Tag Archive | capitalism

How to Think

When I hear those words echo from outside myself, I get angry, too.

I don’t know where the anger comes from – the fury.  I just know that it comes.  And it becomes.  On grey Winter days it may comeLiteral Fork In The Road at any time.  In the bursts of springtime blossoms it may fester and go rancid for a chance to spill its seed into the life of another unwitting victim.  Beginning anew, a little less angry with each successive generation, it comes forth with the promise of something different, something interesting, something beyond what has ever come before.  But then it just dies in fits of forgetful regret for not having lived out its promise, for never having broken through its own shell to reach out to the Light.  The Light that’s never really there when we need it, anyway.

Such is the fate of stardust and the powder-filled wings of angels.

If there’s anything good to come from the outright theft and betrayal of the sexual identities of fourteen young women, it is the minor wizardry of these words spilling forth in a waterfall of grief, regret, despair, disappointment and utter betrayal.  I cannot believe we gave so much of ourselves, promised to so many for so very little.

I used to blame my father’s Catholicism for the fact that I could never seem to accept the timid, tentative outstretched hand of a woman looking for connection, for shared joy, for relief from the bitter dregs of adolescent angst.  I could never smash the faces of my enemies nor vanquish my guilt over my reticence.  It was because of that old mossy, rusty cross and those eyes cast down upon the world in a familiar fact-filled glance of grief, regret, despair, disappointment and utter betrayal.  I could not bring myself to strike at the face of my own despair and fear; I could never accept the hand of promise stretched out to me from what seemed like miles away because I never felt entitled to the release, the resolution or the reconciliation.  I never felt entitled because…Jesus.  I never felt good enough because He was hung there like carrion for a murder of crows.  Every bloody nose I willed to be theirs, every smashed face that wasn’t mine, every orgasm lost in grievous sin into tawdry linens I sacrificed by being nailed to a cross of my own construction and design because “They” told me to do it when I couldn’t cross myself correctly, serve mass piously, take my torments with humility or confess my sins honestly.  The same sins it has taken most of my life to even recognize much less comprehend in origin.  “How convenient,” I thought, “that they have numbered all my bones and laid the wages of all sin at my feet, in my tawdry linens, in all my unreconciled torments and dreams of vengeance – no matter how long delayed!”  Of course it was the rancid, ancient beliefs of little men in fancy clothing and funny hats sent from a righteous heaven to defile the dreams of resolution and absolution begged for from a laiety so masochistic, so anachronistic that only a fool would pass on the chance to milk so sacred a cow.  Let the carnival barking begin!  Crash my dreams of a normal, healthy existence into the side of bitter mountaintop, never to be seen, nor heard from, again!

My mother’s bloodied face in 1966 and her long-defiled, swollen abdomen in 1936 had more to do with my tormented-shut libido and my interpersonal cowardice than any religious liturgy oozing out of  ancient Rome.  The sadism was handed down from years of masochism gone unrequited, from beatings so severe and senseless that the beguiled prayed to be set free even onto a snow-filled prairie to take their chances with wild buffalo; buffalo soon to be stacked high near the dead natives left without food to fight the chill of Winter.  No, the Catholics gave these brutal people safe passage into purgatory years after condemning them to the hottest Hell for refusing to eat fish on Fridays, refusing to restrain their coital urges for a public sanctioning of wedlock, for missing a week of mass or a Holy Day.  Or for loving an improper stranger.

The sins of 120 million dead brothers and sisters, of at least as many tears, bore witness then to a brutal savagery yet to come.  A web of interdependent shame so hideous as to make the true character of a people facile in the face of sacrificing any hero or shrew, for they would always be one in the same here.  To Europe and to ancient Rome, the impudent Americans would always be a laughing stock of hollow native outcasts, of fools and of dregs.  We would always care little for ourselves because, for centuries, we would be forsaken by the Crown of Britain for intransigence and singled out for disrespect.  Nevermind that the freedom we sought was only a modicum of what might be deserved for the children of any lesser god.  This callous disregard of our dignity was passed down to all others too taken by our silly clothes and poor agrarian skills to yield to the iron fist our naiveté concealed.

But proof is thus concealed in pudding and murmurs in the mud.

Of one thing my age has granted me some certainty: no deity or reified human being hangs from a tree after being beaten to a point where human death becomes a distant, fond wish and but gives a damn who eats what, who goes where nor who fucks whom.  The look of grief and utter, dismal betrayal in those bloodied, half-shuttered eyes cast down from that effigy beneath which I prayed longingly had nothing to do with anything but the behavior of those who birthed me here and on whose knees my tutelage received.  Beyond that I cannot speak intelligibly, for that is a matter of personal faith which, on a good day, my heart lightens and my smiles abound; on a bad day (or thirty minutes later), well, I wish for you nothing but the cynical fury of a life spent searching for what cannot be found: American dignity.

Fourteen women lost their will to live lives as human beings open to the advances of honest, trustworthy men because a cynical fury, known only to adults, cast onto a child a seething despair so rancid, so irreconcilably lost in the devotion, love and innocence of children, that that child had nowhere left to put their love, had no place to share a joy twisted by fury into sickness and death.  That child turned adult would have you thank them for not murdering these women, but for leaving them broken and not whole inside, that we might reconcile and untwist his sickness into love. Thank you, Bill.  Now go back to the now snow-starved prairie bereft of the buffalo and their brothers, back to the land from which you were fortunate enough to have survived and tell us more tales of laughter and exuberance, if you dare.  Of the wisdom or compassion of a man who hollows out the heart of a woman, eating it but once yet shitting it out sideways into a bag for the rest of his pathetic life, I know precious little but an agonizing despair so deep it cannot be reached.

That was my mother you raped, that was my sister you violated, that was my daughter you betrayed and that was my sex life you utterly destroyed in multiple thoughtless acts of muted revenge for sins beyond any adult ability to reason or scope, let alone a child.  A flaccid awesome lie paints the pants of the American landscape, and we blame you for a child’s disability to communicate a need for reason and for help.

It was not the Catholics after all.  Nor the Crown.  We are where we are because we deserve it.  All power and privilege decreed it so centuries ago.  For that revelation I thank you, Bill Cosby.

No clap of thunder or any tornado-swept hole in Hell matches the jolt of a mind split apart with wattage, laid waste to by countless drugs having side-effects too hideously tormenting to recount, only to be discounted by a community caught in disbelief over its own hypocrisy and loss of moral compass.  It was left to the judgment of a Judge that all power of judgment be taken from a nine year old girl so her goat-copulating father, who freely chose to leave his loose change and burning cigarettes on her nightstand, might continue to work in the community and sustain a family that was rejecting him outright.  The year was 1936 and from 1932 my mother endured the heaving advances, the pathetic breath, the jaundiced eyes and the enormous penis of an entity ten times her weight and orders of magnitude her size.  He was a brutal, drunken heap of human flesh thrown completely clear of a Hell made hot, barren and unwelcoming by his utter presence.  There is a reason the State of Oklahoma continues to quake in ignorant fear of supernatural evil: Jack Shelby lived there once.  He brewed ‘shine fit for Pretty Boy Floyd, lying his way through solid stone, melting handcuffs of righteous lawmen and leaving machine-gun toting criminals in awe of the power of his thunderous, cloven-hooved gait over wooden floors worn down soft by the shuffling feet of the despairing.  He would leave the Dustbowl of Oklahoma just ahead of fate because of the Great Depression, the same Great Depression the people of Texas continue to believe never happened.  They may be right; it may just have been the crater this sucking chest wound of moral ambivalence left in the dirt of Oklahoma when Satan, Himself, threw this Irish asshole to Earth from the hellfire of the Sun.  Steinbeck recounted symptoms for posterity, receiving a Nobel Prize; my mother absorbed a full-frontal moral shock for an entire world terrified by an evil so brutal it defied her ability to remain a whole human being.  For that service she received the scorn of her community, the misunderstanding of her children, and a life that continues to haunt my credulity and stain my credibility with good men who have never had to bear witness to such an empty vastness – to the sheer cold depth – of a moral black hole from which no hope of any light could ever escape.

That is why you have never heard of Jack Shelby, for as soon as he appeared in your life, your mind demanded you forget him; the sheer gravity of his darkness exceeded human comprehension.  What I realize today is that it was his presence in my mother’s life that sealed her fate long before I was even born.  It was never my grandmother’s fault; it wasn’t even the Catholic Churches’ fault; though responsibility, when it hits the fan, is never evenly nor fairly distributed.  This was all Jack Shelby, my grandfather, an evil-dead non-person who raped my mother from the time she was five until she was nine, defiling the countryside from Oklahoma to California in one, long forgettable visitation to our planet.

