Posts Tagged existential dread

Elderly Man In Makeup To Travel United States Screeching About His Grandmother

elderly king diamond

Get ready America! Starting in October, a man qualified to receive Social Security benefits will travel this great nation howling like a banshee into an inverted cross microphone. That’s right…He’s Back (and hopefully he won’t throw His out)!

He’ll be visiting mostly warm weather climates to avoid a difficult winter, all the while taking advantage of the large number of early bird special meals geared towards persons of his demographic. His mornings will be spent consuming free Econolodge continental breakfasts and soaking himself in a tub of ice in anticipation of having to do the same routine in front of yet another group of awestruck admirers that He wants nothing to do with.

Tickets will, no doubt, be remarkably expensive in order to help Him offset the constant stream of costly doctor visits and potions meant to prolong his time on this condemned, dying planet. Luckily, he’ll be able to dodge the stillness and eternal silence of the grave for a few more years, a fate only slightly more appealing than complete oblivion.

Satan will be the subject of many of the songs that he will mercilessly caterwaul his way through. As most people above the age of seven know, Satan is a quaint, antiquated idea meant to remind people that it is possible that an evil exists that is even more terrifying than our elected government officials.

Notes, once hit by this rock luminary, will be missed with increasing frequency as this once in a lifetime series of concert events painfully marches its way to its conclusion in Austin, Texas. He will once again prove, without a shadow of doubt, that castrato vocals sound much better coming out of the mouth of a pre-pubescent child than a man old enough to be his grandfather.

An eager group of die-hard fans will get the opportunity to drown themselves in an orgy of nostalgia and binge spending on overpriced merchandise, temporarily alleviating the horrifying realities of a world gone completely insane.

They will emerge the next day from a brutal hangover induced by ten-dollar cups of flat beer late to the unfulfilling brutality of their mindless, soul-sucking chosen professions. That is, if they happen to be among the lucky people whose jobs have not be shipped off to a country where it is possible to pay workers less than a dollar a day to produce items that will be consumed and quickly forgotten.

As the lives those able to attend these shows wind to a bitter, meaningless conclusion, they can rejoice in the fact that they participated in an event they can describe to young people who will humor them by feigning attention, all the while worrying whether they have received a new text message in the last twelve seconds.

A great time should be had by all.

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Of Antlers and Essence

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(Whatever you do, when you get up to the counter, do not say the word “antlers”.  You want a cup of water.  This is McDonald’s.  There are people in line behind you.  They are anxious to get their McRibs or apple pies or whatever they came here for.  Just say “Water, please”.  That’s all.  Don’t screw this….)

Woman Behind The Counter:  Welcome to McDonald’s.  How can I help you?

Me:  Antlers.

Woman: (with a quizzical, mildly amused look)  Uhmm.  How can I help you?

Me:   Antlers?

Woman:  Sir?

Me:  (pleadingly)  Antlersssssss…

Woman:  (in a sacchariney sweet “oh, I get it, your trying to be funny and I’m trying to get through the day without choking a customer” voice)  Ha.  No sir, we don’t have antlers?  Would you like a Quarter Pounder?

Me:  (I swear, I’m trying to say “water”)  Antlers…antlers, antlers…..aaaaaanttttlers.

Woman:  (losing patience)  Sir, we do not have antlers?  What is it that you….

Me:  (I have lost any control of my tone)  ANTLERS!!!!!!!!

Woman:  (looking frightened)  Uhm.  Sir, are you okay?

Me:  Antlers?  Antlers!  Antlersantlersantlersantlers!!!  ANT-LERS!!!!!

(The people in line behind me are growing more impatient.  There is angry mumbling.  People behind the counter are starting to pay attention)

Woman:  (near tears)  Sir, I’m going to have to go get the manager.  I don’t understand…..

Me:  Antlers!!!!!  What part of antlers do you not understand????  ANTLERS!!!!

(The woman behind the counter turns and begins to walk towards the back of the kitchen)

Me:  (Turning towards the gathering crowd behind me) Antlers!!!!  All I want are some antlers!  Antlers!  I’m thirsty!!!  Don’t you understand! Antlers!!!!  Anyone….please!!!!

A large man in the line:  (helpfully)  Are you okay?  Do you need some….assistance??

