Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Ancient" A Poem


You are ancient.
She is ancient.
He is ancient.
Your souls
Of course
Hauntingly ancient.

All of your past lives
Beyond meager measure.
Something horrifying
And beautiful
From time past
And yet to come
Binds you.

You are hers
And she is yours.
He is not.
You dark
She light
He emptiness.
A benevolence out of time
A lost heart to claim
A malevolence from hell
Souls aswirl in a
Maelstrom of
Will be.

When darkness
Descends upon light
Emptiness intrudes and He
Tears, rips, and sunders
Bodies, souls and minds
Shredding what should be
What must be
Now can’t be as
The sick truth that
Annihilates love.

You are ancient.
She is ancient.
He is ancient.
The Darkness that
Needs the Light
As the Moon
Needs the Sun.
The Sun is the Darkness
and the Moon is the Light.
The mere speck
That separates them
After all these lives

is Emptiness.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Joy of (e)Books

“You went full retard, man. Never go full retard.”
- Robert Downey, Jr. “Tropic Thunder”

Recently I’ve seen a significant amount of hoopla, and let’s call it that, about books vs e-books. Hoopla isn’t a word I get to use much because it’s somewhat out of fashion, but it sure does describe the things people get worked up about sometimes. I’ll pretend, for a moment, that this really is an important issue and engage in little of it myself.

My hoopla stems from the sheer scorn and superiority that pseudo-intellectual luddite wannabes heap on anyone who happens to be unfortunate enough to get caught carrying a Nook or a Kindle. I enjoy people like that so much. Tearing them down is almost a compulsion. We’ll save that for some other time, though, and focus just on the “arguments.” We’ll also set aside, for now, the more relevant argument of “reading vs. not reading,” regardless of format.

The primary point of contention is that printed books are superior to electronic books. Now, normally, I’m of a mind to do a little research on a subject before going off on it. Deep dive into it, muck about in the juices, and claw out the details.

I think on this one, we can wing it.

The arguments are wildly varied. That alone is telling. To wit, they tend toward personal experience and preference, not some quantifiable measurement or nail-in-the-coffin detriment. The arguments range from the ridiculous to the inane.  I even read about one philosopher dude (all philosophers are called “dude”) who claimed his retention of material was less with an e-book than with a printed book.

Gee wiz! Golly! Really? That couldn’t be your weak-ass brain getting in it’s own way, could it? Or did you take an extra puff that morning and go from wake-and-baked to wake-and-broiled?


While there are many more, here’s a few of my favorites:

“E-books are cold and impersonal.”

My Kindle Fire is warm and fuzzy. If I so chose, it can literally be fuzzy. It is uniquely mine. No other tablet computer is exactly like it. It has what is me in it; it holds my interests, my contacts, my thoughts, my memories. It has books galore, movies, magazines, entertainment, science, how-tos, notes and the entire world of information and knowledge at my fingertips. I carry it with me everywhere I go and it is a constant companion. Most “real” books, once read, sit on a shelf gathering dust. Hardly a fair comparison in the “cold and impersonal” department.

“Printed books have a feel to them that you just can’t get from an e-book.”

There is a “feel” to a “real” book. The jacket, the cover, the pages flipping, the sturdiness of the spine. There’s a feel to an e-reader, too. My Kindle is considerably more comfortable to hold. Not as bulky or rough on the hands as a hardcover, but much more solid than a paperback. It’s got a good grippable back, as well. I can flip it upside down, prop it up on a pillow, hold it with one hand, and lay it flat without the pages flipping closed.  I can read it in complete darkness.  Perhaps people who think this have only tried something like an iPad, which is a horrible device for reading.*

“There’s a joy in holding and smelling and feeling a good book in your hands.”

Granted, row after row of stacks a beautiful sight. Shelves lined with books are inspiring and humbling at the same time. I love that feeling of vastness I get when walking into a packed bookstore or library. A shelf of e-readers really doesn’t get the aesthetic motor running. For decoration, we’ll give good old fashion “real” books a win. I’ll give “real” books snaps for smell, too. For some reason that smell makes me hungry. Ever sniff a Kindle? Nothing. That’s not enough to make me choose a printed book over an e-reader, but it’s something.

“You can’t highlight and mark up an ebook like you can a real book.”

Bullshit. Anyone who would say this has either not actually used an e-book reader, or is an idiot. If you’re in the former category I assure you most certainly can, in ways that are significantly more capable and useful than the good old No. 2 pencil method. Not only can you mark, bookmark, highlight, annotate infinitely and cross reference, but you can share your notations and read other people’s. If you’re in the latter category, alas, I have nothing for you. Actually read that book you’re fondling, maybe?