The first time they strapped my mother down, shoved rubber into her terrified, confused mouth and scrambled her brain with electricity was when she was 19 years old and had had two children by a man from the House of Canterbury.  He left soon after her stay in the sanitarium never to be seen, nor heard from, again.  Decades later, when his children were fully adults and merely curious, they located Jonathan and attempted contact with him.  He refused the connection.  He insisted they were mistakes and that they never contact him again.  They dutifully complied, a burden lifted from one child and left to rest on the shoulders of another.  That child died drinking a gallon of cheap wine every night just to maintain himself from shaking due to withdrawals, aged 64 years.  The official cause of death wasn’t cirrhosis or poisoning, but cancer.  A mere brush with a black hole sends grown men a full country’s width away from their own children and another man into a bottle never to surface again.  Mental illness caused a terrible fright in the 1940’s, even some 4 decades after a firm commitment from the country to build sanitariums to house the mentally ill, the alcoholic and the terminally misunderstood received cheers for President Teddy the Bullmoose.  If we could not repair broken lives, we could at least hide them, and our shame, from public view.  It was the least we could do since, prior to that time, it was the SPCA – the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – who were the only human beings willing to risk contact with society’s untouchables.  Sydney Cameron, a psychiatrist and admirer of the strides the Nazis had made experimenting on the Jews and others in their “work camps,” not one to miss out on an opportunity, used these sanitariums to find research subjects for his experiments involving the erasure and reconstitution of the human personality.  To relieve suffering, of course.  Dr. Cameron never quite perfected the “reconstitution” aspect of his experiments with “psychic driving” before he was forced underground and his experimentations along with him, but that wasn’t for lack of available test subjects.  There will always be plenty of shame to drive some of us completely mad and in search of some sort of erasure.  I do not know if my mother was ever a formal test subject in the early days of the “Monarch” program – a place where the cleansed records of Nazi doctors found a home and adequate funding for further research – but I do know she was given numerous “shock treatments” on multiple occasions in her many three-month, “convalescent stays,” behind the walls of Santa Clara’s now defunct, “Agnews State Hospital.”  I may never know the actual extent of the procedures my mother endured because the State of California “mishandled” all of the patient records from those days, selling the property to Sun Microsystems in 1997.  But at least I know that of the many “sterilization” operations that were performed on mentally ill women without their consent or awareness, my mother was probably not among them.  That could be considered a stroke of luck since, of the fifty states in these United States, California sterilized the mentally ill far more often than any other State.  Texas, where I now live, the least often.

We have always placed great pride in our mental illness in Texas, as it turns out, burying a wealth of “crazy uncles” and “addled aunts” in trailers and trailerparks spread out across the vast, expansive countryside, as if they were our secret treasure waiting to be mined.  We’ve even sent a couple of our most grievously afflicted to serve as Presidents of these United States.  One from each political party has been sent, so far, just to prove that we are nonpartisan and fair in our admiration and respect.

Both men were, history has shown, equally and predictably destructive.

“If nominated I would not run, if elected, I would not serve,” should have been LBJ’s motto before he ascended to the Presidency on the odd coincidence that his predecessor had fallen victim to an assassin’s bullet, not unlike at least one or two other of Johnson’s political opponents.  The Johnson Family might like to parade their favored son’s “Great Society” programs for all to see, but had he not guided and passed that legislation through Congress during his first and only term as President, Bobby Kennedy, the fallen President’s brother, close confidante and a sworn enemy of LBJ and his friend J. Edgar Hoover, would have certainly taken the Presidency and proceeded to right the grievous wrong that had been not just to his family, but to the entire country as a result of his brother’s untimely demise.  As it turned out, the evil that had been done to the United States and to my family up to that point, had taken up deep roots here in the American South, as multiple homicides just happened to take place against every major political opponent who dared to take exception to this country’s economic alliance with Nazi Germany back in 1932.  That would be about the same time Jack Shelby started making his drunken, twisted advances at my mother when she was barely able to walk and not yet able to run.

As for Texas’ other contribution to “whirled peas,” the wound is still quite fresh and infected to the bone as only the bite from the fetid mouth of a Komodo Dragon can be.  I think George W. Bushes’ dubious flight and appearance aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003 to announce, “Mission Accomplished,” says everything about the purpose and plan the Bush Family had in mind for the United States beginning around 1932 when the President’s grandfather, Prescott, began funneling money and weapons to Nazi Germany and its new Chancellor, “Adolf Hitler.”  The “mission accomplished” banner had precious little to do with “combat operations in Iraq” being complete, because that proved to be complete nonsense.  The mission, from World War I to the present day, has been to bring about a New World Order; the same “novus ordo seclorum” Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler tried to ooze all over the world during World War II.  That mission, to the chagrin of all those brave soldiers and civilians who died during World War II, and their families, has been accomplished.  The dark crown of fascism has been restored on the head where it properly belonged.  God saved the Queen.

The only time I ever saw Jack Shelby, the person, was when he was dying on his bed in a convalescent hospital in Merced, California.  My grandmother couldn’t see fit to keep something like the death of a parent from my mother and, true to form, she gave him more comfort than I was able to comprehend at the age of 12.  True to the nature of these events, I do not recall his face.  I do, however, recall the old man not two beds away pathetically masturbating as my cousins Deborah and Cheryl sat vigil with my mother and grandmother as they said their final “goodbyes” to a hollowed-out shell of a human being.  By this time the evil had left behind little more than an effigy of the man who terrified and terrorized the women in his life four and five decades before.  By that time only Bobby, Jimmy and my mother were left, and they would pass in that order, all from cancer as the official cause.  As I sat there in that room soaked with the smell of Betadine and urine, wondering what I was even doing there, I began to feel the emptiness creeping over me like a hole in my chest that the wind would not leave alone.  Neither Bobby, nor Jimmy, bothered to see their father off with a final fair-the-well.  Over the decades they had seen many men off to Hell in multiple wars as they served in the Navy; the death of their father would be just another hollowed-out shell tossed overboard, the engines of progress full steam ahead.  They had said all they were ever going to say to the man who had terrorized them and raped their sisters.

There was nothing funny or sad about any experience that included Jack Shelby or his clan; these were spiritual trials to be endured, replete with panic attacks, anxiety and terror that seemed to know no bottom.  The terror that I grew up and through, damaging and traumatizing though it was, was nothing in comparison to the fate these poor souls had consigned themselves to.  Enough of my soul and heart was left to allow me to walk through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous at the age of 30, thinking and believing I had been cheated of another 10 good years of drinking and taking drugs, “for fun.”  In those ten years, had I survived them, the disease would have convinced me that life was not about joy but was a trial to be endured.  Only the meanest, coldest and nastiest men lived long or prospered in this hellhole that the likes of JP Morgan, Henry Ford, JD Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie left in their wake.  These four horsemen created a country that will be known not so much for its natural beauty or its kind people but for its unrelenting cruelty against its own and others.  We have been uncompromising in that regard, the scope and depths of our genocidal history so hideously sublime that no history book dare print a word nor utter a sound lest the hounds of hell be unleashed against them and their families.  Such was the case with the Kennedys, such will be the case with any organized resistance against the evil that grows wild here and in places where the Sun never shines.

Just the other day I was reading a recounting of the history of German Uboats of World War II and the various artifacts found in that most impressive submarine fleet of the day.  Among the contents?  Several ticket stubs to movie theaters along the Texas coast.

The point of my story lost in a fog of shame and guilt will be over what shame and guilt I have failed to surface and resolve here.  My responsibility thus adjudicated, I shall suffer that the Queen and Rome might continue their masquerade as unwilling witness to the original sin the publishers of fiction  and contradiction thus contrived.

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Deer Jesus Epistle — Measuring Up As Men

SteubenvilleinTutu

“I call on men and boys everywhere to take a stand against the mistreatment of girls and women. It is by standing up for the rights of girls and women that we truly measure up as men.”  — Desmond Tutu, November, 2012

Not three months prior to Tutu’s statement, two teenage boys brutally assaulted, humiliated and traumatized a sixteen year old girl who was inebriated past the point of being able to take care of herself, let alone call for help from others.

To this very day, the victim’s family and the victim continue to receive death threats and threats of bodily harm from the victim’s teenage peers in the Ohio town of Steubenville, population under 19,000.

Various reports have attempted to slant the story away from the fact that a young woman, possibly already sexually traumatized before the notorious August, 2012 incident, was a victim of rape under Ohio law.  Some of these reports lay claim to this incident being, “fueled,” by social media.

I beg to differ.

Our society fuels both social media and violence against those who are vulnerable.  The whole of United States culture has been built and maintained by a strict code of exploitation of the temporarily weak by the temporarily strong.  When those temporarily weak grow strong enough, there is war.  This has been our pattern for over two centuries.  As the temporarily strong have used war to exploit the growing strength of the temporarily weak, they have become hollowed-out, rotting caricatures of the men, women, slaves and indigenous people who once founded and built this country.

The people of Steubenville have been demoralized and stripped of anything akin to human decency and what the rape of this vulnerable teenage girl reveals is not just cause, but effect.  This entire incident – the childhood trauma, the teenage alcoholism, the economic exploitation of the middle class, the indiscriminate violence, the media circus, the inappropriate labeling and valuation of cultural symbols by a media circus — all took place in a town too small town to be on any nation-state’s radar as a threat to anyone’s interests.  Steubenville has long since been decimated by “globalization” and the moving of steel mills to lands our uneducated children can no longer name, much less locate on a map.  And so the macrocosmic rape of Steubenville played itself out in a microcosmic incident of despicable human trauma and exploitation with vulnerable children caught in the midst of forces too powerful to be ignored.

Were the boys who victimized this teenage girl of Steubenville victims themselves?  Probably.  We enter into the so-called adult world of bitter realities praying to an ineffable sky-being that the personal coin of our lives will somehow magically land on its edge.  These boys parlayed their alcohol-induced block of feeling and sense-making to mean that, finally – for once – they were neither cause nor effect, neither victims nor victimizers, for their target of opportunity was so clearly incapable of recollection or self defense that they could finally act on their hormone-fueled drive for reconciliation and justice leaving no one the wiser.

