HauteAir

January 9, 2010

I will never call someone an asshole again without reflection

Filed under: Uncategorized — Otter @ 8:52 am

So, I haven’t posted in a while. I think this is mostly due to the fact that I haven’t had anything interesting to say. No, really. I’ve been emotionally numb for a while. OK, I still am, but perhaps not so much as a was. But here’s the fun part: I’ve learned some stuff.

Through very personal interactions with my wife I’ve learned that I love her more that I thought was possible. I also understand that this is an artifact of prolonged exposure, but, damn, age and experience adds a layer.

Since I’m not modest, I’ll proceed with the following comments. If I have one piece of advice to pass on it would be: find and retain a good colorectal surgeon. Male or female you will, at some point, need one. Unless you blissfully die of a terrorist attack or by some sort of freak stapler accident, you will need one. In my experience they are educated, erudite, and personable human beings. They are trustworthy and forthcoming. They explain processes and procedures with candidness, humanity, and concern. Then…they stick a chainsaw up your ass and hit full throttle. I want that motherfucker to die a thousand deaths. For what it’s worth. What kind of sadistic piece of shit do you have to be to decide, at some point in your medical training, that causing people the most inappropriate and painful forms of debasement is an awesome and admirable career goal? I think I’ve said enough. That being said, I will heal and probably be better for it. I guess that’s something.

Some of my only other lessons have been in the arena of friendship. Here’s the deal with friends. Remember when you were in high school and you were required to declare a “best friend”? Weren’t things so much simpler then? My answer is, yes. Yes, it was simpler. But for a weird reason. Mostly it was because, if you realized that others desired your friendship you had the advantage. It was a power play. You could trade, buy, and sell friendship as a practical commodity. Wasn’t that fun? It was fun because it didn’t actually mean anything. Life goes on and reality sets in and then you start to realize that, without effort, you are alone. Only through effort can you be surrounded by those that care. It’s quite the opposite of high school. In the real world friendship is very much about you and very least about those you wish to be your friends. I don’t bring this up as a bitch. What I mean is that at some point you will realize that people will seldom have a compelling reason to be your friend. You should give them one. If you don’t…well, don’t be surprised. And it is your fault.

I sometimes feel that what I think — as vociferously as I think it — doesn’t matter. Actually, it isn’t sometimes…it’s most of the time. I’m rapidly turning into the “get off my lawn” dickweed that we base entire TV shows (or at least parodies) on. I guess I have a leg up since I recognize it. So here’s what I’m doing to combat this instinct:

Find some awesome people and then pay attention to what they say. I know. It sounds trite. But do it anyway. I am sort of addicted to what other people think now. It doesn’t define my thought process. I’m still fully in charge on my own chemical thought construct. But, damn, other folks have some really interesting things to say.

So, I’m totally envious of my dog’s ability to live in the moment. If you don’t know, I have a 22-ish pound dog named Pascal that I love enormously. He is a dumbass. He is a schemer. He is a playful Loki. He is the embodiment of living in the moment. Here’s what I guess is a roll call of his thoughts in any given time period:

“Toy!!!!” Grabs toy of immediate interest and runs around like idiot. Master draws great pleasure from watching Pascal being entertained for approximately 45 seconds.
“Chew toy!!!!” Of far greater interest than “toy”. Usually constitutes something previously made of cow. This is typically a “go to” solution to eating something of importance (which, of course, he has made inventory of at this point) such as a cell phones, remotes, shoes, electrical cords, laptops, wasps, etc.
“You know what’s better than ‘chew toy’? ‘Chew toy’ in my master’s lap!!!” At which point his electro-glide feet engage and he winds up in master’s lap (with maximum momentum)…because master is sitting in his lounger and…well…his crotch is an inviting landing pad. Master suddenly feels overwhelming desire to kill Pascal and vomit…not necessarily in that order.
“I shall now make myself comfortable by employing some very esoteric laws of physics that involve me concentrating my entire weight upon my master’s scrotum in some sort of doggie comfort dance…which I will cease and become instantly comfortable as soon as my master screams ‘FUCK!!!'”
“Wait 2 minutes and quietly chew on my former cow parts. Decide that the master scrotum has recovered enough for another dance. Dance. Wonder why my master is grabbing me rather excitedly about the neck.”
“Cow-tow and show subservience. Increase cuteness to level 10. Make sure that body is positioned in any way that blocks my master’s TiVo remote line of sight.”

Repeat.

God, I wish I was a dog.

March 14, 2008

I’m a Time Lord! Sorta…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Otter @ 5:32 am

I had the rare opportunity of traveling to Fredericksburg, Texas, this week. Unfortunately it was to attend a family funeral. Of course that was an expectedly solemn affair, but I did have something of a “know thyself” moment while I was there. My accommodations were of the typical West Texas Days Inn variety. I’ve always felt a bit sympathetic for the Indian men and women that trek into our dying version of the wild west to manage hotels. But they do seem to have a calling. Alas, I digress. Anyway, I needed to wake up at 7:30AM the next morning and I was left at the mercy of the ubiquitous and nondescript Sunbeam bedside alarm clock. I found myself in a situation which enabled me to exhibit all the traits of a male, a geek, and an engineer in one fell swoop.

