The abyss of freedom

Lost my house key. Left it hanging in the lock for hours and now it’s gone; someone took it. Or it’s in a spot that should be obvious but I’ll never see it. My key is buried in my buttcheek while I walk around with a mysterious ass pain all day looking for lost items.

They always say well what did you do when you got home. Retrace your steps. What’s the last thing you remember doing before you lost it. As though I could remember a series of actions I’ve repeated billions of times every unmemorable day of my adult life. I wasn’t there when any of it happened. Those moments don’t exist, they have no substance.

If I’d walked through the door and a man in a paper burger king crown raped me and left me for dead then I could give you something. Reconstruct my movements leading up to the event and work through the trauma. I would say I probably lost the key right around the time I was raped. Otherwise I have no idea.

If I could remember what I was doing or where I was when I lost my key I wouldn’t have lost it. What am I, a Buddhist monk? Is every step I take a deliberate exercise of centering myself in the mystical present? Do I study every second and wring it for every precious detail?

I’m not an old man but I’m old enough to not care about what I’m doing most of the time. 99 percent of any day is a bridge that burns once I walk over it. I don’t remember how I felt or what was happening around me. I can’t go back. Once it’s over it’s gone forever.

So what was I doing when I lost my key. I walk around in this cocooned state of distracted grumbling and overheated ranting and until I step in dog shit or the air conditioner falls out of the window I’m not aware, I’m not attentive. Something beautiful and subtle is always unfolding but there’s a spiritual fog in front of my face and I don’t see it.

Miracles of creation and breathtaking works of art all around me. But I don’t notice or care because I’m fuming and fantasizing, regretting my lost youth or fearing future sorrows. My inner life is a screen saver, a cycle of stock images and phrases. I have to project rehashed scenes. Can’t be blank, can’t leave space for experiencing something new that might change me.

There’s a burger king a quarter mile from my house. So now I eat there three or four times a week. I tell people I eat at burger king a couple times a week in a self deprecating way but I eat there more frequently than that. There are limits to what I’m willing to admit even when I’m trying to make myself look bad for comedic effect. There’s a line you inch toward where it’s funny to be a little pathetic and dysfunctional and beyond that it just makes people uncomfortable.

Only I know the truth of how often I drive my borrowed 94 cavalier through the burger king drive through for two double cheeseburgers and a medium French fry. Which costs just under 6 dollars.

It’s a tasty, affordable and convenient meal for a man with a nonworking stove and a leaking, rattling air conditioner who makes no money and has to spend a hundred dollars replacing the lock on his door because he left the key outside and a feral methhead took it and is now plotting to break in and shit everywhere and steal the cat.

The joke is on whoever breaks into this house. Once they see the inside they will be moved by pity to leave me a television set and soothing drugs. Rethink their degenerate life of opportunistic crime. They’ll find nothing of value, nothing that works. But the thought of someone in this neighborhood of toothless hillbillies and stunted mongrels having 24 hour access to my shitshack makes my skin crawl.

And I already sleep so poorly that the slightest possibility that my one door could be effortlessly opened in the night with one quick key turn would destroy any chance of me getting some rest and escaping this waking hell for even a second.

I eat at burger king now but who cares. I’m poor. It’s time I accept this. I will not receive proper dental care. My teeth will rot. I will not receive proper health care. Various parts of my body will break down and my organs will wither and there will be no money or time to fix anything. I won’t be able to claw my way out of debt but I won’t qualify for help from the government either.

I eat like a post apocalyptic mutant picking through the rubble of civilization and I compromise the security of my house and identity and lose keys and debit cards and licenses all the time. I’m never not on the verge of doing something stupid that wipes out the pittance I’ve put together from months of toil. And apart from my own negligence something is always breaking down, in need repairs or replacement parts, updates and check ups.

Your old version of this thing is no longer compatible with our new version. You pay to find out what’s wrong and then you pay to fix it. You pay inscrutable, unaccountable organizations to help you pay for your diseased body, broken appliances and collapsing house. They continuously bleed you just enough over time so they can prevent a disaster from destroying you. So they can keep bleeding you.

My computer, my phone, my stove, my toilet, the car that isn’t even mine. All this stuff slated to stop working, to slow down and make ominous rumbling and whirling noises and then explode seconds after the warranty expires. All these carelessly constructed objects that start out as luxury toys for the idle rich and end up as grinding necessities for all strata of society. Forced to practice the modern art of electronic husbandry. It’s maintaining a stable of ill bred but expensive horses that die without warning. You want to say fuck these horses but you can’t keep a job or friends without them.

Society will shun you for not holding a time bomb in your hands until it blows up in your face. We don’t just live somewhere and work and know the people around us. We have to connect and know what what’s happening to everyone every moment of the day. Work to buy and maintain devices we have to carry everywhere and keep charged so we can respond within seconds to every text no matter what we’re doing, hurtling 85 down the interstate, making love, performing open heart surgery or having our prostates removed.

So we can respond to every text and email and reassure ourselves and everyone else that our lives aren’t sucking holes of meaning punctuated by violent fluctuations between ecstasy and anxiety. The second the noise dies down and you’re not tweeting, texting, updating your blog, looking up restaurant reviews or scrolling through an infinite feed of gargantuan, artificially enhanced asses on instagram the despair begins to percolate in your bowels like an oncoming bout of cataclysmic diarrhea. What if no one knows where I am or what I think about the latest mental spasm of an unqualified celebrity. Sounds like freedom but as we all know by now freedom is terror and we’ll put ourselves through anything to avoid it.