Alas, no one in a surveillance culture ever gets completely away with anything.  Now everyone knows the coin landed with “cause” facing up even while a circus of agenda-setters tried to turn “cause” into “effect.”  However, the cellphone camera coverage made the facts clear in this case and gave the judge presiding no recourse but to adjudicate these two boys based on their behavior, rather than as well-intentioned young men who simply happened upon a vulnerable female during a night of alcohol-fueled stupidity.  “It was a case of mistaken identity, your honor, where one of these boys thought he had left his car keys in the vagina of an incapacitated female he thought he recognized.”  Such explanations would fall dead on arrival in the judge’s chambers, as they should have.

Human beings under stress behave no better than the worst-behaved chimpanzees in the wild.  Among the great apes a silver-backed gorilla could have mustered superior behavior to the demonstrated depravity of these two alleged hominids taken together.

What the media confusion of cause with effect displaced, potentially forever, is the idea that an incident like the Steubenville rape could be either cause, or effect, or even both at the same time.  The coin of human experience, constantly spinning in midair, revealed first cause, then effect, then cause again, in an endless cycle that rotated about an axis we prefer to call “time” but we might just as well label, “perception.”  For all humankind knows, there is no such idea as “time,” but simply circadian rhythms that come together only to fall away over periods greater than multiple human lifetimes.

Enter now into the social vocabulary words like, “forgiveness” and “mercy.”

For too long we have contented ourselves to believe that forgiveness and mercy were gratuities we ought to extend to those less fortunate than ourselves.  We linger in pestilence and paucity of spirit when we think this way, for every grievance we hold against one another increases only our own misery and despair.  Confusing cause with effect, we then displace our agony and our anger onto some other victim of circumstance who seems a more fitting recipient of our ire.  Rather than identifying and then forgiving the multinational banker who has made our lives into wretched caricatures of grandeur, we instead direct our rage at unwed mothers too poor or uneducated to utilize contraception during sexual intercourse.  Or, perhaps even a gay male who, in spite of society’s remonstrations against the foundations of his conscience, manages to find a moment’s joy in the arms of a lover he never knew could exist.  How dare such people find solace or comfort in a world as laced with misery as this!  Do they not know that we were chosen, we were first in line to receive social justice when it finally arrived, not these outcasts and piriahs!

Identifying our grievances as rage against the international banking establishment and its tendency to treat human beings as chattel at best and dumb animals at worst, we might find the misbehavior and misdeeds our brothers and sisters commit against us as effects and not strictly causes in and of themselves.  While we cannot reasonably hold these banking offenders accountable for the behavior of specific individuals, we almost certainly can hold them accountable for statistical increases in the measurements of social misery – poverty, violence, unemployment, disease, ignorance starvation, war and violations of civil liberties of every sort – as surely as we can place pen to paper to sign a bill into law.

From this day forward, for every middle class and lower citizen who commits a crime and is held accountable, let us also hold accountable those leaders and institutions that failed to provide the childhood support and supervision even a modicum of human decency ought to afford.  For it is not only the youths of Steubenville who have lost their way, it is the entire economic establishment raised to believe that “greed is good” and “only the fittest should survive” while placing their thumb on the scales of justice to favor one sort of “fitness” over another.  No human being at any layer of the social strata will ever be capable of knowing what sort of fitness our future survival might require.  Let us no longer pretend that the crazed and menacing ramblings of a sociopath speaking on behalf of other sociopaths hold out any promise of brighter tomorrows blighted by creatures with less than half the human capacity for empathy and compassion.  Ayn Rand’s “Objectivist” rants and her present-day apologist’s polemics do not advance the cause of human evolution, but would drive us backward to a time when dinosaurs ruled this Earth only to be smited by their own inability to cooperate and ensure mutual survival.

Let this be our response to the people and children of Steubenville, Ohio, and our collective prayer that the wisdom and compassion of Bishop Desmond Tutu should not pass into history unacknowledged or unnoticed.

Given: The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum

Living with an intractable problem that has been successfully solved is a lot like moving away to a foreign country. Or Texas. One can judge a foreign land based on externals and never move to that foreign land based on one’s findings. Many times a person’s externally-oriented judgments come to be proven accurate. However, no reasonable person can argue that individuals experiencing intractable problems in their lives have learned to properly identify a solution to their problems and then implemented the prescribed solutions. The first whiff of spent Betadine in an asylum generally cues new visitors to the obvious fact that they are not observing people living comfortably in a solution that is working for them.

In those few brief, pre-olfactory moments in the formation of a judgment regarding what one sees taking place in an asylum, I observed human beings in motion. The motion may have been with or without a specific purpose driving the individual to meet their basic need for air, water, food and shelter. Most often these individuals seemed externally comfortable until an attempt was made to interact with them from a basis of common understanding. Human beings cannot communicate with each other without a shared and shareable set of common symbols and meanings to interact with. As anyone who has ever interacted with a clinically insane person will attest, the clinically insane are operating from inside of a system of thought that only the most highly skilled and trained health professionals have a chance to comprehend – it is a fully self-contained reality. Sometimes even the best health professionals cannot gain access to the abbreviated or exaggerated version of reality occupied by the insane: they are living inside of a problem that they, themselves, cannot solve. They may not even recognize a problem exists or that they are unable to effectively communicate with other human beings. Truly very sad.

If an intractable problem is to be solved, a solution must be brought to the location of the problem, wherever that location may be. Just as in chemistry, the solution must then be permitted to dissolve the boundaries that defined the problem in the first place. Once the existing problem is absorbed into a solution set that incorporates a clear understanding of what the problem actually was coupled with a set of beliefs and actions that serves to keep the original problem resolved, our original problem is no longer intractable. In other words, our toughest problems cannot be solved by applying solutions generated from within a troubled system of thought. A problem that can be solved from within a system of thought cannot truly be intractable. Intractable problems, problems which repeatedly resist solution, require a newer, larger system of thought that must be adopted or the problem continues to separate the insane person from the rest of the physical world around them.

Like a lot of “seekers” in our world, I have tried a variety of systems of thought in order to resolve the problems I have come across as an adult child who grew up in a psychological theme park of mental illness and substance abuse. I tried talk-therapy, gestalt therapy, trauma resolution therapy (for five years), committing to being a positive person, reading the Bible, going on spiritual retreats, A Course in Miracles, medications, addictive substances, Moderation Management, Rational Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous. I have even tried playing the guitar, taking more or less exercise and just not thinking about it. Then I tried mixing and matching one method with one or more of the others, when I was not busy trying to clean up the wreckage I left in my wake.

Precious few problem-solving systems of thought have been as thoroughly road-tested and documented as the system of thought provided to the world by Bill Wilson, the Twelve Steps (TS), the Twelve Traditions and the members in and out of the professional community who have, over the years, utilized TS “tools” to restore the lives of millions of alcoholics worldwide. It is true that this system of thought has failed most people, but this has been, in my experience, because systems of thought cannot be successfully judged as effective or ineffective by individuals who refuse or are unable to observe the system from the inside, out. If a problem, such as living in and around the mentally ill in a dependency relationship, has become as intractable a problem as it has in the United States of 2010, we must first accept the obvious: we do not have a viable solution that has, or can be, implemented. The time has come for each of us to humble ourselves and face the fact that either one or all of us are “nucking futz.” The solution may yet be upon us; however, the solution has not been placed anywhere near to the “location” of the problem.

By way of commiseration, most of the individuals who successfully utilize TS do not understand how or why the steps worked for them, creating a cult-like, “miracles and magic,” atmosphere in most TS meetings that can be suffocating for anyone who has had a snootful of people treating them like an escaped mental patient. The bar was made very low by Alcoholics Anonymous out of Depression-era necessity and under it a veritable bell-shaped curve of human incompetence, mediocrity and utter brilliance has passed and in about those proportions. Impatience with one’s self, or others, is punishable by one of the slowest, most painful, most heart-breaking deaths by suicide a human being could tolerate dragging themselves through. Such is the illness of alcoholism and drug addiction, a truly hopeless state of mind and body. Welcome to Twelve Step recovery and, “La Crème de la Scum.”

How could anything like an imaginary cloud being of “love” even bother to create such a pathetic illness responsible for the deaths, traumas and handicapping of tens of millions of people, globally, every year? How lame can any of us truly be to find ourselves skulking around roomfuls of people who want to talk about “Jeebus,” “tha-bibul” and “gawhhhhd?” A new, lower than whale-shit level of lame is what we have found and, along with “Father Knows Best” reruns and proclamations of daily miracle sightings, we have manifested a veritable host of turd merchants all wanting to help us help ourselves. Their way.