Me:  I asked for antlers!  Not a difficult request!  Antlers!  Antlers!  Antlers!  Am I not speaking English or something?

An elderly woman behind me in line:  (slowly dipping her hand in her purse for either mace or a cellphone)  I think that you are confused.  Antlers are things that are on a deer’s head?

Her husband:  Or an elk.  Or a caribou.  Or a…..

Me:  Listen you ignorant mongrel!  I came in here, I asked politely for antlers and these people are acting like I’m crazy.  ANTLERS!!!  You are trying to confuse me, but I’m not confused.  I’m as clearheaded as I have ever been IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.  I was born in New Rochelle Hospital!  My mom’s maiden name is Czechlowski!  I have green eyes!  The 18th President was Ulysses S. Grant!  ANTLERS!!!!

(The enormous manager comes out from behind the counter with a menacing look.  He puts his hand on my shoulder.  I spin around and glare at him.  His name tag reads “Timothy”)

Manager:  Sir, I’m going to have to ask….

Me:  ANTLERS!  Listen you burger flipping, fry shoveling fascist!  I made a simple request.  I asked for….

Manager:  (sternly)  You are going to have to…..

Me:  NO!!!  I will not be silent in the face of tyranny! I will not wilt in the face of oppression!  I will not change my order!!!  I will not stand mutely as you ignore my desideratum!!!!  You will not press down upon my brow with this crown of French fries!!!!  You will not crucify me upon an arch of gold!!!!!!

Manager:  (looking towards the kitchen)  Somebody needs to call the police.  CALL THE POLICE!!!!  (looking at me)  Sir, if you do not calm down you are going to be arrested.  Please…CALM DOWN!!!!

Me:  Calm down!!!  Don’t tell me to calm down. Don’t you understand!!!  Antlers….you mindless chromosome deficient mongoloid!  Antlers are all I wanted!  ANTLERS!!!!!  The world is falling apart!  The ice caps are melting!  Small microbes are currently circulating through this room AS WE SPEAK that have the power to kill us all!  I just want some ANTLERS!!!!

Manager:  (trying to hold in his fury)  Okay….OKAY….we don’t have any antlers?  Is there anything….ANYTHING….else we can get you?

Me:  ESSENCE!!!!!

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It’s Over!!!!: World To End At Eight O’Clock Tonight

The Future

The Future

After years of interminable suffering, the human race will finally be put out of its misery tonight at 8 o’clock Eastern Standard Time (5 PM on the West Coast).  There will be no giant mushroom clouds, no asteroids unstoppable hurdling towards earth, no lights, no sounds, no music, just the immediate and unexplained termination of all sentient human life on our planet.

“I, for one, am thrilled to see the human race ending in such a bloodless and efficient fashion,” said Charles Guiteau, a car insurance salesman from Provo, Utah.  “To be honest, the next week was going to be hell.  Now, I’m free to spend the day catching up on the episodes of Game of Thrones that I missed.”

“It was going to happen at some point,” exclaimed Mark Chapman, a traveling pudding salesman from Denver, “why not just get it over with?”

“I mean, honestly, I’m tired of worrying about all the different ways the human race could end.  This way, we are free of the fear of terrorism, of global warming, of viruses, of nuclear bombs, of bacteria from spoiled meat, of the federal debt, of running out of oil and of endless war.  We were all going to die at some point anyway, might as well do it quickly.”

“If you think about it, it’s probably for the best,” announced Leon Czolgosz, a professional juggler from Memphis.  “We’ve been around for thousands of years and what have we really done with our time?  Create more humans.  Create machines that make humans live longer.  Create devices to make our time on earth more bearable.  Create stories about afterlives and vengeful, jealous gods.  Create reasons to love each other.  Create reasons to hate each other.  Create reasons and methods to kill each other.  To what end?  It’s all wasted motion.”

Some people, however, are not taking the news as well.  “As a Nationals fan, I’m disappointed to think that I’ll never get to see Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg develop into the superstar caliber players I know they can be,” said longtime Washington resident Gavrilo Princip.  “I really thought the World Series was ours this year.”

Meanwhile, some Americans are upset about the timing and details of this extinction level event.  “America is the greatest country on earth.  The idea that we are going to die at the exact same time and in the exact same way as all other countries boggles the mind.  We give millions of dollars in foreign aid to countries like Somalia.  We should at least be granted a few extra hours.  Fair is fair,” said John Booth, Mississippi treasurer for the Tea Party Patriots for Freedom and The Avoidance of Responsibility for Others.

