No One Ever Does

I get a kick out of profiling people.  As I noted in last year’s 3.7 post, “The Zelig,” I also enjoy profiling others’ profiling ability when they assess me.  Kudos to the person who surmises, on little data, that I’m educated, a former teacher, or love to sing and dance.  When I learn that someone is suspicious of my integrity, I find it good to know that I’ve met someone I should invest no more time in. 
 
I was therefore very impressed when someone, with no evidence of any kind, intuited that I was a writer.  “I just know my own kind,” he responded, “and I also do a little open mic stand-up.” 
 
I clarified that thus far I was a failing writer, but stand-up comedy was something I’d like to try failing at as well.
 
“Yeah, I haven’t made any money off either, but I’m hoping to and just having fun in the meantime.”
 
“Where do you do it?”
 
“Not around here, yet.  I’ve only been here a couple days and will probably leave soon.  No idea where.  I guess you could call me a ‘drifter’.”
 
“You did say ‘drifter’ and not ‘grifter,’ right?”
 
“Good one, amigo.  You used to teach, I’ll bet.”
 
“Jesus Christ!  I didn’t expect this kind of Spanish Intuition.  But you’re right.”
 
He cocked his head and shrugged his shoulders.
 
“So, do you, like, throw a dart at a map to decide where you drift to next?  If so, I wouldn’t want for you to end up in Redneck, Indiana or anything.”
 
“A Mexican like me?  No thanks.  I just look for signs and kind of follow my gut.”
 
“Let me help you out then, by which I mean ‘Fuck with you’.”  I began singing lines from “Dancing in the Street,” stressing the pronunciation of each city.  “They’re dancin’ in Chicago, down in New Orleans, can’t forget that Motor City–“
 
“Enough, enough my friend.  I’m already confused.  Since I can tell you’re good people, you feel like seeing the country with me?”
 
“I’ve thought about that before, but I’ve kind of got my niche carved out down here, shitty as it is.”
 
“I’ve only ever invited good people before, but no one ever does.  I wish you the best, my friend.” 
 
“Likewise, brother.  And just remember, ‘All we need is music, sweet, sweet sweet music’–“
 
“I thought all you needed was love.”
 
“You’re on your own there, dude.”
 

Impermanent Lessons

Curious toddler wipes out hours of monks’ work

The Associated Press  The Associated Press April 25, 2014

 

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey tot has made his inadvertent mark on an intricate sand display created by Buddhist monks.

Mandala Disturbed

“The monks have been building a sand mandala in Jersey City’s municipal building since Monday. It’s a flat, multicolored display that is created and then destroyed in a ceremony meant to symbolize the fleeting nature of life.

The Jersey Journal reports the young boy climbed over a rope barrier Friday and got onto the 4-foot-square display. The sides and middle were smudged as a result.

“Some of the monks were working to restore the sand Friday before its ritual destruction.”

A lama spokesman contained his simmering rage over the youthful destruction of what was to be ritually destroyed.  “The wheel of karma will follow him.  I have learned that the lad is Catholic.  I have arranged for him to meet with a priest.  He will demonstrate to the boy how naughty he has been.  Ha ha!  Ha ha ha!”

Words Can Hurt (Me)

With the exception of friends, I generally do not correct others’ grammar.  Raised by an English teacher, I am aware how annoying and condescending that can appear.  I didn’t receive any formal grammatical instruction after middle school, but I just have an intuitive acuity of the subject.  When I studied and later taught philosophy, logic, e.g., symbolic logic, and analytic philosophy were two areas of keen interest.  In general, the field reinforced the ideal of applying academic rigor to thought and communication.
 
How “bad” can I be in this regard?  I love the Stones, and am always quick to point out that Keith Richards and I share the same birthday.  Ergo, from an astrological standpoint, I should likewise be indestructible.  If/when humanity gets wiped out, among the survivors will be  cockroaches, Keith, and me.  (Lamentably, the former will probably be easier to communicate with.)
 
Still, when I did “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” for karaoke many moons ago, I sang it as “(I Cannot Get) Satisfaction.”  Some to most of the bargoers enjoyed my correction.  (Actually, my only complete flop during a karaoke performance was when I attempted, at a bar where no one knew me, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”)
 
I don’t know if this expression is unique to Baltimore, but I’ve heard a lot of people say, “That don’t make no sense.”  How ironic.  I will joke to an intellectually inclined friend, “That is an irrational statement/action,” or “That is logically unsound.”
 
