sometimes in meditation
the candlelight shining in
my mind’s eye becomes
I have to open my eyes
for I fear I am burning
down the house.
But then the cat stands in
front of the light
and I am thrown back
into the dark void –
into the space of the no-word,
the space before word.
And again I must open
lest the cat sniffs too close, and
burns his whiskers.
Apparently its a bad week to be a Scorpio – as we are in a naughty mood – and we tend to make poor decisions when we are in a naughty mood.
I smile to myself at the thought – and of those who have known me on such occasions – but no one today has the time for a middle-aged man in a naughty mood – not, at least any people of good common sense – and so I’ll leave well enough alone – with a nod to my nostalgia and the realization that we were all Kings, once upon a time.
What if the Great Pearly Gates to the promised Golden Hereafter was really those automated front doors at that Super Sam’s Waffle and Pancake House out on I-75 just south of Toledo, Ohio? What if the Pearly Gates were nothing more than the #64 off-ramp north of Bowling Green, off that great American asphalt artery that runs the length of the republic? (From Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to Miami, Fla.)
And because CEO’s are getting record pilferage buy-out packages from the absent-minded peasants, what if St. Peter has decided to jump on the Enron/AIG/Fannie Mae/Goldman Sachs/Morgan Stanley/Bank of America/Mitt Romney “fuck-you America” bandwagon, and he has outsourced his job to this chain-smoking-tired-waitress-single-white-mother-of-three (“so goddamned-14-hour-a-day-tired”), who just took your order, and has, as her sole purpose, to decide your entrance into the Great Gold-Bricked Beyond?
And what if you just threw your plate of greasy eggs and cold Canadian back-bacon back at this overworked bunioned truck-stop waitress and told her that her diner was a true barbarian shithole on that Great American Highway to nowhere?
“Who”, you spit at her, “is the shitputz in the back who recycled this sewage and decided to call it my breakfast?”
. . . Are ya’ fucked?
What do you think?
Do you have faith?
Do you think she will value your commitment to reality?
Maybe she agrees with you regarding the sorry state of your breakfast, but so fucking what? What did you expect to get from a $4.50 interstate breakfast? And, maybe she would have agreed with you, maybe even shown you a little sympathy, you know, like thrown in an extra cup of coffee on the house, but now you’ve just pissed her off. And just because you were stupid enough to drive twenty straight hours from Miami to get here, and your eyes look like two peas in a crack pipe, you have to understand that it’s not even yet 8am, and your waitress, who has been up since five, is looking down the double barrel of the twelve hours still in front of her.
Do you think she understands your commitment to the truth?
What if she judges you simply on your attitude? For that obnoxious asshole tone in your voice?
Women do that, you know.
(While it’s true that women will often let themselves be lied to about all sorts of whimsical things, this only comes with the proviso that you say your lie to them nicely.)
But you were just now a bit of an ass about it. Weren’t you?
And did you seriously think she has anything to do with what goes on in the kitchen?
So, it’s not only about what you said (or whether it be true, or not); it’s also about how you said it.
You should know by now that lots of people don’t give a shit about the truth and will hang you simply for the tone in your voice.
Maybe you don’t think it’s that simple?
(“It can’t be that simple. Not here! Not at the Golden Gates!”)
Then you are a fool!
I’ve seen people killed over something as simple as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. People kill over the colour of skin! Over Religion. And money. They’ll even kill you over who you sleep with. Over whom you want to marry.
People get pissed off about stupid shit like this all of the time.
The wrong place.
At the wrong time.
That’s how simple it can be.
I once found myself having the most violent of epiphanies. I had fallen asleep (I had passed out, actually) in the early morning Miami sun and I awoke with the top of my feet burnt and swollen. If truth be known, I had just been through the electro-shock therapy, and I had had too much to drink for the ten nights before, and I had awoken on a beach, nearly naked (I had somehow lost my shirt and shoes), and covered in my own vomit. And it was at that exact sad moment when certain things suddenly – violently – occurred to me:
- God is an Idiot Savant;
- The Metaphors never lie;
- And then we die;
- And then it is over.
That is all.
And just like that.
There it was.
All of it.