As a person of a somewhat intellectual bent, I can assure the reader that by following a few very unchallenging, almost insultingly simple, steps, a person can move their lives from a place of zero hope and negative prospects to nearly twenty years of recovery, a sense of peace and contentment (and for me, sobriety) that has surpassed my expectations and certainly my given life’s potential trajectories. Having had a number of relatives who preceded me in death, deaths caused in no small part by the abuse of alcohol and other addictive substances, I believe I can speak with relative assurance on that point. While I cannot say that I began my TS journey as an agnostic or an atheist, I can honestly confess that I do not understand why the word, “god,” is ever uttered in or out of any TS meeting. No verifiable empirical evidence for the existence of a supreme being is possible, let alone available, and yet human arrogance demands that we abrogate the obvious and substitute it with a tripartite delusion, labeling it as “faith,” and ostracizing the hell out of anyone who disagrees with us or has a different opinion. By the Twelve Traditions religious or spiritual debates are not a part of the suggested TS program, nor would these be a legitimate aspect of any TS meeting, and yet the debates find a way to rage on. “It’s not religion, it’s spirituality,” unless one doesn’t believe in a god like the group’s god, in which case one can expect a lot of friction between members. TS meetings are autonomous fellowships designed to extend hope into a community where only despair has been the sole comfort. The autonomy really inculcates the local culture and local mores, so if a person has always found philosophical trouble in a local community, trouble will eventually find them in a TS fellowship in the same community. The good news is that most people who benefit from the TS thought system learn that the majority of their problems with their local community were caused by their own misperceptions and misguided notions, making “tit for tat” the absolute best anyone in disagreement with them could ever hope to achieve. Such individuals tend not to attract a lot of stable friendships. In those cases where the local community was actually the major aspect of the person’s inability to thrive, the odds are very high that they were not alone in their troubling observations; an oasis of like-minded souls may very well be closer than such a person imagines. Failing these possibilities, TS fellowships exist around the world now; a community of more than 40,000 with an attractive appeal to a person should have an even dozen compatible individuals available for fellowship and community.

If being real, vulnerable and transparent to a host of friends has an attractive, if unrequited, appeal, a TS fellowship may have a big chunk of life to offer such a person.

If no possibility for a loving supreme being exists, the possibility of formulating a creative solution to a global dilemma does. In a pinch everyone is willing to at least try something that works. I had to open up my mind, take a lesson from Ken Wilber and recognize that holarchies exist and one cannot truly know a holon without first attempting to view the world from the inside, out. Everyone should move to Texas. </end pitch>

The business at hand is very grave, indeed. The lunatics have indeed taken over the asylum. In an old Texas idiom, “we’s in a heap a-hurt.” Into such a hopeless situation, a TS solution can offer a way out along with plenty of insight and hope for a better day. But we do have a few simple questions to ask and two requirements. If the answer to either requirement is, “no,” then the beatings will continue until morale improves. The two requirements are as follows.

1. Can you/we be honest with yourself/ourselves?

2. Are you/we willing to commit to a solution and a process that may change everything you/we have ever known to be true about your/our reality?

What an order, right? Obtaining agreement from even one person to these two requirements would be something akin to a miracle, let alone an entire culture. Happily, only one of us has to meet these requirements and one of us is twenty years down the road from you, gentle reader. So our choices are to meet these two requirements or continue to suffer from the effects of the problem, whatever the source of the discomfort turns out to be. Perhaps human beings may stumble upon another way out of this mess we have gotten ourselves in to, but one would think most approaches have already been tried and given a fair hearing as of, say, twenty years ago. A person of healthy temperament does not have to contemplate the choices offered here for very long at all; a person of addictive temperament, a person who would crawl through ten miles of thorny underbrush just to have eight seconds of relief – these unfortunate folks can spend decades mulling over these very simple requirements.

Once the transformation from the problematic system of thought to the solution-set system of thought takes place for one person, the willingness and faith in the process spreads quite rapidly. Alas, most individuals do not possess the stamina or the constitution to tolerate a reality that appears founded in quicksand. For these individuals more community support and experience is required to lift them up and out of the thinking that generated their part of the overall problem to begin with.

Why are we, the victims, required to do anything at all given that we did not cause these circumstances to come to pass?

Time for all of us to be rigorously honest and real. We – you and I, gentle reader – are the folks who are experiencing the pain behind the misbehavior of the few psychopaths we have allowed to slime their way into positions of power and moment within our society. Our society. The time for making excuses and fixing blame is over; it is our collective asses on the line here, not just the misanthropic malcontents down the street who burn through three jobs a year when they are feeling relatively stable. Even if we have been exceptionally active in organizing and staging protests against the onslaught of these craven fools, we cannot honestly suggest that we succeeded in accomplishing anything but, perhaps, a delay in the development of recent, and apparently well-planned, events. With each delay we simply pushed into the future the time when the attempt at global enslavement would transpire, perhaps congratulating ourselves that the end would come after we were long dead. No such luck, as it has turned out. When facing down a leviathan like the collective mental illness of an entire species of intelligent life, one needs to pack a large lunch and ask for a lot of help along the way, or at the very least demand that useful assistance be provided.

We might disagree about some of the details, but one thing is certain: we are powerless to stop these bastards and the autonomy some of us were fortunate enough to experience as children has been stolen from what remains of our lifetimes. Think about that distinct possibility for a moment. In every real sense, our lives have become unmanageable by us – we have outsourced our very existence to the whims of a cabal of criminal and near-criminal enterprises. For some of us, our lives have become unbearable, empty husks for which no solution seems possible. I know from personal experience that desperation is the fuel which powers the revolution in consciousness required to make our lives worth living again.

Or, at the very least, we need to be willing to hope that this is so.

Some of us have lost all hope, resorting to suicidal behavior and dysfunctional cries for help. All any of us have to offer each other, effectively, is the faith that comes from experience: honesty, open-mindedness and willingness to change one’s life can work wonders. Human beings can be very resilient and crafty if given the proper motivation. Should enough of us become familiar with a path that can restore disturbed human beings to some semblance of sanity and share that path with one another, we will have played a big role in doing what life brings us to consciousness for: evolution, the increase of fitness for survival and the joy of simply being alive while tapped into the marvelous machinery that is our known and unknown universe(s).

Branded By Jeebus

At this point, I need to interject yet another honest matter of fact to all believers in a loving supreme being: whistling in the dark does not help. Ranting, chanting and charismatic experiences do not alter the fact that when push comes to shove the god worshipped in organized religion is

precisely the opposite deity from the one believed to be empowered with all of our ego-inflating praise and snake-handling nonsense. My experience has been that any amount of fear or panic present in an individual bears witness to a god of human evil. Banal and mundane though it often is, we each lose our faith in a better tomorrow and pick up the charge of a life none of us wants in a battle of inches against our own egoes. In any confrontation where the opponent is permitted to choose the weapons, battlefield and terms of surrender, the outcome is certain.

A supreme being of anyone’s understanding can never be successfully defined: the instant anyone attempts to do so they have failed because of the meaning of the terms, “supreme being.” Non-conceptualizable entities, once labeled in any way, have been placed inside an all-too-tiny box in the mind of the labeler. Using the single word, “god,” becomes a potent prayer to have the god of lack, limitation and misery manifest itself, and this is precisely why organized religion always becomes a superb vehicle for channeling the world’s misery – they have dared to label their supreme being and worship the “graven image” of their definitions.

Emptying one’s self of graven images of a supreme being as the agnostic or atheist has committed themselves to do allows what has always been our birth right as human beings to come forth and manifest. Compassionate, caring and constantly aware of the presence of a mortal end, the atheist and the agnostic feel alienated by the worship of a god that may or may not have any relevance to our survival as a species. In fact, plenty of evidence exists that the worship of organized religion has played a significant role in the destruction of the human species. The “faithful” as they are often fond of calling themselves, believe that only faith in what cannot be empirically experienced can be called, “faith.” This is an error. Placing faith in a solution strengthens the communal belief in that solution. Placing faith in what could be delusional, or what could be someone else’s delusion, only makes human beings vulnerable to exploitation. A loving supreme being could not want this for its creations. However, an unloving supreme, or lesser, being could not get enough of such “praise.” The conundrum of this dichotomy is not lost to atheists and agnostics; allowing the level of cognitive dissonance inside a human mind that organized religion demands be present should not be considered a legitimate form of worship by any thinking person; this is mind control and mental illness, not a search for the honest trust of any matter.

I do not find fault with anyone’s freedom to believe in a supreme being of any sort; my problem begins and ends with individuals who use proscribed beliefs as a means of dividing the human family into pieces too weak to solve the problem of species survival. All are One. Anything less than Oneness is not whole, the original meaning of “holiness.”

Honesty, hope for a better tomorrow and faith in our ability to identify and implement a solution to our intractable problems opens the door to higher possibilities. When faith is not strong because we still do not have the confidence of experience behind us, we must have hope that this experience will come and that our contribution to our problem must be what can be corrected to reveal what has been missing from our lives inside of this “asylum.”

The meat of TS recovery is the fearless and searching moral inventory. Forget the origins of TS in the Oxford Group and the endless moralizing and shaming of one’s self for being less than a perfect human being. All that is required to accomplish a useful and productive inventory is the belief that life is better than death, that life is, ultimately, a beautiful experience not to be missed. The warm feelings of a sunset shared with one’s children or one’s lover, these are examples that bear witness to the possibility of the existence of an abundant, beneficent life force that would not be whole if any part of what is truly treasured in anyone’s life has gone missing at any time.

Connection with one’s subconscious mind, by definition, cannot be directly and consciously achieved. But one’s behavior patterns over time can certainly leave a trail of breadcrumbs back to the source of one’s own life force. Agnostic or theist, everyone experiences these patterns in our lives which confound and confuse us. Addressing these issues directly never seems to work completely. What is needed is a lightning rod of self-recognition that can bring the conscious and unconscious selves on a path towards congruence. This is the stuff from which peace and contentment are made.