I noticed when I retired to my room for the night that my clock was incorrect, so I set it to the correct time and then set the alarm. I watched a bit of TV and then realized that it was wrong again. Being a male I reset the clock in some misguided faith that *this time* it would stay correct (it should be pointed out here that the front office and, likely, a replacement clock were only 20 seconds away). Being a geek I also set my cell phone’s alarm as a backup. A bit later and I realized the clock was once again incorrect. Seemed to be running fast. At this point I gave way to all of my most base instincts. I realized that at this rate I would be jerked from dreamland vastly earlier than I had any intention (or patience) to handle. Of course! This problem is clearly a mathematically solvable one (here comes the engineer)! So, I timed the clock for one of its minutes and then applied the following formula:

Let L = length of time (in hours) before I need to wake up.
Let n = the number of seconds for the brain-damaged clock to tick by one minute.
Let T = current time.

(60/n * L) + T = Time I need to set the alarm for. Long story short, I set the alarm for 3:15PM and woke up right on time. I toyed with the idea of setting the clock back enough that the wakeup time would coincide with 7:30AM, but I decided to leave a solved problem properly solved. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever used one of those hotel room notepads, too. And all this to avoid the 20 second walk to the front office. Awesome!

And, yes, I did measure n at several different intervals to ensure that the time shift was linear (or close enough) not accelerative. Otherwise, I’d have had to get calculus involved and then I’d probably still be sitting in that hotel room chewing on a pencil.

Whee! The nerd trifecta: male, geek, engineer.

December 1, 2007

A Legend Dies…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Otter @ 5:13 am

I was sad to hear today that Evel Knievel has passed on. I don’t know how many of you can relate, but as a plaid-plagued child of the 70s I remember receiving for Christmas an official Evel Knievel stunt set. This basically consisted of a plastic stand upon which you mounted a 12-inch EK doll on his signature motorcycle. Then you wound this crank on the side until the gear inside reached a fever pitch (the sound of which could ultimately only be heard by dogs) and flipped a switch. The motorcycle then jetted off to do many interesting EK stunts (mostly involving going about 3 feet and then falling over and doing sideways donuts on the floor). In any case I had seen the movies and my imagination was more than enough to fill in the childhood entertainment gap.

Of course, regardless of what the news outlets have said, he could have died of only one thing: bad-assness.

Yes, the same ailment that took John Wayne, Johnny Cash, and will someday claim Ted Nugent. Bad-assness.

In my secret heart of hearts I, too, want to expire due to an over abundance of bad-asseness…but I fear it it will not be so.

Goodbye, Evel Knievel. You will be missed.

November 21, 2007

Sometimes I’m scared…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Otter @ 9:14 am

It’s been a while. I’ve actually been implementing a “happy” philosophy lately. I know, I know. Not to be believed (or possibly tolerated).

Anyway, I recently heard a song that really picked me up. Here ’tis. Oh, and I’ve been traveling on Delta lately and Ze has a thing or two to say about that, too.

Sometimes it really is the simple things.

Oh, and I received quite a bit of feedback on the giraffe thing. Yes, I really did have a giraffe. And, yes, I really did feel that way. The operative word there was “wonder”. I still feel wonder so deeply and sincerely that I could, at times, explode. If I could be a prophet of any given thing…well, it would be wonder. In the end, it was what began, and sustains, everything.

🙂

I think I might actually start writing here again.

Oh, and here is something else amazing that happened to me tonight. I was eating a rather exceptional pepperoni and basil pizza when this song started playing. Having recently seen the movie that this song plays in I was, once again, swept away. If you haven’t seen “Once”…bloody hell, mate, see it!!!

Oh, and, yes, pizzas are better to this song. 🙂

And, directly from the movie. Probably my favorite song. But, then again, I have an experiential reference. Curiously, this song doesn’t get me down. It just reminds me of another time that was and is far gone. Beautiful just the same.

January 20, 2007

Giraffe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Otter @ 8:02 am

A young man returned home. His parents had recently died and this was goodbye. He walked about his childhood home, one part disbelief, one part sadness. It was just as he’d left it, save the noise. The clink and swoosh and scuttle of life. It was dead now. The lives that had infested the place were elsewhere. Not a clock ticked. Not a chair scraped.

Eventually he made it to his old room. He found it just as he’d left it. There was the withered prom rose. There was the poster of Max Headroom. There was the journal into which his once disjointed youth had poured itself. These things had somehow absorbed the quiet and had become…untouchable. And, for whatever reason, there on the impeccably made bed was his giraffe.

Tears welled in his eyes as he slumped to his bed, grabbed his giraffe, and assumed the fetal position. It had been so long. So hard. Just a moment was all he wanted.

“What’s wrong?”, said the giraffe.

“They’re all gone”, he replied, unsuccessfully holding back a sniffle.

“Who?”

“Everyone. I’m all that’s left. I lived. They all died. All of them.”

“I’m still here”, the giraffe said with some of the old huffiness.

“No. No you aren’t.”

“Of course I am.” Weaker now. “What’s wrong? Really.”

“How could you possibly understand. You were never anything but happy”, the boy’s voice cracked with emotion. “You were never anything but safe and soft and…there. Worn, but permanent. We aren’t.”

