#CarrFire

I’m sitting at my kitchen counter eating breakfast – Malt-O Meal and bacon. It’s my favorite winter breakfast. It feels like winter today – that morose, gloomy feeling that lives in the pit of your stomach at the apex of a season whose very nature is death after harvest; the darkest hour before the birth of spring. Where unease, doubt, and anxious anticipation swirl around inside your head without a distraction to absorb their energy.

I feel guilty for writing those words; for being fortunate enough to be sitting in my home, which is safe, which hasn’t lost power, which is far from the destruction just a short distance away. There is a tinge of shame present in thinking this post is a good idea, or in good taste. Of all the times I could (poorly) wax poetically about the plight and misfortune of others I am torn on whether to keep my mouth shut or allow myself the opportunity to grieve in the only way I know how, which is through words.

I feel like I need to carry a thesaurus in my pocket for the next several months. The language that is needed to express the heart ache – the sorrow – the sheer magnitude of hurt that is felt for my community isn’t present in my current lexicon.

On Monday, July 23rd the Carr fire broke out in the Whiskeytown National Forest a few miles west of the edge of Redding proper. By Thursday morning it had ballooned from 4500 acres to 20,000 acres overnight. Several communities were put under immediate mandatory evacuations. As Thursday progressed, we all watched in horror as our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, our families were forced to flee from their homes. The nature of the fire and its incredibly fast and unpredictable movements combined with insane heat and winds created what I can only imagine was a nightmare for logistics and public safety.

As the sun set on Thursday evening, the real terror began as the fire jumped the Keswick reservoir and headed straight towards the North West parts of Redding, while simultaneously reeking havoc in Old Shasta – making it’s way into West Redding from multiple angles and directions. The Fire was also heading North East creeping towards Shasta Lake City and Shasta Dam. Thousands of residents began to flee their homes trying to find somewhere safe. It was utter madness to watch.

As Friday dawned, and more information and news became available we learned that the fire had now increased to over 45,000 acres, the rate of containment had dropped to 3% and two fire fighters had been killed battling the blaze. One of the men was a Redding Firefighter stationed a few blocks from where I work. I think about how we both got up and went to work a short distance from each other everyday. I don’t know him, and he doesn’t know me. I go to an office and do office stuff. He died trying to save lives and property. It’s a sobering realization. The perspective, the truth, the true meaning and nature of life can hit you like a bat to the face in times such as these.

Footage began to surface on the web of entire neighborhoods leveled. Apocalyptic Hollywood movie type images. The emotional rollercoaster of hearing good news over hear, and bad from over there. I’d watch one Instagram story of elation as someone discovered that their family home was intact. Then immediately you’d see someone discover the exact opposite.

The destructive tentacles of the Carr Fire are stretching over as much of the area as it possible can – like the villain in a shitty super hero movie, satisfaction will not come until every sentient being within eye sight of its destructive plume feels the weight and impact of its strength.

We are far from done with this. This is not a reflexive, past-tense post. It is dispatch one.

I feel helpless. I can’t even fathom what it would be like to be forced from your home in the middle of the night with just the clothes on your back and not knowing if your home is still standing. Or to wake to news that everything that you own, everything you have worked so hard to build, the physical epicenter of your family is gone. I’m actively watching this happening and its unimaginable.

My heart aches today, as it did yesterday, and the day before. As I watch the ash rain down like snow, I realize that it is time to put this exercise to bed. It is time to catch up on the latest information. It is time to get back to facebook messages and continue checking in on folks. It’s time to get to work and help in any way I can.

The horrors and chaos that arise from natural disaster do not easily fit into the paradigms and social constructs that we have built the past few years. Hyperbole and sensationalism hold no weight in the visceral realities of survival and helping thy neighbor. Love, compassion, empathy. These are what matter. They are at the core of who we are as a species. It is ironic that their true value shines brightest in trying times, yet that irony should’t prevent us from grasping onto their presence and lessons and then thrusting them back into the world.

As the days and weeks progress, I will be posting links to various Go Fund Me pages and the like as they become available. We get by with a little help from our friends.

To the family and friends of Redding Fire Dept inspector Jeremy Stoke: I realize that no words can fill the hole left in your hearts after this loss, but I want to say thank you anyways. Thank you for being selfless.

Stay safe.

Man Seeks Muse

It’s a beautiful late spring morning. The sun is ascending to its post high in the sky. The birds are chirping and lingering in the air is a slight chill – a reminder to enjoy these mornings for they will come to an end shortly. For in the coming weeks the greens will yield to brown and the sun will unleash biblical floods of heat. Right now though, it’s perfect. I can hear the gals next door (chickens) rising from their slumber. Huck is lying on the patio next to me. Violet is standing guard as usual. Always on alert for potential threats to her dad and brother; pacing, tail wagging, possessed by pure joy and contentment. These are the types of mornings that I dream about during the week. Being able to wake when I choose. Being able to sit on the porch with the pups and enjoy some coffee and the quiet, still, start-up of the world around me.

