Thursday, February 28, 2013

Backwards Anniversary

At some point in the future
On this day, I will be dead.
I will not die on this day
(I promise, I will never die
in February)
But on this day
I will be dead.

I will be dead in February,
I will be dead in March.
I will be dead on Valentine's Day,
I will be dead on my birthday.
I won't be coming home for Christmas,
but I will be dead.

At some future point,
Everyone who knows me as a living person
will also be dead.
At some point, everyone who remembers me--
in whatever way people might remember me--
will also be dead.

All of my conceits, all of my schemes,
All of my loves and my meager humilities,
they will all be forgotten.

For now, however, I have a chihuahua
on my lap, a laptop balanced on my knee,
I smell like pachoulli, and there is caffeine
coursing through my veins.

There is classical music--I recognize very
few pieces by name--on the radio,
And I am still a little sweaty, still recovering
from a little virus that ambushed me
a few days back.

I celebrate this backwards anniversary
by sweating,
and maybe I'll have another cup of tea
before I head to work, tempting fate again
by using our interstate highway system.

But, no worries, it's still February.
So I know I'm safe.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Unless He Has His Freedom"

I posted a picture of Malcolm X on my Facebook page accompanied by one of his quotations: "You can't separate peace from freedom, because nobody can have peace unless he has his freedom". I immediately received an instant message from a...I'm not sure 'well meaning' is the right word...let's say 'generally polite' tea party sympathizer I know from high school.

"I find it hard that the guy with lenin on his cover page believes in freedom". He said.

It is true that I have a picture of Lenin as my cover page image, but I see no contradiction in a respect for Lenin and a belief in freedom. That is a conversation for another blog post, however, because the bottom line of my old acquaintance's argument was that how can I--a leftist--believe in freedom? After all, I voted for President Obama, and isn't he a Marxist? Isn't Marxism the absolute opposite of freedom?

If only President Obama were a Marxist.

President Obama is not a Marxist, and Marxism is not the opposite of freedom. If anything, Marxism--when fused with humanism--becomes synonymous with freedom.

When a right-wing American talks about freedom, they mean, essentially, allowing people to be left to their own devices. To a right wing American, a list of freedoms would be a list of things the government is not allowed to do to you, or to do for you.

That's all well and good as far as it goes, but the assumption that government is essentially malevolent, and that our class system is benevolent and naturally inclined to reward merit where it lies, is deeply flawed. 

To steal from a piece I wrote in January entitled 'The Owners Are Getting Scared":
"You are likely to die in the class you are born into. Inherited wealth gives a person an unfair advantage. Being born into a privileged class gives a person an unfair advantage.Yes, a person can rise from the bottom to the top, but what do they have to become to do so? What do they have to sacrifice? I guarantee you a privileged person who rose to the same level did not sacrifice as much. And what if you don't have the killer instinct? What if you just want to live a simple life, and not participate in the rat race? Should you have to work so hard? Yes, the man born with sand bags tied around his legs can still hypothetically 'win the race', but why not take off those sand bags and see how he does? Why not give him the option of not even running the damned pointless thing in the first place?"
True freedom is not available in the United States. Not yet. As the much maligned and misunderstood Lenin put it:  
“Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in ancient Greek republics: Freedom for slave owners.” 
Those of us in the United States who are poor are free to survive, but only just. We are free to pour our labor into machines we do not own to create products for the truly free to sell, and to gain profit from. We are free to have as many children as the labor force requires, but we are not free to be parents to those children, because capitalism is an enemy of families. In capitalism, families are production units, pumping out as many additional units as the system requires to secure the privilege of those who run the system. When we are used up, we can go ahead and die.

That is not freedom. And because that is not freedom, there will be no peace. Neither should there be.



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cats and Dogs

"I have no active dislike for dogs. . . but for the cat I have entertained a particular respect and affection ever since the earliest days of my infancy. In its flawless grace and superior self-sufficiency I have seen a symbol of the perfect beauty and bland impersonality of the universe itself, objectively considered; and in its air of silent mystery there resides for me all the wonder and fascination of the unknown. The dog appeals to cheap and facile emotions; the cat to the deepest founts of imagination and cosmic perception in the human mind." - H.P. Lovecraft
  I tend to agree with this sentiment completely, although, I think I may finally understand you dog people. I can't exactly describe why, but I love my little chihuahua to death. It's true he's nearly comatose most of the time, but I think that's part of his charm. I look forward to seeing him when I get home from work, and I talk to him like I would a person, and I think I might take his opinion more seriously than I take other people's opinions. Schopey's a solid dude, and way more together than I would be if someone had surgically removed my balls. 
 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

To The World, From A Shelter Worker

Dear World,

The people who sleep in our shelter are not bums. They are not losers or loafers looking for a handout. They are soldiers who are fighting for their lives.

They are fighting in a war that is as old as mankind itself: the war is being fought over justice.