My house

My house is punishment for every bad thing I’ve ever done. It’s a test. When will I have a meltdown in this incubator of insanity. Right now the air conditioner is making a sound that will haunt the dreams I have when I’m dead. It sounds like plastic popcorn is popping at an ear piercing volume. I can’t focus on anything else. Trying to write makes me want to punch myself.

The air conditioner that I had to break out because the vengeful spirit of the indian returned for one last hurrah of humidity. It’s 88 degrees and the house is baking me alive. I thought I could live without an air conditioner but the septic glaze of the dying summer in the white ghetto of indianapolis is too much. My skin is glistening with the film of decrepit air. The atmosphere has its hands on my throat and its foot on my chest. I needed relief so I lugged a 70’s era lithuanian air conditioner out from the storage room and forced it into an ungainly position in an awkwardly sized window where it rattles and hums and leaks into the carpet.

I didn’t want to put the air conditioner in the window because it doesn’t fit. More bugs will get in. They’ll find comfortable lodgings here. Perfect for eating and fucking and spewing thousands of eggs in crevices and corners, in the sink and bathtub, within rotting wood panels and cabinets, under piles of dirty clothes and inside my shoes. They will invite their friends and families in the hundreds of millions and build neighborhoods and hang out all day on their porches in stained wife beaters with their engineless el caminos sitting on cindar blocks in patches of overgrown weeds.

My house is a psychological experiment run by the government, a grim, disavowed mind control program that rogue intelligence agents designed to shatter my personality so they can rebuild my tattered self into the ideal, featureless, anhedonic operative. The toilet fails to flush. I keep the lid off the tank so I can fiddle with the float valve until the toilet wheezes and gurgles and musters the minimum of force to suck down the fetid water. Getting a clean bowl means flushing in four or five stages with several hours between each flush. By the time it’s clean it’s time for me to desecrate it again. Keeping my toilet clean was the unreported 13th herculean labor.

I’ve painted the walls of my kitchen and living room. The fresh paint masks the smell of cigarettes. But I haven’t painted my bedroom yet. Its walls are the color of decay. A delinquent youth broke into the house when it was unoccupied and carved fuck you into the wall next to the window. I stare at the vicious etching of a ward of the state every night before I fall asleep. I begin to agree with him. Fuck me. Even when I repaint that wall the message of a mouthbreathing vandal will remain, engraved in eternity, taunting me as I toss and turn in the unforgiving night.

The kitchen has no drawers. There’s a thin curtain covering the piping underneath the sink. There are soft spots in the floor, spots that give when you step on them. One sleepless night I will take a fatefully heavy step and a hideous, groaning, cracking sound will be the last thing I hear as I fall through the floor into a damp, sightless hell where salamanders and fungus will feast on my body.

My house is on the corner of a street populated by poor whites and mexicans. The sidewalks are cluttered with garbage, broken furniture, car parts and bramble. There’s a drain right outside and there must be raw sewage flowing underneath because everytime I step outside I’m hit with the toxic stench of a thousand unwashed assholes. 400 pound white women with front loaded blubber push their caramel colored children in strollers. Wegros walk around in oversized basketball apparel. The surroundings of my house are dirtier and more depressing than the inside.

I’m not enough of an artist to justify this kind of poverty. This isn’t romantic destitution. This isn’t the price I gladly pay for devoting myself to a higher calling beyond the material realm of wealth and comfort. I crowbar a sliver of time out of my schedule to type to no one for nothing. I might as well be religious.

Weekend review

It will cost me 575 dollars to fix my mac book air. So I’m not fixing it. I have a new laptop now. It’s a Lenovo. Going from a mac book to a Lenovo is like driving a bmw for years and then having to drive a pinto. I know as little about cars as I know about laptop computers, but I do have a grasp of similes so I think this one works.

The only reason I have a computer is to throw more words at the internet. Otherwise I hate computers and the internet. I hate smartphones and social media, digital mobs, outrage feeding frenzies and social justice dogpiles. Twitter feeds and tumblrs and hashtags and memes. It’s all contributing to the warp speed industrial strength retardation of humanity.

We’re not better off with our new toys and endless jawing but that’s not how addiction works. It’s not about happiness, fulfillment or pleasure. Once you’re hooked you forget about flourishing. You lose sight of who you were before you found that thing you can’t stop doing. Your body falls apart and your mind revolves faster and faster around the drug, person, habit or idea. You hear nothing, you see nothing, you feel nothing apart from your desire to score another high, to make more money, have more sex and get more likes.

The scope of your vision shrinks down into a keyhole through which you unblinkingly stare. Your eyeballs dry out and you look like a raving fiend but it doesn’t matter. You don’t exist without your fix.

We’re always teetering on the brink of soul numbing fixations and destructive behavior patterns. They knew this back in the days of the bible. Back when everyone was covered in dust and grime and menstrual blood and ate bread hard as stone and performed rituals to ward off evil spirits. And executed anyone caught buttfucking and called for the death and enslavement of rival tribes.

Deficiently socialized atheists insult bronze age beliefs in between bags of fritos and marathon hentai sessions. We’re so much smarter now, they say, having contributed less than nothing to knowledge, sunning themselves in the light of other people’s intelligence. But those bronze age bigots were onto something; they had insight into moral and social problems we’re still grappling with today.