In Washington, the news has brought a halt to the constant bickering between Congress and President Obama.  In the spirit of bipartisanship, both sides have promised to pass legislation to end the impasse over the federal budget within the next few weeks.

Regardless of how people feel, the end is coming.  It will be quick and painless.  You won’t even know what hit you.  There will be a flash and it will be done.  There is nothing you can do about it.

(Inspired by the Ray Bradbury story Last Night of The World)

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Metalheads Mourn As Some Guy From A Reasonably Well-Known Band Dies

grim-reaper-1Some guy, who was in a band that influenced a lot of other bands, passed away at 3 o’clock this morning from a disease that some other band was named after.  In a mass, spontaneous outpouring of sadness, thousands of anguished metalheads today posted R.I.P. on their Facebook pages along with pictures and videos mourning the death of a moderately talented, long-haired stranger.

“I can’t believe what’s-his-name is really dead. This is the saddest day since the other guy died a while back,” said some highly emotive gloom-monger who downloaded most of the band’s material off of Limewire.

“This is a great loss for the world of music.  Metal will never be the same,” said some dude who claims his band once opened for a band who opened for Metallica.

The dead guy’s band, which had recently traveled around the country and played a series of uninspiring concerts in front of people waiting for someone else to play, will try to soldier on without him.  In spite of their sadness about his death they have been somewhat consoled by a 15 percent spike in Youtube traffic, not to mention the exciting marketing opportunities that only the sudden, horrific death of an artist can provide.  Several tribute albums featuring obscure musicians looking to rip the remaining flesh off of his corpse should be available soon as people race to cash in on the public’s fetishization of grief.

Sure, his family will probably miss him and the two or three people who actually liked him and thought of him as more than a connection to the rockstar lifestyle are filled with sorrow.  But, at the end of the day, his death was probably a good thing.  After all, it provided thousands of individuals with the opportunity to share in yet another in a never-ending series of public events meant to distract people from issues that actually affect them.  Plus, many will now be able to participate in the fantasy that by exhibiting sorrow on a Facebook status, they can fool people into thinking that they are creatures still capable of experiencing human emotion.

Of course, it is quite possible that his death is actually just some sick prank to gather attention to websites like this one, which traffic in confusion as some bizarre postmodern form of currency.  Or, it could be part of an elaborate hoax used to allow the artist to escape from the rigors of a life of in the spotlight.  Like Elvis.  Or Kennedy.

One thing is certain, death is a valuable and coveted commodity.  If scientists could find a way to allow humans to die multiple times, it would be a marketing bonanza.  To misquote a great line from Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales, “Dying might be a heck of a way to make a living.”

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Obama Proposes Form Without Content; Buffalos Without Wings; Utter Hopelessness

(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?”

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The Tyranny of Attrition

“Now in these dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A. and of the Christ-forgetting Christ-hanuted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines and the question came to me:  has it happened at last?”

-Walker Percy from Love in the Ruins

October is the cruelest month
(Or was it September?)
(Or is it all of them?)
I don’t know anymore
I’ve stopped counting

You don’t need a compass to know which way is up
Despair, Guided by the torpor of stale air
The last thought that went through Junior’s mind
Was how much the horizon looked like the ocean

Because this is The Season of the Witch
Must be The Season of the Witch
Must be The Season of the Wi-tch

Oh Dr. More
We’ve become so much less
Your you-topian dreams
Transmogrified
Into an I-topia of silent screams
And ponzi schemes

Because this IS the wasteland
And WE are doomed
As the milk of human kindness
Reaches its much anticipated expiration date
Evaporating, The Armageddon of the Spirit
Echoes of Narcissus
Gazing
Lifelessly
We know that we are dying
(Be it one at a time)
(Or all of us at once)

Because this is The Season of the Witch
Must be The Season of the Witch
Must be The Season of the Wi-tch

The Absence howls
To be filled by nothingness
The Presence mocks us
With its promises of illusion
You don’t need a stethoscope
To hear a heart that’s not beating

Our differences are not nearly as terrifying as our similarities
The weight
Too great
The universe has forgotten how to protect us
(Or never wanted to know)
So far, from our-Selves
In the wasteland, there is no Up

Because this IS The Season of the Witch
Must be The Season of the Witch
Must be The Season of the Wi-tch

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A Confessional Review of David Mamet’s Homicide

“A Grandma is at the shore in Florida with her little Grandson. The grandson is playing on the beach when a big wave comes and washes the kid out to sea. The lifeguards swim out, bring him back to the shore, the paramedics work on him for a long time, pumping the water out, reviving him. They turn to the Grandma and say, “We saved your grandson!” The Grandma says, “He had a hat!””

