought it was a good movie for whatever reason; I'll even leave it up to you to find out what it was, if you're so compelled. I will say this, though; for better or worse, it got me thinking some, and that's an uncommon thing in movies these days. It really is an interesting phenomenon, to consider all of the regulations and social standards that we try to force across the board when it comes to our prepackaged news lunches and low-quality frozen dinners a la CNN, and then consider the pomp-and-circumstance that they use to "gussy up" the gems of what they bill as "real, raw" reporting, even though it still, at times, seems staged and so very plasticized. From there, we move on to the shock value that's capitalized online; the personal videos that people upload of some of the most horrific things that they can find, and the humor of the dregs of these here tubes that feeds on, and breeds, a sense of contempt and hatred for humanity as a whole, while exposing within it the very things which might make it contemptable and propagating the sense of superiority that comes from revelling in filth.

It's hard to measure the psychological impact of some things. Are we more prone to file away the things we see as less than appalling if we've been exposed to more gore-fests Hollywood productions? Does the fiction we indulge in, at whatever age, set the measuring stick for how we judge the reality we're exposed to later, or are we simply becoming more accustomed to the general attitude that "people die, things break, get over it" that seems so pervasive in the modern world, where we dehumanize everything, separate the essense of "us" and "them" so as to cope with the fact that we know that these things are happening, and that we seem helpless to change the fact that the world is a dark place at times? We cling to hopes and fantasies that force these realities from our mind, even as we admit knowledge of them plainly, and see their images plastered across our televisions nightly, in news reports of how many have died, in staged celebrity appearances telling us we can make a difference for pennies a day, in fiction and in reality, in our humor and in our tragedy; they all begin to whirl in to one entity, until we start to lose focus regarding the truly appropriate emotional response -- as long as it's not happening to us, it seems, we fail to connect with a reason to care.

Even in that, though, theres's a full examination to be done. Are we losing this connection with humanity because we so often see these things put into the wrong context, or is there something else at work here? It could be that the images simply begin to lose meaning as we see more and more of the horrific nature of the planet; perhaps the desensitization isn't a result of the images themselves, but an internal trigger meant to defend us from the surge of emotion that our brains would otherwise unleash; we lose that response not because we fail to care, but because our brain is not willing to allow such a powerful thing to overtake it based on the digital images of halfway around the globe, and so it tries to convince us that it's alright, that these things are normal or acceptable, that so long as there's nothing we can do, there's no sense in worrying about what is happening. So long as these carefully-crafted personalities are presenting the information with their flashy graphics and dramatic theme music, there's a sense of sensationalism that seems to equate what we're seeing with what registers, to the brain, as something aside from what is real; we candy-coat the blood and ichor so as to remove from it that sense of revulsion, making the whole thing easier to mentally digest -- for better or for worse.

In the end, I suppose there's too many variables in play; the fact remains, however, that we seem to use these vehicles to distance ourselves from our fellow man, while at the same time seeing that when these things hit home, the sense of community is nearly automatic. While we can easily endure to view the suffering of others, when our home is wounded, we bind together like so many blood cells pushing to heal the hurt; there's a sense of what we refer to as humanity when our own peace is destabilized. There will never be anything produced for television or internet broadcast which can capture the raw essence of what is experienced firsthand; and that, I think, is the true shortcoming of these media -- that no camera can capture the reeling mind, that no lens can reflect the soul of those in torment; images are easily processed, filed neatly away in lip-service categories -- but the scene of such things as we have already been made accustomed to is wholly a new experience when the filter of camera crews and streaming data is removed, and we're plugged straightway in to the dirt of the world.

19 June 2008

Catastrophic Awareness

The world is crumbling around our ears. Earthquakes, floods, and other disasters change the landscape like some mutating beast shaking the scars from its back. I can't help but wax poetic on the iconic metaphor in my area recently as raging wildfires screamed across the hillsides until the inferno licked at the foot of Paradise, CA. Over 23,000 acres devoured by the flames in a few short days as the acrid stench of smoke settled over the valley; I have family who was evacuated, though I believe they returned without a hitch once the blaze was contained. Some say that the end of the world is upon us, that the apocalypse is nigh; some say that we are entering a new age, where nothing will be as it has been, and the world as we know it will fade into distant memory against the troubles -- or the pleasures -- of a new global destiny.