New technology in a new era is a variation on an old theme: the ever present possibility of corruption and perversion. You can keep going back in time to find another technological invention or political revolution that changed everything for the worse. Globalism, television, Fordism, industrialization, nationalism, democracy, the advent of Christianity and the fall of rome, domestication, agriculture and standing up on two legs.

At every decisive point in the past there were people who saw the latest change as the end of humanity. And there have always been apologists for progress. Slick, glib optimists with their smarmy enthusiasm and sophistical arguments. Riding on the flume of time, cheering with their hands up as they plunge into the false promises of the future. We will never stop losing our way. Our history is one long downfall with a few moments of uplift.

I’m a product of this era of overstimulated idiocy and when I don’t have instant internet access I get nervous and think about death. The trappings of Christianity are absurd but its core message is essential: We need salvation. And we need help getting there.

We can improve our condition but every improvement brings new setbacks. As long as we’re in time we’ll need transcendent assistance. No earthly effort will make white people want to live around blacks. Totalitarian thought and speech control can’t turn trannies into healthy individuals who don’t fester with hostility.

Muslims won’t become agents of progress and  we won’t defeat mortality by sticking our dicks into usb ports and merging our bodies with technology. We’re still going to get sick and die, we’re still going to fear and distrust outsiders, identify with people who look and sound like us and we’ll still want more than we deserve.

You can treat someone with respect but they’ll still degrade themselves. You can throw thousands of your own people in front of rolling gatling guns to free an enslaved group but one hundred and fifty years later their descendants will still browbeat you and bellyache and rise to fame writing borderline illiterate, overlong essays with purple prose, strained metaphors and tedious, incantatory rhetoric that resonates with artless, alienated, masochistic liberals.

But the great beyond still offers a glimmer of hope for us all. And within this world of sadness there are sunrises and sunsets, the majesty of birds taking flight, expertly extracted shots of espresso, fine phrases and the enduring bonds of love between mothers and daughters and fathers and sons.

From dreams to nightmares

Borrowed computer. My girlfriend’s mom’s dell. I’m driving a borrowed car. Renting a hovel. In debt. I own nothing.

Tried to get the internet at my house today. It’s a fiber optics package. Supposed to be faster than cable. The guy from at&t came by and told me he can’t install whatever magic box or radiating ether pole I need to absorb internet rays because my human rights violation of a home is right next to my neighbor’s house, and my neighbor’s house is blocking the space where the tech guy needs to work.

So now I need to talk to my neighbor and ask him if a strange man from at&t can put a mysterious device in his backyard. I’ve talked to my neighbor once and I didn’t understand a word he said. He’s mexican and when he spoke to me I couldn’t tell if he was speaking english or spanish or something else. I nodded and said okay every few words.

The cellar beneath my house is right out of a Stephan King novel. Yesterday I peered into it. I lifted the rotting wooden lid and felt the souls of the damned rush up and whirl around me. It’s darker and damper than those unexplored caves miles underneath the ocean floor. There are slithering, translucent creatures down there, eyeless from a thousand years of evolution in a dank pit. Asbestos and the bones of murdered indian shopkeepers litter the molded ground.

I bought a humidifier because every morning I’ve been hacking up a pound of phlegm. Fluid fills my lungs and I sneeze out a greenish grey mucous. It violently launches out and stings my arm or hand. Almost burns through whatever it touches like the blood of the xenomorph.

Every two hours or so the humidifier fills up. Probably two liters of water sucked out of the air in my living room. I’m turning into an amphibian. In a year I’ll have gills. But I’m still happy. I’m happy because I’m working and doing my best even though my best isn’t good. I remind myself, many, many times a day that it could be worse.

I don’t have time to edit. I’m writing on a borrowed computer in my cafe and it’s closing soon. So this what I can offer for now. The consolation of working in less than ideal conditions is that I have an excuse for why I’m not as good as I could be.

Trump ended daca and I’m behind. It happened five plus days ago which is equivalent to prehistory. There are already billions of bits of data floating around smothering the subject. Within seconds of the news breaking the tweets and blog posts and status updates and youtube clips splattered all over the walls of the internet. Responses to responses to comments on comments. Stochastic babble.

We don’t have time to think about anything anymore. Thought doesn’t take place in time. We react to the stimulus of our enemy’s every move in the blinding flash of an atomic instant. No one says hey let’s wait and see or hmm I’m not sure what to think about that. We always know exactly how we feel and know exactly why other people are wrong. Here are ten search engine optimized reasons why.

Everything Trump does is always the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind. Progressives believe the past is full of oppression and enslavement and racism but also that an offhand Trump tweet is unprecedentedly repulsive. These are people who dwell on the atrocities and crimes and barbarities of our blood drenched racist history but when a country bloodlessly protects its borders they pass out and shit their pants from shock and rage.

How could we deport 800,000 DREAMERS? That’s what we call them and everything’s in a name. That’s why the left calls people who break the law and cross our border without undergoing the legalization process undocumented immigrants. In reality they’re criminals. You don’t get to decide whether or not the law applies to you or anyone else. You can change a law but the left prefers warping the fabric of reality through renaming and hysterics to soften people up first.

How could anyone deport a dreamer? They’ll hold up a picture of a tearful toltec and talk about his three minimum wage jobs. Say he’s studying to become an aerospace engineer and that he increases our country’s gdp so what’s your problem, bigot? Don’t you want to a more powerful economy?

