A Christmas Will-Transfer

I dread Christmas. I try to get as much writing done as I can in the weeks following Thanksgiving, but I never get more done than I usually do and then I get sick because Christmas means I Don’t Get To Write.

My wife and I grew up in the same area 500 miles away, where both of our families and friends still live. We visit home over Christmas each year. I’ve protested these trips in the past but it’s always been worthless and now I only have flaccid complaints: my wife has her initials stamped on my testicles (this is often a stipulation of marriage and child-rearing, and less painful than imagined (if you’re lucky)). The drive takes a whole day, and the week of Christmas is spent packing diaper bags and dashing between relatives’ houses.

In the past I’ve tried to keep up writing over Christmas but it never works – for me, excusing myself to someone else’s office or spare bedroom to write is the same as asking for a stack of Hustlers and announcing that I’ll be locking myself in the bedroom for two hours – writing is a Very Personal ejaculation of something deep inside… So, it takes 20 minutes to get to the library and find a secluded table, then more time suppressing indignation towards any person who sits down near me, or walks by, or speaks within my ear-shot. And I don’t have my typewriter. And I can’t focus, because the only way I focus is by writing every day and by spending the intervening hours in aloof contemplation of whatever it is I’m writing. When I’m dashing between families I haven’t seen in a year, there isn’t time to think, no time to get my head into Writing Space.

I’ve never been able to write at my parents’ house, either. I tried once, struggled to write in the house I grew up in, but between the noises and the swampy vapors of childhood I couldn’t get anything decent down, then I hit a wall, and spent the next 3 months drunk on a couch.

When I’m not writing well I get moody and I hate humanity and I can’t stand doing anything that doesn’t include writing something decent.

(That ejaculation of something deep inside, it’s my heart, the thoughts and emotions somewhere deep in my mind’s basement that I cannot otherwise access: the self that I did not create; writing is how I dredge and build piles, how I exert and exert control over my determined self: writing is my ego. When you’re a child you are at the will of your parents; I cannot pull myself out of myself in the place I grew up.)

The first house we stayed at this Christmas was my wife’s grandparents’. The baby slept in the office, my wife and I slept in the spare bedroom. I woke up early the first morning, desirous and excited to write. But grandma’s a pre-dawn riser with a compulsion to divulge, so the entire house, which wasn’t big, wasn’t worth trying to write in except for the office, where the baby was.

My wife was pissed at me for waking her up. I was stressing out and getting pissed because I needed to write and had no where to write (no library near grandparents). Grandma came in asking if we were okay. Then I was boiling and trying to keep the lid on, and wife’s furious at me for waking her up to drag a crib with a screaming baby into the spare bedroom, followed by grandma insisting I should write in the living room.

I didn’t get anything down that morning, or for the rest of the Christmas week. I did things differently this year. I decided to turn my head off. I excised my need to write and I decided to be good, personable company. I forgot about myself and didn’t have a moment all week when I wasn’t talking with someone I haven’t seen all year, catching up, chasing Baby around; visiting dozens of relatives, friends; family parties, board games, out to the local bar, diners.

The week was relentlessly hectic and I didn’t think about my desire to write. If I had, the week would’ve been much slower, no different from past Christmas trips.

This was the best Christmas I’ve had. I didn’t receive many presents (baby sure did), but I forgot about my own dreams and desires and I ran myself ragged spending relentless hours with everyone who wanted to see me, my wife, and our baby. Instead of using my ego to further my own ends, I used it to please a whole lot of others. And it turned out to be a wonderful holiday.

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Innocence And The Void

I’ve been wondering what it means to lose your innocence. What does it mean to grow up? Why is it important for children to keep their innocence until they’re ready to lose it?

What are the ways a person can lose their innocence? Sex can take innocence, whether making-love or molestation or sexual objectification. Others way for a person to lose their innocence include violence and other forms of suffering such as hunger, homelessness, high degrees of uncertainty. If you have your leg broken by an addict or watch a tractor-trailer meat-grinder a crowd, your childhood world is shattered. But why?

What do these experiences have in common?

They involve exposing one’s self to The Void. The Void, as the absence of existence, is death, is nothingness. By being exposed to violence, hunger, homelessness, abuse, a person is forced to acknowledge there are seams in reality that will destroy them and which do not give a simple fuck whether or not the individual wants to be destroyed – there are seams in reality where you are worthless and will-negated.