“I didn’t know”, soothed the giraffe.

“Of course you didn’t. You don’t care about stopping or being alone.”

“You’re wrong. I do care. I’ve always wanted you to be happy. I’ve just never been able to tell you.”

“And you chose now? Now? I don’t suck my thumb any more! I don’t cry. I don’t write poetry or draw or…care. Not anymore.” Despite himself, he buried his face in the giraffe’s warm fur.

“I’m sorry.” The giraffe paused, “What’s really wrong?”

“I told you. I’m alone.”

“No! You are not!”, exclaimed the giraffe. “I’ve been here for the duration. The long haul. You can’t say that while I’m here.”

“That’s the problem”, sighed the boy.

“What! What’s the problem? What do you mean?”

“I don’t believe in you any more.”

“…!” choked the giraffe.

The boy went on, “I wish it were so simple…I wish I could…”

The giraffe sighed. “I understand. I’m sorry.”

“I wish I could”, croaked the boy.

The giraffe was silent.

“There isn’t anything left. They’re all gone!”, he screamed. “You’re gone. It feels like everything is gone. I want to see you run and look at me and believe what you say. Really, I do. But I can’t. It’s stripped away.”

The giraffe was silent.

“Just one more time”, wept the boy. “Just once more I want all that. Even for just a moment.”

“I know what you’ve lost”, stated the giraffe. “I know exactly what it is.”

“What?”

“Wonder. Your roots. Your energy. Your imagination. Your excitement. Your ability to create worlds. Your infinite desire to own and nurture and belong. Wonder. You had it once. Find that and your very soul will be set free.” The giraffe’s eyes glowed. “Your unwillingness to let go didn’t kill it…just lost it. Your willingness to live *despite* others only hid it. Find it and you will be you again…and I will be me.”

The boy stared at the giraffe for a long time.

“Goodbye”, said the boy.

“You should have said that a long time ago”, replied the giraffe.

“I know. I know that now. I wish I’d thought of it before….before it was too late.”

The giraffe exhaled a long, sad, breath. “It’s always too late. That is the story of life. Find your sense of wonder before it’s too late. Too late. Come back to me in your dreams. Goodbye. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” The words echoed in the man’s ears as he locked the door for the last time.

The sun was going down. He loved dusk on the farm. The most peaceful time on earth, he always thought.

He walked to the edge of the field, facing the receding sun…and wondered.

December 17, 2006

Hey, Horatio!!! Learn anything?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Otter @ 1:19 pm

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), “Hamlet”, Act 1 scene 5

I remember, way back when, my defining moment in calculus. It was the moment when I realized that if I halve the distance between myself and someone else I would never reach them. The distance is 1. Half the distance is .5. Half of that is .25. Half of that is .125. Half of that is .0625. And so on. The number is NEVER zero. You will never get there. Ideas are the same.

Philosophy is precisely the same…with dangerous consequences. Any logical line of thought can be extrapolated, right? I mean, what the hell else do we need philosophy for if not to extrapolate this crap to other, possibly useful, purposes? That is significant, don’t get me wrong. And safe.

What is not so safe is interpolation (the other direction, if you were wondering). Ultimately, where do truths lay (the end result..hopefully…of our philosophy)? Well, inside you. Where else?

I guess the frustrating thing for me is the sense of disconnectedness that we all accept. Our culture — our society — is dictated to a “what is” that makes us comfortable. Safe. Provides us with a sense of belonging. And yet we feel as lost as we ever have. Come on. Think about it. Don’t you feel it, too? All too often the answer will be, “Of course not. Things are completely normal.” Look around you. Things are anything but “normal”. You don’t have to be religious or…democrat or republican…conservative or liberal to see that something is…well…outta whack. Oh, yeah, but there is one requirement for entry to this party: Intellect.

If you don’t have it, I hope you’ve already clicked on. If you do have it, I hope you plant your feet. Throw back your head and scream: WHY? Settle this RIGHT NOW!!! Anything less than my utter destruction at the hands of knowledge will do. And you thought that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was enough? Pah!!! Come on, here we are some 10,000 generations later and we have jack fucking all to show for it. What the hell was it good for, then? I mean, other than an interesting conversation piece for your coffee shop rambles (does Adam have a belly button)? Someone pushed the “start” button. And it sure as hell wasn’t so that you could order another bullshit double latte.

Take any question. Confine it to yourself. Refine it. Refine it again. It is probably at the “chemicals in your brain” point at this stage. Oh, but those chemicals came from my parents, you say. Oh, and their chemicals came from their parents. Oh, so, my decision to whig out in a post office and blow everyone away is, clearly, the responsibility of my great, great, great, great, ad infinitum, grandparents. Right? Wow. Aren’t I smart? I just wiggled my way out of responsibility via a legal side-step. Unfortunately, I’ve missed the point. The point is that for the intelligent there is a basis…a “bottom”…beyond which there is no other beside the “self”. You could say that society is, in fact, the definition of this point. The farther back in time this point moves, the farther we are from a coherent society. This “bottom” is where we plant you on the lethal injection table. But it certainly isn’t where any truly rational person stops thinking about the “hows” and “whys”.