Of course, some also say that they're the incarnation of a god, and build cults who, in blind faith, kill themselves to ride a comet to Heaven. I guess it's hit-and-miss, these things that some say.

For my part, I don't believe that the world is ending. Changing, yes, but that's nothing new; this planet has never known anything that was not flux -- the preconception that anything is eternal is a fallacy. Even a ballad of this change, 'Dust in the Wind', fails to recognize this, claiming that "Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and sky" -- these, too, shall come to pass, for nothing can be eternal when entropy is the order of the day and chaos springs from the wells of universal truth. Of course, ordered chaos it may be, and it could be our limited scope of realization which causes us to percieve some shift in things that we deem as important, ever forgetting that, in the grand scheme, even the solar system which houses the planet upon which we build our cities to surround our homes that we huddle in for safety is insignificant. We claim that catastrophe befall us, and yet, we have never even seen the thread of the tapestry that is The All. We have never known God, or whatever the nearest approximation to that being would be when translated from the breadth of our ability to know such entities, and we have never once gazed upon the merest reflection of a shadow of Truth.

That's why I can't believe that the world is ending. Simply put, I see limitless potential in humanity as a whole; unrealized, largely, to be sure, but it is there, and it screams through our own ignorance and incompetence in the most bizarre ways. I cannot accept that this potential will not be realized before its time is up; or rather, I believe that the end of our time will coincide with the actualization of this very essence, with the ascension of our own ability to perceive ourselves as we truly exist in relation to the Great Unknown. The depth of all mysteries must come to pass, and in that knowledge we shall find not doom, but something which we might now, in false assumption, consider to be doom, for surely it shall be the collapse of all we are able to consider in the Here And Now. Knowledge will be our end, and our beginning, for once the full potential is known, it cannot be said that anything can stop us.

And so, even as the Earth itself struggles to dispel our curse upon its flesh, even as we enter into petty wars and global conflicts, even as everything seems to hurl, crashing against the never, reckless abandonment sure to destroy all that we are and have been, I say that this cataclysm is not our end, but our beginning; we are legion, for our numbers are many, and our will can not be denied.

09 June 2008


It's difficult for me to fuel a rage at the world sometimes. It's not that there are not things which outrage me; every day, I find new things to inspire my spite for certain aspects of our world. However, at the same time, I find that I see so much around me that is wonderful, so much that is alright with the world that we live in. Somewhere, a voice inside myself tells me that all of the injustices I see are still peanuts compared to the injustices which have come before my time, to the crimes of global scale which predated my awareness.

Even as our economy falters and slips into god knows where, even as wars rage and starving peoples cry out for help, even as nature itself lashes out against humanity, relentless and unprejudiced, I find that I cannot hold anything but appreciation for the times in which I am, and for the life which I have been given the opportunity to enjoy. Even as I see friendships waning into nothing, even as I hear tales of abuse and ignorance, I can only be awed by the fierce manner in which these things occur; the sheer force of life that is required even in moments of destruction.

It is easy to be angry at the world, to be angry at life, at yourself. It is easy to breed contempt or jealousy or that seething, searing hatred by which we seek to elevate ourselves above the things to which we bear witness. It's a simple thing to click on the evening news and find new, scathing things to rail against to burn a fire against the rages of what is not fair and just and true. It is as nothing to let grow within oneself a fear or an aversion; to pour our own derisive comments out against the swelling tide of that which we percieve as wrong with the world. Mankind seems geared to creating this sort of emotional shell; we separate ourselves from those things which we despise by fostering that dark energy, we focus ourselves on being known to feel a certain way about certain things -- our social identity is almost never known by our actions, but by our words, and whichever of these is true, I think it is most interesting that we are not known by what we agree with, by what we believe to be the honest manner in which the world should turn, but that we identify ourselves by our anger, by those things which we would wish to be furthest from. Activism, political rallies, blogs -- we focus ourselves on making it loud and clear that there are things which we see as being incorrect, we exemplify the very things we wish to change, often in the name of social awareness and decrying the despots and infuriating realities that they envision upon the land.

