2.231. The Pathless Path

“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems and suffer and understand, for all that is life.”Jiddu krishnamurti spoke those words many cycles ago, imparting to the future the wisdom of all times. It is a basic truth that we must be rounded and understand all things. I most recently have applied that to the dual worlds of pleasure and pain, but it feels like it needs to be applied to more spectrums. The doldrums of routine, for example, are a form of meditation that helps us to understand freedom and spontaneity. Struggle is required to reflect upon success. Disdain is equally important as appreciation.

In a greater sense he was not speaking of spectrum or opposites. When he said, “truth is a pathless land” I believe he meant to convey the openness of life, of how the world is but a medium through which we discover self and that self-discovery happens in its own way for each of us. For myself I have discovered that I value experience so much more and hold on tightly to everything I experience–even that which brings me pain. I do not value these things equally, but I do recognize that everything and everyone has purpose and a role. That allows me to appreciate them in some form.

Some Thoughts:

  1. It is getting harder and harder for politicians to ignore the cries for gun control.
  2. It is getting easier and easier not to take Trump seriously, which likely means he will win another election and ride off into the sunset believing he was the absolute shit. I don’t care as much as I used to. It isn’t my place to tell him he’s wrong. People have the right to live their own truth, and seven more years of his is going to create a lot of opportunity to see the ‘truth of hatred’ living strong in our nation. I don’t consider that a setback the way I once did, because I believe we have strong enough leaders beyond him to help us all recognize how ugly that hatred makes all of us.
  3. Black Panther has an entire speech about that at the end. Mid credits. It is all kinds of dope.

2.230

I know the plan was to stop writing at night, but the day offered little opportunity and… I just had to talk about Black Panther!

I’m on the Panther bandwagon. I believe the character is a solid build–vulnerable, nuanced, dedicated, and bad ass. However, the Panther wasn’t the star here. It was the women of Wakanda who turned it up a notch and turn this movie into something I want my kids to show their kids as part of the Marvel canon. The movie is about the crowning of T’Challa as king of Wakanda and the challenges made to that crown. It is also about the idea of what Wakanda is and how that culture practices a form of isolationism that is all too familiar to the American populace. You cannot see the film without recognizing the all too obvious political overtones.

This is a black film. This is a black and African film. This is about pride in culture and people in a form that argues that we ought to be proud of our style and culture and ought to be chill about showing others that we are proud and we are inclusive. It definitely doesn’t start that way, but by the ten minute mark you’ve felt the political overtones radiating outward like a force blast.

I was happy to be a part of the opening weekend. I think Marvel picked a winner here, because it was a solid film that didn’t rely too heavily on superpowers and CGI to get the job done. In fact the moments where the CGI are the heaviest are the weakest parts of the story. This is a people story.

This is my people’s story.

2.229. Procedural

I’m in a breakfast house. It was built in 1928 as a family home and converted 60 years later. The rooms are cozy, loaded with tables of people having breakfast and moving on into their daily lives. The people beside me are older—60’s perhaps. There are two couples with the women on one side and the men on the other. The men are dressed similarly, though the women display their particular flare. The women are talking about their lives in the fashion of people explaining how to better fold a blanket. Each woman has her own angle on how to approach their very similar lives. The woman on the left has decided to go to the baby shower, but decided to go with the target gift card as opposed to the hand-picked gift the other lady is prepared to buy.

 

I’m not sure whose husband is who.

 

On the surface they should be the ones directly across, but the conversations flow diagonally as much as parallel. The men are not retired. They’ll talking about business trips and the wives are considering whether they’ll travel on their own. This is a polite life. This is a life that I always equate with being American. It isn’t a life that belongs to me or ever could. I’m not that kind of American.

 

This kind of American man listens to his wife explain how and when he is supposed to interact with his grandkids. This is the life where the largest problem is deciding how long you want to be in a place to help a relative out, or how long to visit the cabin. My life is cut from expectations and hollowed out interactions. I live in the scissored ridges where people have moments of real conversation and the largest problems are about paying the mortgage and deciding what a life ought to look like.

 

Nothing in my life is resolved save for who I love, and where I will work for the next ten to fifteen years. I am happy in my own way. I find that happiness in those moments of closeness and conversation and I wear it like a cloak against the rest. I refuse to fall into the rhythm of a procedural where life is about connecting the dots in a picture that is already drawn for me.