The economic argument is a trap, a distraction. People get bogged down in arguing over whether or not increased immigration benefits or harms the economy when it’s a secondary issue, a debate for nerds. You’re allowed to restrict immigration because you don’t want your country to turn into a different country with an alien people and clashing culture, however rich or poor it may be. Your loyalty should lie with your people and not hinge on which policies and how many migrant workers will net you the biggest pile of baubles and trinkets. Cultural cohesion is much more important than a marginal increase in economic output.

Do you want your neighborhoods to be organically American or do you want to numb yourself to the third world invasion of your homeland with gadgets marketed to you by people who hate you and want you dead? Do you prefer gorging on tacos and streaming entertainment to preventing your families and communities from disintegrating?

There’s nothing shameful about wanting aesthetic continuity in your society and in your offspring. It’s not noble and enlightened to deny the tension and discord of ethnic and religious diversity. And having children who look like you and will carry on your ways is a fundamental, ineradicable drive. Disowning yourself and your legacy isn’t moral, it’s cowardly and feeble.

Don’t twist yourself into a knot justifying your natural, healthy aversion to getting swamped by grubby, stubby foreigners. Is it better or worse for the economy to open the immigration floodgates? Who cares. Some libertarian bugman on a sinecure will always be able to cook the books and make unfettered immigration look like an economic boon. So what. The battle should be fought on other grounds. If you argue that immigration is bad for the economy they’ll call you a racist anyway.

Of course I want more people around who I can’t understand, who look on me with indifference, suspicion or hostility. I love discontinuity and ugliness and pretending we can make up for the lack of a shared past with platitudes and facebook posts. Overpopulation and overcrowding don’t bother me. We can always build more mud huts.

But immigrants do hurt our economy, so contrary to the longings of my heart we’ll have to limit them. I have no sense of belonging to a particular place or people but I do want more money and toys. If you can definitively show me that immigrants will give me more shiny things then I’ll have no problem with them.

People act as though America never accomplished anything without indian tech coolie labor or squat mestizos washing dishes in diners when it was Americans who built and fought for the country that became the envy of the world. I don’t recall migrant mexicans freezing their feet off at valley forge, writing and signing the declaration of independence, drafting the constitution, winning the war of 1812, ending slavery or defeating the nazis and imperial japan in world war 2. As far as I know hondurans haven’t been at the forefront of the technological, political and medical innovations of the modern era.

But now that hundreds of years of toil and sacrifice are behind us, America is a land of opportunity for everyone but actual Americans. Every alien tongued, unscrupulous opportunist is given a gushing invitation to come and skim some wealth off the top of centuries of achievement while our native stock is ridiculed, threatened and displaced.

Always pushing the human interest angle, (because they have nothing else) the left loves to point to a besmirched brown face or a refugee’s body bloating on the shore rather than come up with a decent argument. When you oppose them they chide you for your heartlessness and cruelty, which is always, each time, unlike anything they’ve ever seen. Those children, those dreamers didn’t do anything, it’s not their fault. They have no home. 

Yes, the dreamers were children when their parents broke the law. They didn’t choose their lot. But here I’m reminded of a concept as old as it is pertinent to this situation: the sins of the fathers are visited upon their children.

Our actions don’t just affect ourselves; they redound on our loved ones, they structure the course of our descendants. And that should be a serious disincentive. The parents who broke the law foolishly jeopardized their children’s future on a gamble that the country they invaded would repay their transgressions by pampering their progeny. And for a brief, glimmering moment, that risk seemed to pay off.

Not anymore. When justice comes to its senses, it strikes the senseless as cruelty.

Journal of the blessedly deprived

Writing from the public library. My macbook air, the most electronically opulent purchase of my life, is dead. I sank my savings into that gleaming piece of garbage because I’d heard it would last a long time. I’ve had it for two years, which is long enough for the warranty to expire. So it cost me 70 dollars for the apple people to diagnose it. They haven’t told me what’s wrong with it or how long it will take to fix.

But I’m determined to write and post, to weather the storms of privation with good cheer or ironic detachment. I’m willing to sit in the library among the vagabonds and public masturbators until I’ve sufficiently practiced my craft and contributed to our esteemed global discourse.

My bed finally arrived yesterday. Last night I slept like a king. It was so soft, so comforting and supportive. Then my computer died and I parked in front of a hydrant and got a ticket. So that’s another 75 dollars. The lord giveth and he taketh away.

The less time I spend on the internet the happier I am. Maybe I won’t get my laptop back. Maybe I’ll write by hand and post from the library every couple of days. The only thing I miss about the internet is writing; the rest is spiritual crack, a series of cheap, dirty highs and an increasing sense of despair and anxiety.

There’s always something else to do. Something with greater primacy, something more tangible, visceral and engaging. Walking, working out, playing an instrument, writing, building and repairing physical objects and being with people. Your parents, wife or girlfriend, your extended family, kids, friends, pets and plants. Go be with them. Do nothing, sit in silence rather than poke at screens and absorb the neuroses of hundreds of dislocated strangers.

We’re not designed to process so many conflicting opinions. We can’t consume and digest a bottomless feed of information. I haven’t had consistent access to wifi for a week and I’m already noticing a difference in my attention span. Books are becoming a pleasant diversion again rather than a tedious task.

And I’m thinking about the hyper-refined conditions of my writing. For years now I’ve been writing on a word processor while listening to music through headphones, typing with abandon, my thoughts keeping pace with my fingers flying over the keyboard as I backspace and delete with careless rapidity.