This is not conviction. This is not belief. This is not virtue.

And so, even while I weather the storm which we all must face, even as the harsh existence of starship Earth tears at us, I say, we should stand not for what we refuse to believe in, not to bring to light those ugly things which we cannot abide, but to appreciate the things for which we live; we should forego our anger, at times, and breathe joy and appreciation for the very soul of ourselves and pierce light against a darkness not by bearing the darkness down with fury, but by embracing any glint of light that can be seen, by showing that no level of fear will be allowed to destroy the good in the world, that we, as people, are still capable of knowing that, while our situation grows dim, it will never be black, and we will never falter.

29 May 2008

Spiral Culture

Recently, while I was at the local drug store acquiring some prescriptions, I saw a woman walk up to the pharmacy counter, and begin speaking with the pharmasist. I'm not normally one for prying into things that are, to be sure, not any of my own business, but the manner in which this particular individual conducted herself was, to be blunt, rather attention-getting. She appeared to be somewhere in her 50s or older; it was tough to tell, partly because it was obvious from various pock-marks, skin discoloration, and general demeanor that she was what folks around here call a "tweaker" -- a methamphetamine user. She was at this particular pharmacy seeking to find refills for a series of potent painkillers -- Soma, Oxycontin, Norco, to name a few of the ones she rattled off -- which she's been prescribed.

Now, don't get me wrong. If someone is in pain, and they've got coverage, they should be able to get pain medications. However, I could tell from the course of the conversation several key facts. First, this was not the first pharmacy she'd been to seeking to acquire these refills; that's a red light in my book, simply because I figure if anyone has turned her down, it's for a reason (perhaps one beyond the fact that the refills weren't yet due -- another revelation she was happy to admit). Secondly, she's been using a collection of more and more potent painkilling pills for quite some time, and is accustomed to "pharm-shopping" to get what it is she's after. Third, she was getting all of these things through some sort of state or federal medical coverage -- that is, the taxpayers of California, or of the U.S. in general, are paying for this woman's continued consumption of these powerful -- and expensive -- drugs.

Living in a place dubbed the "meth capital of the West" by some, I'm more than familiar with the effects that methamphetamine can have on a person. These include joint and bone troubles, shooting pain through the veins, and other, more serious, medical conditions, many of which are extremely painful; a pain that can only be silenced through intensive drugging and, shockingly, discontinuing the use of meth altogether so that the problems don't persist once the drugs have run their course. Otherwise, all that ends up happening is an increased tolerance to the prescriptions that are handed you, and an increased level of pain as the twisted wreckage of your body tears itself apart -- literally -- from the inside, trying to expel from itself the lethal poison that keeps it standing upright despite itself.

If she'd been on private, or work-offered, insurance coverage, I wouldn't really see an issue here; she's paying, one way or another, for the whole of what's happening. But she wasn't. She was getting these benefits, these drugs, at the expense of the population, whose money also goes to fund the war on drugs, the anti-meth task force that the local law enforcement has set up. You'd think that if she has to go through the rigors of getting these benefits -- it's not easy! -- that somewhere along the line, one of the dozens of government agents she'd have to speak with over the months, years, or decades would think, "Hey, maybe this lady is using illegal drugs!"

I'm not saying that suspicion alone is enough to toss someone out on their ass when they're trying to get the help that they need; that's ridiculous, and prone to endemic systematic flaws throughout. However, would it be so difficult to, say, administer a simple urine- or folicle-based drug test to people applying for some sort of government aid? By supplying people like this anonymous woman with coverage, we're wasting taxpayer money, while at the same time encouraging them to pile on the prescriptions, often just as (if not more) addicting than the illegal substances they're already using, thereby compounding the problem in over itself and bringing the whole affair to a screaming speed-race to see who can get higher faster cheaper longer and ride the intoxicating wave of tax dollars put to work to keep all the wheels spinning, and these lives collapse underneath the weight of their own desire to keep on going further, getting more, expanding upon increased drug tolerance with voracious desire, pharmacy-hopping to get their next fix to even the keel that was tipped off-balance by their existing addiction-condition.