Surely we’ve all heard “I could care less,” which struck me as wrongheaded even as a precocious kid.  Depending on my familiarity with the speaker, I will say, “I, for one, could not,” or “I could care more.”
 
But what really irks me, mainly because of its ubiquity, is the tautological “It is what it is.”  I actually once heard an acquaintance say, “This is my life philosophy:  it is what it is; that’s all that it is; and it ain’t a damn thing more.”  Stressing that it was his “life philosophy” implied that much thought had gone into such a maxim.
 
I knew the guy well enough to add, “So you’re saying, ‘It is,’ or ‘It has being,’ which merely resulted in his reiteration of the motto.  I thought that if we ever really hung out together, I could make banal observations like “There’s a tree” or “That house is yellow.”  Perhaps he would be fascinated, whereas any passersby would think I was autistic.
 
Of course, sloppy grammar can be useful when one is trying to lie in spirit while technically being truthful.  Slick Willie, a lawyer before he was a politician, erred in trying to explain why he wanted a blowjob by trying to parse the word “Is.”  He would have done better to follow the example of this sage:
 

I’ll pass on the hemlock, thank you

According to the traditional account of Socrates’s life, he was sentenced to death for a variety of related charges:  corrupting the youth, impiety, and denying the state’s gods’ existence being the chief charges.  Here’s Jacques-Louis David’s depiction of him bullshitting up until the end:

Left out of Plato’s narrative, however, is a more fundamental attribute of philosophy’s patron saint.  He was a sarcastic smartass.

This was embodied in the Socratic Method, particularly as depicted in the Early Dialogues.  In this Method, Socrates’s interlocutors answer a series of questions to defend their position.  Socrates’s cross-examination leads to the conclusion–at least to his satisfaction–that they were talking out of their asses.  The untenuous nature of their positions having been exposed, Socrates implores them to start anew.  Eventually they’ll arrive at the truth.  “Uh, maybe another time, Soc.  I’ve got to get home and watch Greek Idol.”

I am fairly good at this technique, but I use it very sparingly because people don’t exactly appreciate it.  For example, I’ve best manned two weddings, the one a white trash affair, the other quite ritzy.  At the latter, after the bride’s family had lavished us with drinks for two days, I asked the host if I could grab a beer from the garage at the Sunday brunch.

“No drinking today; it’s a Sunday.”

“Oh,” dejectedly, “okay.”

What I wanted to initiate was this dialogue:

“So this is because of your Catholic beliefs, right?”

“Absolutely.”

“And I noticed the care that everyone took to ensure that the betrothed parties did not see each other the day of the wedding.”

“It’s tradition.”

“Yet you’re surely aware that they cohabitated for three years before the sacrament.  I’m no theologian, but it seems to me that repeated and systematic premarital sex is a more serious sin in your religion than allowing me to get a goddamn drink [or seven] to alleviate the shakes that two days of Dionysian drinking have left me with.”

*   *  *

So while I generally avoid such confrontation, humor is an indelible personality trait I will never renounce.  Sarcasm is part and parcel of this skill.  When I am with friends–the kind where busting on each other is vital to the relationship–I am a natural smartass.  My friend with a limp (and a Monty Python fan), laughs when I tell him that he has the lamest silly walk I’ve ever seen.  I likewise take no umbrage when he makes fun of one of my two personal shortcomings.  If anyone ever apologizes because they feel they’ve gone too far, I tell them to shut the fuck up because nothing offends me.

I was chilling with two buddies recently, and I made a joke about the Marine background of one of them.  After he got the barb, he laughed and said, “You know, practically everything you say is sarcastic.”

“I just didn’t think you ever noticed.”

“Case in point,” the other friend added with a chuckle.

Immediately, the exchange brought to mind an incident from about a decade ago.  I had made a new friend recently, and one night we went to one of his old friend’s place to party.  I had seen the other guy around but had never really spoken with him.  I did know that he had a football player’s physique and seemed eager to fight.  At the bar one night, one fight threatened to escalate into an all-out bar brawl.  He pulled off his shirt and emitted a guttural yell.  Translated into English, he was saying, “I would like to fight one or multiple other people.  Would anyone care to engage me?”