Thoughts come easier and cheaper when you can generate text so quickly and effortlessly. And the moment I feel boredom bubbling up I have open tabs awaiting me. I can dull the discomfort of a blocked thought or poorly expressed idea with a trip to youtube or cnn.com.

I don’t need to know what I’m writing about until I open a mainstream news site. Then I can pick from six inane op-eds and base my next piece on what some airheaded journalist said. Or browse comments sections and fuel my efforts with bile and exasperation.

And if I need to research a topic I can use wikipedia. If I need to check spelling or find another word there are online dictionaries and thesauruses. It takes seconds to track down the information I need. In contrast, I wonder how fluidly and consistently I could write if I had to do it with a pen and paper, if I needed books, encyclopedias and dictionaries sprawled out around me.

The shape and pace of my thoughts would change. The medium isn’t the message but it does influence and structure what we say. Writing on a personal laptop isn’t the same as writing on a public computer in a library. And typing isn’t the same as writing with a pen and writing with a pen isn’t the same as writing with a quill.

My session is running out. This was written quickly in an unfamiliar place without mood setting music. The disheveled ambiance of the library is hard to ignore but I have to write. I’m also out of the loop on the latest political developments. I know Houston is underwater and Trump is crushing the dreams of the children of criminals by rescinding daca. More on that later.

Etudes

First weekend in a new city. Autumn is in the air. There’s a hint of decay; the breeze is an ongoing sigh.

The internet offers me nothing. My brain is blank. Writing is unlike any other art; it demands a subject. You can practice other arts without having anything to say. Not feeling musically creative but want to stay sharp? Play scales. Practice other musician’s songs. Need to brush(ha) up on your painting but you’re uninspired? You can paint a portrait, a basket of fruit or a sunset. Everyday objects are plentiful. Pick anything, draw or paint it mechanically and you can still improve or at least pass the time.

You can take a picture or sculpt or refine any other artistic technique without original content. But you can’t cover other writer’s stories or poems. You can’t write senseless sentences or perform exercises. Practice coincides with performance. You either have something to say or you don’t. You’re either fertile or sterile.

The only way to practice writing without saying anything is to write about having nothing to say, which is tedious and precious. Writing is self indulgent enough when it explores a subject other than itself. So practicing scales on the guitar might be boring but writing strained sentences without a subject is morally and pragmatically questionable.

And there’s no appropriate ending to an exploration of nothing.

I’ve become a creature of the cafe, a saturday morning idler, a tendentious typer living on my laptop. And I’ve adapted to a lack of amenities. Right now I have to shit in public. Rather than bemoan the inconvenience I’m just glad there are clean working toilets I can use. There are worse places to be, like the turd clogged streets of india.

When you start with squalor, every little improvement or luxury brings genuine joy. I was happy to have new carpet in my house. Getting a fridge was like winning the lottery. At first I couldn’t sleep on the floor but after a few restless nights I’m now sleeping soundly. When I get a bed I’ll be in heaven. Much of our suffering stems from what we expect and desire. Freedom isn’t a given, it’s a product of control, of inner strength and discipline. We have an astonishing ability to adjust and achieve equilibrium in a wide range of conditions.

Stoicism combined with gratitude is the key to balance in a vertiginous world. Everything can be taken from you but your resolve.

Caffeine machine

Typing from the cafe where I work. My second home. More comfortable than my home. Better air and coffee, fewer bugs and stains of indeterminate origin. I wish I could sleep here since I have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and start working at 5. So far I’ve been unable to sleep in my new house because I don’t have a bed or an air conditioner. The refinements of civilization have made me weak.

It’s also the lack of weed. When I don’t smoke I stay awake. Watch the insides of my eyelids for hours. Acid trip reruns, fractal patterns playing on the folds of my brain. And then the horror show begins. I imagine bad things happening to me during the day when it’s beautiful, when the birds are singing and the sun is shining. Imagine how bad it gets at night when I can’t sleep in a stuffy shitbox apartment with a flimsy glass door in a poor part of town.

They call them home invasions. Sounds euphemistic, less brutal than the reality. Three masked men break into your house and before you can wake up and defend yourself they’re beating you with a pipe. They tie you to a chair and argue with each other over what they’re going to do with you. It’s only the beginning of the worst night of your life, the last night of your life. All those peaceful years, all that time you wasted worrying about things that would never happen culminating in one night of agony and then darkness forever.

But that doesn’t happen either. It’s just another nightmare, a defensive distraction from the deeper existential horror of aging day after day and never knowing if you’ve made the right choices. Have you wasted your time and is there anything other than wasting time. If there is then how do you know.

When you can’t sleep at 1 in the morning in a bug ridden shanty without an internet connection you realize there’s no such thing as being alone anymore. There’s pervasive loneliness but no solitude. No one goes out into the wilderness without diversions and devices and listens to the plaintive cries of nature and the murmurs of their own soul. We can’t hear the call of conscience over the low roar of netflix.

People often say they like being alone or that they don’t want to be around people. But what they mean is that they don’t want the pressure and discomfort of physical engagement. They’re still going to ensconce themselves in media. They’ll spend a night “alone” listening to podcasts and music, watching tv or movies. A multitude of voices and faces, compressed and digitized, giving them the pleasures of society without the pains.

When people are alone on a friday night they’re consuming human relationships without producing or maintaining them, without a corresponding effort. It’s easier to watch without being watched. It’s easier to judge than be judged. The unfathomable depth of another person generates anxiety while the glimmering surface of a moving image provides relief.