Vacation Spot?

The lightning rod of self-recognition required is our resentments against people, places and things. If one believes in a love-filled abundance of Everything possible, then resentments are the termites that serve to rot the stability of one’s relationship with one’s self. A list of fears, too, should be written down. All of this should be written down. Something deeply meaningful transpires when a person writes down their resentments and their fears. What we begin to see as these resentments and fears are placed on paper is the edge of an awareness of just how self-defeating our behavior is, can be or has become. Do not attempt this process completely alone; invite a trusted and experienced friend in for a peek. Balance and moderation should be the final outcome or the process of inventory has not been completed.

Sharing these lists with another human being, feeling the personal content present in them, seeing how we have set ourselves up for failure repeatedly – we become ready to release the beliefs that buttressed the self-defeating cycle of behaviors. I guarantee that once a person accepts that their beliefs do not work for them, the beliefs that have blocked their personal evolution will be dropped like a hot rock. It is in the release of dysfunctional beliefs that the healing can begin of itself. No special incantations or rituals are required. All of this is as simple as properly dressing an open wound.

Identifying what wounds we have as individuals and which wounds we share as a community is beyond the scope of this essay, except to suggest that such wounds exist. These wounds have formed the basis of our many dysfunctional systems of thought that are both fed by, and which reinforce, our dysfunctional beliefs.

Beliefs cannot be critically appraised in a direct manner; the behaviors that these beliefs tend to generate must be examined along with the often painful consequences directly associated with the behaviors. Once the individual and the community recognize and accept the origins of troubling behavior, the release of the beliefs happens almost of itself.

As Bill Wilson and the first 100 sober drunks suggested in their book, Alcoholics Anonymous, “instincts on a rampage balk at inspection.” The flurry of assaults on civil liberties within the United States and abroad, the rampant destruction of cultures and civilizations, the callous treatment of the sanctity of human life – these observable and arguably self-defeating behaviors point to both our unwillingness to inspect our systems of thought and the urgent need to do precisely that.

A Barbershop Diary: Recollections

 

Step up into the barber’s chair from a year-ago last Summer and prepare to have less hair to pull out than you did before you started reading. We have some things familiar and some things brand new; we have magazines and pictures, we have the mundane thoughts of old friends, some present, some long since deceased.   

A fair question was asked by one of our readers the other day. I think s/he will forgive me for taking some liberty with the phrasing, but the question was something like, “who are we?”Given the Faustian bargain Mr. “Imadinnajacket” has placed the 9/11 Truth Movement in with his unwelcome embrace of many of our members’ sentiments surrounding the events of 9/11/2001, I would have to say, first and foremost, we humans have become exceedingly predictable.   

Perhaps I am paranoid, but I suspect Mr. Ahmadinejad is really working in the interests of both Israel and the United States. Something about his less-than-statesmanly position within the Iranian government, his often easily misconstrued media statements and Iran’s place as the only viable nation-state operating outside of the Federal Reserve banking system cause me to suspect a set-up for yet another global war over resources and power. Manipulating the messaging of the Iranian President to appear to be in alignment with the messaging of the 9/11 Truthers plays conveniently into the hands of the fine, if under-worked, folks over at the Department of der Homeland Security. Just this week the top three executroids within the national security apparatus published their statement with regard to the “homegrown terrorism” happening right under our very noses during yet another election year. What a shocking surprise. </snark>   

I am no fan of the President of Iran. Most Iranians are not, either. That our global leaders have been able to command the public’s media to coordinate, manipulate and distort the messages and meanings available for public consumption has become both a frightening and disheartening fact of life. I disapprove of capital punishment in the first place and I certainly find Iran’s use of construction cranes to publically hang breakers of the latest interpretation of their holy laws abhorrent, cruel and bizarre. Perhaps more importantly, I find the treatment of women by all Muslim people to be exceedingly reprehensible and far beneath the civilization that brought us higher mathematics and brilliant philosophical thought. But while these offenses anger me they do not inspire homicidal rage. Far more reprehensible I find the cabal of empty suits that continue to prowl the pavement near Wall Street; countless bits and pieces of human flesh came to rest on 9/11 in lower Manhattan because the formerly intact bodies to which they were attached fell to the ground with such force that the torsos exploded on impact. All of this theater presumably so Israel and the Wall Street bankers could bring open warfare to the streets of the despicable goyim and perhaps make a few billion dollars getting rid of a pair of buildings that almost no one wanted to commit to a long-term lease with since the last ridiculously staged bombing of the WTC in 1993. When white-elephant sales didn’t get the deal done for Larry Silverstein, a false-flag event has always been a viable option for our leadership since the Northwoods document landed on President Kennedy’s desk in 1962 with the thud of a treason. Many things about Iranian culture concern me, but methinks the Twin Towers sticking out of our own eye are far more troubling.   

But this is all old pap for diehard Truthers like me who knew, almost immediately, that something profoundly evil, in the human sense, had just taken place on that Tuesday morning; the Bush Crime Family was almost certainly involved and something needed to be done about it. It took a couple of days for me to overcome my own shock, induced long-distance thanks to CNN and the Web, and come to realize that buying 100 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition for a gun I would be better off throwing at someone than shooting them with was a bit of an overreaction. So I traded in the pistola for a high-powered rifle with a scope and 100 rounds of .30 caliber ammunition. I could hit anything with a rifle and there would be no splatter. No PTSD here.   

To date I have yet to fire a single round from that long-barreled weapon. But I did make it out to Camp Casey in August of 2005 to finally meet the woman I had been corresponding with since she had lost her son in Iraq in 2004. Well, she didn’t actually “lose” lose him, she knew where he was. He just wasn’t ever coming home again because of the sheer principle of the situation. I brought supplies for the Peace House and spent that Saturday afternoon driving there, hanging out, and driving back home. It was interesting to watch the little proto-nazis following me out of Crawford in their Expeditions, confusing a kiss, a hug and a fond-farewell with a secret handshake between members of the same satanic cult.   

Whom we are is both sacred and profane, divine and pornographic, compassionate and unspeakably cruel, generous and yet mindlessly narcissistic. We are both lizard and mammal, vulnerable to a deeply stunning confusion whenever either polar extreme of our nature becomes over-stimulated. We are a people who have been traumatized and betrayed by our fellows, the same ones we became conditioned to trust as a result of the civilizing influences of both religion and reason. Many of us wished to continue our evolution, to continue to become, but a few of us felt the sadness and abandonment of a time, place and species that spoke with thunder and ruled with a vicious ferocity. Then a series of unfortunate events came to pass victimizing a few unfortunate ones, impaling them on our few defects, one of which proved fatal: an utter inability to have someone over for dinner without eating them whole.   

Nevertheless the lizard-people felt the pain from beyond the graveyards of history buried deep within our own mid-brains and recognized the utter power the conscienceless psychopath held over the “lesser” mammals driven to herd and cooperate together like so many ants. To utilize this machinery without compassion or mercy, to squash the innocent underfoot without contemplation or consideration as easily as one might extinguish the guilty: this was a job description for which the lizard-brained psychopath was peculiarly well-qualified.   

Our story has continued to unfold over time; bands of villages stole from and murdered one another, raped each other’s females and burned each other’s livelihoods into cinders. Pain on pain on play, repeating. A minority continued to thrive through sheer cunning and the willingness to terrify with merciless spectacles of genocide, homicide and fratricide. This minority sought obscurity and isolation from the vast majority which could hardly tell that something we all took for granted in each other was vacuously absent from those we had believed we could trust.   

To end the mindlessness of the killing, moral law and the invention of commitment to moral codes of behavior were used as tools to keep the majority from either turning on the powerful minority or turning on each other. As various times proved overwhelming, moral behavior would break down, requiring that these moral codes become ever more sophisticated, psychologically ensnaring adherents into fanciful creations and recreations of events and mythologies no one could either prove, nor disprove. Human beings had become conditioned to separate from their very natural selves. Who could we believe, our local high priest and scribe, or our own lying eyes?   

As always happens whenever two or more are gathered to solve a problem that neither fully has a grasp of, committees were formed, work was delegated and the circular logic inherent in creating what one defends most virulently against was born. Bureaucracy moved from tool to lifestyle, means to end in itself. Questioning a moral code or the seeking of solace in a supporting mythology took a back seat to the need of the bureaucracy to defend itself from assault and the common rot associated with the loss of a primary purpose for existence. We possessed the qualities of whatever had created us, but like a Xerox copy, important details seemed to fade with each replication of the previous version of the original until the point of the original disappeared. Human life in an organization replicates itself on a daily basis until the movements are as empty as the rituals they support. Into the vacuum rushes our indomitable ego, providing both purpose and motivation.   

After many centuries of slowly weaning ourselves from our own brutality, enough of us could overcome the trauma of our murderous conditioning to see that something had gone missing from our mythologies and the moral codes they inculcated: we had taken leave from our senses and our senses wanted us back. Enter the age of empirical science and the scientific method.   

