How To Make Life Beautiful Again

Your husband takes you out for dinner for no other reason than he loves you (definitely not to get laid). He takes you to an Indian restaurant. He holds the restaurant door open for you, and you’re accosted by a hot odor of curry, peppers, maybe the bathroom in the back. Husband says to Get Over It, Food’s Amazing. And it is.

But the food isn’t the point. The point is the smells; they make you hungry. And you sit down, and when the menus get there you’re still starving but you no longer smell the curry and the pepper and the cologne your husband poured down his shirt.

Your brain has processed these sensations and moved its awareness towards something else.

At work, sitting in your desk chair, you can’t feel your socks on your feet and you aren’t aware of your undershirt until the tag itches. Your mind has processed these sensations and moved on.

Walking down the street, you don’t notice the trees and the neon greens on the undersides of the leaves. You don’t realize the amount of steel used to construct 60 stories of structural integrity that doesn’t topple over; you don’t realize you are moving across the face of a planet that is rotating and revolving around a massive thermo-nuclear ball of fire.

Our minds take in information – about your sensory perceptions, knowledge, emotions, circumstances, memories – processes the information, and moves awareness onto something else.

This is called Habitualization or Over-Automatization. Yes, there are words for everything. The idea of Habitualization comes out of Russian Formalism, a literary school of thought from the early 20th century.

From Viktor Shklovsky’s Art as Technique:

“If we start to examine the general laws of perception, we see that as perception becomes habitual, it becomes automatic. Thus, for example, all of our habits retreat into the area of the unconsciously automatic; if one remembers the sensations of holding a pen or of speaking in a foreign language for the first time and compares that with his feeling at performing the action for the ten thousandth time, he will agree with us.”

Shklovsky goes on to recant an anecdote:

“I was cleaning and, meandering about, approached the divan and couldn’t remember whether or not I had dusted it. Since these movements are habitual and unconscious I could not remember and felt that it was impossible to remember – so that if I had dusted it and forgot – that is, had acted unconsciously, then it was the same as if I had not. If some conscious person had been watching, then the fact could be established. If, however, no one was looking, or looking on unconsciously, if the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been.

“And so life is reckoned as nothing. Habitualization devours work, clothes, furniture, one’s wife, and the fear of war.”

Russian Formalism prescribes Defamiliarization as a way to remove an object or action from Habitualization. From Introduction: Formalisms, by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan:

Defamiliarization means to present “objects or experiences from such an unusual perspective or in such unconventional and self-conscious language that our habitual, ordinary, rote perceptions of those things are disturbed. We are forced to see things that had become automatic and overly-familiar in new ways.”

Art, and specifically literature, was the method of defamiliarizing the habitual, work-a-day, inane, vacuous aspects – every aspect – of existence.

I blame evolution for Habitualization. We can’t stop to appreciate blades of grass each time we pass a field, or pull over the side of a road to gawk amazement at a passing train. We would get nothing done, and we’d all die in rapt amazement of sunshine.

And so our brains perceive only the immediate and the necessary. You see a tree and your brain understands everything the tree can do for you: chop it to make wood for your house, eat its fruit, cool-off in its shade, build your kid a tree-house. The first time you use a typewriter you are amazed by the smooth efficiency of so many minute moving mechanisms, the fluidity of font tapping onto paper – the moments of appreciation dwindle as you type through pages and the object becomes known only by what it can offer.

Habitualization is the process by which we lose appreciation in inverse-proportion to our understanding of what the object (or event or circumstance) can do for us. Habitualization is extrinsic understanding replacing intrinsic appreciation.

When we perceive a thing our brains define the thing by the possibilities it can offer us – we understand its immediate extrinsic value, the value which the object can offer us. We have little need to understand the inherent value of a shrub, or a squirrel, or a cloud, or our neighbor or job or car, little need to understand the value a thing has in-and-of itself.

It is a natural greed and self-centeredness by which we perceive our world. To dismiss the necessity of this would be to dismiss human civilization and the progress of it. (It is possible for us to live indigenously, with constant appreciation, but we wouldn’t have the internet or telescopes or 3D-printing.)

But this extrinsic perception saps the beauty from the world, subordinating all aspects of existence to the promotion of self.

There is no time to awe the 200-year-old oak giant that spreads up and out into the air, down and into the Earth, a massive conduit transferring matter between ground and sky. There is no time to appreciate the ancient glacial behemoths which crept across the continent carving cliffs and valleys and the Beauty of the Badlands; no time to meditate that you are, in fact, on a cart 10 inches over the ground that is rushing at 80 miles an hour across the face of a planet drifting lonesome in perpetual emptiness; no time to love the way your wife sifts through junk-store boxes of yellow newspapers collecting dead accounts of American history.

There is nothing but the self-centered manipulation of existence and not a modicum of beauty left to the desiccated remains of what has been used and left forgotten.

