(A heavy set man named Oliver stands alone in the center of a nearly endless, empty but brightly lit furniture store. He is greeted by a thin, cheerful man with a name badge that reads “Stan”)
Stan: Can I help you with something, Sir?
Oliver: Well, I’m in the process of moving from an apartment into a house. I have more room and am in need of some new furniture to fill the place out.
Stan: Great, well you’ve come to the right place. What are you looking for first?
Oliver: Well, I’ll need a new couch.
Stan: Right this way.
(Stan leads down a row of dining room tables into a bank of couches)
Stan: Are you looking for a sectional, maybe a divan….
Oliver: (pointing at a large, rather non-descript red couch) That one…over there. I like that.
Stan: Ah yes! Our 20th Century Persian Sectional. Very popular item.
Oliver: I don’t mean to be rude, but I’d like to cut right to the chase. I have a budget I’m working with. I’ve seen this couch before at another store but it was too expensive. If you offer me a good deal on it, I’m pretty much sold. What’s it cost?
Stan: No problem at all. I like working with someone who wants to get right down to business. (pulling a tag from behind the couch) This couch right here will cost you the first twelve nights you spent alone after your wife and children left you and the funeral of your Aunt Sally.
Oliver: Wow. That’s a bit steep for a couch. The IKEA up the street only wanted the week my father was in a coma after the construction accident and the time my dog froze to death on the back porch when I was six.
Stan: Hmmm…..Okay, look, you’ve got me over a bit of a barrel here. I’ll be frank with you, I need to move some merchandise pretty quickly. Got a new shipment coming in, plus my boss needs to see some numbers. You seem like a nice fellow, how about I ask you for the time your parents locked you in a closet for five hours because you got caught smoking and the time you were eight and your uncle punched you in the face because he thought you had hidden the remote control?
Oliver: Not bad. Will you throw in the ottoman?
Oliver: We have a deal. Now, let’s see about a bed for the guest room.
Stan: (hurriedly moving to the bed section) Right this way.
Oliver: Looking for a queen-sized mattress and an upscale looking frame. Oak maybe. What’s that set over there run?
Stan: Well, that one will set you back the week after you were first diagnosed with diabetes, the time you got fired from your high school job at Target because you fell asleep in the stock room and the death of your good friend Ralph.
Oliver: That’s just too much. This is going in the guest room. Do you have anything a bit more reasonable?
Stan: Well, this set in the corner will only run you the time you got cut from the JV basketball team and the car accident where you caused that man to be in intensive care for five weeks. And it’s quite sturdy.
Oliver: Sold. Now, all I’m really in need of are some end tables for the living room and a recliner and I’ve got everything I need.
Stan: Well, I’ve got a recliner over here that I think you are going to love. Check out this little number.
Oliver: (sitting down in a huge leather chair and leaning back) Oh yeah! Stan, may I call you that….
Oliver: Stan, this is like heaven on earth. I haven’t been this comfortable in a long time. This would be perfect for the living room.
Stan: Well, you sure picked the right day to visit us! That’s a closeout special. Do you like the style of table next to it?
Oliver: Very much.
Stan: Here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll get you the recliner and two end tables just like that one as a package. All you need to give me are the ten or so experiences of sexual inadequacy with women you’ve accumulated in the last three years and it’s yours. What do you say?
Oliver: Well, it’s a great chair…..
Stan: Imagine putting your feet up on a Sunday and watching the game in that chair. Think of how comfortable you’ll be. Think of how much joy this will bring you. Think of all the pain and suffering this will substitute for. You don’t need anything in this world but a comfortable chair and a place to put your feet up. Call me old fashioned, but I believe that.
Oliver: Stan, you’ve got yourself a deal. When can it be delivered?
Stan: Well, delivery will cost the week that in elementary school that everyone decided to ignore you because someone caught you picking your nose. I could have it in your home by Friday. Just write down your address and I’ll have the fellas bring it on by.
Oliver: Sounds like a plan. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.
Stan: Likewise, Oliver. Likewise.
(The two men shake hands)
(Washington)-In stunning pessimism, America forward never back truth without honesty is the medium of true messiness. Socialist polarized mobs running outward not outwitting death. Free to choose everything except what matters, no matter what the rules are. Debt beyond parents life as rebellious war against nothingness consuming reduced to pattern. Things explained are things forgotten against the backdrop of inhaled ignorance. ”Wandering, wondering as their lives slowly slip through their greedy little fingers,” accordion to White House Repeater of Cliches Jay Carney.