And just when I might finally start to begin to understand my way through the labyrinth of all of my life’s clichéd bullshit, it won’t be more than about five minutes before midnight, and I will very quickly find myself at my ultimate destiny: forever silent, and eternally pushing up daisies at the universe’s midnight café.
Did I tell you this already?
And what did I think of that?
I’ll tell you what I think.
I still think its fucking crap!
Maybe when you think of your own death, maybe you can find peace in the idea that at the very core of every single atom in your mostly empty being there is this Thing! Singular. Eternal. Pulsing. Electric!
Maybe you are a modern type of person who takes heart in the fact that Heisenberg and Schrodinger and all those other crazy quantum motherfuckers proved it true that energy cannot ever disappear? Ever!
And maybe you find peace in the idea that electricity passes between being both matter, and not-matter, and/or both at the same time, and that we can now watch as these particles pass between this dimension we call Newtonian, and then disappear into another, deeper, unseen quantum level (we know not yet what to call it, or where it is)?
And then gone.
And then here again.
And maybe you profoundly appreciate the sublimeness of knowing that electricity is everywhere, all at once, touching everything. That at the fundamental level of all things, at the level of this “being and non-being”, in this 360º multi-dimensional space-time universe thing we call existence, there is only electricity. And that in each and every electron, that sits in each and every atom of your body, there is enough energy to create (or destroy) an entire universe.
And this energy cannot ever be destroyed.
Only ever transformed.
Into something new.
And then something else again.
Moving through everything. Twenty-four hours a day. Day-after-day; year-after-year.
Again and again.
Since the beginning.
And until the end.
They say that at our very core of existence death is not an end, but simply a transition; from one electrical state to another.
I try to take heart in the discoveries of science. It fills me with wonder! But I have developed certain trust issues when it comes to these things. Science has an older sibling who has long fucked us over with a similar tale of faith and resurrection. Why should I suspect that science will do no less?
I doubt I will find any consolation in either science, or religion, when the time comes for my big trip back to the Other Side.
The problem is this: …despite my solid working-class Catholic upbringing, my three university degrees, and my best Buddhist efforts, I’ve grown somewhat attached – sewn, in fact – into my current state of consciousness. I’m not particularly interested in any of your promises of after-life gold-bricked roads, or your Bodi tree ideas of detachment and enlightenment, or your seventy-two red-hot virgins (even if you offered to dip them all in chocolate.) The solutions offered don’t really appeal to my sense of sensibilities. For even if I do reincarnate endlessly, I still only have this one particular too-short ignorant life to live, and I’m not going to sit around on my detached ass all day and pretend it isn’t so!
I like living.
Despite all the shit it throws at me I (usually) like it a lot!
Do you not still take time to feel how fantastically beautiful it all is? To be part of this magnificent creation! To explore! To love! To connect with another! To howl at the moon…To rage at the sea…?
Have you ever written your lover about making love in a rainforest? Clinging desperately under a hot pouring rain? Awash and alive, your’ back plastered against the wet forest floor, with the lightning hissing and the thunder exploding all around you!? Hot rain thundering in over the treetops, pounding against your naked burning flesh. The holy water consecrating you in a divinity you can not fully understand, but can only ever feel.
When I was a boy on the farm, I would stand perfectly still in a field of knee-high August grass, with my eyes closed…waiting for it… waiting for it…waiting…for… it… standing there, perfectly still, feeling through my toes the first approach of a dozen horses as they rounded the soft grassy knoll, running closely past me, high-spirited and frolicking with me and each other on a warm and sunny late-afternoon summer day.
I close my eyes now, thirty years later, and the ground still rumbles under my feet. The horse’s fat lips nuzzling my cheeks. Pulling at my hair. Their hot wet breath against my face?
Sharing whispers with God.
I sit in this chair and I still tremble with boyish delight.
How do I describe to you what it felt like to wake my four-year-old Hunter in the middle of a crisp fall night, so we could stand on the porch with Grandma, our breath tiny puffs of moist silver clouds, listening to “The Wolves!” howl their curious chorus at the moon? To hear Hunter’s gasp of delight. And to hear, in the intervening silence, our neighbour’s big old dog at the next farm, far off down the valley, barking his lone alerted response. To stand there and hold my little Hunter in my arms, her eyes wide and sparkling in the pale blue moonlight.