Why isn't this being done? Why aren't there regulations that keep this from happening? Simple -- because as long as people like this woman fuel the pseudoeconomy of both the medical companies and the government agencies pouring the dollars of hard-working Americans into the collective coffers of greed. Keep the wheels spinning, no matter what the cost; keep the people so full of painkillers that they can't feel themselves dying, can't feel the strain on their own bodies, their own societies, their own cultures. Keep the wheels spinning, no matter what the cost; keep the money flowing so far and fast that it can't be tracked, and proselytize your supposed efforts to squelch illegal drug use, even as you ensure that those who come clean from things such as meth are forced to feed a new, more powerful, addiction inspired by the professionals to whom they turn when there's nowhere else to look for some kind of comfort. Keep the wheels spinning, no matter what the cost.

How long can any institution fuel itself on the fumes of a faltering base? How long can an entity consume before there's nothing left?

Keep the wheels spinning, no matter what the cost ...

22 May 2008


I've heard that the best things in life are free. For the life of me, I can't rightly figure how this has been decided; nothing, truly, is free -- monetary cost is only one consideration which, for many Americans, sits at the forefront of all other components of existence, fuelling the need to enrich their lives through a cycle of purchase and consumption, purchase and consumption, purchase and conundrum.

The best things in life are free of direct monetary subsistence; those things which truly mean something to us are much greater than the slips of paper and metal scraps that seem so important by their form and purpose; intent is the only thing which creates a value system around these units of exchange -- the sole bestower of worth is perception, and insofar as we percieve objects or experiences to be valuable, so they are, if only to ourselves. When you take into account the multitude of intent and perception all bent towards believing in the value of a certain anything -- in this instance, money -- then it becomes more valuable in a societal sense than anything else; consentual reality is a self-correcting system, wherein that which the masses deem as most important to the masses becomes most important to individuals seeking to acquire greatness above the masses; the real goal, I think, is to make a name for yourself through establishing greatness by excelling at the things valued by society until you've reached the point where your own preferences -- the things that you, personally, value -- can be brought to the front and inserted into the consensus; that is to say, although society will only recognize those who achieve their definition of value, the definition of value is easy to change once one has established a mastery of the existing infrastructure.

This is why our celebrities are wealthy, and why they proselytize their pet causes. World hunger, global warming, foreign wars; these become the flagship causes of a population enamored with a god-king of the silver screen who speaks to his people and commands respect be shown for these efforts. Most people refuse to create their own sense of worth; they follow the trends, the latest new hot thing being touted by the emergent American Idol champion or whichever female celeb is willing to strip her clothes and let her airbrushed, ever-so-perfect looking flesh advertise a cause; this is the new disease of a nation which denies its own responsibility to itself through vicariously existing as the select few elite, the banner-waving people who were willing to adhere to their own structure of worth -- to a point -- and now champion their endeavors with zeal and gusto, like only a true dreamchaser could do.

We seek to find solace in something. Those who are leaders among us imagined a goal, or saw something which they felt was desirable, and they achieved it; the dejected hordes who have surrendered their thoughts to these avatars of nationalism seek that same fulfillment of desire through accomplishing tasks on behalf of the Ba'alesque beings that straddle the sky from their glass and steel towers; we serve their causes so as to feel that same sense of worth, as if we have done something, and it mattered -- a legacy can be built on nothing more than charity if the spin is right and the cause is popular.

When you chase a dream, are you certain it is your own?

13 May 2008

Inspired Lyrics

A second of reflection can take you to the moon; The slightest hesitation can bring you down in flames.
- Covenant, "Call the Ships to Port"

None can change in me these things that I believe, but I don't know what happens now; I am too scared to close my eyes.
- VNV Nation, "Legion"

None of us will go unscathed by private battles we have braved.
- Assemblage 23, "Anthem"


I think that blog posts centered around repeating the words of others have little to no value; even so, I feel compelled to do this, not because I cannot find words to echo these same emotional imprints, these imperatives, but because I feel I honor the intent of that poetry by allowing it to breathe in places where it normally would not.