The night we imbibed and inhaled at his house was kind of a blur.  I do recall being “on” in the comedic sense, and that the three of us had a rip-roaring good brew ha ha.  When I saw my friend two nights later, he furnished a different account.  “Dude, I couldn’t believe you the other night!”  He said this not with condemnation, but rather with excitement. 

“Shit,” I reflexively thought in such situations, “did I piss somewhere other than the toilet?  Hit on someone’s girlfriend?  Try to make love to a houseplant?”

“Dude, you had him scared in his own house!  You were wisecracking about everything and he just didn’t know what to make of you.  He was kind of freaked out.  It’s all good, though.  No hard feelings.  I just got paid so let’s smoke this joint and go tear up the bar.”

My athletic evolution has gone from pathetic Little Leaguer to scrawny skateboarder to weightlifting tennis and racquetball fanatic.  Yet anyone who would bet on me in a fight against this guy is the type who would bet against the Harlem Globetrotters.  I found it amusing that he was afraid of me.

My humor and expression of controversial views have gotten me in a raft of trouble over the years, but they have fortunately never gotten me into a fight.  And while some say I look Greek, including Greeks themselves, it’s probably best that I never visit there. 

 

Process Theology

I hear a number of people who pray for “a hedge of protection,” a somewhat common prayer based in part of the phraseology of Job 1:10.  Since I’m so concerned with words, I cannot help but wonder if there’s a different sense in which to interpret the word choice of “hedge.”

“Are you there, God?  It’s me, Brian.  Could you try to keep me safe?”

“I’ve got your back, Brian.  Maybe.”

 

Dates

As a spiritual guy, I’m obviously impressed by synchronicity.  One such area is unintentional occurrences on certain anniversaries.  Because of their salience, I can really only recall those related to holidays. 

I may have pooh-poohed the idea of astrology were it not for the matter of my birthday.  After cynically realizing that I made more money waiting tables than adjunct teaching philosophy, I was content with that for the time being while I figured out what to do next.  Yet as I realized how much I missed teaching, I decided to go back for the PhD so as to eventually get a full-time job.  Yet I also decided to switch fields to religion.  The only school I got into, Temple, accepted me into their MA program but wouldn’t offer an assistantship.  Because of concurrent problems in my life, I opted not to take out more student loans and didn’t go.

Several months later, I looked up my birthday (including the year) when I happened across The Secret Language of Birthdays.  The opening line, “A career in philosophy or religion in philosophy is very likely for you,” made me a believer.  Yet it also continues to sting in that while a return to adjunct teaching is always possible, I will probably never pursue further academic progress and hence not make a career of it.  Yet it also did say something about writing.

So (in chronological order):

–For the second New Year’s Eve in three years, I got so wasted I did a faceplant.  It’s not that I got so wasted because it was New Year’s Eve; that part was coincidental.  I never hit my head or face in years of skateboarding, nor did I ever break a bone through the sport.  Yet I (probably) broke my pinky years ago when I was drunkenly roughhousing with a buddy.  I broke my nose this past New Year’s Eve.  But don’t worry ladies:  this fall didn’t leave any traces nor missing teeth. 

And I rationalize my falls as unconsciously paying homage to cities’ festivities that feature dropping things at midnight. 

–My dad was a twin whose sister died at birth.  On the first anniversary of his death, his sister’s son’s twin boys were born.  (Sadly, this cousin died of a sudden heart attack at age 36.)

The timing of my dad’s death itself was strange.  He died on the day of another sister’s husband’s funeral.  On the day of my dad’s funeral, the young grandson of the dead brother-in-law died in a motorcycle crash.  I said to my buddy as we were driving around during that time, “Drive carefully, man.  God’s taking out Williards.”

–I recall at least four Labor Day weekends as highly spiritually charged for me, each occasioned by highly synchronistic activity.

–I was emotionally shook up after 9/11 and prepared to join the military.  I ended up drinking at a bar soon thereafter with my sister, her future husband, and my friend who was closest to my mom (the one with whom I broke my pinky).  I committed the no-no of tearing up at a bar.  I then realized that it was the second anniversary of my mom’s death.  It got harder to choke back the tears.  My friend then told me, “Dude, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I heard your house is haunted.  From what the girl who lives there told me, it sounds like the ghost does stuff your mom would do.”  I ended up crashing at his place, where I bawled my eyes out.