Losing innocence is acknowledging  that self-negation (death, and all which you cannot control) underlies the fabric of each moment. Once you’ve met the knowledge of The Void, you are forced to act in opposition to self-negation: you begin to exert yourself.

A person who does not impose himself is innocent. A child can then be a fearless receptor, able to take in all the weird spectra of the Universe, pure and simple: a child, unaware of death, can let the Universe pour into his mind, with no self-exertions to dam or to channel the flow.

Would I Rather Myself Certainty or Uncertainty?

What I disliked about college was that I wasn’t working my way through it (impossible now, anyway). My parents paid for some, god bless them for it, and the rest was covered with loans. I didn’t need money for housing, food, gas. As long as I didn’t drop out, I had everything I needed, and I didn’t have to work very hard to keep it – keeping a 2.5GPA in Journalism isn’t difficult. I was lazy, indolent, decadent; excessive drinking, daily gravity-bongs, lots of time reading or on the couch bingeing TV. I was melancholic mold-hearted.

What I wanted more than anything was to be an adult, to be on my own. But I was living in a house, had a car, enough food, lots of leisure time, all on the parental- and Federal-dime. I had a rot in my gut, an empty childish uselessness; everything I needed was provided, life through an umbilical cord. No one who is so completely dependent, is living their own life… I can’t imagine how a womb-bound 20-year-old is alive.

I did have a lust for life: I wanted to pour my guts across the city in a serendipitous rush of excitement and intoxication. But I also wanted to struggle for my future. I wanted the vinegar in my blood to burn away nights working. I wanted to worry about finding my next meal, but then get distracted by the excitement of determining my own future.

I didn’t want to be eating well and getting plenty of sleep on handed-down dollars, studying to get a booster-seat degree in four years.

I needed death’s breath on my bare soles. I needed struggle-in-the-moment, do or die at this very hour, not the safety of collegiate provisions, cozy study time to have a career in four years.

This has been my only motivation: Do now, or shiver years in an alley dead.

College didn’t work for me.

I only ever felt alive after dropping out of school and cutting ties with my parents. I needed the risk. I couldn’t bear to have a safety-net, or a step-stool, or a placental studying-period. To me, the risk of death is all that feels alive. A lot of people have called me an idiot over the years, or crazy, but I know I have company.

Why I Dislike Television and the Internet

Listen to an interview with someone who’s highly accomplished in anything, anything at all. Anybody. Watch a dozen of these interviews and the same exchange is going to come up at least a few times:

Interviewer: How do you find time to get so much done?

Interviewee: Well, for starters, I don’t watch The Television.

TV’s the great reducer of life’s possibilities, but that’s an old complaint and isn’t my sticking point.

If I need to write I have to avoid TV and my laptop. I’ve found that if I browser-surf or channel-flick and then try to write, I can’t get a clear sentence out, and several hours are spent trying to bring a flow back through my head.

Watch too much TV or stay on the laptop too long and your head gets foggy slow. I read somewhere that the rates at which screens flash (or the glow of the screens) cause the brain to slip into Alpha waves, which normally only happens when the person is about to fall asleep, or has just fallen asleep. But I think there’s more to it.

When you’re watching TV you’re perceiving visuals and audio. Scenes and voices move quickly, and all you can do is passively absorb – you observe, with little time to understand at a level deeper than This Is What’s Happening Right At This Moment. It is a constant stream of information you can only absorb without time to process.

The same applies for the internet, observing memes, videos, GIFs, ads, pics. Even if you’re reading an article on the astrophysical import of the Higgs Boson, chances are your mind is still passively absorbing ads, links, pictures… endless information inundating your brain from the peripheries of the article.

Passive observation of screens is cognitively different than reading a book (Hey, I write fiction, let me defend, man). When you read literature you don’t observe the information on the page, and you do much more than absorb the information – you process the information. You absorb the page’s information at a pace that allows you time to process and to actively imagine the sights, sounds, voices, and to understand the contexts, metaphors, themes, meanings.

Compared to cinema and GIF-ery, literature engages a much deeper part of the brain because it requires the reader to do far more than observe and absorb. Literature, even The Notebook and Twilight, requires the reader to think.