Art, for the Russian Formalist at least, is the refreshment of perception, a mind-soak of the intrinsic beauty each aspect of life has in-and-of itself. Art is defamiliarization; art is forgetting the names and definitions and purposes and uses and just perceiving, truly, what an object is and not what it is for.

From Jim Morrison (Soul Kitchen):

            “Well your fingers weave quick minarets

            Speak in secret alphabets

            I light another cigarette

            Learn to forget.

            Learn to forget.

            Learn to forget.”

            From Kerouac:

“The only ones for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the night stars.”

From every counter-culture punk, beatnik, goth, Merry Prankster and vagabond who refuses to witness existence as a machine of things and people to abuse but instead to empty their heads of manufactured thought-processes and dye hair hot orange, shred their Levi’s, baseball-bat their Honda Accords, paint bodies in neon colors and dance a forgotten understanding of life’s beautiful and purposeless rhythm.

Stay up all night and wait the dawn, standing beneath the Weeping Willow and the clear sunrise across the lake, gazing up and forgetting, consciousness erased, and let your heart succumb to the unrelenting awe of the orange and yellow streaks coming through hair-strands of tree-life that breathe the lake air.

Gaze up at the skyscraper and the glass panels reflecting sunset, your self dwarfed by the immensity of human ingenuity and determination, and again your heart reeling to the bottomless rhythm that this building is one in-and-of itself, and it is beautiful. And so is the parking garage an incomprehensible maze of concrete and shadows, and your neighbor Bill a beauty of model airplanes and soup-kitchen volunteering, and the squirrel in your tree a beautiful survivor of suburban sprawl capable of simple survival on acorns and sticks and the little hollow in your flush-white dogwood.

May your life be a work of art.


Too Smart To Live Dead

Ben has a closed hole in his lower lip, 2in-diameters in  his lobes and resembles the body of a starved chicken. But for the scratchy phrase tattooed on the arm, Too Rad To Die, ode to Thompson via Steadman, the primordial illustrator of the Strange, and Rad, and All Too Vibrant To Live Life Dying.

I am a poorly oriented steak, and I serve in a corporate cafeteria with Ben bone chicken. We don’t speak much, and tip-toe around the boss, corporate owner of myriad fast-food penitentiaries. When we do speak it’s me to mention his tattoo. The conversation quickly pulls through Thompson and Wolfe and slows down around Bukowski, Camus, Nietzsche.

I disagree with Ben’s nihilism because if there’s a spiraling nothingness somewhere far out there, there’s a spiraling nothingness deep in here, in each of us, and that’s far too fucking scary an idea. And that’s exactly it, he says, why he feels so nil – what he sees inside himself projecting on the larger purpose of life.

We hate on the food we’re serving, the insurance corporate park we’re sweating food for  -politics, money, Hollywood, professional sports, TV, capitalism, consumerism, religion, materialism. We’re both rot poor and can’t keep jobs, more drugs than dollars in our wallets.

And when I met Kathleen she too loved Bukowski and Ginsberg and Satre and Kierkegaard. She was boho and minimalist, journalist and poet: I once saw her run from people trying to take her keys, and later at my friend’s smoking pot in his shed we heard the crash, and we saw our friend stumble from a steam-gushing hood-crumble, Kathleen still at the wheel looking closely at the telephone pole six inches from her face. She drove home winding curves topping sixty in suburbia, had crawled into her car and crawled back out.

And when I learned about dialectical thought the probabilistic universe and the true peace of anarchy Kyle had just come free of jail, simple hippie bald-head pissing blood from prison hazing – his second stint for public intoxication or maybe this one was his assault charges. He too knew more about Camus and Beats and immensely happy vicariously when our married managers finally left the fast-food hell hole for peaceful pastures. He too can’t keep a job, or a car, or an apartment.

And for the girl with no furniture in apartment funded by begging family, who knew each human was the antennae of a separate quantum wavelength or field, and read biology textbooks and The Will To Power and spent weeks without eating, or without sleeping, or only on adderall or crack or bath salts, just to further push the box of her own pallid consciousness. The city has not heard of her in two quiet years.

To wonder why Ginsberg saw the best minds destroyed by madness, and we the endemic generation drugging kids who itch to learn their own heads outside of class, banishing the insubordinate living hodge-podged with part-time fast-food careers and no degrees but piled boxes of books every graduate’ll never touch. Why the most intelligent are the most troubled, dysfunctional, brutal, diseased – seen shit-covered scratching through floor-boards swollen by mold. Why a bout of independent thought crushes the same as a bout of mania, and if you search for something honest thinking too far and you’ll be shoplifting Walmarts for rent and heroin, god damn it all to ever die in a real job.

Society’s an avalanche and the good ones gone mad.

The Real Shit of Capitalism

I can go grocery shopping, and while at the same super-market I can do my banking, get a medical check-up, buy drugs, drink at a bar, eat a rotisserie dinner, drop my kid off at daycare, go Christmas shopping, sit at a cafe, and listen to a live band.