-Henny Youngman

Bobby Gold was born to die a thousand slow deaths.  His is the pain of a man without a country.  Homicide is his confession. The confession of the man that can never be whole.  He is the first through the door, the last to leave the gym.  His mistakes must be rationalized or his coat of armor will become tin foil.  He has an answer to every question even before you ask it, because he cannot afford to show an ounce of skin.  He must convince them of his worth.   He must be more than human or else they will see him. Then, they will know.

Bobby Gold, set to wander the desert into eternity.  He must be exceptional or he is lost.  He is the map of human misery.  Bobby the Nomad.  Every time he finds a river he drinks a mouthful of sand.  He knows that you see him and he thinks you won’t let him forget it.

His is the story of the self-made man.  What becomes of the self-made man when he stops creating?  What if he gets tired?  What if hasn’t the strength to work at the rate to which he has become accustomed?  No one will catch him if his arms and legs cramp up. He knows this as surely as he knows how much time it will take him to get there 15 minutes early.

He looks around at people and instead sees the ocean.  The ocean is still and never needs anything more than what is given.  The ocean is a mystery to him.  Who built it?  How does it hide its shame?  In his hands are a set of tools from which he must construct himself.  From nothing.  From the ground up.  He must explain himself over and over.  He recoils, overwhelmed by the fear that they’ll recognize the sadness in him.  He explains and explains and explains never making the point that is so obvious to anyone who takes a moment to look.  And he hopes his explanations will blind them to the truth.  And he hopes they’ll see him and forgive his existence.

He looks enviously at those who have never had to work a day in their life to exist.  Some people just wake up and “are”.  He must invent.  He must create.  All of his actions reek of existential survival.  Bobby is a reminder of how fast a man must run to not fall down.  The faster he runs, the closer the oblivion he gets.  It is gaining on him, always.

Bobby Gold, never to know the stillness and quiet of a dreamless sleep.  Haunted by his visions of wholeness.  Mocked by his own creations and talents.  Bobby hears with a third ear.  He is haunted by the stumbling footsteps of those who do not belong.  The flesh on his neck stands at attention when he is near them.  He doesn’t need files and he doesn’t need a map.  He knows the look.  He is blessed with the curse of understanding.  As like is drawn to like, as “a dog goes back to its own vomit”, as pain seeks out pain.  He is them and they are he.  Outcasts.  Alone in a crowded universe.

Bobby Gold, born to see what people pray to have the strength to ignore. Bobby the Outcast.  Bobby the Obscure.  Bobby the Stranger Among Strangers.  Bobby the Donkey.  Capable of so much, but unable to hide the absurdity of his being.  Imploring the world to see him for what he does and not what he is. Doomed by the pain of the man who can never be more than he can build.

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Dissecting CARCASS’ “Heartwork” – Fifth Incision…Embodiment

This is the fifth in a series of articles analyzing the lyrics from the 1993 Carcass album “Heartwork”.

Embodiment

I bow down your precious icon, deity of self-suppression

This effigy of flesh, corporeal christi, nailed

In submission to this false idol, seeking deliverance

From this spiritual hierarchy, downward spiraling, a corrupt throne

Of repression and guilt

Our will be done

Thy kingdom burn

On my knees, before this tormented flesh, in irreverence

In communion with this parasitic host of virtuous divinity

This imperious creed bears testament to the failures of our morality

Righteous durance is our cross we bear in stations

In stations of the lost

Our will be done

Thy kingdom burn – thy kingdom burn

Our will be done

From your knees arise

By your own hand, your god you scribe

The earth shall inherit the meek

Your god is dead

Bound down, in God we’re trussed, foul stature

Icons embodied in flesh, we nail

In servitude to deities fashioned in our self image

Shadows of eternal strife cast by those who serve

Serve a crown of pawns

If up until this point you weren’t sure how the band Carcass feels about religion, Embodiment states it completely and in no uncertain terms. The song is an outright renunciation of organized religion, Christianity in particular.  The lyrics bubble with hatred and scorn for the self-annihilating principles that they believe mark the Christian outlook.  I don’t share the disdain that the band feels for Christianity, but the force of the language used in their argument is highly compelling.