And yet, inevitably, this feeling will yield to a combination of anxiety and boredom and the question, “What’s next?” Should I do some pushups? Go to the farmers market? Wash my car? Learn how to play the accordion? This is one of the hardest questions that I can possibly ask myself. The reason, I believe, is simple. How to alleviate the confusion and frustration, and how to correct it going forward isn’t as simple. At its core this question is my philosophical Achilles heel. For as much time as I spend in my head, I can’t seem to unwrap the fortune inside the cookie. I’m sure that it’s there. I’m sure that it’s ‘hiding in plain sight.’ If its a snake, it’ll probably bite me. Are you as tired of the platitudes as I am yet?

Purpose. Meaning. Mission statement. A calling. I understand the words. I understand the connotation. I can imagine what it would be like to posses them. To harness them. To exploit them. To use them for good or evil. I just don’t have ‘it.’ I want ‘it.’ I want it more than I want money or success or happiness, generally speaking.

I’m going to be 35 this coming week. Over the past several years I have been coming to grips with my own mortality. I had never been scared of death. Never really paid much attention to it. One, because I was young and didn’t feel symptoms of the continual and slow deterioration of this fleshy consciousness containment vessel. And two, because its a biological necessity that cannot be overcome. It has to happen. It’s going to happen. You can’t stop it. What I have come to appreciate about death though is the power that it holds over your psyche. If I found out tomorrow that I had terminal cancer and had three months to live, would I be content with what I have accomplished up to this point? Will I glide into death with resolve and peace for a life well lived or will I be racked with regret for what could have been?

It is my belief that a life lived with purpose and meaning is what allows a person to make a stoic and peaceful exit from this realm and join the next without any of that pesky mind-cluttering baggage. It’s difficult to describe what it feels like to know that you are wasting time, but not having any god damn idea what to do to correct it. Equally frustrating is not having any desire to do anything. Not out of laziness, or even the confines of depression. It’s more like knowing that I could spend my time hiking to the top of a mountain and immersing myself in the great outdoors or spend the day cleaning my bungalow and organizing the pantry and still feel the same at the end of the day… 🤷‍♂️ I keep hoping that inspiration or ‘the answer’ will just get tired of me being me and come out of the ether and slap me upside the head. But I know that is not how this works. The answers arrive by doing the work. By putting in the time and effort. Crops don’t magically grow themselves. One must tend to their fields in order to reap the rewards of harvest.

So today I will keep trying what I think is the best approach to discovering that overarching and guiding principle through which I can live with purpose and meaning . I’ll keep reading the books and listening to the podcasts and searching for inspiration. I’ll read about Tom being Tom and rely on the wisdom of Mulder that the truth is in fact out there somewhere. Like SETI shooting messages into to space looking for a reply, I’ll keep thrusting feelers into the void hoping to snag a muse.

If yours isn’t currently busy, have em’ call me, K?

The Three Day Quote Challenge – Day 3

pexels-photo-1046399.jpeg

Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned.”

– Dick Gregory

I remember the exact moment that I discovered politics. It was the lead up to the 2000 presidential election. I distinctly remember watching all of the primaries and debates and learning the process of how American presidential politics worked. I liked the mechanics. The details. The gritty nuts and bolts of everything. CSPAN was my jam that summer. I was completely enamored. I tried to read Locke and Tocqueville; I studied the Constitution and tried my best to correlate my understanding of American democracy with what I was hearing from the politicians on the TV. I spent a great deal of time thinking about and trying to process the world around me through the lens of political thought. I was trying to develop a political identity – a set of ideas and responses to the world around me based on morals and values through which I could extrapolate meaningful; resourceful, efficient, and egalitarian rule sets to develop a prosperous society that could be built and maintained from that foundation.

Ok, so, it wasn’t exactly that well thought out then, but you get the point.

For whatever reason I was primarily focused on the Republican process. I don’t remember it having anything to do with ideology. It probably had everything to do with me finding my dude. John McCain. He was my first when it came to politicians that I truly felt represented something worth following and paying attention to. I couldn’t tell you anything about his stance on anything from 18 years ago now though. I do remember standing with way too many people in a packed aircraft hanger for hours to hear a brief stump speech by Mr. McCain on a school night. I kept the campaign sign I snagged for years. It traveled with me from house to house, party to party, ideology to ideology. I bring this up only to illustrate that my political awakening began when I was around 16 or 17. I’ve been following this stuff for the entirety of my adult life. I’ve voted for Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians. I’ve identified as conservative, liberal, an anarchist, a libertarian, and a wide swath of the “I-couldn’t-give-a-shit-less-you’re-all-lying-crooks” camp.