The point itself–the real point–is moving farther and farther back in your timeline. Um…be afraid? Your responsibility, as an intellect, is to reach back into the “proto-you” and grab hold of the anger and the dark and…caress it. Love that part of you. Give it no purchase. Deprive it of its ground. Rise above. Create better. Take the thing that twists you by the throat and understand its place. But most importantly, understand it. Look it in the face and then put it away. Do it soon. You really don’t have much time left. Just a few dozen years. How fast did the first couple decades or so slip by you?

In the middle ages babies were regularly thrown down wells because of illness or gender (inheritance being what it was). This was atrocious. People were killed for religious or political or familial purposes. Horrible. I used to think that this was a clear indication that things today were better. I don’t believe this anymore. Things are getting worse. Death and its purposelessness is vastly more pervasive. There are no longer the “noble” reasons for atrocities. Tick. Tick. Tick.

If you are compelled to have a thought. If you are compelled to have a feeling. Well, you are toxic to me. It is only the thin line between your intellect and the rest of your universe that keeps us afloat. And that thin line is shrinking.

“I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern ship building has gone beyond that.”

If you want to believe in something, you will. That is the fundamental tenant of faith. That is the basis behind every selfish act. That is the basis of life as we know it. Of procreation. Of movies and mp3 players and cars and blogs and books and pipelines and farming and plastic. Want. Need was left sitting in the dust a thousand years ago. But don’t dismiss need. It’ll be back. It will kick want’s ass every single time.

Being ready for it will be half the battle.

I want.

November 30, 2006

You have heard…but I say…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Otter @ 8:41 am

“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

As you may have ascertained, I’m not Christian. So, why the quote? Because it made sense then. And it makes sense now. What? You thought that my being a systemic humanist makes this bad advice?

Sad.

First laws of man, I say? Wow, the response was overwhelming. Thanks for committing. Well, since I have it all hung out here (so to speak), I’ll continue.

Hammurabi. Nailed it, didn’t he? Read ’em some time. Pretty good stuff. But, oh yeah, God. Yeah, we should probably get to that at some point. I mean, He did, right?

I have a much simpler version. Is there a law of man or God that prevents you from committing evil? I mean, come on. Secretly, you’ve been chomping at the bit to wreak as much personal havoc as you can, right? If not for that silly Bible and those silly commandments (that even *Jesus* thought so much of) you would be driving up to my house and doing…well…great evil. Right? Gosh, I’m so glad that someone wrote some laws to stop you. Yes, I’m dripping with sarcasm. Be smart. Read into it. Hammurabi was kind. He wrote them down. Let’s all go have a bath in the river. Trust me, according to him we all deserve it.

But let’s be a little more realistic. Those laws are crap, right? I mean, among other things, the Bible completely overrode them. Those silly Easterners. God was just dealing with publishers. They should have just held on.

But why? Why bother with laws? Well, I don’t feel like being oblique, so I’ll just tell you. WE WANTED THEM. Why? Well, we were doing something that we simply had never done before. We were living according to the auspicious good fortune that comes with *gasp* organized agriculture. No more hunting and gathering for us. Yup, we had seen the way. Stay where you are and produce. Oops! This whole civilization thing is falling apart for us…what now? This isn’t how we live. No problem! Here are some laws. Follow them or…well…die. Dont’cha love the future? Oh, by the way, can we use your land to grow some stuff on?

Here’s the rub. What laws have you chosen to live by? There are some obvious ones. No right turn on red. No drugs. No domestic disturbances. No public displays. You simply MUST show your receipt to exit the store. Why? Have we not as a society stopped thinking and started accepting? Hell, even the act of rebelling has been glamorized as “interesting” and “compelling”. Ask any middle schooler that decides to protest the school’s requirement that he remove his pony tail. Ask OJ Simpson as he (in great detail) justifies producing “what if” accounts of the death of his former wife and her companion. In fact this arena of despoil is considered entertainment by most. But that’s okay, right? Anyone in a lion’s mouth deserved to be there.

Yes. Sit back and reconcile yourself with some version of the “law” that you think is just. “What has happened to the world?” you ask. Screw that. What has happened to you? You can take this with all the surprise and exclamation with which you acknowledge a bug hitting your windshield. As though this is, somehow, the world “out there”. Sleep well. That 60hz hum in your ears is denial. And thus is the “new law”. The world may, by your willingness, perpetrate any abomination it will…based on your apathy.

“I care about the starving.” Insomuch as it doesn’t inconvenience me TOO much.
“Peace is the answer.” As long as we’re killing the bastards I don’t like.
“Faith is love.” And if you don’t believe that, well, burning in Hell is what you deserve.
“I love my children.” As long as they meet my ideal.
“My friends are my solace.” Did you hear what John did last weekend?

What other possible connivance could you create? What other possible evil could you release upon this world? What other guilt could you ignore?

And, at the end of the day, how could any of us go on without resolute forgiveness? And this just…the revelation…is the word, the fulfillment, and the law. If you ever thought otherwise, you have missed the point. Hell. I’m not Christian and I understand this.