I investigated the haunting a month later and determined, consistent with the girl’s assurances, that it was not my mom. 

–From ’07 to ’12, I spent three Thanksgivings in detox for alcohol.  Again, unplanned.

–Although I loathe Christmas, it is often occasioned by some sort of unforeseen blessing. 

 

So what’s the next big holiday?  Valentine’s Day?  Shit. 

Pissimism

< I don’t know if I would regard myself as a genuine patriot or not.  I am not a moral relativist who thinks, for example, that Sharia law is just as cogent as the Bill of Rights.  Yet I also refrain from pledging allegiance to everything except God, the Good (understood in the Platonic sense), loved ones, and myself.  As such, I cannot overlook the self-evident evil that the US has committed in the past and present (and most certainly, the future).
 
Nonetheless, it bothers me that the (manifest) Powers That Be are so quick to lower the flag to half-staff at the most relatively minor mishap.  It seems to me as if it’s at half-staff almost as frequently as it is atop the pole.  Five kids die in a bus crash?  Well, gotta’ lower Old Glory.  Biden’s got the sniffles?  Clearly a national tragedy that calls for the flag to be lowered.
 
And so now the flag has been lowered to half-staff for Nelson Mandela’s death.  Provided one is able to overlook the terroristic activities of his ANC, one could say that Mandela was a great man (as far as men go).  Yet he lived to be 95, against great obstacles, a lifespan in which he accomplished many things.  Most importantly for this topic, he was not a US citizen.  All in all, his death was hardly a tragic event.  And the flag looked just fine where it was at at full-staff.
 
Is this the new normal, where we collectively resign ourselves to life being a pissy bitch more than a delight?  Why don’t we just keep it at half-staff all the time as an acknowledgement that life just sucks?  We could just drop it on the ground when something really shitty happens, or elevate it to its erstwhile proper position when cancer or AIDS is cured.  If world peace is declared, we’ll raise it five feet above the pole’s top.
 
The current mentality is redolent for me of a friend from several years back.  Ostensibly a born-again Christian, he was nonetheless a very moribund guy.  Once, his response to my query, “How’s it going?” was “Well, I didn’t kill myself today, so I guess okay.”
 
My friend was about 15 years older than me, but I really wanted to tell him to “grow the fuck up.  Yes, it sucks your wife left you, and that led you to your 18th nervous breakdown and all.  But get over it, man.  Move on, brother.”
 
Our collective mindset needs the same Stoicism that I unsuccessfully tried to impart to my friend.  In my cosmology, there is no such thing as tragedy.  Yet even if there was, its threshold is certainly higher than the deaths of a few.  I don’t know if an algorithm could be created to distinguish the seriously bad shit from the regular travails that regularly afflict life.  I do know that it does not require too much discernment to differentiate between tsunami-level calamities and the deaths of old men.   
 
I broke protocol with this post by being too serious.  It wasn’t funny, but this germane clip sure is:
 
 
I hope you whistle along.

To me, the “A” is for “Absurd”

Atheist Display In Chicago Marks Pagan Winter Solstice, Bill of Rights at Daley Plaza

Huffposted: 12/03/201

atheist display chicago

DOWNTOWN — “Add atheists to the groups putting up holiday displays at Daley Plaza.

“The Freedom From Religion Foundation has set up a big, neon “‘A’ Is for Atheists” display at Daley Plaza, between a giant Hanukkah menorah and a Nativity scene…”

Dude, if you’re right, then go live it up.  You’re wasting your time on every level.  Since the Christians will pray with people, the least you could do is to offer to curse (nonexistent) God with willing passersby. 

Socrates (via Plato): “Philosophy is preparation for death”

Root rot threatens Christmas fir trees

By ALLEN G. BREEDAP National Writer 12.02.13

“Scientists and growers are looking for a way to fight a deadly root rot disease that is killing some types of Christmas trees…”

“This SUCKS!  I wanted to die by having my trunk cut, allowing my corpse to rot in a home, littered by merchandise made in Third World sweatshops.  Now I have to die, slowly, out in horrible nature.  Woe is tree!”