I could spend hours dissecting and theorizing how we got to such a tumultuous, unnerving, confusing, and utterly ridiculous state of political discourse in America. If we’re being honest with one another, I’m more dumbstruck than apathetic in my inability to synthesize the data and present a theory for your consumption. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to understand this stuff. I have an expensive and useless degree in Political Science sitting in a box around here somewhere. I really have no clue what’s going on. I didn’t see it coming. I don’t know what the fix is. I don’t know how bad it’s going to get. Everyone needs to keep their hands and feet inside their Dumbo at all times until the ride comes to a complete stop.

It is customary in these times for a person like myself, whether for show or a legitimate attempt at intellectual honesty in their forthcoming argument to preface everything they say with recycled platitudes or a catchy non sequitur. I’m not going to do that here. I do not feel that it is even remotely necessary for me to point out the many troubling aspects of the modern conservative political machine, the President of the United States, or the Republican party as a whole. That shit is self explanatory and doesn’t need to be examined here before I turn my ire towards those we loosely label liberals.

The left has no message. They have no plan. They ride the wave of Trump absurdity assuming that they will be handed power simply because he and his administration are a complete and utter train wreck. It’s not true. You have your own slimy skeletons to deal with. Just because the checks your candidates cash are from Goldman Sachs and not the National Rifle Association doesn’t give you any sort of moral superiority. And it sure as hell doesn’t mean that normal everyday people don’t see right through your bullshit, same as with the other fellas.

The left is not a victim in our discourse. They are an equal participant. And when you cross them they will attack you and destroy you with the power of 1000 suns. At least Trump, or the ‘right’ at large, will be up front with their viciousness. The left is a snake eating its own tail. Their soapbox is teetering on a flimsy foundation. It’s sad to watch. It’s sad to watch both sides of the political machine deteriorate into such childishness and blatant self destruction.

I’m picking on the left here because they have been handed a once in a generation opportunity to completely upend their own party, and rewrite American political discourse; to be a true savior to a country in crisis. But they are fumbling the ball. It’s 1st and goal and they are going to turn the ball over on downs. I pick on the liberals because I feel that on most issues they are on the right side of the argument. It’s hard to watch them regress into the same ideological pitfalls as we see with our brothers and sisters on the other side. Now is the opportunity to do the hard work. The introspection. The data gathering. The rewiring. The work. Now is the time to do the work. Now is the time to do the work. NOW is the time to do the work! But you won’t. You aren’t. You’re going to continue to be outraged and appalled and upset and offended. You’re going to let the greatest political opportunity in history slip through your fingers.

Maybe its naive for me to think that there still resides in us the ability to work together. Maybe its naive for me to think that one day the legislative apparatus will not be bought and sold by a handful of mega multi-national corporations. Maybe its naive of me to think that our country could take the possibility of a foreign government tampering with our electoral process to such a degree that it sways the outcome seriously, and with somber due diligence. Maybe its naive of me to think that folks should be able to see that a president killing with drones is just as gross and worthy of critical analysis as a president grabbing women by their pussy. Clearly its naive of me to assume that we should and could operate outside the hyperbole of Twitter and Facebook.

So, I accept their scorn with open arms. I have been let down. I am too naive for modern American politics.

 

The Three Day Quote Challenge – Day 2

Tweet

Yes, I realize that this should have been posted on Saturday. I was busy with my friends. I have no regrets for being loose with the rules.

Waiting proved best. There was an event on Saturday evening that many of you have probably heard of before called the White House Correspondence Dinner. This is a fairly absurd event where members of the press corps that follow and report on the goings-on of the President and the White House get together with the Administration and have a chummy, banter filled evening with hacky jokes and passive aggressive statements lobbed back and forth under the guise of humor; all while trying to convey a moral message of, “Hey, I know we hate each other, and we need each other in order to prosper financially, but let’s give off the impression that we’re all really here to do good, honest work, and that we’re ultimately on the same team.” It’s terribly political theater.

I don’t blame President Trump for not attending. This type of performance art is his specialty. For him this is like going to play in the minor leagues when you’re NOT on a rehab assignment. In light of how our world currently operates, this gig is beneath him. Granted, as Matt Taibbi points out in his piece, the reason that Trump doesn’t attend is most likely because he can’t take a joke (Although, he did pretty well at the Comedy Central Roast. Fuck. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence and ‘President’ in the same context) and because President Obama was much, much better than he could ever be at delivering humor as it’s intended here.