I've selected each of these in particular for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, probably, is the fact that I've been inundating myself with these artists, and similar, over the past couple of weeks. My musical taste travels in waves, and I'm on this kind of kick right now; it's also serving as a replacement for the philosophical conversations I haven't been having, something which I examine perhaps more carefully than I would otherwise so as to engage my mind in something more thought-provoking than data entry and video games.

Second, though, these choices all share a common thread above and beyond the simple musical cohesion that brings them together; they speak of hope, and of fear, and of how we strive to make ourselves more than what we have been in the interest of achieving those hopes and dreams despite the fears and the wounds which we inevitably bear coming through those things which force us to hesitate, to consider, to imagine the possibilities of what may come should things all fall apart.

But there's another sense, and I think it's more important; the push that, while we fear, we should not hesitate. While consideration, of course, is a part of everything we do in life, I find that the things which are the most monumental, which are the most life-altering for better or for worse, are those things for which we allow ourselves to cast aside the depth of our trepidation and plunge whole-heart into the abyss, praying for the best and realizing that we don't care if it kills us, because the other side of the darkness holds so much more brilliance. It is those moments in which we allow ourselves to be more than Man, to transcend the shackles which hold us to life as we know it, and thrust the very essence of our being against the ocean of chance, struggling even as we let our bodies falter and the tides of time and fate swallow our reality.

When was the last time that your dream became yourself?

08 May 2008

Missin' Formation?

Thinking about the various concepts I've tried to address in the last couple of posts has got me, well, thinking. Why aren't these the sorts of things that I ever hear people discussing? Why is it that I never find myself debating the truths of life, the philosophical ramifications of our ideas and ideals, the metaphysical exploration that validates our sense of self against a waning interest in the soul and its final resting place?

Religion, philosophy, and the pursuit of higher thought used to be at the core of many a conversation, not just for me, but for many men in ages past; where has that gone? These days, the theme of everything I see is things which don't seem to matter, the trivia of life; we're more concerned about the soles of Lindsay Lohan's shoes than about the souls -- or lack thereof -- within us all. Religious debate is all but out the window as everyone is so certain that they've figured it out for themselves, and they wouldn't want to risk alienation or controversy by attempting to convince others that they're right; those few who still hold to the idea of pushing their ideology on the masses are the likes of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist "fundamentalists" regarded as freaks, bigots, and the target of ridicule, derision, and the savage vile attack of those who think differently; now, I'll be the first to admit that I disagree with every bit of dreck I've heard attributed to Mr. Phelps and his church, but they do, if nothing else, seem to have something that I see as lacking in almost everyone else around me: conviction. The strength (or stupidity) to stand before the world and scream their beliefs as long and loud as they can through megaphones of hate.

I'm not defending what they say, to be sure, but I'll damn well defend their right to say it, and I'll applaud their sheer indomitable ability to weather the storm of retributive mudslinging sent (rightly) back at them; even those who loathe everything they say and do can grasp that this unique group of people is willing to get themselves out there and, through their own actions, spur thought and debate. I've seen their methods and messages decried by people who, nominally, agree with some of the concepts that they're pushing -- this, to me, is the spirit of debate in its finest form, the naked sense of human belief laid bare before the masses in such a way as to open the heart of the matter, unrepentant about the bruises that they leave on the souls of those who are the targets of their vicious campaigns.

We're all so concerned with popularity, with being liked and accepted, with appealing to a broad audience, with not hurting the feelings of our friends, with being politically correct that even the counter-culture refuses to pander to the hurtful means of being open, forceful, and thought-provoking with their message for fear that some portion of the populous who would never be swayed might use those words as fuel for messages that argue against the points being made on hippie-held signs on the roadsides of San Francisco and the beaches of Cuba. Where's the sense of real discussion, the meat of what it is that makes us able to form these opinions? When did the point of debate become trying to sway the sheepish masses to agreeing with you? From what I recall, the real reason that such forums were held in ages past was not to convince the public that you were in the right (or the left), but to elicit the thought, to force people to use their own minds and examine the cases and come to their own decisions.