I think it’s much more difficult to process the information we get from TV’s and webpages because we are being given so much information, quickly and all at once – the always-moving images and voices on TV or the plethora of ads and links and pictures on a webpage. TV and the internet inundate people with information they have no time to process at a level any deeper than passive observation.

And that’s why I can’t watch How I Met Your Mother or get lost on Tumblr – it shuts off the deeper parts of the brain that produce creativity and higher thought.

 

Further thought: If the information age has brought about information overload, where we are constantly bombarded with information to absorb, what does this mean about our ability to process information, to sit down and take time to ponder? Do we have time to ponder? Can we sit and think when the flow of information never ceases?

Put down Heidegger (who?), your buddy just posted selfies with Kim Kardashian’s ass at a Patriot’s game.

Bullshit American Exceptionalism

America is exceptional, we’re told. We’re the best at everything. We’re supposed to lead the world at everything. The point of America is that we’re supposed to have the best economy, the best technology, the best schools, the best military, the best stock market, the best standard of living.

That’s what America’s about, that’s what the role of government is. Obviously, because those are the things politicians and the media refer to as American Exceptionalism.

America isn’t supposed to be exceptional because of Democracy and Liberty. Forget about those things, will you? The whole world has those. America is only exceptional if we have the best economy and the best military. Health insurance, that’s what we’re really supposed to be great at. We lead the world, yeah of course we do, because we police the world. Availability of student loans, that’s what makes us exceptional. How many pairs of shoes did you buy last year? 5? Yeah, because you’re an American, you’re exceptional, man.

We used to be piss-and-vinegar and defiant, anti-authority cowboys and hippies and beats and congregation members, democratic ideals and a love of serving community. We used to pride ourselves on Liberty.

We all want our children to be educated, we all want medical care, economic stability; roads and electricity and neighbors that aren’t shivering starved. These aren’t mutually-exclusive to Democracy and Liberty – Democracy and Liberty allow us to create these. But by placing these needs above Democracy and Liberty, by changing the meaning of American Exceptionalism, Democracy and Liberty have been degraded and our schools suck, we can’t provide medical care, our roads are crumbling, and we’re always at war.

What happened? When did American Exceptionalism mean valuing goals other than Democracy and Liberty? those two ideals that had made us exceptional in the world?

We’ve allowed politicians and the media to redefine American Exceptionalism. I doubt this was an accident.

“You should be worried about terrorists and college tuition because this is how we make America Exceptional again.”

America isn’t about Liberty and Democracy, it’s about policing the world and making sure everyone makes monthly payments to insurance corporations.

Self Delusions

I used to tell myself as a teenager that I was tough and respected by my peers. It was a protracted youthful lie. Listen to Pantera and ACDC and Guns n’ Roses – yeah, I was tough, I like to drink and do drugs I’ve never had the opportunity to take.

I feared confrontation. I kept quiet. Kids in high school sold ecstasy and were getting drunk on weeknights. I played football and had a curfew. I wanted to be the kid who re-broke his hand punching a locker after an argument with his suspension-prone girlfriend. I’d never had a girlfriend and didn’t know there was a correct way to throw a punch. But Highway To Hell lyrics gave me substance.

I was a tough, bad-thread kid.

I didn’t ever stick up for myself because I feared what others would do in return. Let things go instead of creating tension.

What I wanted, what the self-illusion was, was that I wanted more than anything to be able to handle myself, to confidently deal with other people. I identified these traits with the aloof, hard-to-handle archetype. And I had to lie to myself about it, though at that age I wasn’t aware of it, but if I hadn’t maintained the lie I would’ve had to acknowledge that I was a coward who couldn’t ever muster to voice an opinion to his peers. I was more yellow than Holden Caufield.

Without the tough-guy illusion, I would’ve had to accept my own impotence, and that I was mostly helpless and exposed to the wills of my peers. I was a push-over.

Nobody can live with the idea they are useless (helpless, will-less) because this removes your purpose for living and for suffering: You can do nothing, what is your point for going on? In immaturity, I had to bolster myself – of course people would listen to you, of course they respect you, of course girls like you and yes, of course, nobody gonna mess me around!