President Obama, in my opinion, brought the event into the mainstream during his tenure in the White House because he was himself funny. He knew how to deliver a joke. His timing and self deprecation were pretty damn good for someone who doesn’t make a living telling jokes.

As an aside, if you are at all curious as to what it was like to be a speech (and joke) writer for the 44th President of the United States I recommend David Litt’s book. It’s pretty great. A second aside, I substituted this book into my 2018 Reading List which you can also read about. Tired of tangents? Me too. Let’s get into today’s topic, shall we?

You may have noticed yesterday, and into today that there’s been substantial backlash towards Michelle Wolf, the insanely funny comedian who destroyed everyone – on both sides of the political isle – in her near 20 minute performance at the dinner. They are pissed because she was A) funny B) 100% Correct C) fired shots at EVERYONE and D) had the balls to do it to their face and not hold back anything when given the opportunity to perform.

I’m not going to post a bunch of the lame responses and cries of outrage because, who gives a shit? You’re all polishing the brass on the Titanic (phrase taken from Fight Club). We are living in a world so driven by hyperbole that we can’t expect anything but complete and utter absurdity in our public sphere. That’s why for Day 2 I’m posting a quote by me. It was a tweet that I compiled earlier today. It’s at the top of this post.

I wrote it in line with what I’ve just stated. It’s all a farce. Political journalism, Congress, the Presidency. Those shitty mid-90s soap operas were written better than this dumpster fire we call reality.

I also wrote it because above all else I love comedy, specifically stand-up comedy. Michelle’s performance was brilliant. She did her job and she did it well. What did you expect? You want to be outraged? You want apologies? You want to pretend like you have feelings that could actually be hurt? Demand them from the idiot that booked a bull to perform in your precious little china shop. You assholes are so convinced of your own importance that you’ve propped yourselves on the flimsiest soapbox one can make. All it takes is someone who doesn’t give a shit about your precious wink-wink and win-win arrangements to big-bad-wolf that shit right to the ground. It’s gross. You should be ashamed of yourselves for being such complete and useless hypocrites.

As you can tell, this nonsense really gets me going. It touches on a much more terrifying assault on free speech that is brewing in our political discourse that I hope to expand upon later. Until then, I’m going to post a link to Michelle’s time on stage for your viewing pleasure.

I’ll try to lighten things up for Day 3.

Thanks for reading. Cheers.

Here is the video

The Three Day Quote Challenge – Day 1

(Photo Credit openculture.com)

“Great art is horseshit, buy tacos.” – Charles Bukowski

The man was a goddamned poet. No, literally, he was a poet.

Wait, let’s back up. I was challenged by Tom in his latest piece to participate in a challenge that he completed earlier today. This rules are as follows:

1) Thank the person who nominated you

2) Share a post each day for three consecutive days

3) Explain why you like the quote

4) Nominate three bloggers to play along.

Thanks Tom. It should be obvious that number 2 has already been addressed. What follows will be an attempt at number 3. I have no intention of doing number 4. It’s just not my thing. I am excited that Tom tagged me though, because writing about quotes is fun. I like to see all the different types of stuff folks come up with. So, here we go…

I’ve always loved reading Bukowski. It’s raw, and dirty, and slimy. His work is sticky and uncomfortable. Pain and truth bleed and run down the page producing prose with an unnerving amount of honesty.

We bury ourselves in self-help psychology. We read books and listen to podcasts and search – reaching and stretching – for any glimmer of hope that the insecurity, self-doubt, and self-sabotage that we inflict on ourselves day-in and day-out will someday be alleviated. We pray we find the perfect mantra, or diet, or yogi, or exercise routine. We do what we have been taught to do: We run from danger.

Yet, there is beauty in occasionally plunging into the deep end of the pool; drifting towards the murky bottom. Exploiting our pain and demons for artistic expression. Sometimes we just gotta give in and see where the ‘yuck’ can take us.

That’s when I like to read Bukowski the most. When I’m feeling defeated. When I’m struggling to express myself creatively. When I don’t feel like the trying is worth the effort. I read his words, and I read about his life, and what I take from it is that without trying, without being honest, and without just saying what it is you want to say, you will succumb to it all. The more that you fight back with middle fingers and drunken outbursts, the more chances you get to create something magnificent.

That’s why I like the quote that I posted at the beginning of this. It’s simple. It’s perfect. It’s really how I want to live my life: While some chase the opportunity to interpret the meaning of a dead mans doodles, I’d rather be with you, buying tacos out of a sketchy food truck apologizing again for almost peeing on your dog.

Thanks again Tom.