The song’s central argument is that Christianity is an advanced form of slavery.  They make the case by dismissing the existence of any fathomable God and assuming that the goals of religion are to allow those who are in power to continue an unfettered hegemony over the practice of free will.  Where some people see peace and comfort, Carcass perceives control and subjugation.  Certainly, some of their argument is legitimate.  There are plenty of historical examples of the misuse of religion to advance the selfish ends of a tyrannical elite.  However, the song fails to address much of the comfort and solace that it has brought people for over 2000 years.  Further, it would be facile minded to simply assume that the self-abnegation at the core of Christian thought is completely a bad thing.  The giving up of one’s desires to benefit the community is on many occasions, inside or outside of a religious context, beneficial towards the human race as a whole.

In spite of the problems the argument presents, the language with which the case is made is striking.  The core belief in the song is contained in the beautifully efficient and devastating pun “In God we’re trussed”.  By taking an expression found on American money and perverting its message, Carcass is able to make several critical points.  First, the use of a religious phrase in an economic context effectively links the agenda of today’s Christianity with the pursuit of financial gain.  Then, they take the phrase and change trust (an act of faith) into trussed (to be tightly bound or in this case completely controlled).   Essentially, they argue here that while you may choose to subvert your needs for the Church it will not extend you the same courtesy and, worse, it will take your belief and use it to hoodwink you into giving up your possessions and your liberty.  In their eyes, it is the greatest hustle in human history.

What is truly lost for believers is contained in the heart-wrenching expression “the earth shall inherit the meek.”  The original phrase “the meek shall inherit the earth” is an appeal to the Job-like masses that give so tirelessly but ask for little in return.  They suffer in silence, but at the end of the day, they will be rewarded…or so the story goes.  The good and humble people will come to control the earth and the wicked will be cast from it.  The subversion of this expression contains allows for a very troubling message to be presented.  If you suffer in silence and do the right thing your reward will be the grave.  Death awaits us all and those who are pious and righteous are rewarded with the same eternal darkness that await those who pillage the world blind.  There are no rewards in this life or any other for those who follow the words contained in the Bible.  The meek will be buried right alongside those who engage in a Dionysian life of personal excess and unabated greed.  The ground cannot tell the two apart.

If this argument is legitimate, it presents us with chilling questions about how we should live our lives that goes beyond religion.  If there are truly no consequences for our actions, why not do whatever we want?  Those with the most material, at the end of the day, are those who have benefitted most from a purely material world.  If all that is promised to us for a good life is an eventual death, what is the motivation in living a justly?

I believe that the truth or untruth of God’s existence need not bear on whether someone acts morally.  If every word of the Bible is true and God’s existence is exactly as portrayed in Christianity, we should act with as much kindness, patience and love to those around us as we are capable.  If every word of the Bible is false and Christianity is an unholy scam perpetrated by on the masses by ruthless power mongers, we should act with as much kindness, patience and love to those around us as we are capable.  The reward of living a just life is simply getting to live a just life.  That’s all.  The earth may inherit the meek, but at least the meek can lessen the suffering of those around them.  Nothing else is promised and nothing else is certain.  TS Eliot eloquently summarizes this principle in his poem “Choruses From The Rock”…..

All men are ready to invest their money

But most expect dividends

I say to you: Make perfect your will.

I say: take no thought of the harvest,

But only of proper sowing

It is our station to care for one another to the best of our abilities regardless what the truth of the universe is.  To love without condition is the greatest gift we could bestow on our world no matter what the terms of our existence are.  Any philosophy that brings us closer to that ability, be it religious or atheistic, is worthy of our respect and consideration.

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Glossophobia and The Fugitive Mind

Stage fright is a truly terrible feeling.  Many people confront it, but usually they manifest their experience in different ways.  Some people cry, some talk louder, some simply feel a vague sense of dread as they move through the speech.  What I’ve noticed in talking to people about it over the years is that the experience of it changes dramatically from person to person, but it is always quite miserable if you feel it.