 

I want to know that any day I can shut all that out, get in a car, and find solitude with my love and the road.

2.228. Reflections on a School Shooting

Maybe when it starts happening at private schools, the elite will give a damn. I know the conspiracy theorists will quickly look for a way to debunk this reality, as they tried with Sandy Hook, in order to avoid taking a real hard look at the culture we created. Here is what we know: There have been 25 fatal school shootings since Colombine. This was even reported by Fox News, so you know nobody is hiding from this truth. Yet, what is being underreported is the fact that there have been 18 school shootings in 2018. We are only 45 days into the new year. To go one step further, check these numbers:

The First Month of 2018 (real-time data as of 2/1):

-1,260 gun deaths

-2,308 gun injuries

-57 children shot/killed

-245 teenagers shot/killed

-132 incidents of defensive gun use

-163 unintentional shootings

-190 armed home invasions

-23 mass shootings

-25 officers shot/killed

Note that the mass shootings include criminal violence. So, the problem is not restricted to kids sitting in a classroom trying not to do math work. In contrast, there were 474 gun deaths in Iraq in the first month of 2018. We nearly tripled an actual war zone.

There is a problem with gun violence in America that is reinforced by the way we see violence in our country and the almost casual access we have to high-powered assault weaponry. It would be easy work for me to walk to a nearby Big 5, pick up an AR-15-styled weapon, and continue walking less than a mile to the nearest school or community college where I could cause a great deal of harm. Only, I am not a person who has any interest or desire in doing such things. But who are those people? We learned (what we already knew but refused to accept) from the Las Vegas incident that those people can be anyone. There is not specific typology to violent gun offenders. On the other hand, I live in a community where most of the people who live around me are armed to the teeth. I should be terrified by my situation. Only, I live under the pretense of some basic social order and repercussion where a person isn’t willing to blow up their life by taking the lives of others. This latest school shooting is a reminder that, despite us not being willing to do such a thing, there are a wealth of people who are very much interested in ‘going out hard.’

Now what are we going to do about it? Probably nothing.

2.227. A Valentine’s Post

I told my students to go find out what Valentine’s means. We are in a mythology class, where the goal is to unravel what we know and what we think we know in order to discover the roots of things. It is a meditation of sorts for me. It helps me reflect on my own beliefs and superstitions. I don’t believe in Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t follow the rituals. There is a social expectation to be a part of the holiday–especially when you’re in a relationship. I doubt my partner is the type to question why I didn’t get her flowers, but I know she likes flowers, so why not get them–especially on this day. It won’t be roses. Today roses are reflective of an overpriced push to normalize a sense of what love is supposed to look like. Our love doesn’t look like that. Our love is a room full of daisies and me holding her in my arms.

I don’t need a specific day to show my love or to be rewarded for it. Still, the occasion–any occasion–to do so publicly cannot be ignored. Especially at this juncture in our relationship where everything whispers of what could be and what is lives in the shadows of what should be. And if you know about me you know that it is shadows that scare me the most. I fear what lives in that pool of darkness, just out of sight of my understanding, slipping further into that inky dark when I turn my eye upon it. Something always waits there, watching. Something that controls me while I have no control or understanding of it.

But today is not about that darkness. Today is about the moments of light and happiness and the glow on the faces of the ones you love when you kiss them and remind them of your feelings. Today is the day we share our hearts under the light of the sun and the moon and all the stars in the sky. Today is love writ large, no matter what beginnings brought us to this place.

 

2.226. T’Challa, Man.

I’m excited about Black Panther. I don’t think it has to be the kind of film that Wonder Woman was in terms of establishing some baseline level of ‘we can do this’ because black cinema is already a thing. Black Hero shows are already a thing. Luke Cage and Black Lightening are a thing. The latter is the #2 super hero show on the CW with 1.9 million viewers (that is huge numbers for the CW). Luke Cage is well received enough that it got a season 2 while the actual comic book was cancelled. So it ain’t about the black.

It is about the Panther.

BP is among the strongest and most nuanced of the Marvel comic tales. Essentially he is a ‘B’ level character, which allows the writers a lot of wiggle room in how they recreate the tale on the big screen. There is so much story to tell in this that we clearly will not even venture close to the story of him and Storm (The power couple that rivals the Fantastics!) or much more than a lead in tale that situates us in Wakanda. I believe we are about to be treated to something new and engaging and character driven, given the past efforts of Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale station).