The Wonders of Spring

I wrote a post in late December where I tried to say that I found no useful meaning in the end of a linear calendar year, and the subsequent ‘beginning’ of another. I then proceeded to write word upon word espousing the opposite of that sentiment. The bug has struck again to write about the season. I love Spring. Or, whatever it is that constitutes Spring in Northern California. March and April are my favorite time of the year. The sun returns from wherever it goes during the baseball off-season. The days become longer and the chill and cold begins to subside. Smiles return. Everyone seems to collectively stretch and re-group from the dark embrace of winter. There is glee in the air upon the return of life. Even the explosive growth of weeds is greeted with profound joy. There will never be any site as beautiful to these blue eyes than an Oak tree in full bloom.

We don’t really have four distinct seasons. We know what Summer is. That on is hard to deny. The heat is so unbearable, so constant, and so intrusive that you become delirious; Convinced that the world couldn’t possibly rebound from such torturous conditions. It’s Biblical in nature and duration. There are plenty of masochists out there who swear by it. Many of us cope with it.

Summer is what we are. We are defined by it. Fall is given to us not by nature but though advertising and the God damned deplorable Pumpkin Spice Latte. Winter is short and forgiving compared to other regions. Yet, we are not folk who take kindly to the darkness, or shoes, or pants, or long sleeves. We soak up the cold. Store it in our bones. Feel it in our lungs. Try desperately to summons it through will and magic in July and August.

But Spring. Oh, how wonderful is Spring. On occasion we are not blessed with more than a few weeks of Spring. I get the feeling that this year will be different. We will have a Spring and it will be glorious. Even typing ‘Spring’ fills me with happiness.

I love the sound that ball and bat make from the parks nearby. I relish the sound of cheers from stands filled with overworked, underpaid, and stressed out parents. I love to see families riding their bikes and walking their dogs. I love windows down in the car, and open all night in the house.

This is when we grow. At the end of the year we reflect on the past and plan for the future. In the Spring we implement. We take action. We plant and take root. Harvests do not come when fields are not nurtured.

Speechless In 500 Words and Then, Friends Who Are Anything But

(Photo Credit azquotes.com)

I find myself having nothing to say. This is a fatal blow to one who desires, above all else, to be a blogger. When I started this project its intent was to serve as a vehicle to explore big ideas. To immerse myself in the public discussion and painstakingly work out my ideologies; my thoughts and beliefs. To build a narrative and cohesive source of who and what I believe to be me on paper. A curriculum vitae for my pursuit of intellectual honesty housed on a Go Daddy server.

Let’s unpack this a bit. Big picture, I have an idea of what I want my blog to be. Independent of that specific idea, I have a more macro desire to be a blogger. What does that mean? To me, what a blogger should strive to do is to provide content that:

  • Is relatable
  • Relies heavily on personal experience
  • Is honest
  • Seeks to cultivate, curate, and support a community
  • Contribute something meaningful to the discussion at large

We have academics and journalists to do the heavy lifting. Peer-review, scholarly work that is heavily researched, sited, compiled, and published. Where we fit in is to humanize. To synthesize the humanities and the sciences – to show and express how and why we are the way we are through the sharing of our perspective. We are the primary sources.

So, there is the unshakable desire to be an active participant in this world. There exists within that desire a concept of how I want to go about sharing, exploring, and growing my knowledge and perspective with all of you lovely folks. Where then lies the problem?

I don’t know, exactly. Ironically though, as I typed those last few words, I believe that I discovered a flaw in my internal logic. Doing this is exactly what I need to be doing in order to make the dreams of the first paragraph come to fruition. I have placed myself in a psychological juxtaposition. I want to be at Z now, without starting at A and working my way through the alphabet. As uncomfortable as it is for me to do, I have to keep exposing my perceived flaws and roadblocks in this space to propel me towards the creation of content that I ultimately wish to create and publish. This is the drivel that I want to look back on and be able to say, “Wow. See how far you have come!? That’s embarrassing. I can’t believe that shit is going to live on the web forever.”

For now, I need to be the guy who writes 430 words (so for) about how he doesn’t have anything to say. I do have things to say, I’m just still figuring out how I want to say them. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be something I’m not. I can be that person, but I have to allow myself time to become that person. In the meantime, what I can do, is direct you towards folks who are doing the work and churning out some great content. Below are some of the folks whom I look to for guidance, wisdom, and inspiration. They embody the tenants I humbly offer above for what a blogger is, and should be.

Don’t let Tom over at Tom Being Tom fool you when he state that it’s just him, talking about stuff. He’s doing great work and tackling some big ideas with heaps of empathy, humor, and class.