Can’t Find A Coffee Shop

Usually I write at home. Work all day, come home, wife leaves for work, I feed the baby and self, and get baby to bed. I have a couple hours each night to write. Weekends I need to go somewhere. I hate sitting inside all day (I work outdoors) and unless I go out, get fresh air, move, I never feel really awake. Staying inside all day to write doesn’t happen – my eyes are heavy, my head a just-woken-up fog, All Day, even with half a gallon of coffee. I watch TV and nap instead of writing and then wife leaves for work in the afternoon and I’m on Baby Duty.

I need somewhere to go on the weekends.

I walked to the library on Saturday. Library doesn’t open till noon on the weekends. Walked 20 minutes back the other way. It’s 8:05 and Starbucks just opened and there isn’t a table to sit at. I’m standing in the front door and people in line turn to look at me, and I recede back out the door. There’s a super-market around the corner with a coffee shop; I’d hate myself sitting there.

Walk back home, get the car. 10 minutes away is a non-chain coffee shop I’ve never been to. Park the car, walk inside. I’m standing in the front door: cheap yellow-wood chairs, small tables, a handful of people in a group I’m judging pretty hard,  golf shirts with business-professional judging-me faces. I recede back out the door.

There’s a Starbucks. There’s a Crimson Cup coffee-chain modeled after Ohio State Football fanfare. A Chocolate Cafe that’s always full of suburban-fancy women gossiping chocolate lattes and/or chocolate martinis. Kafe Kerouac doesn’t open till noon; not enough time before I go Baby Duty.

I miss my old coffee house, The Short North Cafe (Columbus, Ohio), when we lived downtown. It was center-focal of the arts district, the university district, and Rut-Ville (crime-city). It was open 24 hours. I’d go at three in the morning, or at noon, or whenever because it was Always Open. Students studying, poetry slams, local art on the walls, they’d put Pink Floyd on the speakers, always people smoking outside, homeless folks, vagabonds, drunks, kids playing WOW, folks scribbling secretively. The shop was one big room with a high bare-pipe ceiling and lots of giant tables. I don’t remember the coffee. But the tables! I’d have room for four all to myself, big table towards the back and cold open spacious air for thoughts to swell and come down to the page and everyone else busy working or talking, self-conscious because they were on drugs last night or just fundamentally non-judgemental because they too were odd or beautiful in that sort of way. And then, go out for a smoke and hear someone argue Civil Rights wouldn’t have happened without Camus…

But, I’m confined to my bedroom (office-ish, with a desk). It’s 30 degrees out so I opened all the windows and drank a 24oz RedBull.

Rational Global Warming Skepticism and How Liberals and Conservatives Are Doing Everything Wrong

I have no valid reason to trust the US Federal Government. It is run by two demonstrably corrupt political parties and has deceived us into multiple wars, spied on us while denying it, conspired against us, destroyed college and health care (yes, I’m speaking about subsidies and loans, there are much better, non-market solutions); the War on Drugs, imperialism, free-trade acts – I have no valid reason to trust the Federal Government, and no valid reason to trust the political parties and bureaucrats who control it.

I have no reason to trust the media.

I have no reason to suspect that, in 50 years, scientific consensus will be that human activity has had a negligible effect on the Earth’s climate and that global temperatures are rising because we’re still emerging from the last big ice-age; or because the sun’s heating up; or because atmospheres on rocky planets are inherently unstable (Hey there, Venus and Mars). Scientific paradigms shift.

I have no valid reason to trust the politicians, bureaucrats, media, or scientists who tell me humans are heating the planet. But just because I am suspicious of motives and skeptical of current paradigms, doesn’t mean I can’t be concerned about the very real possibility that humans are heating the Earth’s atmosphere.

You can be skeptical of human-driven global warming and still be concerned about it. Human-driven global warming is a valid possibility and a valid concern. Just because you distrust Democrats and the Federal Government, doesn’t mean you can’t be concerned about global warming.

Hypothetical Scenario: An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth. Scientific consensus says this is bad for children and all living things, because the asteroid will decimate the planet. The dissenting opinion is that Yeah, hey, there’s totally an asteroid, but fat chance in hell it’ll actually hit us.

Not worth chancing hell. It’s valid to be skeptical of the asteroid-decimation paradigm, but irrational not to act on the very real chance that it’s true.