I have an awful fear of speaking on stage.  As a teacher, I never feel nervous speaking to a roomful of high school students, but once a year in May I am asked to speak in front of a large audience on a stage with a microphone.  The speech itself is something I’m honored to give, but the fear I feel starts around January and becomes nearly debilitating by the end of April.  It is only a three-minute speech but my fear of it consumes months of my life.

People are always very supportive and try to be compassionate but usually the advice I get doesn’t help all that much.  If you mention you have this fear you will get a lot of guidance, but often I’m not sure if the people who give it really understand the parts of it that make it so terrifying.  It is an irrational feeling and most rational suggestions fail to address it in a way that is practical.  You get advice like “Try to imagine them all naked”.  If everyone in the audience were naked I’m sure I’d be even more terrified!  How could the thought of hundreds of naked humans staring at you be even remotely comforting?  Other people ask you “What’s the worst that can happen?”  They have no idea of the circus that your brain becomes for three minutes.  The worst that can happen is that you’ll be on stage giving the speech.  People simply can’t comprehend why a relatively simple act like this can cause such suffering.  I don’t really understand it myself.

The following is an attempt to describe the experience in real time.  Some of this will sound silly, but every single thought written down has gone through my mind on stage.  The goal of this piece is to create a running record of what stage fright actually feels like for me.

Alright, here we go.  Need another sip of water.  If you act confident, the fear won’t come.  Okay, time to stand up.  They just called me.  Fix my jacket.  Three buttons…how many should I button?  I need to keep it buttoned cause my tie is too short.  I look like Oliver Hardy.  Someone once told me leave the bottom unbuttoned.  Okay.  Here we go.  Don’t look up.  Don’t look up.  Just read.  You should make some arm gestures.  Just hold the podium.  Don’t fall.  Hands sweating.  The podium is see through.  Are the spots around my hand fogging up?  Do they see me sweating? Act confident.  Here it comes.  Here it comes.  I should have left them all unbuttoned.  I should have acted more confident.  Now IT is HERE. 

Hot.  What if I pass out?  Falling, hitting my head.  Would someone catch me?  I’m too big.  Where am I?  Did I just miss a line…no, no, I’m okay….page one is over.  Don’t look up.  They are all looking at you.  They are all looking at you.  Is my fly zipped?  Don’t look up.  Fast.  Dizzy when I look up.  Falling, hitting my head.  IT IS HERE.

Does what I’m saying make any sense?  Do they hear me?  I didn’t practice enough.  I practiced wrong.  Fast. I practiced too much.  What if I forget how to read?  Sweating.  Pain in the top of my head.  Antler pain.  I feel like antlers are going to sprout out of the top of my head.  Stay focused.  Where am I?  I am reading, but I don’t know how.  There is another me reading.   I don’t even know what the other me is saying.  Why are they laughing?  Did I say something funny?  Did I do something embarrassing?  I didn’t write that to be funny…what’s happening???

FOCUS!!!!  Antlers.  Sharp, sharp pain in the top of my head.  Halfway done.  Sweating.  What if I can’t breathe?  Slow down your breathing.  What if I can’t?  I don’t control my breathing.  Long way to go in this speech.  Lots of words left.  What if I start saying weird things?  What if I start shouting random nonsense?  NO CONTROL. What if I burp?  What if I start cursing?  What if I lose control of my body?  Sharp pain in my head.  Antlers are growing inside.  Will they pop out?

One page left.  Downhill, downhill, breathe, another minute…..breathe.  If I can just get one more page.  What am I talking about?  Where am I?  DON’T LOOK UP!!!!  THEY are watching you….breathe….breathe….you are going to fast…..no one understands….breathe….one paragraph now…..look up once…try it…..try it….dizzy….FOCUS….DON’T LOOK UP…..clapping…no more words….handshake….get to the chair….don’t fall….don’t pass out…get to the chair…..sit down…..breathe….