I can buy a 2-liter of Pepsi, or a bottle of water, or stop to eat KFC or Taco Bell and I’d be giving my five dollars to the same small group of investors. I can buy contact-solution, soap, toothpaste, hair-dye, deodorant, or tampons, and I’m giving money to the same CEO.

What extremely sucks about this society of advanced capitalism is how few people are capable of owning so much. Whether or not consolidation is the inevitable, natural outcome of capitalism is debatable – humanity’s only tried it once – but I do like listening to Adam Smith of all people, as he decries, “All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”

We all know the Walmart Effect: Walmart opens, and several businesses close their doors. A super-market opens, and several grocers go under, and the bakery, the butcher, the pharmacist, cafe, optometrist….

Someone opens a fast-food restaurant. Okay, great. Have at it you producer of fine burgers and fries. And then they open 500 more. 10 other people do something similar. Now, if you’d like to own a burger joint in America, your only option is to work for one of these 10 other people – either you franchise one of their stores, or you open a rogue burger-and-fry joint and go out of business because you can’t compete with a national dollar menu.

Same if you’d like to open a hardware store, a barber shop, a pizzeria, a bar and grill, a cafe, a toy-store, etc. Want to make sinks or small-engines? Kohler will destroy you.

This consolidation into massive chains and conglomerations and corporations could very well be the natural, inevitable outcome of a free-market. But we had free-markets before we had capitalism, and we had free-markets long before we had mass-chains, conglomerations, and doctors’ office in grocery stores: we should be able to have a free-market and mom-and-pop toy stores, at the same time.

A market dominated by a handful of people isn’t free. An economy, or a country, where you can’t own your own business, or produce your own product, where you cannot survive unless you ‘earn a living’ as part of a massive corporate beehive, isn’t a free market, or a free country.

I believe in free-markets, but nobody’s free if they need $20 million in capital and a nationwide supply-chain if they’d like to own their own hardware store: our only option is to choose a corporate beehive, and await our bi-weekly allotments of honey. In America, we have no self-sufficiency, no independence or liberty.

“Hey Marty, long-time no see. What beehive are you earning a living from these days?”


Why Men Stomp on Homosexuality

The reason men make homophobic remarks isn’t because of hate, it’s because men view homosexuality as submission. Men view their cocks as extensions of their egos, sticking their old will-power out and around the world, making love and shooting DNA to create entire new human beings.

That cocks are just blood-filled ego sticks means homosexual acts represent submission to another’s ego, represents the negation of their own wills. All humans contain a subconscious desire to submit, as part of our desire to no longer suffer.

The ego views the desire to submit – the desire to please cock – as a death wish, as a desire to have the will negated, to have the ego excised. The ego wishes for this not to happen.

So, when homosexuality comes up in a conversation, it isn’t rare for the man in the conversation to begin making lewd jokes, gay-bashing their friend and making hand-and-tongue blowjob gestures – this is the ego attempting to subdue the submissive desire which is now peering up through a crack in the subconscious; the ego asserting itself against homosexuality, against will-negation, stomping its boot on the subconscious to make sure the id doesn’t get up on its knees to gurgle, swallow, rinse, repeat.

Was that too lewd of a sentence? It wasn’t meant to offend.

Still Refusing to Purchase Health Insurance

When somebody tells me they like Obamacare, I have this tendency to picture gills on the sides of their necks and if I zone-out long enough the person turns into a pants-wearing fish from SpongeBob…

… Ask a fish what’s above the water, and the fish will have nothing to say, other than maybe, “There’s something other than this water?” They might not even be aware of something called ‘water’ – having never experienced a lack of water, they have no way of isolating and defining water.

Ask an Obamacare Fish about Obamacare, and whatever it is the fish might be saying, the babble is roughly translated, “I’m a Fish Cog and nothing exists outside our Fish Machine! Are you paying for the Gold plan or the Platinum plan this year?”

“There is no such thing as a Fish Machine!”

I don’t know how people could have fallen for this Obamacare: “Spend your life making mandatory monthly payments to insurance corporations and love us for it.”

Is that progress? Has someone defined progress as “Crush Your Soul In The Cogs of Our Massive System In The Name Of Saving You”?

I’m not participating. I’m not going to be forced to spend my life making monthly payments to insurance corporations. I’ve yet to purchase health insurance, and have no intention of ever doing so.

The ACA is a trap, the first Federal mandate to include every single human being in existence in the US. Sure, we had Social Security, but you never had to work over the table and pay into it. But now, if you exist… damn well better be paying your monthly corporate-insurance dues. For the first time in US History, every living person is forced to participate in a massive bureaucratic system controlled by wealthy CEO’s, our lives turned into meaningless cycles of payments to our chosen corporate masters.

Fuck the ACA. Fuck The Obama. Fuck all of you Fish Cogs. I’m flat out refusing to ever purchase health insurance – let the IRS fry my tax return, I’ll choose a shred of humanity.