I have no media at home and can only post on my favorite forums and write blog entries when I find time to use the wifi at the cafe where I work. When I’m falling asleep in my chair because I’ve slept 3 hours I try to make a lucid contribution to debates on free speech and reflect on the erosion of personality, self reliance and creativity caused by unrelenting consumption.

Your mind occupies itself when there’s nothing to occupy it. You rouse a dormant ability to imagine, to think and reason for better and worse. Open yourself to concentrated self-torment and disquieting visions but also creative plots and characters, new hopes and possibilities, fresh insights and funny lines.

You have to wrestle with the demons dwelling in your spiritual nether regions rather than stupefying yourself with hours of streaming content crafted by media conglomerates. It can be grueling but there are rewards for percolating in the void.

I broke my toilet. It started running and the sound was driving me crazy so I tried to fix it. A huge mistake. I destroyed the float arm. I didn’t know the name of the part until I broke it. And that’s a lesson in how knowledge and consciousness work. We live as automatons until we encounter a problem and something collapses or threatens us. Then we’re forced to think, learn and make choices.

My dysfunctional toilet reminded me of how little I know about practical matters. I walk around all day contemplating the verities and toying with theories, criticizing, analyzing and speculating in the ether as I take the smooth functioning of our industrial infrastructure for granted. There’s always a simple interface concealing complex innards. We can all push buttons and pull levers, steer wheels and flush toilets but the real stewards of society are those who can take off the screens, lift the hoods and dig into the guts of our machines and keep them running so we can keep our fantasies of competence and brilliance alive.

I’m able to read ancient texts, evaluate arguments and browse message boards because my toilet typically flushes and I don’t have to worry about waste. Cars, buses, trains and planes free me from the burdens of tedious transport, stoves and fridges make cooking and food storage effortless and with all that extra time and brain power I can pretend to be a writer and use electronic devices I could never make or repair to entertain myself and distant readers.

Right now I’d be better off if I were a plumber.

Stranger than fiction but not as interesting

Went up to the house today. Finally met the ex-con working on it. Based on the landlady’s description I was expecting a sluggish, slurring ne’er-do-well. Instead he looked like a normal man. But he talked like a tweaker at the peak of a speed binge.

He said he knew he talked fast but he wasn’t on drugs. Never smoked or drank in his life. He’s been married multiple times and works on houses all over the city. Runs 30 rental properties and has a litter of kids. And he’s killed a man.

I couldn’t keep up with his manic monologue. He owned a store and shot a guy who tried to rob him and spent some time in prison. Admitted to being a bad guy but somehow not in a self deprecating way. He’s also a part time sheriff. There were other details I couldn’t catch. He needed to get carpet from his alcoholic friends. A few days ago he found a crackhead camping in the storage shed behind the house and had to beat him with a baseball bat.

He warned us about transients and told us if we had any problems with anyone to call him and he’d take care of it. I said maybe 10 words. At a normal pace our conversation would have taken 45 minutes. We were done talking in 10. He promised that the house would be done tomorrow. Seems a long shot but if he can work as fast as he can talk then it’s possible.

There’s no carpet and there’s no fridge. A piece of the back wall is still missing and the doors don’t fit the frames, leaving enough space for bugs, vermin, and crafty, persistent hobos to force their way in. At least he put in a stove and fixed the windows. An approximation of progress.

It would be timely if he finished tomorrow because that’s when I start working full time. If the house isn’t ready then I’ll stay with my girlfriends grandmother in the suburbs just outside of the city. Not ideal but not bad.

On one hand it’s unnerving to know that I’ll be living in a space where derelicts and castoffs have been squatting and getting high and shitting in corners. But on the other hand it’s comforting to know that I have the support of a man with no qualms about killing and beating people. So I feel safe enough.

At least I’m not in Texas, floating down a river of toxic sludge and rainwater. Trapped in a car for hours among soaked garbage, sewage, electronics and appliances, my house underwater, my possessions destroyed, looking for loved ones with fear and uncertainty swelling in my chest. I’m not living in the inaccessible wilderness. I’m not living in an urban war zone where I’m dodging bullets every day or constantly changing my route to get around freshly applied police tape.

There’s no threat of hurricanes hammering my shanty or a volcano exploding and blotting out the sun with ash. The earth heaving and rending itself underneath me, causing me to fall into its sweltering bowels. There are no nearby nuclear reactors melting down and microwaving my skin. I won’t wake up one day with a raw protuberance or scales or extra eyes from the fallout.

Terrorists aren’t plotting to bomb anything around me. They’ve probably never heard of this city or state. I won’t bounce off the hood of a Penske truck or have my entrails perforated with nails or scraps of metal. There’s a small chance of a tornado tearing the roof of my house off but I’d probably survive. And black people rob and shoot each other but that’s normal and easy and to avoid as long as you’re not black in the wrong neighborhood.

Indianapolis is a lovely city. It’s more like a giant small town than a city and that suits my current temperament and interests. I like the balance between the urban and the rural, a little sprawl and space with some density and commercial variety. The pollution isn’t bad by city standards.

I’ll be able to bike and walk to work and the grocery store and cut down on the tiresome driving. I’m getting chunky from all the sedentary transportation. It will be nice to lean out again and get back to cooking and moving more regularly.

It’s a pleasant and busy sunday. Even though there’s decent foot traffic in this part of the city, it doesn’t feel hectic and stressful. The midwestern atmosphere has a mollifying effect on my psyche. People are nicer and more patient.