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Dissecting CARCASS’ “Heartwork” – First Incision…Buried Dreams

Heartwork, the 1993 release by Carcass, is easily one of the most compelling metal albums ever recorded.  First and foremost, it is an explosion of monstorous guitar riffs, frenetic drumming and raging energy.  The music is captivating and overwhelming.  Heartwork is a remarkably powerful lyrical album that deals intelligently with issues like globalization, dehumanization and existential dread.  The music has been widely praised by many music journalists.   The lyrics, however, have been given scant attention. Jeff Walker, the band’s singer, bass player and chief lyricist, envisions a world that is entirely devoid of human feeling or empathy.  Walker’s adept use of language, particularly double entendre, lays bare the man’s inhumanity in all of its baseness.  His world is an empty one, filled only with sorrow, guilt and deep-seated hatred.

The album behaves like a book, each song a chapter examining a set of widely held beliefs and contrasting them with his vision of a world gone completely insane.  Over the next few months, I will attempt to analyze the themes and ideas song by song in an attempt to convey the inventiveness of Walker’s lyrics as well as the perspicacity of his message.

Buried Dreams

Welcome, to a world of hate
A life of buried dreams
Smothered, by the soils of fate
Welcome, to a world of pain
Bitterness your only wealth
The sand of time kicked in your face
Rubbed in your face

When aspirations are squashed
When life’s chances are lost
When all hope is gone
When expectations are quashed
When self-esteem is lost
When ambition is mourned
…All you need is hate

In futility, for self-preservation
We all need someone
Someone to hate

Buried Dreams is a nightmare vision of a world completely unconnected to its humanity.  It serves as an overview of the themes that are addressed in each song and is a great starting point because it contains the most unambiguous lines on the record.  In Walker’s “world of hate”, humans begin their journey in life filled with hope only to see that hope slowly eroded by the fixed nature of reality.  This reality is the death and pain experienced by all humanoid beings.  It is immovable, unchangeable and constant.  Humans search blindly in the dark for some reason, some deeper meaning that will connect the dots and make the pain they experience intelligible.  We fill ourselves with illusions in order to soften the blow of this horrible truth.  As the truth becomes more real, we grasp harder at the illusion but ones commitment to an illusion will never make that deception a reality.  We slowly come to terms with the understanding that there is no connection, there is no one tending the fire and the center simply does not hold.  Once this veneer of meaning has been stripped away there is nothing left to hold onto but pure visceral hatred.

By experiencing hatred for something, we are given the ability to overcome our basic alienation from ourselves all the while connecting to the other beings around us.  Love would be another way to connect, but the drawback of love is that it is fleeting.  Its initial joy is snuffed out by the understanding that our basic existential problem, death, will cause love to one day give way to sorrow and despair.  If you connect with hatred you never have to feel loss because the eventual vanquishing of your foe will be greeted with a feeling of joy and accomplishment.  No one mourns the death of their enemy.

On the surface, the lyrics could be read as a simplistic explanation of the rise of fascism in Europe in the 30s and 40s.  A society like Germany, which was drowning in debt and filled with impoverished humans recovering from the insanity of years of mindless trench warfare, was ready for the message of hate that Hitler brought.  I believe the song is meant to have much more of a timeless message with broader overtones about the human condition.  The line that universalizes this song is “in futility, for self-preservation, we all need someone…someone to hate.”  This is a Hobbesian view of a world of beings so frightened of death that they are willing to do anything to avoid it, even if they know that their actions are eventually pointless.  We are willing to create a Leviathan that may kill us for our disobedience in order to be safe.  The wall each of us run into is death and we are willing to embrace any idea that allows us to fully avoid thinking about our eventual consequence.  We are willing to embrace ideas that are self-destructive in order to escape the fear of death.  If this isn’t true, then how do you explain war? This horrible irony of our basic condition is that we long to avoid death, but we do so in a way that often hastens its coming.

And so our dreams are buried as we are carried kicking and screaming to our own certain demise.  We mask our fears with delusions of enemies all around us.  We think that we can stop the inevitable if we bomb that thing or execute this thing but with our last dying breath we are reminded of the futility of all of it.  Even hate cannot save us.  The final, horrible irony of our Buried Dreams is that we will eventually be buried next to them.

(I am pretty darned excited to announce that this series will also be running at MindOverMetal.org, one of my favorite metal sites. Special thanks to my homeboy Metal Matt Longo who not only agreed to run the thing, but even gave me a fantastic title for the series and some killer editing ideas.  Anyway those dudes speak truth and wisdom over there, check’em out)

Click here to get to Part 2 of the series

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