That first time I discovered Anais Nin. And Henry Miller. Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being. Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Martin Luther King. Nina
Simone. Brubeck’s Take Five. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Harold Bloom. The Gnostic Gospels. The Book of Genesis. Miles Davis. Russian literature. Annie Dillard.
That first time I took Hunter to see Cirque du Soleil!
Standing in the Alhambra!
The sheer magical wonderment of it all!
To feel the power!
And the glory!
Forever and ever…
To be frightened.
To be hungry.
It is intoxicating.
All of it!
Life must be inhaled.
What does Jesus or Mohammed or Abraham know about such things? They think they got to hold the golden keys to the universe and that should somehow be enough for the rest of us?
And their eunuch disciples are even worse. They don’t know shite about life. They only know that they want to tell me how to think, and how to behave; how to dress, and when to marry; what to read and what to burn; how to live and how to die.
God, they’re such wanks!
And the Buddhist mountain men and their paper temples aren’t much better. If they’d only clutch their dicks half as hard as they lick Buddha’s balls they would soon realize the sheer enormity of their own eternal constipation!
Guy Davenport said it best: “It is absurd, I know, for one insignificant creature to cry that it is alive, and does not want to be hurled into the dark along with the lost. It is the life in me that speaks, not me, though I speak with it, selfishly, in its ridiculous longing to stay alive, and partake of its presumptuous joy in being.”
So, yeah, death is a Total Fucking Pissmeoff!
“DEATH!” blows goddamned elephant-sized bazooka holes in my ever-present sense of omnipotence.
…I’d also like to really, really, point out…
…death does very little – in fact absolutely nothing at all – for my self-esteem.
Now, I will admit that this is suddenly and un-expectantly a lot to contemplate as you sit with your greasy eggs and cold bacon and your lukewarm instant coffee. And what does any of this have to do with Milan and Isabella?
For Pete’s sake, all you wanted was a decent breakfast! Not this pile of crap! Just a couple of eggs. Done nice. Over-easy, with fresh toast and coffee. Maybe with some fresh homefries on the side? The Chicago Tribune or the New York Times would have been a nice touch (you are in Toledo afterall).
Is this too much to ask for?
Well, yes, actually, it could very well be too much to ask. You must understand that despite the bullshit the media feeds you about how great YOU! are, and how important YOU! are, and that it is always ever about YOU! (…from the moment you wake up and make your – insert your favorite name-brand coffee here – ‘till you turn off your – insert favorite late-night entertainment show here – it’s all about glorious wonderful happy YOU!…). But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not-hardly-ever going to be about you, and what YOU want.
Any mother working as a waitress in a freeway latrine, employed by a boss prone to extreme tendencies, acute xenophobia, occasional cruel indifference and naïve optimism, not to mention raising three kids on a $7.85-an-hour job, with sore feet and callused bunions, a bad back, living her two-pack-a-day life of quiet desperation, will tell you that it isn’t in fact about YOU! at all! Do you know how many “you’s” she sees in her day? Who the fuck are you!?
There are seven billion YOUs on the planet. Statistically, there could be as many as seven people out there in the world who look exactly like you. There are potentially thousands (maybe millions) who have your very same name. You may have already met some of them.
So, in the grand scheme of things, who, exactly, are YOU?
Maybe the waitress will associate you and your bad attitude with her pond-scum ex-husband, who, since GM shut down yet another Ohio car plant and moved it off to get-rich-quick China, is now eight months behind with his support payments?
I sincerely doubt, given the circumstances, and the time of day, that she will really give even half-a-thought about you, or what will happen to you. (No, really! I seriously doubt it!)
The sheer insignificance of your existence in the face of the enormity of these truths means that, like I said before, it may not be about the Truth at all. At best, it may, in fact, really be all (and only ever was) about your luck. Nothing more. Nothing less.
And like I asked you earlier, are you feeling lucky?
Is it a good day to be you?
Luck… whom the Greeks once named the most capricious and cruel demon from Hades.
Luck is one of those retarded Titans who rewards or smites with nary a thought or backward glance. With not even the blink of an eye Luck moves across the face of the earth devoid of peripheral vision. Blighting here and rewarding there without a second thought. Copulating maniacally with demonic dictators everywhere. Darfur. Washington. Moscow. Tibet. Playing nice with red-neck lottery winners and
personal injury lawyers…slamming tsunamis into bamboo villages… giving cancer to saints.