First day working at full time wages and the tips are excellent. It’s a relief to lose myself in labor, to get away from the house and make some money. But late in the shift as I was closing I had a couple of those moments when you can feel the loneliness at the center of existence. I thought about my mom and her drooping posture, her body hunched over a laptop, drowning her evenings in facebook comments. Then I thought about friends I haven’t seen in years. Threads of the past wove themselves into a fabric of loss.

Everything comes undone, breaks apart and recedes from view. At the same time what passes tends to come back. Destruction is the engine of creation and nothing is the mother of something. No contact is close enough; the tenderest touch still affirms separation. Every conversation leaves something unsaid and desire always surpasses its objects. You can’t hold what you love tight enough and you can’t express your love or fear with the precision and sincerity they demand.

But we have to keep working, keep waking up in the early morning as the sun splits the sky. Put croissants in the oven and prepare to sell hundreds of cups of coffee, wipe down counters and exchange pleasantries and smile and laugh and hold back tears and anguish over the bewildering intensity of being alive. We know just enough to be anxious and need distractions and medication to prevent the dread and sadness from swallowing us whole.

It’s a little easier to bear when you’re busy. But it’s never gone, there is no resolution or perfection here.

 

In the clearing

The humidity has died down and so has my discontent. The air is crisp and light and breathing is easy. I’ve been taking long walks through my neighborhood, trying to see old spots with fresh eyes. When I can enjoy simple pleasures my anxiety vanishes and depression lifts.

And family drama has a way of resolving itself. We have our disagreements, our tension, but the love is deep enough to heal wounds and consistently renew fellowship. When I haven’t been walking I’ve been talking to my mom and sister. I’ll be moving again soon so I’m making the most of the time I have left here.

Not that I’m moving far away. I’ll be about an hour and a half north, living in a shanty and working in a cafe. Similar to my life in dc, only much closer to my family. I’ll also be reunited with my girlfriend, the woman who’s put up with my moodiness and indiscretion. We’ve endured it all in our time together: immaturity, selfishness, moving nearly a thousand miles away from our families, a tumultuous year in an alien land and then another year of separation.

I don’t deserve her love but I’m grateful for it. Just as I don’t deserve the love of my family but I’m also grateful for that. Only recently have I realized the importance of strong relationships with secure foundations developed and strengthened over time. The continuity of our history with others is an essential element of our own psychic soundness .

The stability of our relationships lends solidity and accuracy to our remembrance. A shared past is easier to hold down and memorialize than a discontinuous series of solitary experiences. This is one reason why promiscuity is so destructive and chaotic. The time you spend pursuing random partners to suit fleeting tastes rapidly dissolves, taking your sense of self with it. When you cut people out of your life chasing carnal novelty you lose your external connection to those shared moments and a considerable portion of who you were in those times.

Purely private recollection is dubious and fitful, but when you can confirm and reaffirm experiences with others who’ve been there with you over sustained periods you can put more trust in the past and feel more secure in the future. Our identity isn’t an image we project, a matter of fashion, taste or even belief. It’s the product of what we do for others and how we organically grow alongside them and become parts of a greater whole. Social ties don’t just bind separate people together, they also prevent individuals from shattering into fragmented, schizoid selves.

To be a mature, individual self, you need to be responsible for something outside yourself and capable of wanting the best for others without envy. To grasp this is to be capable of achieving a deeper happiness that isn’t dependent on amusement, aggrandizement and gratification or the transitory pleasures of youth. I haven’t lived this way for long but I feel hopeful about continuing to honor and advance the relationships that give my life security and depth.

There are moments when the storms of my undirected passions subside and I can find contentment in unstructured time with important people. My private ambitions and neuroses melt away and I’m left with the quiet grace and humble beauty of a simple life in good company.

Better to be right than to be free

By a downhill semantic slide, free speech now means evil nazi hate speech. Anyone who defends the right to freely speak your mind is tacitly endorsing slavery and jewnocide. This is political correctness turning tumorous. We live in an overwhelmingly complex society of conflicting interests and incompatible outlooks but we’ve boiled our differences down to nazis against everyone else. Half of us are esoteric hitlerists and klansman and the other half are American marines storming the beaches of Normandy.

There are only two sides now. How convenient for us in these complicated times. I remember when liberals mocked George W. Bush for reducing geopolitical conflict to a comic book battle between good and evil. They saw his simplistic rhetoric as obscurantist and divisive. He was a childish instigator, an imbecilic warmonger wielding contrived oppositions to his political advantage. Now 15 odd years later and Bush’s blundering thundering against a caricatured enemy is a faded memory.

People with the attention spans of chipmunks and the historical sense of goldfish have clarified and condensed their moral vision, distilled and purified their priorities and stumbled upon a single stratagem: silencing and eliminating the nazi threat to our vibrant multicultural America. All the old divisions within the democratic and republican parties have been forgotten.

The tension, hostility and violence caused by identity politics and state and corporate imposed diversity mandates are no longer a problem, no longer up for discussion. Sociological examinations of the effects of scale on human behavior are academic luxuries; consumerism and overpopulation, psychological stress and alienation aren’t relevant factors. We must fight hate in all its forms. We don’t need to think or talk. There’s no time for analysis, no taking a step back. We must act now and purge and vaporize the surging legions of white supremacist nazis in our midst.