“Paper books don’t require batteries.”

They do require a light source. So, really, you either need to get some sun, a plug or... well, batteries. My original Kindle reader can run a month on a single charge. When just reading, my Kindle Fire runs about a week. Granted, if that’s too inconvenient then yes, a “real” book is the way to go. Plugging in that little USB plug at the end of day (while I plug in my cell phone at the same time) is a real pain in the ass. Did I mention I can read in the dark? Yeah.

“E-Books are too expensive and not all books are available.”

I even read one article where the author pointed out five specific books that weren’t available as e-books (three of which were not available on Amazon but were available from Project Gutenberg) and that the cost of a reader was too expensive for most people. Then they listed one (only one) book that was more expensive in e-book format than printed. The mind boggles. There are millions of books that haven’t been converted to e-books yet. Yet. In the meantime, there are more magnificent books than you could read in a thousand lifetimes available right now in e-book format. The vast majority are the same price or considerably cheaper than their printed siblings. Granted, your initial investment in an e-reader is about $80 on the low end, but well worth it when weighed against the benefits.

“I don’t have to worry about breaking my book. LoL.”

Of course you do. It just breaks differently, fucker. You have to be as careful with an e-reader as you would with a real book.  E-readers shatter. Printed books tear. Both are not so good with water. Although, I can buy an e-reader that is completely waterproof. Waterproof printed books are hard to come by. One proponent of printed books went so far to claim that “real” books can last hundreds of years, whereas electronic books don’t. She didn’t bother qualify the last part of that statement, though, so I’m curious. How is “hundreds of years” longer than eternity?

“You can recycle real books.”

Um. Without the paper, there’s no need to recycle. This is not a point in printed books favor. This is asserting that recycling is good because it’s recycling.

“You can’t share e-books or check them out at a library.”

Actually, you can.  Sharing an e-book, by the way, is no more legal than sharing a printed book without the author’s or publisher’s consent. E-books just make it easier and more convenient for authors and publishers to enforce their rights. Which means the old practice of handing a paperback to a friend to read, instead of them paying the author for their own copy, is hampered. That pisses people off. Yet the some publishers and authors are making it possible to do it anyway. How about that?  The electronic book makes possible, for the first time, a global virtual library without the need for a physical buildings or bulky distribution. All the knowledge of humanity available to everyone, anytime, and anyplace. Granted, there’s quite a few hurdles to overcome, but it’s entirely possible (Amazon Prime and Amazon Lending Library are examples of some baby steps in this direction) and the potential is staggering in its implications.

Bashing e-books is simple. I was a bookseller for a good chunk of my professional life. Loving books is something that’s second nature to me. Slamming e-books makes us feel superior because we prefer a venerated and ancient method to acquire knowledge under the mistaken belief that doing so makes us better, or that the old method is more desirable and admirable than the new.

In the 1960s, the same was said about paperbacks.

The efficient and effective distribution of art and knowledge to all of humanity is never a Bad Thing. It is something that should be embraced and celebrated.

Enjoy your “real” books. I do. I love to hold them, flip the pages, smell them and see them on the stacks. They are beautiful and awe inspiring.

Don’t let that blind you, though, to the raw power and infinite possibility of being able to tap instantly into the collected experience, artistry, consciousness and knowledge of all of humanity.

I present for your consideration the electronic book.

Welcome to … everything.

"Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live."

*You really didn’t think you would get out of this kind of discussion without a little Apple bashing, did you? If so, I LOL in your general direction.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Interconnectedness is a Long Word

“Write drunk; edit sober.” - Ernest Hemingway

Papa meant this literally and figuratively. Although, having read a few biographies about the man, I suspect he meant literally more often than figuratively. Writing-wise, though, I’m in a drunk phase. From the figurative standpoint, this is that brain-rattling place where there’s a multitude of ideas, but not a lot of writing going on. I’m filling up and taking notes, as it were. It’s a goat screw.

This condition comes out of a dry spell that lasted a couple of weeks, which grew out of an extensive editing and rewriting run, which birthed from a drunk period. It’s cyclic. But it can be an annoying as fuck cycle.

If you’re trying to  conjure a mental picture of a “fuck cycle” right now, we’re going to get along fine.

Here’s how it works: I get “drunk,” come up with great ideas, write them all out, and then sit on them and fret for a couple of weeks. After letting that stew, it’s time to start sifting through it. Stuff that was hysterical or insightful is now complete garbage, and it’s an underwater mining expedition in a Disneyland character costume to find anything worth keeping. Swallow the few decent bits, puke them out, and then sit quietly for more weeks knowing in my sad little soul that I’ll never write anything again.