So, is it a good day to be you? Whoever you are? Feeling lucky? Is it a good day to be a Black man? Or a Pakistani woman? A Sikh? A Jew? Vietnamese? Muslim? Colombian? North Korean? Red? Inuit? Did you commit adultery in your Toledo, Ohio motel room last night? Or did you just watch porn? Do you have a terminal disease? Could you probably use some psycho-therapy? Are you poor? An Afghani woman? In an abusive relationship? The very last person in the world who speaks your language?
Well…what do you think?
I will ask you again. “Feeling lucky?”
How about I give you some perspective?
I have a small newspaper clipping pinned to the wall in my bathroom. When you sit on the john, it is right there in front of you – at eye level. You can’t miss it. You can’t hide from it. (Unless you want to take a dump with your eyes closed? Or, you can try and stare up at the ceiling, but if you do, you will find that I have put a massive poster of a snarling wolf who looks down on you like he wants to rip your throat out. (I have discovered that this posture of trying to take a dump and looking up is a sure-fire cause for constipation.))
As you sit there and do your business, you will read in this little page five newspaper article the small sad tale of a young fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl who had been found naked and burned almost beyond recognition and nailed to a makeshift cross. SHE WAS FOUND NAILED TO A CROSS! – BURNED ALIVE AT THE STAKE – ARE YOU FUCKING LISTENING TO ME!? – She was nailed straight through her hands and through her feet – to a cross made of two-by-fours – crucified on a couple of boards, just (almost) like Jesus (but not really), and over a weekend she was repeatedly gang raped by an unknown number of good Christian soldiers. (According to villagers, and the soldiers who later testified in court, fourteen-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi was thought to be the most beautiful girl anyone had ever seen in all of Iraq. Some say in the entire world.) When Monday morning came around and her body had nothing left to offer she was doused in gasoline, and set ablaze. Apparently, one of the soldiers couldn’t take her final pitiful screams and took pity on her, shooting her straight through the forehead. The rest of her family (mother, father, six-year-old baby sister) had already been executed – shot at point blank range – in the room next to where she was found. (It was also later revealed in military court that Abeer had first been forced to watch the execution of her family members before she was herself crucified and gang-raped.)
Beside this sad and terrible story I have pinned some translated lines from the Epic of Gilgamesh, written by some unknown poet/warrior five or six thousand years ago (written somewhere in that very same Tigris Valley). It is the oldest story we have yet discovered; ironically, it reveals the eternal terror of war, and the savagery of man:
“As when one senses
Violence gathering its forces,
Soon there is no sound apart from it,
Not even one’s own thoughts in terror.”
Do we ever triumph over our Immortal Furies? Are we really ever little more than Hamas and Lekud? Or Sunnis and Sh’ias? Catholics and Protestants? Hindus and Muslims. The Blacks and the Whites?
Paralysed by our savage groupthink. Not really looking for truces, as we castigate violent time-honoured melodramas of prey versus predator – of us-versus-them – while we continue to recruit suicide bombers eager to die for our paradise lost. Never being able to promise more than an eternity of unclaimed maidens, chocolate cake, and gold brick roads for everyone.
Violence – the ever so easily imagined and admirable displacement of our eternal powerlessness. And our self-loathing.
The virgins await you!
Walk in the shoes of the garbage-pickers of India, or the shit collectors in Kenya (what shoes?), or beside the Nigerian oil-rig whores who swim in clap and HIV, and I promise you – I promise you – the smell of revolution will quickly seem to be only a well-thrown hand-grenade away.
But you are sitting here with a book in your hands. Maybe with a nice coffee and a cookie at your elbow.
How do you describe this deathly suffocating emptiness that grows from within the depths of your material middle-class discomfort? What rage do you choke on? Here in the land of plenty…when your life is like a wonderful and grand television commercial…where you have someone who cleans your toilet every three days.