Progressives on the right side of history have no need of free speech. They have no appreciation or reverence for it. They don’t want to be free, they want to be correct, to fit in and conform and lose themselves in soothing solidarity. For the prospective totalitarian, free speech is inherently suspicious, a sliver through which subversive and destabilizing truths slip through.

In the same way that the tyrant thinks that people only need privacy if they have something to hide, the maniacal leftist is sure that the only people who care about free speech are hateful bigots. Why would you need free speech if you’re saying the right things? The purpose of speech isn’t exploring and articulating difficult thoughts, it’s confirming and cementing leftist dogma.

The march through the institutions has been so covertly successful that leftists themselves don’t realize where they are and what they have. They continue to pose as beleaguered underdogs as they draw on vast, unchecked corporate power and a hyper-responsive mob mentality to isolate, demoralize and despoil their enemies. They have two primary methods of attack: the first is to single out the offending individual or party and destroy their reputation and livelihood, eliminate their capacity to support or express themselves by restricting access to mediums of communication and exchange. And the second is to become physically violent or threaten with overwhelming, quantitative, blunt force.

Notice that debate, discussion or even tolerance as a begrudging acceptance of fringe and dissident opinions isn’t included in their program of domination. When sensible people argued that tolerating or encouraging repressive religions like Islam endangers the conditions of a tolerant society, leftists were quick to cry bigot. But now they’re finding that aggressive line of reasoning expedient when the targets are white. We can’t give these people the freedom to spew their hatred, they will destroy our peaceful and tolerant societies, we have to act with force and prevent them from taking advantage of our openness. The gutless leftist conveniently finds his backbone when it’s a matter of undermining his own people in his own country.

Last saturday a free speech rally was disrupted and cut short by a thronging, frothing mob. Despite the organizers of the rally repeatedly denouncing white supremacy, the KKK and neo-nazis, everyone else was convinced that it was a neo-nazi party, a celebration of segregation and lynching. The organizers even disinvited two speakers with loose, tenuous ties to the alt-right in an effort to put as much distance between themselves and the left’s punching bags as possible. It wasn’t enough.

The corporate concubines in the media put sneer quotes around the words free speech in their articles, insinuating that the rally was somehow connected to white supremacists and that free speech itself is code for neo-nazi platforming. The depraved media whores telegraphed their approval of radical leftist violence and power through their rankly dishonest coverage of the event.

I couldn’t find a number for how many people attended the free speech rally but it seems there were less than a hundred. There were 40,000 protestors threatening them. Leftists whose whole morality revolves around imbalances and harm and fairness were numb to the glaring, disconcerting discrepancy in power between the attendees of the rally and the protestors. Some tried to say that this was democracy in action, a righteous majority vanquishing a despicable minority.

Except that democracy is a form of government involving elected representatives, legislative bodies and checks and balances on power. What we saw on saturday was mob rule, a perversion of democracy, its mutant, inbred brother. That many people are unable to grasp the difference between formal procedures for determining right and a mass of misdirected savages shutting down innocuous events through intimidation and violence is another sign of the breakdown of education, rationality and attention in our media drenched world.

27 protestors were arrested for disorderly conduct and assault and battery of police officers. But right wing violence is the problem. Only one side is culpable. The left doesn’t even exist, it’s just the white supremacists and bigots and then a unified majority of peaceful, earnest and well meaning egalitarians. We’ll gloss right over 27 people getting arresting for throwing bottles of piss at the police to protest what they insisted on believing was a white supremacist hate rally.

Now when you say you support free speech, peaceful protestors will plaster a swastika on your chest and beat your brain in with a bike lock. They will shut down your blog, your message board, your Facebook and twitter. Choke your electronic voice, isolate you from your audience. And the media will bury your injuries and exclusions in a torrent of greasy rationalizations if they deign to mention you at all. It’s justice served scalding hot from the internet addled automatons of revolutionary terror.

The point of free speech is that we’re all protected because hate and offense are subjective and unstable. Even if you think you currently have a consensus on what is hateful and what isn’t, once the precedent is established that what is hateful may be silenced, the definition of hate itself will begin to shift and slip around.

You want to respect other people’s right to free speech not because you must appreciate or approve of what they say but because there’s no final way of knowing in advance whether or not someone may find something you say hateful or offensive. So that if you offend someone regardless of your intentions, they have no justifiable, legal way of silencing you. In a polite society, it’s one thing to take someone else’s offense at your words as a sign that you may need to rethink your opinions.

But whether or not the person who causes offense reworks his thoughts and words to become more agreeable to others, he still has the right to speak without fear of incurring the wrath of the mob. It’s his personal responsibility to not be an asshole or to reform his speech. It’s not the responsibility or right of disordered masses to physically harm people for what they say and believe.

It also shouldn’t be within the reach of private corporations to police and suppress speech through their consolidated control of communicative infrastructure and information networks. This is another ugly precedent with unsettling implications. Rather than discuss and critically examine what we’re setting in motion, we’re riding a wave of thoughtless enthusiasm for the humiliation and destruction of political opponents.

Once the obvious enemies of peace, love and xirhood have been ground into dust by the jackboot of diversity, new targets of leftist heels will be singled out. Mainstream conservatives, libertarians and centrists will soon find themselves on the receiving end of the nazi charge and the principles they sold out to appease the rabble won’t protect them. They will have brought this disaster on themselves with their cynical opportunism and mindless capitulation. 

It could be also be the sort of thing that just blows over in a few weeks as Trump continues to scandalize and entrance an emotionally empty populace.