Why should I trust the Democratic Party’s motives behind climate change? Why is The Obama opening Alaska up for more drilling? Why is The Obama’s darling free-trade bill going to send more of our manufacturing to developing nations? Why did The Clinton’s free-trade deals export all our manufacturing? Don’t people understand the US has much stricter environmental laws than China and Taiwan? and that in the name of reducing emissions we should be keeping manufacturing here, in the US, where we can limit these emissions?

Oh, right, but Corporate America can reap ludicrous profit by exporting manufacturing…

… reasons to distrust the powerful, and to distrust their motives.

I am concerned that Earth’s dominant hegemonic power will use global warming to justify the expansion of its own power, both foreign and domestic. Never let a good crisis go to waste. I have little reason to assume the ruling class wants more power for anything but their own benefit.

I want the Federal Government to do as little as possible. I do not want the Federal Government to regulate power-plant emissions, automobile MPG’s, or lightbulbs, and every time a Liberal argues for more Federal regulation, I want to pull my hair. We need to regulate these things, and we should be regulating them at the state level.

(Manufacturing emissions should remain Federally-regulated, because in manufacturing there is a real risk of the Race To The Bottom phenomenon. If NJ tightens power-plant and car emission regulations, power-plants and car salesmen aren’t going to flee to Alabama, because NJ is still going to need cars and lights. If there is no risk of Race To The Bottom, the responsibility must remain with the states.)

Liberals have to understand that a large percentage of the US population distrusts the US Federal Government for valid (and wise) reasons, and that environmental regulations can develop much quicker at state and local levels, at least because democracy is more nimble in smaller groups.

Now for Conservatives: It doesn’t matter if you disagree with the overwhelming scientific consensus, human-driven global warming is a valid theory and a valid concern because it has yet to be disproved (if it ever will be). If there is a chance we’re destroying our atmosphere, for the sake of the entire freaking human population, you do not prevent human-species-saving actions.

Conservatives are not going to prevent environmental regulations from tightening because a large portion of our population wants tighter environmental regulations. By refusing environmental regulations at the state level, Conservatives are forcing Liberals to Federally regulate.

Conservatives, by refusing environmental regulations at the state level, are contributing to the growth of the Federal Government. Want to downsize the Federal Government? Then you need to give people the regulations they want at the state level.

Los Angeles? Where?

If Liberals would stop trying to Federally strong-arm the entire freaking country and shift their voices into passing state legislation, and if Conservatives would stop refusing environmental legislation at the state level and stop sucking-face with coal, then we could stop heating the Earth’s atmosphere without having the Federal Hegemony assume more power.

What the Federal Government Should Do:

  1. End Free-trade agreements
  2. Regulate Manufacturing Emissions
  3. Pour Billions into public research. Don’t subsidize green companies. Use that money (and a whole lot more money) to develop the technologies we need to be sustainable – solar power storage, graphene production methods, energy efficient housing, electric and self-driving cars, and of course, how to transmit energy to Earth from orbiting solar-arrays.

What States Should Do:

  1. Everything Else.
  2. And nuclear power.

What We All Should Do:

  1. Stop Consuming So Much! Everything you purchase has a CO2 cost. Value frugality over consumerism. In fact, kill consumerism. Instead of purchasing more crap whenever something breaks, use your human brain to figure out how to repair your dishwasher, your blender, your furniture, your laptop, your clothing.
  2. Buy locally. Shit that ain’t shipped from China doesn’t need oil to cross an ocean.

What’s Worth It in Life

The only thing in life that’s ‘worth it’ is a possibility, a foggy dream of a desired future. It’s a possibility because you can adjust and recreate the probability of this possible future by sheer will, focus, determination, and faith that the future is malleable – excited, fervent, indomitable love for the only possible future desired: my wife and I will have a simple house in the woods with solar panels and we’ll raise our two kids and take-in several foster kids, and we’ll grow our own food, we’ll be frugal and active in our community. I’ll have a successful writing career, spend hours reading Sartre and Kierkegaard. We’ll volunteer at soup-kitchens, food-drives, cook for our neighbors when hard times visit. This is what’s worth 70 hour work weeks, lack of sleep, hunger, and never a chance to sit.