I come by my agnosticism honestly: I was raised Catholic. And not just the apostate Roman Catholic variety, either, for my grandmother was a strong adherent of the Ukrainian church of Byzantium. I may not know church canon well nor perfectly recall the saying of mass, but I do know what neurosis is and what causes it to flare up in me and in my life: insisting that my way of viewing reality is the only relevant method worthy of further consideration. So while I can prove to you that, philosophically, atheism makes no sense at all, I hear so much honesty, reason and genuine disappointment in the arguments against organized belief in a supreme being that I have been moved to reframe my own agnosticism: I am anti-religious as hell.   

The Lovely Imogen Heap, Always Imaginatively Coiffed

It is one thing to adopt a moral code of behavior to promote the social order and the well-being of the species, it is quite another to drill three holes in the head of every child, one each for the father, the son and the holy ghost. Quite unbeknownst to me in my formerly deluded state (I now entertain a far more delicious set of delusions now), I have witnessed the rich  and the powerful pick up the heads of these delusional adherents to irrational sentimentality and go bowling seven days a week. Every time I hear of another young man volunteering to go make the world safe for “Jeebus” I see that unmistakable sheen on the wooden floor that tells me the roll will be sweet tonight. And when I watch the release as the head of the young man or woman travels down the alley, I wonder if the head will break right or left in time to smack those pins completely down in a single strike. Or if it will just be another gutter ball. It matters not, win or lose: it is how the game is played that retains its importance. If being a bowling ball for the amoral and lizardly rich does not appeal to you at this late stage of the game, you are going to have to fill in those three holes with some mortar, post haste.   

I do not believe there is any serious scholar who would contend that “Science” was anything but a militant reaction to the cruelty inherent in using a bureaucracy to shame people into behaving in a civil manner. Granted much has been learned and unlearned to good end through the application of Science and scientific methods, my graduate studies in Communication and Humanities have made clear to me that Science is nothing but a new, improved version of religion all over again. Science to civilize the demented discourse of the religiously insane; religion to civilize the behavior of the psychopath and those under the spell of the psychopath; murder to civilize those whose will to power conflicts with my own – this is the whole of human history reduced to the details relevant to the present moment. Death to relieve me from the bondage of attempting to be civil when I should have been ruthless, ruthless when I should have been civil and obtuse when clarity would have served me best. Catholics pity the Protestants, Protestants find the Catholics arrogantly self-appointed and Quantitative researchers find the work of Qualitative researchers to be mind-numbingly stilted and contrived. And well-moneyed interests agree with the Quantitative researchers, by the way, in spite of the fact that there is no longer any reasonable doubt that scientific data is as much a reflection of the researcher and their cultural milieu as the thing researched. Just as the church abhorred Galileo’s honesty and the force of the truth of which he spoke, powerful forces within the scientific community cause many questions to go unanswered, or worse yet, unasked. Whether it is a muon-catalyzed nuclear reaction or room temperature fusion, there are areas of science where to question another researcher’s life-long work is tantamount to murder.   

The reason why battles in the academy are so vicious? The stakes are so low….   

To wrap up my little tome on whom I think we are – we are a story. We have a beginning, a middle, an ending and a plotline. We have opposing forces too numerous to mention but which can be broadly categorized once the dust has settled and the circus has long since moved past us. Just as Quantum measures are subject to the laws of Heisenberg, so, too, are the interpretations of the history of one’s own species: the more measurement going on in a particular area of thought and research, the less likely it seems to me that we get an accurate reading of what seems to be going on structurally. Once we have a reasonable lock on where we think the primitive forces are, what their approximate speed and vectors are, and where we are relative to those vectors, we can establish a reasonable explanation, or story, to explain where all the pieces were at time period one and where they seem to be at time period “n”. Quantitative researchers must examine time period “n + 1,” somehow, to prove that the induced story we have laid over our selection of the data has merit from a mathematical and philosophically rigorous perspective. In many years’ time, though we may be dead, we will understand precisely why with great confidence and precision.    

A Well-Coiffed Man Is Easily Remembered

 From a pragmatic perspective, we need to look over the shoulders of those of us who spin tales out of the whole cloth of data we pull out of the bowels of human history. Have we included all the relevant facts? What was left out and why? Since we cannot know what we do not know, are there patterns of thought in the data selection and in the explanation that should be scrutinized for a bias that might make the plotline untenable at some point? Once we have satisfied ourselves that we have a good empirical grasp of where a story has come from and where it is now, we can predict with some confidence level where the story may end up.The sooner we know what we are ultimately facing the less energy it will take to induce the flap of a butterfly’s wings that will send the hurricane force winds across the Atlantic to blow apart the little Central American hotel where a lonely sniper sleeps the day before he marries his target, perhaps the next Che Guevarra or Martin Luther King, Jr.What I think is happening right now will end with human beings willingly ending their own lives just as our fellows leapt from the WTC towers to their certain death on 9/11/2001, avoiding the agony of being burned alive. Worse than the final pain of death, repeated humiliation and torture turns a human mind into a soulless cipher that helplessly repeats the same tired clichés, the same self-destructive behavior and the same victim-laced invective against one’s captors that rots and demoralizes whole cultures of human beings. The manifestors of the present tribulation believe that only persons of a certain ethnic background, color or genetic makeup could ever experience the pitiful demoralizations of the common slave. These fools will be proven incorrect, of course, but the problem humanity has is removing these mindless fools from harm’s way long enough to allow our biosphere to heal itself. Resurrecting the long-extinct members of one’s past through digging them up and making them a part of our present-day life has been a toxic and ludicrously compulsive exercise: it smells of the insane logic of a human ego run amok. The odor of sulfur dioxide and the heat of a planet in thermal runaway remind us all of something primal, something olfactory and quite direct. Welcome back to the Hell we thought we had escaped long ago, ladies and gentleman.But if we can mend our environment, those of us who follow the same basic storyline can work to disincentivize the promulgation and favor that capitalism affords the psychopath. These individuals are quite profoundly disturbed and while they might deserve their pre-approved extinction, quarantine seems generally to be the least cruel course of action to take.But what and where is the rest of the story? Will it be his-story or her-story?

The Barbershop Diaries, Volume 25: The Lottery, Part 6 (Finally)

"...spin me round again and rub my eyes this can't be happening..." -- imogen heap

The breath of the creature directed a fog seen only because of the tender mercy of a single ray of light passing through a crack somewhere, above, that I could not see.

“My name is Antonio,” the creature muttered, offering a hand forward in friendship.  “Or Tony, if you prefer.”

“Jeff,” I replied, still concerned by the attention this odd being was raining down on me.  I shook his furry palm, but tepidly.

“Be not worried, your fear I see,” the creature sighed.  “I hear much of this before.  ‘We need not the eggs and you frighten children with such accent…be gone!’”

“Wha?”

“Please, my friend.  I work many years to find for you and I work with much people.  I tire.  I am weak.  Please, to me, open for your mind to let some light where it was not before.  What it is you fear to lose?   Many hours locked inside – a cage – like this!  Too late for fear!”

“Okay…okay,” I started.  “It’s the pink polka-dotted vest.  I can’t take anyone seriously who’s dressed like that.”

“You should want I wear matching glittery top hat?  I remove hours ago.  Goddamnit Texas heat make hat wearing burden much.”  He buried his head in his paws as if to wipe sweat from his forehead and into a head of hair that was no longer there.

“I’ll get over it.  No, it’s alright.  I don’t normally talk to large furry rabbits about Easter.”

“You think only this of me?  Am I so different from you now?  Possibility.  It is many years thus.”  Tony looked up from his paws at me, expectantly, his eyes beginning to well.

 “Well…”

“Jeffrey Olson, my new friend, I am much more than oversize rabbit before you.”

I stared into the rabbit’s eyes trying to hide my incredulity.  “So tell me….Tony….”

Tony pointed at the letters scrawled on the wall, “Look. There.  See word?” 

I shook my head up and down to acknowledge.

“Praxis,” he roared.  “I put there.  For someone.  Anyone, actual.  It is code,” he paused a long pause.  “For Soviet communism.  I use that word here and they lock me up without key.  It scares hell from them.  Like when you see atheist in them, even while they worship sincere pious.  Denial total.  Insane.”

“The Easter Bunny is a communist?  C’mon, Tony.  Help me out.  I’m losing you here.”

“Easy to be lost in places like this, Jeffrey Olson,” he paused a long pause.  “But true it is.  I fill thirty notebooks full with thoughts few know to follow before or since, but water-clear they were to me inside these walls.”  He stared to the side.  “Things become clear when it is just you and these bars.”

“Tony,” I interrupted, “the Easter Bunny is not a communist.  Certainly not a Soviet communist.  It just cannot be.”

“How certain you are!  How would a hell you know?  Are you expert on my life?  Think you know fascists and ol’garchs care damnit for truth?  Know you what we fought in days like those?”

“You mean 200AD?  The Roman Empire?”

“No, ” Tony, sensing my agitation, motioned to slow my inquiry.  “Before the second war.  Before we knew Stalin lied.  To all of us.  Praxis was dirt to him.”

“But,” I began, incredulous.  “We had the Easter Bunny for a thousand or more years before then.”

Tony shook his head in acknowledgement, showing me his paw in frustration.  “Yes,” Tony  began, speaking slower, more deliberate.  He moved to sit beside me on my cot.  “We have secret brotherhood for hares of Easter from beginning.  I have been one of many.”

“Why are you telling me this?”  I started as Tony’s weight shifted and tightened the blankets around my chest.