I don't care if you, the reader, agree with anything I say. That's not the point. I'm here to say what I feel like saying, without apology, because it will make you think. Because whether you like what I've got to say or not, you come through the experience of examining these words with a clear sense in your mind of whether I'm a genius or a lunatic. To me, I'm both, and neither. If everyone agreed with the way that I see the world, then it wouldn't be an interesting place. Conflict breeds strength, disparity breeds community; differing opinions, moreso than necessity, are the mother of invention -- that's why the production machines run doubletime during wartime, after all! Of course, violence stems from such fundamental disagreements, but that's the human condition as well; we must be willing to accept the consequences of what we say, and that's what I think the real thing that drives us to idle conversation and careful tiptoes around meaty subjects is -- fear. We're afraid of being rejected, of being ridiculed, of being harmed. We're afraid that our worldview will clash with others, and that we're putting ourselves at undue risk by truly speaking our minds.

If we wouldn't take a bullet to defend what we believe, then do we truly believe anything at all?

06 May 2008

Armed to Bear Rights

I recently came across a message I wrote to some friends; it's a bit old, but I think the content is still fairly relevant. The crux of the diatribe was some activity on the part of local high schools, who had just begun a program utilizing a third-party company that supplied drug-sniffing dogs. It began with this quote:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

This friendly little tidbit comes from the United States Bill of Rights, which grants various "unalienable" rights to our citizenry and all that. It's a good little bit of paper, and it's had extremely good uses throughout its lifespan. That said, it's also quickly fading away into a memory as the government elects to rewrite, reinterpret, or revise portions of it here and there.

On to the case in question. The idea behind the drug dogs was a simple one; a random number of times through the school year, the dogs would be brought to a random handful of classrooms. At this point, the students would be asked to vacate the room while the dogs and their handlers searched their collected belongings, going from desk to desk and checking backpacks, purses, and other personal effects. They would also take the dogs through the parking lots, so as to provide a means of searching student's vehicles.

I'll take this moment to explain that I believe that anyone who brings drugs of any sort on to a school campus is a moron. There's a time and a place for everything, and that is certainly neither of those in this instance. However, that doesn't change the fact that this amounts to illegal search and, presumably, seizure -- unless, of course, they just wanted to know who has the drugs so they can keep an eye on them (not likely, my friends). Therefore, the implication here seems to be that being a high school student serves as probable cause to search for contraband. While this may, in many cases, be true -- after all, we all know what terrors we were as teenagers! -- it simply does not follow, and it absolutely does not conform to the letter or spirit of the above laws which were meant to govern our nation in such a way as to ensure the peace and security of all its citizens.

But wait, there's more! One of these students refused to allow her effects to be searched. She was suspended from school, which lasted as long as it took for a lawyer representing the American Civil Liberties Union to contact the school district. I'm not a big fan of the ACLU in most of their cases; they represent a certain sort of pandering to causes that oughtn't be secured, however, insofar as they defended a damn good document in this case, and rightly so I'd say, I have to throw 'em a bone and say that it was a good move. I'm not sure how the case ended up panning out (as I said, it was a while ago), but I do remember that the student, a female who was getting good grades, returned to school, and also did eventually allow her bags to be searched on the day that the dogs came in; she wasn't carrying anything illegal. That, to me, speaks volumes about her character -- that she was standing up against this incursion not for personal gain or for the protection of her own illegal activities, but on the very principle that what they were doing was, well, wrong.

The thing that irked me the most in this case was user-submitted responses to the article in the local newspaper online. One person suggested that the proper recourse was to call the police, citing that -- and this is a kicker, folks! -- her refusal to submit to the search translated to "just cause". In short, this person believes that if you do not allow law enforcement to search everything you own, your house, your vehicle, your pants pockets, whatever ... then you're up to no good; basically, refusing to allow yourself to be searched means that you're no longer protected, because you've given them reason simply by saying "no". Have they even read the same Bill of Rights as I have? Another gem of a user posted something to the effect of, "The next time you see a group of Middle Eastern people getting on the plane behind you, you'll think differently about what 'just cause' means." Horrendous racism aside, this message seems to forgo the decades of work put towards redefining the essence of "all men are created equal" and the entire history of cultural tolerance, civil rights, and global community that the United States has, as an entity, attempted to embrace.