Jesus, Buddha, Siddartha, Mohamed…how many damn names do you need? I can come up with about 12 more right off the top of my head. They only had one message:

In this world there are basic truths. There are basic laws. They aren’t fair or good or evil or kind or forgiving or blessed or pretentious or subtle or equivocal or flexible or modest or loving or comforting. They…are…immutable. And they are the basis for EVERYTHING. And they have ALWAYS been. I don’t care how often you pray or supplicate or sacrifice…the law has been the same. At best I can serve as the “Cribbage Bat of Justice” that whacks you up-side the head and points to the obvious and says, “Ummm…you’re kidding, right? What the hell were you thinking? This is TONS simpler than you thought.”

At worst I can cry myself to sleep again…resolute in tomorrow. So I guess I always win? I would far rather have my message fall on deaf ears than ignorant ones.

How I suddenly feel:
“You always know what’s going to happen next. There’s no mystery.”

Words from the past (Epictetus):

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

Yes, yes, I know. I’m rambling. At least from your point of view. Fair enough. Until next time.

Love ya!!!!

September 7, 2006

My promise: There is a happy ending.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Otter @ 8:23 am

Before engaging my sordid downs I have to share a treat with you. I recently watched a movie that I simply must share. It is “The Libertine” with (yes…sigh) Johnny Depp. I won’t launch into any tiresome description. I’ll simply impart you with the opening lines:

“Allow me to be frank at the commencement. You will not like me. The gentlemen will be envious and the ladies will be repelled. You will not like me now and you will like me a good deal less as we go on. Ladies, an announcement: I am up for it, all the time. That is not a boast or an opinion, it is bone hard medical fact. I put it round you know. And you will watch me putting it round and sigh for it. Don’t. It is a deal of trouble for you and you are better off watching and drawing your conclusions from a distance than you would be if I got my tarse up your petticoats. Gentlemen. Do not despair, I am up for that as well. And the same warning applies. Still your cheesy erections till I have had my say. But later when you shag – and later you will shag, I shall expect it of you and I will know if you have let me down – I wish you to shag with my homuncular image rattling in your gonads. Feel how it was for me, how it is for me and ponder. ‘Was that shudder the same shudder he sensed? Did he know something more profound?’ Or is there some wall of wretchedness that we all batter with our heads at that shining, livelong moment? That is it. That is my prologue, nothing in rhyme, no protestations of modesty, you were not expecting that I hope. I am John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester and I do not want you to like me.”

This movie, to the trained, or at least sensitively carbuncular mind, is about none of these things. And that is what so draws me to it. Bone hard medical fact. So little of that about these days.

I have decided that my ramblings have taken on a distinctly negative tilt of late. For that I apologize. I have previously not seen my writings as being a “thought” per se. However, the more I reflect and cogitate the more I realize that indeed this is a thought as singular in purpose as any that I may ever have. As such I have done it no kind of justice. I have reveled in despair and frustration. In matter of fact I have broken one of the basic premises upon which this blog was founded: I have given the impression that I am not basically happy. This could not be farther from the truth and I should expound – if at least temporarily – upon that foundation.

I enjoy a sort of hard fought (and at least summarily tested) faith that guides me through this adventure. All of my life I have entertained a spectacular thought: something big is going to happen. I have never truly grasped what exactly it is, but the life impression has remained. For a while it was “something big” in an awesome and great sense (supernatural, if you will). As time wore on it became “something big” in a world altering (political or philosophical…again, if you will) sense. More time wore on. Now I am starting to understand that the “something big” is already happening…and I’m smack in the middle of it. And so are you. My impression of awesomeness evolved into a sense of expectation. These perceptions have all given way to an overwhelming notion of acceptance. This is, in fact, a message that I have been tuned in to – that has been blasting itself into my ears for years – and I have never been listening enough to more than touch upon its edges. Any brief comprehension on my part has been the twist of words in a book, or movie, or song. And I’ve always missed it. It makes me happy when I realize there is a message there and I just can’t touch it. If it weren’t I would feel a void and that void has never been. Happiness. At least I’m brushing against the message. It’s closeness gives me warmth. And the strange version of faith I espouse.

Have you ever watched someone filling a glass with liquid and noticed that split second of apprehension as the liquid rapidly approached the top of the glass? “Oh, it’s going to overflow…ah, they stopped. Whew, got close.” Well, my life has been an endless succession of that apprehension…but in a more (of course) existential way. As a child my breath would catch at the oddest times and I would whisper to myself: “You won’t remember this moment in an hour. Try to hold on to it.” Sure enough an hour later I wouldn’t remember the moment…but I have a lingering memory that something was supposed to be remembered. To this day I have a growing catalogue of “remembers” with no actual references with which to fit them. I know this sounds odd, but it makes me happy that at least I have the bookmarks. They remind me that I was alive then…and trying. I still do it to this day. I can remember trying. I just can’t remember the memories.

If you actually watch “The Libertine” you might understand that I also love a wretched intelligence. I don’t mean “intelligent wretchedness” for I see that as pure evil. Directed harm is the basest act in my vernacular. But an intelligence that finds itself at the bottom looking up is most often the most intrinsic form of wisdom. In fact, I’m not alone. Unless you view as pathetic the profound exposition of Benjamin Franklin (alcoholic) or Abraham Lincoln (manic depressive) or Jesus Christ (restrained prophet) or William Shakespeare (alcoholic) or Sigmund Freud (schizophrenic) or…well does this list really need to go on? Wherein lies a wasted garden of wretchedness also lies (if sometimes belated) an occasional magnificent rose. Again, you might think this off topic, but MAN do I like the underdog. This makes me happy. To know that from any unwatched corner can emerge an Einstein or Socrates or Nietzsche. And that there is quite literally nothing you or I can do about it. I can smile myself to sleep for decades based on this alone.