If you want to get the best possible picture of who us shelter workers are and what we do, maybe it would be best to imagine trench warfare in World War I. Our clients are the soldiers in the trenches--some of them don't even realize they are in battle--and we are the red cross. We are there to support them in their battle, to understand the nature of their wounds--wounds that were caused or exacerbated by an unjust system, have no doubt about that--and to ultimately support them on their way to an individual victory (housing and stability) and to a collective victory (justice).

Like the soldiers and support workers in war, we have to have faith that this is a battle that can be won. We have to believe that by raising enough awareness, and providing enough of the right kind of support to the soldiers on the front lines, we can make a positive and lasting change in the lives of each of the residents in our shelters, and can permanently improve the lives of those suffering from poverty.

I am writing this letter from the United States of America. We are one of the richest countries in the world, and many of our fellow citizens live beneath the poverty line. They sleep under bridges. They suffer from physiological conditions that could be eliminated or managed if they were only properly cared for. We have a lot of work to do in the United States.

We have a lot of work to do the world over, and that work has to begin by changing the way we look at poverty, homelessness, justice and equality.

There is a war on. Where do you stand?

Sincerely,

A Shelter Worker



Saturday, February 16, 2013

Morning Inventory

I wake up this morning glad for breakfast and dinner (I often skip lunch)
Glad for waking up, glad for showers, glad for brushing my teeth.
I am glad for the sound of kids in the next room playing (because they usually get up before me)
Glad for the smell of coffee, even though I can't drink it because of my ulcers.

I wake up glad for my weekly therapy session. Glad for the morning lexapro and b12 supplement.
Glad for the 10 wimpy push-ups, glad for tying my tie on the week-day, and glad for my t-shirt
on the weekend. Glad for my pajamas, glad for the chihuahua on my lap, glad for the kiss from my wife. Glad for the every now and then fight.

I am glad that my job requires that I compose a monthly report. I am glad for each chewed fingernail, each shave, each papercut, each shit and piss, each valerian pill at bed time, each orgasm (alone or with a friend), and each song I sing (alone or with a friend). I am glad for valentine's day, Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and every birthday. I am glad every time I fill up the tank.

These irregular and regular landmarks are the things that make up my life, and each time I hit one of these landmarks brings me closer to the last one. Every time I hug my kids brings me closer to the last time I will hug my kids. Every time I pet my dog, make love to my wife, read a book, watch a movie, wash a dish, stand in a line...

I am glad for these events, because without them the scenery would never change, there would be no filters, and it would all be over much too goddamn fast.

Monday, February 11, 2013

This is my new intro song.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Delusions & Successes

The other day I made the following proclamation on Facebook:

"The religious mind cheapens poetry by insisting that it also be literally true; the mountains do not actually hear your cries. Your heart does not tell you who to love. The Sand Man doesn't seduce you to sleep, there are no Gods in heaven, and there is no heaven. Poetry is beautiful because it points to things we cannot describe. It allows us to characterize that which cannot be adequately characterized by plain language. Poetry points to something higher (or lower) without being that higher or lower thing. The lord is truly with us, but that is because the lord is something we have invented."
I believe this statement to be true, but stream of consciousness thinking following the ensuing conversation led me to consider another topic I've been mulling over lately: is a certain degree of delusion necessary for any big success?

Recently my wife and I watched a brief A & E biography on Lenin. According to the narrative it established, no one could have expected him to emerge from the overthrow of the Czar as the leader of a socialist Russia. No one, that is, except for himself. He was regarded as a tool by the Germans, who gleefully shipped him into Russia to help destabilize the new government. He was viewed as an incindiary nut case by the majority of his own marxist party, as well as the opposing marxist party. It was only his own internal, unwavering faith in his own inevitable role as leader of the inevitable revolution that kept him moving.

Another image has been floating around in my mind: a meme that popped up on my tumblr dashboard that I initially saw as only humorous, but began to apply a deeper significance to as time went on. The image shows Kanye West walking past an outdoor diner with his entourage, when someone yells 'No talent!' at him. Kanye responds, 'That doesn't make any sense! I'm Kanye West!'. His response isn't jesting, or self deprecating: it's delivered as a pure, matter-of-fact correction, and it's wonderful. People either love Kanye or hate him, but he has succeeded, and the secret of his success can probably be extracted from that moment.

So, religion cheapens poetry, but is it necessary for some folks on some level? I can tell you, detaching myself from my religious delusions was a painful process, that could have easily ruined me. I believe I am the type of person who has the predisposition for faith; even as an atheist, my first instinct is to instill a lot of significance into dreams, patterns, and coincidences. I still have a strong prayer instinct. There are all kinds of problems with faith-based recovery programs, but many people benefit from them. In these programs, surrender to some kind of higher power is key.