Your life is not the forty-degree-stench of an Indian garbage dump. You are not one of the one hundred and forty million people in the world who literally live and work in our waste dumps. Your body is not racked by dysentery. Or shistosomiasis. You have three beautiful children – all scrubbed bright and clean. And they have lots of clean little friends. Sure, you live in a cul-de-sac ticky-tack matchbox; row upon row upon row – fenced in like docile cows in a feedlot. You smile your charming smile to the twenty-year old barista down in the lobby at work, and joyfully move electronic pieces of paper from your cubicle to someone else’s. And you start every day with a jog, a Body-Shop® Strawberry shower, and fortified orange juice. You have everything you need. Right?
Yet you still feel worthless – apparently,
– for no reason at all.
Why then do you feel so empty, when you have so much?
For what cause do you struggle?
Is it this season’s style?
The latest cellphone?
A new car?
You may, one day – if you think about it too much – inexplicably find yourself grasping the porcelain telephone, retching up a lifetime of pre-fabricated bullshit, vomiting your fifty-five hundred square foot house, and your four bathrooms, your Italian leather couch, your botoxed face, your wife’s 37C implants, the stainless steel kitchen, your 61” plasma television, king-sized bed, little blue pills, 800 count Egyptian cotton sheets, laptop-DVD-playstation-iPod, latte-maker. Regurgitating your spouse-kids-dog-cat-goldfish-hamster too tired to drive your daily two-hour commute to where you will perfunctorily move papers from here to there all the while fantasizing about that perky young barista down in the lobby who smiled at you from behind her perfect little twenty-year-old tits so hard – despite the fact you know you love your wife – the woody under your desk erecting for no one who will ever know it happened.
You have earned the leisure of your Muskoka chair, and your Sunday afternoon cocktails. Triumphant, you bask in the glow of free-enterprise millennium capitalism and your million-dollar cottage sunset. While over bar-be-ques heavy with ribs and steaks your friends spew self-congratulatory masturbations of their credit card successes. When you have mortgaged all your dreams-come-true, what the fuck happens then? What happens next? Do you wait until your son grows up and moves into his corner office, and together you go play a round of golf and have a pint of cold beer?
Is it enough to take that little blue pill every second Saturday night and for seventeen minutes remind your wife of why she really married you in the first place?
How, and to whom, do you lash out, when there are those who really suffer?
Do you simply lie on the bathroom floor, suffocating as the weight slowly presses down upon your chest? And your $1200 purebred Collie comes in to happily lick the vomit off your face as you lie there curled up and afraid; with the faint smell of lavender coming up off the cool white porcelain tiles to soothe you?
When God told us not to eat of the forbidden fruit did he already know that we would? When He sent His only child, did He already know this child’s forsaken fate?
Well… maybe…and/but what if…he didn’t?
What if he didn’t?
What if God isn’t omniscient?
He may be omnipotent. He might even be omnipresent. (But really, how can we tell?) But wouldn’t our ‘free will’ and His ‘omniscience’ be a contradiction of terms? Albert Camus thought so when he argued either we are not free and God the all-powerful is responsible for evil. Or we are free and responsible and God is not all-powerful.
It could explain why He didn’t just drown everyone the first time around and start over.
Surely God – even at His most optimistic – upon seeing Noah slobbering around on his hands and knees, dead drunk, and naked, on the deck of the ark, must have wondered why the hell He was bothering to save us.
I figure it must be because God was still an optimist that he didn’t throw Noah and his brood into the sea along with everyone else.
For it is a true optimist who believes most in what he does not yet know.
And isn’t this also what some people call Faith?
In the immediate weeks after Hurricane Katrina many of the animals at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans became very depressed because the people had stopped visiting them. The Zoo administrators had to ask the soldiers and emergency workers to take some time and walk through the zoo during their off hours in order to bring some happiness back to the animals.
The soldiers came and the animals were thrilled.
…I’ll ask you again …out of where do you think you were banished …and where else is there for you to go?
So… as you sit there on your stool: at the counter of this interstate diner…on this road that slices through the belly of America…
…you now still got the cajonnes to throw the eggs back?
Do you still want to tell the waitress her diner is a shithole on the Great American Road to nowhere…?
Do you still want to tell the cook in the back what you think of His cuisine?
Or… have your balls already curled up somewhere behind your prostate, and as you nervously look around for the ketchup…have you already made a mental note to tip the waitress graciously before you leave?
 For a full review of this sad tale visit Pamela Colloff’s “Road to Perdition”, Texas Monthly)