But I suppose I should address the message at some point, eh? Yeah. Well, it isn’t really that easy. I truly wish it were. But I have a name for it. I have long claimed to be a secular humanist. I am, I guess, as that goes. But that has never really covered it for me. So I sat back and ground it up a bit in my noggin and decided that I can’t go on without calling it something more fitting. Something…else. So here is the name for the heart of my message: systemic humanism. I’m not Wikipedia so I’m not going to try to define it in a quick, easily digested, capsule. Just realize that my future postings will follow a pattern. Honestly, I don’t really know where to begin, although I already have. While I mean to rob no credibility from my previous posts (I steadfastly stand behind each) they were unfocused and discordant. Understand that my life has been a pursuit and dissection of systems. As such I have finally understood that simplicity is a far more apt fuse with which to light the dynamic explosive of understanding that is sitting just below us. Oddly enough most seem eager to a) embrace or b) ignore with gratuitous fervor this rather ballistic concept. I, for one, ask for neither. Just listen. I don’t need your faith. I don’t need your excited acceptance. I don’t need your provocative insights (or at least I need them as much as you do). What I need is your brain…and not nearly so much as you do. I am going to make mistakes, missteps, and assumptions. I apologize. I am a bit new at this whole “making a point” thing. I will ask questions and a hope with all of my heart that you will help me answer them. As I’ve said so many times before. This is no place to go for some sort of snide egotistical rebuttal. I have no more interest in proving you wrong than proving myself right. I would like for sound exploration to make answers of itself.

I warn you now there is no room in heaven or earth for dual visions. At the end of the day you are the product of conscience and endurance will lay no claim to your formation of such duality…it will fracture you. What I will say though, is that your conscience is the product of your intellect and to assign it external ownership is folly. Turning away from logic is tantamount to self-condemnation. If you can’t entertain evidentiary thoughts you are an automaton immune to possibility and both god(s) and man will have none of you. In this case who you are is who you will always be and I am afraid we are done before we begin. Make no mistake, I embark on dangerous ground. There be dragons here.

What if everything you know was replaced with everything you feel? Answer this and you begin to see the message emerging in my mind.

Questions: What is the first human law? Was there law before this? What was it (if it existed)? What is meant by “law”?

August 17, 2006

Part II…for what it’s worth

Filed under: Uncategorized — Otter @ 8:04 am

I recently heard a quote that really made me think:

“This is you…this is what you are afraid of…what really scares you. Sitting drunk in a graveyard. Crying about where and who you are. There is so little time. You have NO TIME LEFT! There is so little time!!!!”

I can’t say that didn’t affect me. Every second I think about it equals a second that I can’t do anything about it.

My desire and struggle to understand faith is part and parcel with my desire to understand my place within the framework that I have constructed.

In the end, I have a response that covers my writing, pondering, and publication: I…don’t…know. I wish there was an answer that conformed nicely to a neat poll, but I can’t provide that. I wish I was a pilot that understood the controls of every plane known to man. But I’m not. I’m you. And, really, I’ve been trying to say that from the beginning. I toss aside that which is expected of me and focus on that which I project (in my infinite desperation) by my intellect and the expression of will that I support.

In the end this is just a blog. Ha ha. Just a fun place to visit occasionlly to see what my current “fix” might be. Is there a new, interesting theorem for me to compare to my “real” life? What kind of entertainment awaits me this week?

But, at the end of the day, you will see what you want and hear what you want. Logic, reason, history, environment, and (sorry Philter) elucidation will deliver you nowhere if you fail to stop and investigate those words.

“Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

Learn, damn you. Learn. Absorb, absorb, absorb. Jesus, no slouch in His own right, understood this. The times…they are a-chagin’. If you don’t understand this as the prophesy for the future, then you (I personally think) have missed the point.

I’m not going to mince words here, so prepare for some serious shit.

Translation: “Things have gotten pretty bad…prepare for the worst. When the worst occurs (of which you have only glimpsed) there will be no salvation save through Me. After that, we’ll see. Otherwise, be cool. Knock off the violent shit. Now. The world deserves attention and you guys have UTTERLY missed the point.” And here’s the most interesting part of all: “You aren’t going to understand why (I’m sorry) but, eventually, I will come back and smack your ass into oblivion.”

There were a lot of messed up Jews and recipients of “Roman rule” that REALLY liked that message.

Here’s my question: Do you…YOU…feel this message every single day of your life? If so, why are you sad? Why are you silent? Why are you in a bad mood? Why do you feel that the grinding pressure of the bullets and bombs and death and dirt and explosions and trickery and lies…are okay? What happened? Is your faith a polite excuse for the solid thud of an apartment building landing on a family of five? Is it easier to imagine that they are the enemies of God? Are they happier enjoying the 72 virgins? Or are you happier that they are dead imagining that they foolishly thought that paradise awaited them? At the end of the day are we guilty (perhaps not AS guilty) of imagining that death is cheap elsewhere…just not here?