It has been stated by Richard Dawkins and his other horsemen that it is condescending to suggest that oneself may be capable of shedding the vice of faith, but others--presumably 'simpler' folk--may need it. First, many of the religious people I know are far from 'simple'. Many are fare more erudite than myself. But maybe, like me, they are inclined towards faith. Some of them are investing themselves heavily into it, by training to become pastors. The more a person builds on a certain foundation, the less likely they are to abandon it, and the more difficult such an abandonment would be. While another religious characteristic I still possess is the evangelical impulse, I am hesitant to challenge such foundations too thoroughly; partially because it's not really any of my business, and partially because I am beginning to notice the connection between a certain amount of delusion and success.

The world seems to tell those of us with ambition that our ambitions are unrealistic. Foreign looking things scare our essentially conservative nature. We have much more friends and supporters* after we have succeeded than we do before we have succeeded. Therefore to succeed, we need tenacity. We need to believe in ourselves, even if the odds are against us. This kind of faith takes many different forms, but I'm coming to believe it is essential for success.

UPDATE:

As soon as I posted this, an alternate thought occurred to me: Maybe I'm wrong. All kinds of examples flowed into my mind supporting the notion that people generally end up doing what they really want to do (I mean *really* want to do). Maybe it's not delusional at all to expect success that you are willing and possessed to work towards. Maybe the real delusion is to give up on your goals because you internalize the belief that you won't succeed if you work towards them.


*and enemies and detractors...before we succeed, the world gives us something worse than enemies: indifferent and apathetic parties who only naysay and condescend.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

January Status Updates

Jan 30: Langston asked to watch star trek as soon as he woke up this morning. I have succeeded as a parent.

Jan 29: Leon trotsky is my spirit brother.

Jan 27: I don't know about you, but i was pretty fucking productive today.

Jan 27: Mopping the floor is one of the most thankless jobs in the world. I guarantee you; even Mother Theresa, The Dalai Llama, and Oprah have walked across a still-wet floor as it was being mopped. If there is a God, and if that God is good, no person who pushes a mop for a living will ever go to hell.

Jan 26: Children are born with an instinct to get themselves in trouble. The job of the parent is to decide whether to teach the child how to get out of or avoid that inevitable trouble altogether, or to teach the child how to elevate that inevitable trouble to an art form.

Jan 25: Jack on Daniel Tosh: "He's a jerk. I want to go on his show and kick him in the balls."

Jan 24: Listening to Catholic radio just now, I heard an advertisement for a 'pro-life plumber'. Why is a plumber's position on abortion a recommendation for their services? Are we afraid the plumber will perform an abortion on our toilet? In that case, wouldn't a pro-choice plumber be even better at the job? What other random political issues should I be tracking for the people I hire to do jobs? I have a pretty good idea what the guy who cuts our grass thinks about immigration, but what about my dentist? Should he have a specific position on the debt ceiling?

Jan 22: Homemade brand chocolate chip ice cream is never a mistake.

Jan 19: It doesn't even matter if the other noises in the house make it hard to hear what he's saying, sometimes it's nice to just have garrison keillor's voice in the background.

Jan 17: A church sign in otr reads 'try jesus: if you don't like it, the devil will gladly take you back." translation: satan will always be there for you.

Jan 17: There are so many wrong answers to the problems of life, and so few right ones. Trying to live morally is a truly humbling endeavor.

Jan 15: Langston was walking through the living room with a full cup of milk, and when some of it spilled he said, "No, milk! Don't do that!" Ah. My kids are cuter than yours.

Jan 15: I don't know why it's considered offensive to call white people 'white bread': it's true that white bread is the least healthy member of the bread family, but it's also the tastiest. Satan would have had an easier time with recruitment if he went around offering folks a nice buttered slice of freshly baked white bread instead of apples. #ruminations over morning toast

Jan 13: The sign in front of the local catholic church reads "may you live every day of your life." i like it.

Jan 8: The only thing i miss about religion is praying for my kids before leaving for work in the morning: i always felt like i was leaving them in good hands (Although it occurs to me now that I am leaving the kids in good hands when I go to work; their mother's hands, and their own hands).

Jan 7: Al Sharpton expends twice the amount of energy formulating a sentence as the average person. It almost seems like the more mundane the statement, the more energy he will invest in making it. Also, it's good that he's gotten into shape, but he's one of those guys who looks weird skinny. That sums up all of my opinions and observations about Al Sharpton.

Jan 7: I think I'm going to start talking to people the way characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation talk to each other. Example: (looks at a wall, adopts a condescending tone of voice) "You know, in humanity's distant past we used to eat paint chips. We don't do that anymore."

Jan 5: One week without energy drinks, and I did it all without Jesus.

Jan 4: Some time last night i think i finally accumulated enough life experience to adequately appreciate e.e. cummings.

Jan 1: My wife is outside working on the car while i make dinner and watch the kids. You know, typical husband/wife stuff.