That there are still people out there holding the flaming sword of this bigotry sickens me. What sickens me more, I think, is the passivity of most of those around us, those who sit on the sidelines and accept that "that's just how things are now". Of course that's how things are, if you let them be that way! Defiance of authority, as in the case of the young girl who refused to be searched, is the very basis of our country. We were founded by free-thinking rebels who rose up against oppressive regimes, banded together in their cause, and collaborated in peace and in war to fight for the very freedoms we see slipping. The founding fathers were proponents of frequent and complete revolution, of standing against any government who did not allow its citizens to be free, of raising fist and flag and never standing idly by, watching the very essence of their beliefs be stripped to nothing as the malcontents stand back in apathy.

I know that posting this to a blog doesn't accomplish much, but it gets a message out. It makes it accessible, and it lets others know that they're not alone in being sick and tired of the recent trends. The purpose of this is to stand on the hilltop and shout, however far it may be to the next set of ears. I am here as a representative of the malcontents whose apathy has grown stale and, if nothing else, I can refuse to be silent.

Here's a link to the article I was referencing. It took some digging to find, but it's worth a read.


A few gems from the content:

'Trott said she emptied her bag to reveal there was nothing illegal in it but still took the suspension.'

'But based on surveys that found a significant number of students in the CUSD had tried or considered trying drugs, the district is able to establish a blanket suspicion of an entire campus.'

'When Trott told P.V. Principal Michael Rupp that she was defending her rights, she said he responded with, "You don't have those rights."'

01 May 2008

Indulgence by Proxy

I should probably preface this by saying that I don't intend to downplay the plight of poor nations. I should probably say something about the value of altruistic behavior. I should probably even say that I sympathize with the starving peoples of Africa, with the war-torn nations of the Middle East, with the oppressed majorities of Asia.

But I won't do any of those things.

What is this force that drives nations like our own to overextend themselves in the global community? Our own national debt rises as the economy crumbles beneath us; homes are being taken out from under the people who lived in them and resold as rental properties to cater to the slightly-less-desperate Americans who've managed to scrape together the funds to be able to afford the ballooning costs of living, and still we're focused on the global good, the humanitarian principles of serving our fellow man? Droughts and food shortages plague our own neighborhoods as the dejected starve in the streets, looking for someone to lend that same hand that's been chopped off and mailed to Darfur where things are obviously so much worse as to eclipse our own slow descent into the third world.

Faltering markets are pushed aside by rising consumption of useless consumer goods, and we're still trying to convince ourselves that buying a $600 video game system is better for the environment than our hybrid cars with their lowered carbon emissions and aesthetic appeal taken straight from the runway models who look as rail-thin as the cocaine they shove up their nostrils to support the drug lords funded by our own dollars in decades past, now forgotten until their disenfranchised slave-labor forces are found drowning like rats in the oceans between us and them as they seek rabidly to find the wealth that's promised by the images in the media of the final consumers of their own products, and still the best we can do to fight against anything is ship billions more dollars overseas to try to feed the world's growing population while we bicker about whether a black guy, or a woman could fill the captain's cabin.

It makes me sick to call myself an American sometimes, but I still call myself by this term with pride not because I think it's something to be proud of, but because the label bears a sense of difference and distinction promoted by our own advertising campaigns which fall flat on the ears of the global community, who is only now beginning to think that JUST MAYBE the average person over here is just as tired of the way our society tears shambles across the landscape of human history, ravenous to devour any legacy we might have once held close in order to shed a new light on the life and times of every single person, exemplified in the celebrity cries to turn off the cameras, give peace a chance, and free Tibet at the cost of our own self-indulgent suffering.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, the only reason things won't change is because we've all decided long ago that fatalism is the way of truth, that manifest destiny has us beholden to nothing more than screaming silent whispers through online posts, empty promises for a Brave New World, and lip-service funeral processions for the way things Should Have Been; they'll never get there, of course, because we all believe that none of us can change all of us, that no ONE man can make a difference despite evidence to the contrary, and even those few who've figured out that the change CAN be made are self-restrictive to the point of being wholly ineffective, shadows of the great men of the past who, in their time, were radicals and outcasts that have been painted in new light by the lens of the passage of time.