Then get drunk again.

It takes a lot of faith to write, just like it takes a lot of faith to love. Both are the kind of faith that requires devotion, soul searching, and a good deal of rum. It’s faith like porn. You might not know how to define it, but you know it when you see it, and you’re probably going to be left standing there with your dick in your hand. You do it anyway.

When it hits, though, everything starts popping, the drunk comes, and everything lines up. The drunk phase is where shit just happens. There’s nothing. You stop worrying about the nothing.  Suddenly there’s something.

Which, with much ado, leads us to the concept of interconnectedness and how the universe gleefully lets us screw ourselves over. Or if you’re more of an optimist, get whatever we want.

Too much of a leap? Let’s see.

“The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.” -Yasutani Roshi, Zen master

I had been out a bar alone and, upon returning home, was putting the finishing touches on a nice buzz. Turning on a movie seemed a good idea because, at some point, masturbation loses it’s appeal entirely. Sans a woman, a satellite receiver connected to the Internet is a modern wonder for the drunk and bored. I settled on an indy film called Free Samples. The movie reminded me of That One, but I couldn't figure out why.

So, I texted her and said as much. I hadn't heard from her in over a week, and not for a month before that. I don’t know what she does during these absences from my life. Then again, I suppose it’s none of my business. She texted back that I needed to read a book called The Law of Attraction. That’s it. No reason why.

She does that.

Dutifully , I downloaded the book onto the Kindle. There were half a dozen with the same title, so I picked one that seemed reasonably interesting. I’d read one or two about the subject in the past. Napoleon Hill and The Secret (horrid) and a breeze through the Esther Hicks “Abraham” schtick years and years ago.

I was buzzed and I was hungry. So, I sat there at 2 A.M. drinking Heineken, eating a bowl of Cheerios, and reading this short little book about how all things are connected and how to tap into the power of those connections. Then I passed out. When I woke up I downloaded another book on the subject. Then another. A process which completely jacked up my Amazon recommends. I threw in a little Internet research for good measure.

And I’m thinking, “I know this.”

The law of attraction is a side effect of "interconnectedness." More accurately, it’s a theoretical way of tapping and attempting to control the interconnected nature of all things.

The idea of interconnectedness goes that at the very core of everything, including you and me, it is connected together. The theory has some loose pseudo-scientific basis in that all things are made up of the same original particles or energy (you pick which you like, I’m going with particles). These particles are still connected to each other through resonating frequencies, sub-atomic attraction, mystical force, or some other undiscovered and/or unproven means.

Some of these connections are “more there” than others, and there’s a good reason for that. They've been connected, or resonating, together for millions, even billions, of years. Some of the interconnections, though, have been together since just after the start of time and are so powerful that they are either joyfully, or disastrously, unavoidable.


A single particle floating in space shortly after the creation of the universe. Particles have spewed out of the original creation event in every direction from the singularity. Even at this relatively short point in time the violence of the event has accelerated them to unfathomable distances. By chance or design, two of these particles collide.

The two particles spin around each other and join together. As they travel through space they attune to each other. They remain separate but, at the same time, are one. To each other they are The One. The only other thing in existence. By cosmic law, and unless something violent or malevolent interferes, they are bound for eternity now. They continue their journey together for billions of years.

Time passes. In one billionth of a second change crashes down on the joined particles. Something is different, subtle at first, but over millions of years, the effect becomes more and more pronounced. They've been caught up with billions of other particles, all swirling and coalescing around a burning bright mass that yanks them with irresistible need into it’s influence.

The violence that ensues is almost too much. The two mated particles are pulled and pushed. Other particles join them. That group of particles joins another. Heat and cold blast them. The masses of particles continue to form into the building blocks that create atoms. The atoms in turn form into molecules. The process is furious and our two star crossed particles are ripped from each other in maelstrom of raw power and creation.

Eons pass. Our two particles are so perfectly attuned that eventually they find each other. They merge together once again and form. The primordial chaos that is their existence, however, tears them apart once more.

More time passes, the attraction continues and the two particles come back together impossibly, but inevitably. They've learned from their time apart. Despite the hellish nature of their existence they form something new, something better, the pull between them stronger than the chaos. Other particles have attuned with them now, as well. Not as perfectly, but close enough. They join in.  Life is born.

Billions years pass and two small, scaly creatures flopping their way through life on a gravelly beach bump into each other. There a multitude of primitive predators with which to contend, the environment itself conspires against them, and there are a variety of choices for mates, but these two stick together. They spend their short lives never far from the other before death separates them once again.