“I will soon to tell you.  What needs you to know I had visit just like I visit to you, for same reason you are here.   The torch passed to me for times.”  Tony seemed breathless, sensing my disbelief.

“No.  You’re crazy.  You’re in a rabbit suit!”  I pawed and clawed at Tony’s fur, ripping open his vest, looking for seams, looking for clues.  He finally pushed my hands away from him, pinning them down to the cot around my head.

“Done for now?  Relax you must, Jeffrey Olson.  Long day and much misery.  Take to your mouth and bite down.”

I opened to receive the sacrament and bit down into it, reflecting on the events of Thanksgiving Day, the name on the list – my confusion.  Maybe this has all been a bad dream and I will wake up.  Soon.  In the meantime, Tony’s jaws and mouth moved up and down, words pushed air across the space between us, but it was like watching a movie with the sound muted.  He could have been speaking a foreign language, or I could have been too tired, but it seemed like a part of me understood what he was saying, but not a part of me I knew very well at all.

“…and what you need must to remember,” Tony emphasized, waking me in a start, “is a day comes when you must pass this gift on another prophet, like you.  Then your work here is finished.  You do all that you can have done.  A great peace you feel.”

“Do I have to wear that suit?”

“This not suit, Jeffrey Olson.”  Tony stood and started to become animated.  “It grows to you over time, but barely it troubles.  Others become old, but you grow ears long, fur and wild urges to spread happiness every year when green in hills glows bright to evening Sun…flowers…they bloom and hang in dabs yellow, blue and magenta right before ground, waving gently in mid-air.  Smells so sweet and perfume of wildest, most joyous imaginations and then…then you go to begin new search.  Year after year, seeds of Spring you plant into minds of little children so one day one may grow, just as you, in time to harvest, to shine forward every springtime brighter than before.”

“That sounds so…beautiful…Tony.”

“It is, Jeffrey Olson.  It is.  My gift to you, it is priceless.”  And with that Tony touched my head with his paw and I felt a jolt unlike any other I had ever felt before.  I saw only the Light, the Good and the Joyous.  Then my head slammed back into the cot.

“It is accomplished.”

“Wait!  But….” Tony backed away from my cot and slowly evaporated into the background behind him as if it were a pool of water and feeling.   He waved goodbye to me and to the life I once held as my one and only.  Now I would know many such lives in my search of becoming.  I waved back, weakly, and laid back down, exhausted, yet smiling widely – sheets drenched.

I awoke to dry sheets and blinding light.  The smell was unfamiliar – I couldn’t place it, but an over-laundered scent of blankets burned dry struck me immediately.  Noise.  Streaks of color turned into people talking quickly and moving about with some sense of purpose.  I tasted metal in my mouth.  I opened to begin to ask someone where I was, but an ache rumbled through my jaw and into my skull.  I felt my scalp to check – still hair.  “Nursh?  Nursh-ah!”  I could barely move my mouth and tongue.

I waited for a lull in the noise level, propped myself up on my elbow and tried again.  “Nursh!  Sothbody!  Halp!”

A pleasant looking young male nurse appeared at my bedside.  “Mr. Olshausen!  You’re awake!”

“Huth am I?”

“Jeffrey.   Jeffrey Olshausen.  Don’t you remember yet?”

“Mether what,” I asked.

“Go ahead and lay back down, Mr. Olshausen.  You’ve been in an accident.”

“Athident?”

“Yes.  But you’re going to be fine.  A little rehab and you’ll be hunting Easter eggs with the best of ‘em!”

“Ether?  Am I late?”

“Late?  No!  Goodness no!  You’re right on time.”

“Gooth.  I neeth to find the chillin who found my eths.”

“Of course!  Of course.  As soon as we can schedule some rehab for you, you’ll be out of here in no time.  You’ll lead a normal life.”

“I’m the Ether Bunny,” I said with great pride and sense of purpose.

“Of course you are, Mr. Olshausen.  Of course you are.”  The nice man turned and walked back towards the nurse’s station, the eyes of the staff focused on a face I could no longer see.  Smiles appeared on their faces and I suddenly felt a crushing aloneness I don’t remember ever feeling before.  Was this my world any longer?

The green of the hills fluoresced and wild flowers bloomed in the wind, hanging in mid-air just as Tony had promised me several weeks before.  I felt the joy and gratitude that meaning and purpose give a life such as mine.  I have helpers in my country home who assist me in finding and speaking to the little children, bringing me extra blankets when I get cold or shiver with the fever of my transition.  Tony was so right about this new life of mine.  I have been reborn.

I often stare into a blue tinted screen at night watching for letters, words and numbers from emails and news sites as they scroll up the page, looking for secret words and clues from the children.  They’re there, if you look long and hard enough, and remain patient.  I’m having a lot of luck with the codes I detect in the weekly lotteries from around the world.  A burst of five numbers per week requires multiple years before a message can be deciphered and divined from a single lottery, but there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lotteries of five and six digits each week, worldwide.  I barely have time to decode them all, but Tony was right: I get such relief from pulling these numbers together to decode the magic that directs my efforts each Spring.

The Barbershop Diaries, Issue 24: The Lottery, Part 5

"...they put you in a box so you can't get heard. Let your spirit stay unbroken, may you not be deterred." -- peter gabriel

“You needs be careful when you talks to dat guy,” the man sitting next to me in the mess hall whispered.  I continued chewing on my rubbery eggs, looking off into space inconspicuously.  “He woiks for dem.  He be lookin’ fah infamation.”

“On who?”

“On anybahdy.  You, me, dem – anybahdy.  Dey don’t care.”

“What do I do?”

“Keeps ya mout shut.  When they’s done, they’ll be movin’ us all down one.”

“Why are they doing this?”

“Who knows.  I’se been in fah weeks.  It’s jes’ dah way iz been.”

“What did you do?”

“Whah you do?”

“Nothing.  Maybe looked in at the Hauser’s abandoned ranchhouse…name showed up on a watchlist.  I don’t know.  What did you do?”

“I won da Lot’ry.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I won dah Lot’ry.  Dey took dah pictures a’me and my kin and, by’n by, I ends up in heya.”

I dropped some hashbrowns into my coffee and tried to control my cough. 

“You alri?”

“I’m fine.  They’re looking.  Be cool.”  I felt that tightness in my neck and chest returning.  I’ve always avoided gambling.  It’s a part of the Olson family code to avoid taking the easy way out of anything difficult.  But to me it just feels like I’ve got a hold a several hundred volts of direct current and I can’t let it go.  I can’t let anything go.  It has to make sense somehow, some way.

“You ‘memba, now.  Mums dah werd.”  And with that my new found friend picked up his tray and headed towards the dishwashers.  Feelings of paranoia and anxiety were not uncommon for me in my line of work.  Nausea was something new.  Especially with those eggs bouncing and jiggling around inside my gut.

Everything inside says, “Jeff Olson, back the hell off now.  You’re wading in way over your head.”  But I don’t how to stop thinking about it.  I just don’t.  I haven’t smoked in over a decade, but that warm smell of oily tobacco and ammonia wafting from the outdoor yard and into my lungs feels like peace and freedom.   One puff and I’ll be gone.  One puff and I’ll be outa here the same way my Mom used to leave the nursing home in Palo Alto. 

“When I get outa this place,” my mother said, almost jutting her chin into the wind, “I know where I’m goin’.  I’ll finally be free to come and go as I please.”  Everything on University Avenue in Palo Alto at 4PM on a Friday afternoon came to a screeching halt when I heard those words and the way she’d said them – so desperate, but so laced with stubborn resolve.  The university kids hopping from bar to bar and screaming at the top of their lungs, the cars honking and whooshing by on their way home from the Mall – all dissolved into the sound of a gentle wind through the blooming magnolias.  I almost tripped over my feet on the uneven sidewalk before I finally snapped back into a moment I more closely identified with the present.

“Where you goin’ with that tray, convict,” a stern voice attached to a nightstick interjected.

“Oh, I’m sorry.  I was daydreaming.”

“You got all goddamn day to daydream back in your hole.  Scrape off the tray into the trash and put it on the stack nice and neat like eva’body else.”

“Yes, sir.”  I scraped what was left of the eggs and the biscuits into the fetid trash, and quietly dropped my tray onto the stack.  Walking back towards my cell I remembered more about that last day with my mother, and more about that tightness in my neck and chest and where it came from.

“You know you’re going to be here a while, don’t you, Mom?”

“Not much longer,” she said with a distant, impersonal resolve.

I let it go.  I took her to the Equinox at the top of the Hyatt Embarcadero and watched her watch the skyline of the city as it slowly twisted in toward us from outside.  She was sitting there, looking out, but she wasn’t there.  She hadn’t been for decades.  Locked inside of a mind that only wanted relief and release from the unkindnesses of the past, the pharmaceuticals had finally succeeded in erasing the problem.  That late afternoon, I could feel her leaving to go somewhere else.

I showed her where I had finally managed to graduate from college – the wonderful view of the city from atop the hill, the smell of the ocean as the fog began to roll its way back in past the Golden Gate – she seemed proud, if unaffected.  But it was cold and I’d promised her prime rib for dinner, so I knew we needed to get to Rickey’s before too late and then take a short hop back to the assisted living dorm where she had been staying.