Some Thoughts:

  1. There is a lot of sex that takes place in the Olympic Villages. A lot. Think of ‘first day of camp’ for grown people with no other outlet but each other, pumped up on endorphines, and, well, sickeningly hot. The Tongan gets so much love.
  2. I’m actually excited for the NFL draft right now. I am interested to see how trades and drafting change my mighty mighty Giants.
  3. The Jets my do something too…

2.225. Reflections on a Monday Night

On the night my ASU novel writing class ends, I find myself reflective. I have been writing and teaching writing for a very long time. I think what makes me good at it (I’m admitting that I don’t entirely suck) is my passion for it. This is where I feel the type of class I teach makes the difference. I am so passionate for creative writing classes that it makes my passion for essay writing feel like a flicker in the darkness. I’m sure the kids who experience both classes can see that flame dim. I do nothing but smile in CRW classes, like I am getting away with something. I have to pinch myself sometimes, thinking ‘I am getting paid for this!’

I am getting paid to write in a number of different forums and that is just fantastic. I’m not big league. I’m not getting speaking gigs at schools for $750 a night, but I feel like I am reaching people and I am helping them tell their stories and that feels right. I know I need to recognize that the business side matters and I need to find a way to make the money in the way that makes my heart sing.

2.224. Little Earthquakes

The universe and I have this arrangement: Every new year the Universe throws a ton of problems and issues my way, and I deal with them. After the spell of drama fades I am allowed a brief respite to figure a few things out. Now a better version of me would slide into this time at full speed and find a way to quickly prepare for the future and better myself–meaning I would see this pause as a chance to redevelop myself and get stronger, so eventually the universe really can’t screw with me the way it does, or at least when it does I would be better prepared.

But I’m not the best version of myself. Not yet. In fact, the truth is, some of these earthquakes are of my own making. By using the pause as a time to sit around and do nothing, I create a condition where I am letting responsibilities fall and making things harder for myself in general.

My partner is convinced that I do too much. She was right at one point. I was into everything. Lately, my responsibilities have been expiring/dwindling. It probably doesn’t feel like that to anyone else to me, but I can say that the preparation piece is where I feel it the most. I don’t have to prep the way I usually do, and that means I should be able to focus my energy where it matters. The fact remains that I have not learned how.

2.223. Dreams and Reality

Nothing worth having is easy, right? I’ve come to use the line as a mantra to keep the patience and to keep my head down, trying to work towards happiness. It has taken me a long time to recognize that my personal quest for happiness is a form of selfishness, and that compromise is the purest form of love.

So, what now? What does it all mean?

I have to recognize that I’ve been given a great many options and opportunities in life and I have, above all else, a responsibility to cultivate the abilities and opportunities I’ve been given and to make the best life available to me. I don’t know all the answers or how things turn out. I know it won’t be exactly as I want or dreamed, and it isn’t going to make everyone happy. Still, I’m going to be the best version of myself and do what I am capable of doing in every aspect of my life.

2.222. The Golden Ratio

The more I search the dark cosmos for the things that make me happy, the more I am convinced that they are already in my life. What I am learning is that ratio plays an important part in everything. I started thinking about this the other day when I was trying to measure the idea that pain is necessary in order to appreciate pain. I thought, yes but to what extent and regularity? And is this only a physical thing? If I was hurt by a person long ago, how long can I appreciate the pleasure of companionship before needing to experience pain again? It didn’t take long for my mind to decide things didn’t work quite that way–at least not for me. The idea of ratios felt more true. In other words, I couldn’t remember a time where everything in my life brought me absolute joy. There was always something that felt onerous. Often these things created a natural balance where, on the whole the things in my life were better than they were worse and the things that sucked gave me something to strive for. At my best I was incredibly happy in my work condition, writing with aplomb, super happy with my kids, coaching all star teams, heavily respected, making great money, treading water with my then wife, and not speaking to my family whatsoever. Note the last two pieces were not great. There isn’t room (or reason, perhaps?) for everything in life to be outstanding. Perhaps if everything is, the universe is going to come for you.

It did.

Now I am working towards something truly special and I am aware of the moving pieces and the opportunities. I even see the part of my life that has been a sacrifice in all of this, and I am completely fine with that. I understand that this is the part that must feel like pain in order to have the rest.