M. P. Baecker with A Light Circle produces some beautiful work. I can’t do it justice. You have to go check it out for yourself. You’ll love it. I can guarantee that.

Susan. Dude. I love this blog – Stories From the Edge of Blindness. Her work inspires me to really look at how I feel and find a way to change the course and develop it into something powerful and beautiful. Really fantastic writing!

Naturally Calamity Jane – By far my favorite blog title. This is one of the first blogs that I followed and she has a tendency of publishing pieces that eloquently express thoughts and feelings that I too am having at or around the same time. She writes with a refreshing, disarming sense of honesty and openness that I believe is at the heart of what a blog should and can do for the author and its readers.

2/10/18

I don’t know about you, but for me, rarely does a day come to a close where I consciously sit back and say to myself, “Damn, that was a great day.” More often than not I spend my free time reflecting on how I use to many commas in a run on sentence. Today was one of those days that just worked. I’m not sure if I could ever articulate it in words, but I felt like me. Let’s recap for fun, then we’ll do some more philosophizing to wrap this little pat-on-the-back up.

M and I got up early to take the pups into the vet for some routine maintenance. Both Huck and Violet were due for something. I didn’t ask a lot of questions, nor do I have a clue what is being prevented by the mystery solutions put into them. I’m that dog owner. I mean, I’m not super obnoxious about it. It’s not like vegan level annoying, but I am the dude that will shell out any amount of cash for the overall health and well-being of my dogs. Ironically enough, I will go on a fifteen minute rant to whomever is polite enough to listen to me about why I won’t get a flu shot (yes, it is laden with conspiracy theories and I’m trying to work in some Illuminate tangents just to connect more with the old-school skeptics out there. These Millennials just don’t know how to have a good time with strangers anymore) but whatever the vet says those little critters need, I buy into it hook line and sinker. Only the best for my knuckleheads!

I know, right? But before you get too caught up with the ‘Aww’s’ I must tell you that these little fuckers ate my cinnamon rolls that I was saving from breakfast (I’m looking at you Violet…).

We drop the dogs off at the house and head out on a breakfast date that eventually resulted in the leftover cinnamon rolls (that I desperately wish I had now) that my precious companions removed from my world of temptation. If you’re still a little weird about my name calling, you can’t even comprehend how psychological their actions were. It’s not like they got on the counter and destroyed the container and then devoured the cinnamon rolls like a couple of savage K-9s. They gently removed the container from the counter, placed it in the middle of the room, opened it exactly how it’s designed to be opened, and left virtually no trace of their feast. I half expected to find a knife and fork in the sink. Had they been empathetic enough to throw away their garage they would have done so. I’m pretty sure Violet winked at me as I walked in the room like, ‘No treats for you later, fatty.’ Seriously, if you can’t already tell, it got in my head.

I need to move on…

There’s a point, and I’m getting to it. Remember, this story is pretty much only for me. I don’t need you guys on this one. I appreciate you, but as you’ll recall, this whole exercise is me rejoicing in a lovely day. This is my nightcap.

After breakfast and the sorrow of a lost late night snack (I’m really not going to let it go. Stop expecting it) we headed to the local Outdoors’ store so I could get a new multi-tool. While there, M hinted for the 193467493745 time that we should look at bows. Ever since we started dating she has wanted me to teach her how to fling arrows. Archery was something that I was REALLY into for years prior to us getting together. For whatever reason I let the passion for it slip away and then time took care of the rest. Since we really didn’t have a reason not to go to the local archery shop we jumped in the car went. I dug my bow out of the closet, and dug my arrows out of my mom’s garage and took it in to get a tune up. While there, M actually ended up putting a deposit down on a new bow! I’m so, so, so, excited about it! And so is she, which makes it even more enjoyable for me!

We came back to my house and she had to leave to get ready for work. As I was sitting in the kitchen making some lunch it was the first time in, well, I can’t even remember, that I felt truly content in the moment. All I could think about was getting her bow here, and shooting, and doing all the cool outdoors stuff we’ve been talking about for years, but just haven’t done. I felt free from crippling stress and anxiety. I felt happy. I felt joy and excitement. It’s weird when you don’t feel that regularly and then you do. That, ‘Holy shit. How did I let this slip away from me!?’ Feeling is intense.

Today’s significance came from the realization that, ‘Oh yeah. I’m in control here. If I want to do something then all I have to do is do it. Shit isn’t that hard.’ As cliche and lame as it is to end on, we only get one shot at this. I have to stop allowing the tentacles of anxiety and negative thought so much power over my disposition and influence my actions, or lack there of. There is too much fun and excitement out there to be had.

I really wish I had those cinnamon rolls…

Pouring Coffee in the Dark

Bliss is the sound of coffee filling a sturdy mug in the pre-dawn hours of a new day.