I have seen it up close. In its grunting, sighing, utter finality. Please, I beg you, don’t ever revel in that. Accept it, regret it, mourn it, stop it, facilitate it, but don’t sit in the face of the “whimper as the world ends” and dismiss it. And that, I believe, is where our civilization is. There are cultures on this planet that simply believe we, the strongest of all possible cultures, have forgotten what their shuddering breaths sound like. And I think we have. I don’t dispute that. That shakes my faith. Where does God fall in that argument? Where, indeed?

As I said before, where does my faith stand? In you. In those I know. In the faith that I have that intelligence still exists throughout the mechanisms of this civilization.

I have faith in you. Should I? I don’t think anyone but you can answer that. Let’s leave judgmental, creative, omnipotent agents out of it.

Time to stand and deliver.

Let me leave you with a quick analogy.

Two men sit down on two chairs that, unbeknownst to them, have nails in the seat.

The first man screams, “Argh!!! Give me pain killers or something to deal with this! This is the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. Come on. Give me some way to deal with this unbearable pain!”

The second man screams, “Get me the fuck off of these nails.”

Which one are you?

August 3, 2006

Faith…Elucidated…In Part I

Filed under: Uncategorized — Otter @ 8:29 am

I have received myriad and thoughtful responses to my query. To each of you: thank you. It helps to know what my friends think. I have chosen (and, yes, it was a conscious choice on my part) my friends with care and it has been enlightening. Let me get to the heart of my matter. I have a rather solid grasp of ancient (that is, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1% of the span of humankind back) history. With this existential ammunition I have always toiled with a nagging question. That is: how do I distinctly (and mutually exclusively) define faith, hope, and trust? For the purposes of this discussion, I am equating belief to faith. Whenever you (or I) feel like using the word “belief” just substitute “faith”…and vice versa.

To expand on Philter’s comment, I agree that to assign the tag “is right” is to, in fact, elucidate. I reject that approach to faith (as does his narrative)…in part and in whole. To elucidate creates a faith-based reality and is no more pertinent to this discussion than those that hold the fervent belief that water swirls counter-clockwise in the Southern hemisphere, as opposed to it’s clockwise parallel. This is bunk, but a widely held belief (many will argue with you over this). If I can’t content myself with a definition of faith, I surely do not wish to lead others astray by stating “truths”. These are, as I have been careful to point out, the drunken ramblings of a common slob.

But this isn’t an entirely exhausted example. Why do so many people believe that the water in your toilet is hemisphere aware? I get into arguments all the time over that simple realization of physics. So, what drives that misunderstanding? I don’t believe it is faith.

Let me set something straight right here and now. I will bring up religion in this discussion. I am not knocking or rejecting religion. In the converse, I am trying to lay bare a demon of reason that has perched itself comfortably on my shoulder for a number of years. I know this demon and, frankly, I’m more than satisfied to see him wink at me every morning. I have taught lessons that I both believed and rejected in its presence. But I’m 35, and I need a little “secular human” boost to continue my day. I don’t believe that restricting our discussion to religion is doing the topic justice. In other words, it will come up, but it isn’t my point. I guess maybe we should all (including me) be asking ourselves why we gravitate in that particular direction.

As I said, I don’t believe it is faith. I believe it is trust. Here’s the way I see it:

Trust: An understanding BASED ON PREVIOUS OR PERCEIVED INFORMATION (not data) that something is or will be.
Hope: A willed trust BASED ON A POSITIVELY DERIVED DECISION that some outcome (usually positive) is more likely to occur. Perceived facts may indeed indicate the exact opposite.
Faith: A fabrication (don’t take that the wrong way…I mean that literally, not as a point of argument) of trust and/or hope with no concrete evidence to support or deny the viewpoint.

So, here is what I consider the most dangerous word to emerge in our progression as a civilization: “blind”

You can attach “blind” to any of these concepts and immediately render their definition null and void. What is the difference between blind trust, blind hope, and blind faith? I postulate there is no difference. “Blind” overrules all. The moment that you remove your own feelings, knowledge, experience, and — dare I say — dogma from the discussion you are, yourself, removed from all potential paths of understanding. Philter’s comment illustrates this rather nicely. The very act of asking for elucation nullifies the quest. “What am I supposed to do?” and “where am I going?” are a natural avoidance of the very substance of “where and what am I?”. I will dismiss for a moment biblical arguments to the contrary and ask: of the last 3 million years that we’ve been here, how much of it do you know about? OK, forget about that. Let me ask you this. When did salvation become a concern? Hmmm. As far back as recorded history? Nope. I’ll let you do the legwork on that (because I don’t think you should take my words on faith). Actually, if you consider the timeline of humanity, salvation is a fairly new concept. And, as this subject comes full circle, I began to ask my quesitons.