The clang of metal on metal brought me back to my cell where I had just walked in, uncuffed, to spend the rest of my day.  I barely noticed the guard or the other inmates, so obsessed I had become with just a whiff of the smell of burning tobacco leaves and the memory of them rising inside my chest.  Breathing it in but once, they would own me.  I couldn’t stop again.  The last time I quit, though I succeeded, was just too hard.

“You back yet,” a voice growled from around the corner.  The wrong one.

“No,” I muttered back.

“You’ll get here, eventually.”

I let that comment hit earth with a thud and resisted the temptation to indulge a need for repartee with a disembodied voice, or any voice for that matter.  One in a series of slow news days that would come to run together to form the dull, constant lighting — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Some days I would sleep, other days I would be wide awake. 

I came to a place where the days, dates, minutes or hours could all run together.  They would tell me it was time for lunch right after dinner and I would shuffle off without protest to see who was still here, what there was to eat even though I wasn’t hungry anymore, even though I’d given up shaving to retain a sense of time – it just wasn’t important to me anymore.  Nothing was.

Praxis.  A word carved into the concrete by someone using “contraband.”  I repeated the word to myself as I lay down in my dimly lit world behind bars that once kept me in, but were fast becoming a way of keeping them out.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone, anymore, since it was a crap shoot who was a spy (this week), who was telling the truth (on which subject), who was lying (everyone), or even who might still be here.  One thing was certain, anyone I talked to disappeared.  After that happened a few times, I lost my desire.  Praxis.

A ray of light seemed to penetrate the grey sameness of prison life and I rose up from my bed to see what the commotion was all about.  An invisible wall of frankincense hit my nose and I tried to look farther down the hall…it was a priest swinging a censer, muttering in barely perceptible Latin, followed by a succession of altar boys, lay people and someone dressed in an Easter Bunny costume that had seen better days.  The bunny turned to look as he walked by and cast a gaze in my direction, waving his gloved hand and tossing candy and shiny pieces of paper through the iron bars.  I suddenly felt panic for no explicable reason as the candy hit ground, watching it turn into cockroaches and insects that scattered all over my cell and my bedding.  The shiny pieces of paper were lottery tickets.

I awoke in sheets soaked with my sweat, my heart ready to leap from my chest.  I was terrified as much by the insects as by the lottery tickets being passed out by the Easter Bunny.  Was it really Easter now, already?  Were there bugs in my bed sheets?  Where did the lottery tickets go?  Was I dreaming?  I fell back into my soaked sheets, exchanging one nightmare for another, catching my breath and wondering when, if ever, I would see the Sun again.  […to be continued…]

The Barbershop Diaries, Issue 23: The Lottery, Part 4

"The most powerful tool in hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." -- Steve Biko, prior to 9/12/1977

One never knows the depth of intimacy possible in human experience until they have drunk to full from the lake of utter aloneness. 

“You get you some of that soap and clean off.  I’ll be back in five minutes to take you to your cell.”  The older deputy’s routine was to turn and walk off, which is precisely what he did.

To my cell.  To my new home. 

Soaping and bathing under the watchful eye of disinterested, uniformed observers behind thickened glass – standing alone, fully naked, vulnerable and looked down upon – I will be prepared for a life-long romance.  The first shower is taken alone for security and to heighten a sense of estrangement from the outside world so important to maintaining both physical and psychological control over another human being.  They could have used one-way glass to insulate us from an obvious sense of being put on display in a human zoo, but our comfort was never of concern to them.  Their concern was to coerce our surrender and to guarantee the irrelevance of our continued compliance.  When gathered together by two or more, there are no innocents.  Not-guilty is only a legal pleading, a formality.  The problem of housing and maintaining a population of human beings of suspicious disposition or motivation remains.  Housing one innocent does nothing to ensure security if any of those who remain are among those of which we are ashamed.

The walk back to my new cell was in handcuffs.  The Walk of Shame in full view of the innocent and those presumed to be so.  But I saw nothing of innocence in any of the faces I walked by on my way to my new address.  What I saw were teeth, sweat, rage and eyes that could read graffiti on the opposite side wall right through me as I passed – another inmate, another opaque and gelatinous collection of near-bile on its way to a cell that features an ultimate destination.

A glorious commode.

My gratitude for running water and a place to flush far away the anxious gravity of my situation was quickly replaced by a tug back towards my new cell door.  “Hold still a minute and I’ll get these off ya’.  You’d have a helluva time wiping your ass with these on.”  The old guard chortled to himself as he removed my handcuffs and released me into my cage.  “We’ve already had supper for the day.  You’re gonna have to wait ‘til breakfast at 4:30AM, sharp.  You wake up or you don’t eat, y’hear?”

I shook my head that I understood, still stoned in disbelief that I belonged in such a place at such a time.  Thanksgiving Day?  For the crime of curiosity?  Treated, classed and enclosed in a dungeon with murderers and thieves without a charge, an accusation or the right to confront my accusers.   Or maybe they did charge me and I just can’t remember.

“Yer last name Olson,” the guard had asked me at intake, a smirk of accusation running across his face.  “O-L-S-O-N?”  I nodded a, “yes,” and it was confirmed.  Right there on a piece of paper in front of him, printed via computer.  “Olson” comma “Unknown.”   My lucky day.

But I can’t quit doubting myself or shake off this profound sense of shame, this sense that I don’t belong on the planet and it has finally been revealed to everyone.  I have nothing left to hide  from anyone anymore.  I truly am naked and my deep, dark secret is no longer deep and no longer a secret.  Now everyone knows why I tried to so hard to be seen as a decent, caring human being; it was all just an act, it was all just a charade.  One big production designed to keep them coming through my front door, keep them distracted, while I ushered the ones I couldn’t stand right out the back and out of sight.  The feet of most of them never had time to touch down long enough to dirty my floor before I sent them on their way.  I told them that there was a party out back meant just for them, assured them I would join them soon, and I sent them on their way.

So now they’ve all come back around to the front of the house, en masse, and decided to confront me and my deceitful ways.  No, I really don’t like most of you.  I mean you no harm, but if we spend a lot of time together, I already know things will not end well.  I will piss you off and not care, or you will piss me off and pretend that you do; in any event, I’d rather we not even attempt to kid ourselves that we have the stuff from which utopias are made.  I can barely stand to be with myself, let alone stranded in an endless series of pregnant pauses, miscues and murmurs in the mud that end with you feeling like I think you’re stupid and you thinking that I’m arrogant.  Neither is entirely true, but you’re too frightened by the sudden awareness of our conjoint nakedness to relax and begin the process of really trying to communicate meaningfully.  You will resort to bringing out clubs, sticks, knives and threats on my life, and I will redouble my resolve to frame the problem as one of education.  No matter how patient I am, you will not stop until, once again, power is about raw physicality and the psychopathology to use it ruthlessly – your strength and my perceived weakness – and I live to regret ever trying to make peace with you.  I am a freak, just like you; the profoundly important difference is that I am aware of that fact and the painful process of awakening that that awareness entails.  I cannot ask you to follow me and I was foolish to try.  Better that I go now, in peace, than bother you further with my annoying presence.

“You look like you could use a smoke, chief,” came a voice from around the wall.

I started, looking for a mirror or camera.  “Who’s that?  Who are you?”

“I’m the voice of Christmas Past, dude,” he began with a chuckle.

“What the hell do you want,” I shot back, shivering from a cold sweat.

“Like I said, you look like you could use a smoke.”

“How can you see me, where are you,” I added, nervously looking about my cell.

“It’s a joke.  Relax.  I’m around the corner.  The one you don’t get to see.”

“Oh,” I offered back in surprise.  “I don’t smoke.”

“That’s a joke, too, Einstein.  None of us can get anything past these guards.  Somebody tried to smuggle in some cigarettes in his wife’s snatch and they caught them both.  Now he’s in solitary.  Don’t know what happened to his wife.”

“Ridiculous.”  Who is this guy?

“Welcome to Stalag 13.  Colonel Klinck usually pops in for a visit about twice a week to make sure we’re staying humble.”

“When do we get to make a phone call?”  When can I get my lawyer involved?

“Phone call,” he laughed.  “No one out there knows we’re in here.  This is it, Kemo Sabe.  Total Information Awareness.  We’re lucky they let us live.”

My chest tightened.  I rubbed my palms on my jumpsuit.

“Everyone in here has seen something they shouldn’t have.  So now we’re in isolation and being kept in the dark until anything we have to say doesn’t mean anything to anyone, anymore/”

“What the fuck,” I said, under my breath.  “I haven’t seen anything,” I pleaded.

“Then you’ll probably be in here for a good, long while, Kemo Sabe.”

“Terrific.  Happy Thanksgiving.” 

“It’s Thanksgiving?  Jesus, I thought it might be Halloween – maybe!  Thanksgiving?  I’ve been in here since before last Easter!”

“And you haven’t spoken to anyone outside since then?”

“Not a soul.  You’re the first person in that cell for weeks.”

“You don’t sound too bad off for a guy that’s been in lockdown for a long time.”

“Are you kidding me?  I talk and mumble myself to sleep every night.”

“Sleep.  That sounds like relief.”  And with that I ignored my anxiety long enough to let the heaviness inside the walls take me down as  my next door neighbor continued to buzz and whisper words I could no longer comprehend or care to.  […to be continued…]