For those of us who exist in a quasi-constant state of anxious apprehension towards life in general, having a reliable source of joy is crucial. I don’t know what it’s like to wake up and experience life as someone else. In my head, you all wake up with your mind gradually easing you back into the waking state like a child, gently nudged by a loving mother; stroking your hair and whispering sweet nothings into your innocent little ear. In my mind, that’s what your mind does. I’m envious of what my mind thinks your mind is does.

I like to imagine the mind as a control room. Think mission control at NASA. I’m picturing a scene from one of the nameless movies from my youth. Maybe Apollo 13? There is a HUGE screen at the front of the room through which all of the incoming data is filtered, processed, and analyzed by the folks running the control room. ‘Bob’ in row 2, seat 5, is there to make sure that the astronauts remember to close the valve on the space toilet. ‘Bonnie’ stares at a screen for 12 hours a day to make sure that this multi-billion dollar space craft doesn’t crash into the side of a rock hurtling through space. There is a chain-smoking middle-aged white guy with thick rimmed glasses and sweat stains on his perfectly starched shirt who is in charge of the whole operation. He wanders around nervously. It is his job to ensure that all the little parts function flawlessly so that the mission is successful. He knows that shit can and will go wrong. His true strength is mitigating disaster. Our Smoking Man operates in the gray areas of this story. He is presented with a plethora of hard facts. He is surrounded by highly capable and dedicated team members. Yet at all times he is waiting, anticipating that one thing that no one assumed could or would happen to happen. It’s his job to resolve that. Tough right? Unimaginable almost, right? Boy, I’m glad I’m not that guy in my head…

We all want to by that guy. But we’re not. At least I’m not. I’m assuming you’re not either. Me – the part of consciousness from which we develop a sense of self. Whatever the heck it is that gives us a sense that there is an us inside our head – I’m like C3PO from Star Wars. I’m there. I’m in the room. But I’m not the Smoking Man. I’m not even ‘Bob,’ the guy who keeps shit from getting on the steering wheel. I’m the one spilling coffee on the carpet and getting tangled up in wires asking everyone that walks by, “Hey, do you think this should be plugged into something?” I’m the one following the Smoking Man around the room asking things like, “Are we going to be OK?” “I’m getting kinda scared. I’m going to go lay down for a minute.” Or worse, “Guys! Jason brought that bean dip in again!”

I think that the key to reducing anxiety and obtaining some sort of stable and balanced mental health is to accept your role in the process and try to do your particular job to the best of your abilities and not to muddy the waters for the subconscious mechanisms taking place outside of your direct control. So, when I say that I think your mind eases you back into a waking state like a soothing mother, it is akin to a shift change in the control room. Team B comes in to replace Team A. They go over notes, trade relevant information, shake hands, wish each other Godspeed, and go home to take their kids to soccer, wash their cars, eat, and go to sleep. When I wake up, it feels more like Team B walking into the control room to find me running from station to station pushing buttons at random, saying, “Hey guys, um, hey. So, everyone left. I’m trying my best but I think things are a bit out of control.” Within milliseconds of waking up I’m six chapters deep into a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story and things aren’t looking salvageable.

So, coffee. One of the few moments that provide clarity and peace is that first cup of coffee in the morning. I experience more transcendent joy and optimism as I raise the carafe to the brim of a mug and allow that glorious liquid to cascade over the spout than I do the remaining waking hours of consciousness. I’ve had two cups while composing this nonsense, and I’ll probably have more while I refresh the screen awaiting your likes and approval. The day is just getting started. I’m going to try to stay out of everyones way in the control room and let them do their jobs. I need to find Jason and get the recipe for that bean dip. As much as I hate to give props to advertising, as I have stumble into adulthood (kicking and screaming mind you) I have to give a nod and wink to the folks behind Folgers’ ad campaign. Indeed, sometimes, the best part of waking up is some [coffee] in my cup.