The scenario plays out, in some form, over and over.  Each time the attraction grows minutely stronger, more adept at overcoming the limitations creation has imposed, becoming  just a little bit better at reasserting itself.

A young boy wakes up in a cave. Strangers have arrived. With them is a little girl. Unlike those he knows, she has strange, big blue eyes. He has never seen a young female before, but he knows this one is for him. The strangers move on. They are not the same kind as he and his. Now, though, he is unsettled. A restlessness invades his waking and sleeping time. He leaves the cave soon after and spends his life roaming in the wilderness, alone, searching for that one thing that is for him.

A girl grows up in a tenement house in large European city. The smell of horse manure and waste dumped into the street is always present. She goes to work in a factory as a child and never knows anything different. In the house next door lives a boy. He works in the same factory, but in the dank basement where no one but those assigned would go. They never meet but spend their entire lives within a hundred yards of each other. One day, as an old woman, the boy, now an old man, sits next to her on the stoop in front of her building and smiles at her. He takes her hand and looks into her big, still beautiful blue eyes. The two never speak, but they are both filled with a sense of fulfillment and contentment, knowing that with just a smile this life is complete.

More ages pass. The attraction gets stronger. The pull between the particles accelerates the joining  with each meeting, returning the vibrations to their original, natural state.

A young man meets a girl. The synapses in his brain, combined with the biochemical reaction of of his body, begin accommodating her. She’s sexy and strong and his brain begins building an image of her and his relationship to her. The biological and mental processes ignite in what is called falling in love. When they've completed the process, the image is built and set, and he is in love. He stays with the girl and they join their lives together. They live together, work together, have children together.  But the mental image he has in his brain, the neurons firing along  synaptic pathways that were determined billions of years ago, don’t match up with reality. His brain has created what is suppose to be, what he knows should be, but it doesn't match what is. He knows she see’s him the same way.

They try. Society tells them of love and how to work it out. New neural pathways have formed. They are less tenuous, less ancient, but they are there and strong. He’s use to her and she’s use to him. They both put forth the effort, again and again, to accommodate each other’s ideal. It never clicks quite right and they fail. Finally, after years of trying, they give up. In his brain, a block builds, a resistance to the ideal that his brain’s chemistry and makeup have required him to form from the most elemental part of what he is. He meets another girl. Miraculously, she falls neatly into the ideal pathways his synapses have formed. Surprisingly, after years of believing in the ideal constructed in his mind, it has nothing to do with what he believed.

They both have families, lives, friends, experiences. They've fought and cried and loved and hoped, separately, for years. None of it matches up with what they believed was the ideal. They've lived and grown to a place where they simply can’t come together. But they fit. He can see it in the way she smiles when he looks at her, the way he feels perfectly at ease and content when he’s with her, the joy he feels when he hears her voice, they way their lives bump into each other in ways too impossible for chance, the way he can see what she’s thinking when he looks into her big, beautiful blue eyes, even in the way they seem to experience the same things at the same time. The connection, the draw, the inevitable rightness of it is too explicit.

They stay that way for years. He fills his life with family and experiences. The block has made him understand that it’s not being in love that matters, so he stops looking for it.  She falls in love, not because it’s the love that fits, or is quite right, but because she needs it and it’s close enough. Her block is a hole in her soul that needs to be filled with the familiar. They continue to stay close but separate. The two can’t become one, it’s far too late for that, but the need to be one remains. They smile at each other, share with each other, and live their lives hand in hand with each other, but separate, like two particles spinning around each other, travelling together through the vastness of space.

The two particles travel through time and space, torn apart by creation, but always coming back together, inevitably, the attraction getting stronger with each encounter, moving toward that perfect time and place when they will join once again for eternity.

Multiply that by trillions of particles, all interacting for billions of years, and all forming some connection at some time or another. The longer the connection stays intact, the stronger or more “in tune” it is. The original connection, the strongest and most powerful, is the concept of a soul mate. Other strong connections form, as well, though; teachers, mentors, loved ones, and enemies. All and everything connected together in some way.

“Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”  - Douglas Adams

A completely non-scientific and overly romantic way of looking at it, I suppose. The basic concept of interconnectedness, though, is universal.  It is the basis for just about every religion and cultural construct we have. The Buddhist concept of Oneness. The Hindu concepts of reincarnation. Even the Christian concepts of heaven and hell and a return to grace. Every culture and religion has their understanding of interconnectedness.  They all have built in, sure fire methods of connecting and controlling the interconnectedness of all things, as well.