They are as much a part of this disaster as we are. Stand up for the privilage of not sitting down. Anxiety as a rational response to unconscionable conditions. As it repeats over and over and we confuse action for motion and motion for freedom. And freedom for immortality. And immortality for meaning. And meaning for action. In a recent Gallup poll nearly two-thirds of buffalos have no wings and nearly one hundred percent of Americans are doomed to the terms of mortality. No matter what they’d like you to believe. Accordion to So and So Jones, person on the street and representative of the Zeitgeist, “I don’t even know what’s real anymore as I look into a world where I am bombarded with the constant flow of answers to questions that I wouldn’t have even bothered to ask. Drowning in a river of useless actions. Amused to death by the 24 hour 7 day a week carnival of unmeaning. Sweat my only solace.”
Now, here’s the paragraph about possible solutions and potential mystery. So and So who wants you to like him or her and maybe even vote that way proposes solutions that either serve the purpose of taking our eyes off the existential ball or promising something they hope we forget about in twenty minutes (which we probably will because crisis is a great substitution for crisis). So and So complains about something hoping to give us hope, or comfort, or something new to hate, or something to talk about with the other doomed fools that we are chained to, or something to buy, or something to bury. We all rally around because a recent Gallup Poll has stated, in no uncertain terms, that 51 percent of us share the same delusion.
You should write a letter to your Congressman. Because they will listen. Because they care. Because you have a solution no one else has thought of. Because democracy guarantees us the right to go on and on about absolutely nothing and replace one empty vessel with another every four years. Write that letter. Seriously. Do it. That will make everything all better. That’ll solve the issue of the sheer absurdity of the world. That’ll take the sting out of that nagging death problem that everyone seems to be conveniently not mentioning. That’ll make lions into lambs and lambs into citizens. And citizens into vampires. The world is probably in the shape that it’s in because you haven’t written that letter yet. When you do, all of your troubles will go away. You’ll see. Write the letter. Save us all.
In conclusion, eventually everything you do, every action you take will be forgotten. Everyone around you will be gone. Take comfort in the fact that you are nothing, or at least, that’s how you’ll be remembered. Besides, in a recent Fox News poll a full 105 percent of people surveyed think it’s someone else’s fault. ”The solution is complete ignorance,” accordion to President Barack Obama, “that or an endless cycle of misery and fear, depression and alienation. Or government spending. Or complaining about government spending. Or endless blame. Or endless blamelessness. It’s up to you. After all, isn’t this what democracy is all about?”
No Love Lost
Numbing feelings dead
Synthesized broken hearts to bled
Without emotion your heartstrings played
Strummed and severed to the tune of a tragic serenade
[A tragic chorus]
Without emotion, your heartstrings break
Snapped and severed to the tune of a tragic, sad cliche
No love lost
When all is said and done
There’s no love lost
The low cost of loving
Human frailties and weakness are easy prey
How your poor heart will bleed
The modern conception of romantic love is nothing short of vulgar. I do not mean vulgar in the sense of it being lewd or lascivious, but more so remarkably crass and repulsively commercialized. One of the more humiliating acts that exist in our culture is that of picking out a card for a loved ones birthday. The well-intentioned shopper is immediately met with all forms of syrupy sweet, ersatz garbage that pass for a genuine expression of feeling. Being told “I love you” Hallmark style is the equivalent of having some dude in a lime green leisure suit approach you and tell you that we should get rid of all the letters in the way so that “U and I can get together.” Love can seem like an ill-concieved, ham-handed con with all the charm of one of those insidious pop-ups that try to convince the barely sentient of the rich rewards that will be showered on them if only they surrender their credit card number. It is not hard to understand the disgust that would motivate Jeff Walker to write the words in “No Love Lost”.
While I am in complete agreement with the notion that love has been trivialized, I can’t climb on board with the idea that there is no such thing as love. The following admission is probably going to get my universal skeptic license suspended for the next six months, but, in all honesty, love is the one con I simply cannot renounce. I want to believe that there is a category of human experience that transcends our own personal needs and allows us, even momentarily, to exist for another. I want to think that there is more to life than survival and that we have a deeper need for connection to other humans. There must be more than just dumb, barely animate material wandering aimlessly from cradle to grave. I believe that many people share an essential longing to understand each other, to see their neighbors as beings dealing with the same existential dilemmas as themselves, struggling to find some compassion or empathy and aspiring to give that gift to another even though nothing tells them they have to. The best approximation of these feelings and desires is the word love.
Maybe this understanding reflects the cynicism expressed in “No Love Lost”. Imagine desperately wanting to feel the connection to others and being given back nothing but Hugh Grant movies and power ballads. Trying to come to terms with love in our contemporary carnival of cheap thrills and easy answers is a demoralizing task. If I am ever to really conceptualize what love means my expression of it will be minimized by the fact that the language I have to communicate it has been co-opted by a bunch of soft-sell dream peddlers who are more concerned about appealing to a demographic representation of males 25-34 than finding deeper human truths. Why not look at the Love Industry with scorn? After all, it has robbed us of our full means to relate something significant and meaningful to the world. Instead of filling us with a feeling of awe and reverence, the word fills so many seekers of reality with bitterness and irritation.