When history writes of this era, who will our heroes have been?

22 April 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

The last several days have been purely hectic! Between old friends visiting from out-of-town, grand bashes hosted in various backyards, and a rather impressive showing of generic illness from the baby, it's been one heck of a weekend and a crazy start to the week to boot. In addition to all this, of course, I've begun training to take phone calls at work -- which will, most certainly, have little to no impact on my average workday other than a distraction from the duties to which I have been assigned, thus enabling the growing trend of my falling short in some respects to continue and, perhaps, to prosper, which would land me back somewhere other than where I've worked to be.

But then, that may not be a bad thing -- after all, despite the work to get here, it's still an odd fit (as mentioned before), and I'd likely find myself squirreling into something a bit more comfortable for my mind. Hard to say, really, as the future is always undetermined, and there's no assurance that anything will go according to plan even in the event that such a plan existed. I have been informed, however, that whether my present post remains mine or not, I won't be losing the additional pay that came along with it (though I sense that there's more to be had if I can stick to what I'm doing); in that regard, at least, I'm confident knowing that I can still provide as necessary to ensure the livelihood of me and mine.

All told, I've had a lot to think about lately, but little time to do the actual thinking. Hopefully I'll be back here some time later on in the week after some musing has been done, and I'll have something more striking or relevant to lay out before the assembled masses -- or, perhaps more appropriately, distinct lack of masses, as I haven't yet become so delusional as to imagine that anybody would be interested in reading this dreck. I suppose I'll keep on keepin' on, and someday, I'll have something worthwhile to ramble on about. For now, though, courage!


17 April 2008

Cut to the Quick

Do you ever get the sense that, despite the fact that you love what you do and worked hard to get there, it's just not the right fit? I'm not talking about your stereotypical "Woe is me, I hate my job!" junk, or the lamenting that one's position is not ideal -- more like wearing a glove that, while it fits, isn't the right color to match your eyes to make them sparkle just so with that mischevious glint that lets the world that you're up to something, and you mean business.

Anyone can hold down a job that they don't like, and begrudgingly storm into work every morning, sucking down the black bitterness of daily coffee that seems the only thing to make the day tolerable -- that's easy, if unpleaseant. It takes a special kind of person, though, to take a job that they love and still feel out of place. It's not the company, the environment, the coworkers, the boss, the tasks ... all of those are great, but there's some other piece missing, some vital key that makes the whole thing jive to the hip swing of the soul. The verve, the elan, the cog that makes the whole machine click, and reconciles all sides of the self -- because the "work" side of the self is certainly at the forefront of today's society, and allowing that to be stifling prevents a certain degree of open freedom in other arenas in which we hope to succeed.

Maybe I'm just not accustomed to my relatively-new position. Maybe I'm just not hitting the numbers I'd hoped. Maybe I'm just crazy. I wonder if anyone else gets this ...

16 April 2008

Is This Thing On?

The first post of a brand-new blog is always the most terrifying; it's the one that nobody is going to read for at least a few weeks (if not months), but also the one that the new readers will eventually go back to and think, "Man, this is what started all of this?"

I could go through the pains of telling all of you who I am, but chances are, if you're reading this, you're not here for that. You don't care what I do, what I look like, or what my thoughts on the Industrial Revolution were. You're here to be entertained, and to get a glimpse at someone else's worldview, that ever-so-unique insight that only comes when you're face-to-face with a pair of eyes that aren't your own, but after the fact seems so obvious.

I don't know that I can give much of that, but I'm here to see what comes of it. Maybe this project will become something awesome. Maybe it'll die off as my interest, matched with regular reader levels, flatlines in a month or two. Or maybe, we'll find a happy medium, and I'll have just enough interesting things to say sometimes that some of you poor suckers keep on coming back to wade through my drivel for the few pearls of worth.

If you're reading this as your first foray into my mind, welcome. If you've worked your way back from some time in the future, then -- what are you doing all the way back here? This isn't even me anymore! I can't believe how inane I was (am) back then (right now). I mean, seriously.