We have the cradle of civilization. The Tigris and Euphates is where, apparently, it all began. Where what all began? Humanity? Civilization? Nope. History (NOT the same thing). Bipedal humanoids were all over the place prior to that. But “we”…the “we” that spawned all cultures began right there. They rapidly developed the ability to write and BANG we have the beginning of history. You’ll notice that everything before that is labelled “prehistory” as though there is some magical realm before we started writing. What happened is that we began to depend on the land and our environment and our ability to manage it for our existence (as we understood it). This is the topic for an entirely different post, but let’s go with it for now and you can investigate the ancillary issues at your leisure.

Buddhism?(which branch?) Judaism?(which branch?) Islam?(which branch?) Zorasthustraism?(sadly, which branch?) Did you ever stop to think about where they started? Let me jump into the Wayback Machine and fill you in. The fertile cresent. Between the Tigris and Euphates. An area widely heralded in the news these days. And do you know what (based on projections and their own ancient writings) they were worried about? Locusts. Floods. Plagues. The premature deaths of their crops and children. And do you know what they came up with to deal with these uncertain times?

Gods.

There are beings in the perceived universe (remember there’s only around 10 million people on the planet at this time…the population of New York and it’s surroundings) that can CONTROL THE ENVIRONMENT. These were talismans. Good luck charms, if you will, to be rubbed and cradled in the…hope…of influence.

So, what would you do? Well, I for one would try to figure out how to influence these beings so that my environment will be more favorable to my agricultural undertakings (hunter/gathers were still doing just fine…as long as they could stay away from the agriculturalists). And so entered faith into the world. I will kill my firstborn child (a common sacrifice long before Abraham). I will kill my best (fatted) cattle. In such I “have faith” that my actions will influence the gods to look favorably upon me and bless me with success in my endeavors (agricultural ones, by the way). As an invention “faith” was created as a mechanism through which the environment could be influenced or managed. If the “gods” destroy my crops and herds anyway…well, it was because I didn’t have enough “faith”. So, try to wrap your head around that one. At that time, faith was a very gregarious thing. You had to, by force of will, convince the unseen that you deserved favor. And remember…there was no concept of a single, all-knowing God at this point.

I’m going to brush past a few things here. The origination of priesthood and divine consent. They sparked the creation of a godhead and spawned the varied religions. To the east: Siddhartha. To the west: Abraham…Jesus…Muhammad. And so on. Don’t think for a second that the congealed “first religions” didn’t include a concept of “salvation”. Yes, I’m jumping over a lot. But this isn’t a book.

So, I’ve long held that I am what you call a Secular Humanist. The orthagonal “other” that Philter describes. This is a state of being possibly devoid of “faith”. And yet, I said that I haven’t lost mine. What, pray tell, do I mean? I believe (remember the replacability — for fun look that word up — of faith and belief) in humans. I believe that effort equals money. I believe that responsibility equals the pain incurred by failure and the leisure incurred by success. I believe in the unbelivable magesty of music and understanding. But I haven’t described my “faith”, have I? My faith lies in “the plan” that I still think is our destiny. I have faith that this is all building to a greater…what? Something I can’t put my finger on.

3 million years ago = 1 person, give or take. 5000 years ago = 10 million people. Today = 6 billion people. Think about the growth in the last 5000 years and ponder its possible reasons…and why it didn’t happen before.
3 million years ago = tearing food from nature. 5000 years ago = agriculture. Today = Jack In The Box…food on demand.
3 million years ago = grunts. 5000 years ago = writing. Today = instantanious information transfer via the Internet.

There are only two choices, in my view. 1) We stepped off the path 5000 years ago and are headed for destruction (call that whatever your religion would like to) or 2) we are headed for some, as of yet, unascertained future. I prefer to think that our growing sense of community and “connectedness” is a step in some greater plan. I reject the idea that God is behind it all. But it is faith, nonetheless. Pure, unadulterated, faith. I find it interesting that entire nations can now have “moods” and “sentiments”. Hmmm. What in the world could that indicate?

I have friends that I love. In them I have trust. I base this trust on my perception of them. I trust that my professors in college were telling me the truth (at least in the areas of science). But I don’t think for a moment that this arrangement isn’t a precarious one. I fall all the time. Some area of “knowledge” becomes an area of “ignorance”. But it is my faith in humanity that keeps me going.

OK. I called this “Part I” for a reason. I would like to think of this as a discussion. Comment and I’ll launch myself into “Part II”. Trust me, there is SO much more.

I recently heard a song that had a lyric that touched me in this particular realm: “I feel as if I am looking at the world from the bottom of a well.” I don’t think this separates me significantly from my homo sapiens (and you thought that was us) ancestors…sometimes. I also recently watched a movie in which a man danced tango with a life-sized female doll on a sidewalk in New York to the music of Krishna Das as German and Japanese-made cars passed in the foreground. Can you think of a more poignant example of converging civilization than that?

As usual, here’s the influence on my meat processor:

“Hey, what did you hear me say
you know the difference it makes
what did you hear me say
Yes, I said it’s fine before
I don’t think so no more
I said it’s fine before
I’ve changed my mind
I take it back
Erase and rewind
’cause I’ve been changing my mind
I’ve changed my mind
So where did you see me go
it’s not the right way, you know
where did you see me go
No, it’s not that I don’t know
I just don’t want it to grow
It’s not that I don’t know
I’ve changed my mind
I take it back
Erase and rewind
’cause I’ve been changing my mind”

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