Maybe the real demonstration of the transcendent power of love is whether it can overcome the cesspool of a market in which it now resides. Occasionally there are human truths that possess so much power that they can surmount any obstacle set before them. That’s what I’d like to believe, anyway. For us to believe that love is real maybe we need to see that it can be debased in every way imaginable and still carry meaning. Or maybe those who sell it have uncovered the terrible truth; that love is simply an inducement to get the suckers to buy more of what they don’t need. Give them the fantasy of love and they’ll gladly exchange it for safety, freedom and power over their own lives. I desperately hope that this isn’t so.
(This series is being co-published by the folks over at MindOverMetal.org. Check’em out!)
“The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying.”
-TS Eliot from Ash Wednesday
Recently, a terrible feeling has been crawling up the base of my spine. It awakens me in the middle of the night, it hounds me when I am driving home from work, it swims in and out of my mind every time I consider this cursed blog. I think I had this thought in my mind even before I started blogging, but over the last month its light buzz has grown to a deafening roar. This feeling is in the pit of my stomach and the recesses of my mind all at once. It is a voice that talks to me while I write and a spirit that haunts me when I do not. Nothing makes it grow quiet. It is omnipresent. It is a simple idea, but if you follow it to its logical extreme it is as dangerous as a nuclear bomb. The question is this…Is there that is really worth writing?
It seems a rather harmless line of questioning. That is how it starts. The point of writing is to create something. I hope to create something new. Have all the worthwhile thoughts already been had? Has someone else already put down all the truths and mysteries of life on paper? With the Internet, you can find access to nearly every idea that has been conceived of. Most of us concern ourselves with whether LeBron is better than Kobe or who is married to who and who is getting a divorce or who wore what on the red carpet or who embarrassed themselves in front of the world. If you want to dig deeper you can find recipes for how to prepare ox tail, the history of Buddhism, better and more in depth formulas to calculate the value of third basemen or the performance of treasury bonds, or the lost works of some 19th century poet you came across at three in the morning on some insomnia driven information binge. But to what end? Is it just more and more stuff to fill our minds with?
Maybe I shouldn’t concern myself with creating something original. After all, what is the point of originality? Am I simply trying to justify my existence by conning myself into the belief that I am so special and unique that I can think a thought that the rest of the 6 billion of us could not come up with? Am I so narcissistic that I think I am capable of an idea that has never been here before?
Maybe the point is to appreciate the experience of writing. Maybe the whole thing is about letting my synapses fire and my fingers pound away at some keyboard. To what end? I do it again and again. Words appear. More words appear. Then more. More. They mean something, but who really knows what? They dance in patterns. I already have forgotten most of what I’ve written. I could look back. To what end?
Why bother sending this nonsense out to the world? Looking for fellow travelers on the good ship Earth as we spiral towards our own personal oblivion. To what end? Am I simply standing in front of the Grand Canyon shouting at the top of my own lungs in the hopes of hearing an echo? And then what?
Maybe my words will help ease the pain of human suffering. A noble goal but when you look at what we are up against, it hardly seems possible. A dying heap of flesh and consciousness trapped in a fading world that is saturated with mountains of disconnected ideas adding up to nothing in particular is going to be helped by some random guy typing random words on a computer screen? Really? I haven’t watched enough Frank Capra to buy it. It is a pleasant delusion, but a delusion nonetheless. Maybe the goal is to delude others into forgetting their troubles. They will remember them soon enough or, worse, they will enjoy the delusion so much they will forget what is happening to them and the ones around them. Apathy or sadness. Ignorance or constant horror. To what end?
If I could write something that could teach people how to live forever or convincingly show them that their actions are connected to something greater then maybe I would be writing something worth reading. But I am not that good of a writer and I doubt I will ever be. I wonder if anyone is. Existential dread is what it is and I can’t write it away for myself or anyone else. Can writing change the truth of what we are? I simply don’t believe that. And even if it could…to what end?
Maybe all of the thoughts have been thunk and all of the dreams have been dreamt and we are simply recycling the same old nonsense in slightly different packages again and again and again. Over and over. The paint job changes but it’s still the same old world. Meet the new boss same as the old boss.
This isn’t my MacArthur speech to the troops blog. I plan to keep doing this again and again for no apparent reason. It is a complete waste of time. It has no value and is utterly and completely useless. I enjoy writing more times than I don’t. I like hearing how my words hit people. I am deeply curious as to how my innermost thoughts are perceived by strangers. I guess that is something, but it will fade after a while. These are simply words on a page and they don’t mean anything. Nothing lasting or real or forever or genuine will ever come out of my mind or my hands. They are shapes, they are colors contrasted with the background, they are a speck in the eye of history. They are words. Their lifespan is about as long as it takes to get to the next sentence.