The Law of Attraction is a relatively modern version of that attempt at control, though it’s roots are unfathomably ancient. It’s based in the belief that if you think of something in a positive way, and be open to letting those positive things come to you, then you will experience positive things. Your thoughts will affect the inherent resonating frequencies (or what-have-you) and bring you what you think.

I suspect it’s more psychological than anything else. If you have happy thoughts then the bad stuff won’t seem so bad and the good stuff will seem deserved. I try to keep an open mind here, though. The geek in me squirms in delight at the idea of a controllable, semi-mystical Force running willy-nilly through the Universe. Preferably with lightsabers.

Whether we can or can’t control the interconnectedness of everything, we can certainly feel it. As we go through life and come in contact with these connections, they get stronger.
In religion, it’s the feeling of wellness and peace that comes from faith and belief. In love, it’s that knowing there’s a connection with someone else and you’re not alone. In science, it’s that eureka moment when everything snaps together. In writing, it’s the cyclic nature of just letting it happen.

Yes, Papa. Write drunk. Edit sober. Ride the fuck cycle. It’s all connected. It will all come around again, better and stronger.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Darkness of Hope

“Now go write a blog about how possessing a large capacity for hope can be destructive.”


We should take a peek at the dark side of hope now and then. A little darkness does the soul good. It is a prickly one. Hope is a bottomless gullet that will slurp us into it’s depths until it consumes everything we were. It is a wicked tar pit that sticks to us and forces us to believe what’s not really there. It can obliterate rational thought and make the strong and the weak equally likely to stumble off the metaphorical cliff and straight into all sorts of very real hell of our own making.

“Really? That’s your view of hope?” you might say.

Oh, there’s much more to it than that, says I.

A poor man looks at the wealth of the world. He hopes that he can attain his share of it. All he needs is money. Money to care for his family. Enough to provide a good home. Money to put his children through school and ensure they have have a good start on life. A little more to be able to treat his wife they way she deserves. Perhaps a little extra to help others that were once like him. He hopes for that day when he can do all the things his heart and mind tell him he could do with just a little money. He goes to the same minimum wage job day after day and he hopes. Then one day he wakes up, he eats his breakfast alone, he prepares for work, and he’s an old man; still working, still poor, still hoping.

A girl loves a boy. He loves her, as well, but it’s different. Not the childish “I love you, but like a...” kind of difference.  She is convenient and familiar to him. He’s used to her. It’s just not deep enough, just not pure enough, and she feels it. There is something vital missing, something wanting, an empty spot that doesn’t fill in right. Something that should be there, but is somewhere else. She fills it with other things. She hopes that love will grow to fill the part that’s missing. She hopes that it will change them. She hopes that, in time, a spark will fill the empty spot and love will work out right. She hopes it will with everything she can muster. Years later, years of hoping, no growth, no change, no spark, the thing that’s missing is still missing. Hope dies and they part.

A young man spends his youth hoping to be a star. He learns guitar and learns first that he must practice. All the time. He hopes that he has the time, that the time will just open up. He goes out with a girl. He watches a movie. He helps his family with all the little things a family needs.  He spends evenings with his dearest friends. He goes to college. He lives his life day by day, hoping that the time will come when he has time. He hopes and the guitar sits in the garage, covered in dust, a small brown spider nesting amongst the strings that rust away waiting for time.

A little girl lies in bed, awake in the earliest morning hour. She hopes her father will come soon to tuck her in and tell her good night. It is long past time, but she hopes. Her eyes burn, from lack of sleep and the effort of holding back the tears, and the churning in her stomach, and trembling in her chest. She clutches the blanket in her tiny hands, pulling it to her face, and she hopes in the dark that soon he will come through the bedroom door. As he always has before. She hopes he will tell her sweet dreams, and kiss her forehead, and tell her he’s always there. But she doesn’t believe. Not now. It’s too late. The hope is not joy, it does not bring anticipation, it doesn’t sooth, it amplifies the fear tenfold that there will be no Daddy tonight.

Hope. How can a simple word that should bring joy and promise be such a detrimental thing?

It’s because hope can not stand alone. Hope without something else is just empty wishing. Hope needs inspiration. Hope needs conviction. Hope needs faith. Most importantly, hope needs love. Hope without love is love without hope. A pointless exercise at best.

A person can’t hope for inspiration, they must be inspired by hope. They can not hope with conviction, they must draw conviction from hope. They can’t hope for faith, they must place faith in hope. They can’t hope to love, they must feel love to have hope.

A large capacity for hope can be be destructive on it’s own. Inspiration, conviction, faith, and love melded with a large capacity for hope is tremendously powerful.  Hope is not result of what we wish. Hope is only the promise. It is up to us to keep it.

At least, I hope so.