Musings On the Fate of Our Species

The film The Matrix (1999) paints a dystopian view of the future in which sentient machines harvest energy from humans while their consciousness exists within a computer simulation. Humans wander the globe doing human things day in, and day out. Things like being an accountant, or a solder, a baker, or a street merchant. Empires rise and fall; states wage war and economies crash and rebuild. All this an illusion, for we are nothing more than lifeless batteries existing in pods. Serving no purpose other than fuel for our machine overlords. This is probably the best case scenario. If you project out from our current behaviors this scenario is a total win-win. If in the future machines harvest us for their survival, and in doing so they choose to build for us a space that is tame, and vanilla, and utterly 1999-ish, we would be forced to acknowledge them for what they truly are – benevolent caretakers. Think about it. There would be no utility for them to sustain us in a simulation unless there was a direct correlation between the hypothetical potential output of our biochemistry and the framework in which our consciousness exists. Meaning, in order to maximize output, the machines have determined that human consciousness must reside in this particular model which has the perfect mixture of safety, wealth, anxiety, and a million other finely-tuned variables. Before you brush this off as nerdy hyperbole remember that the world’s religions and governments have essential done the same thing. They shape the constructs by which we exist and simulate a reality that for the most part continues generation after generation with very few monumental alterations to the ways in which we act and behave within the system. If we get to a place where sentient machines harvest us for fuel we can only hope that they show us as much compassion as the machines in the Matrix. We aren’t this kind. Just look at how we treat domesticated animals in factory farms or wild animals who interfere with our ‘progress.’

I don’t believe that sentient machines are actively harvesting my energy for fuel. Nor do I believe that the reality I exist in is an elaborate simulation programmed by the machines to ensure maximum output from me and all my pod-friends. Sometimes though, it sure as shit feels like it. We live in a time and place that feels a tad to outrageous. I like to play this game where I come up with a completely bananas scenario and text it to a friend as if it actually happened. I then sit back and enjoy the reaction. More often than not the absurd scenario that I make up is too close in nature to current events and they assume I’m paraphrasing a headline from the Post or Times. A short time ago we had an evil billionaire without a heart as a Vice President. Then we had the cool black guy and half the country lost their minds. Now we have the gross personification of everything that is inherently wrong with greed and excess. Our lust and intoxication with fame and celebrity coupled with a degree of personal comfort and relative safety that is only obtainable through the blood and toil of distant others has metastasized into a cultural cancer the likes of which we haven’t seen since Nazi Germany.

In less than a decade our lives have been completely altered to exist within a smartphone and the internet. We are in the infancy of a new type of human being. We are becoming cyborg. And just like in human infancy it will get messy. Sometimes shit doesn’t stay in its container. We haven’t prepared ourselves for the consequences of allowing the market and consumer tendencies to dictate the reach and scope of integrated technologies. We are, in essence, a monkey with a machine gun.

There’s a upswing in this story, I promise. Choice is always present. In the hypothetical Matrix scenario, the story arch of Neo shows that ultimately we have a choice. We can dictate our reality. We can choose to seek out truth or we can hide in the shadows of comfort and safety. Circumstance can seem overwhelming; suffocating. Perspective is everything. I’m as guilty as anyone for allowing myself to get caught up in the nonsense we are surrounded by and giving it too much meaning. To much control over the trajectory of my life. It’s laziness. It’s easy to sit back and be a nihilist. Anarchy is a great way to reject hope. It’s much harder to take responsibility. Put in the effort and work necessary to build a reality that is satisfying for you and those around you. It takes courage to reject the gentle push of God or machine. It takes courage to seek light in an otherwise pitch black room. Existing with peace and clarity in ‘this world’ is something we appear to fight at all costs.

Those who lived after the atom bomb were forced to incorporate a new appreciation for how drastically their species had just modified reality. At any given moment a select few men could destroy the globe ten fold at the push of a button. The internet will do the same for our collective reality. Our hand will be forced, and we’ll need to reconcile its impact on our society. We will be forced to remove it from the realm of consumerism and think of it for what it truly is – an extension of human consciousness. In the meantime it looks as though we are stuck with our current absurdities. The greatest tool humans have ever created is nothing more than a sandbox filled with seven billion toddlers overdue for a nap, fighting over the green crayon.

I find myself too tired to take on the philosophical question of whether to take the red pill or the blue pill. I’d be flattered if a Morpheus type character emerged from the shadows determined to free me from the Matrix. I’d have to pass though. Because in the end it doesn’t matter if this is all a simulation. It doesn’t matter what’s next. What matters is what’s in front of us. What’s important is accepting what we have chosen, and accepting that we can change and modify course. I don’t really want to occupy a reality that puts more importance in the ass of a Kardashian than it does the stomach of a child. I suppose the purpose of all this was to illustrate how it’s ultimately up to us to use this power responsibly and with caution. We have developed powerful tools that will unquestionably change the nature of what it means to be human. I feel like the moral and intellectual battles that future generations will wage are gestating in our current behaviors and attitudes. We need to have big conversations. We need to look closely at how we treat one another. History is full of examples in which we say, ‘how could that have happened!?’ Take a look at how we are acting now and ask yourself, ‘How is this shaping our future?’

Reality is weird in that it can be one thing to you, another to me, and yet we can exist in the same time and place in a common shared reality. Our salvation from the machines lies in our ability to transcend this childishness before it’s too late.