A Fistful Of Fives (essay)

A Fistful of Fives

        2015 is a number rooted in 5 (51) and haunted by 25 (52); my life has likewise been rooted and haunted, and this was the year in which I would either vanquish or succumb to the numerological demons that lurk within the powers of five. First, every day since our wedding on 5/5/90, my wife and I have made tally marks in groups of five in a book, with a page each year. Since 2000, the month plus the day plus the year have equaled the number of our anniversary, so our 25th (5 + 5 + 15, 52) anniversary, was due to come on 5/5/15, a fraught and fateful date as you shall see. 35 years before (20 + 15 = 2015 – 1980 = 1990 – 1955 = lucky 7 x 5), my parents had talked excitedly about their upcoming anniversary (wed 7/25/55 = 5+2/52/two 5’s), which was to be their 25th (52, 5 + 2 = lucky 7), but death denied them that joy, so the number 25 has hung like a sword over my head ever since. My mother (and her father) died on 5/2/80 (5 + 2 = lucky 7, 52 = 25); my father died 5 years later on 2/23/85 (2 + 2 + 3 = lucky 7, 2 + 3 = 52 = 25). Furthermore, not only had no one in my family ever made it to their 25th anniversary, none had ever reached their 54th birthday; 2015 was the year both were slated to happen in my life. I was 53, hoping to turn 54 in 2015 (5 x 4 = 20, 5 x 3 = 15); the numbers were stacked against me. Five is supposed to symbolize health, love, and marriage (man = 2, woman = 3, 2 + 3 = 5), yet five felt like the damning number, the knife that was going to take me out like it had the rest of my family.

The powers of 5 could not be denied; they had to be ascended. In 2015, we went from the 25th to the 26th page of our book on 5/5/15, the 125th (53) day of the year, breaking the curse of 52. My wife turned 53 on 6/25 (50 + 51 / 52); I turned 54 on 5/26 (51 / 52 + 50, 5/26 anagram of 6/25) breaking the curse of 53. Our lives, ever rooted in 5 (51), once fearful of 25 (52), have indeed endured to conjure up the critical +1 (50) to go beyond 53 (to 54) and 25 (to 26) and yet beyond to 125 (53) in 2015 (an anagram of 125). The number 125 (53) has been used as a low-ball estimate of the number of times my wife and I have made love on average annually, which not coincidentally works out over 25 (52) years to be 3,125 (55, a fistful of fives). Yes; 5 to the second power had threatened to undercut us, but reaching 5 to the fifth power testifies to the monument of love my wife and I have erected atop the still-smouldering ruins of my earlier family tragedies. 2015 implied 5 (51, the book tallies), induced 25 (52, our anniversary), puzzled 125 (53, 53, 2015 anagram), led to 625 (54, wife’s birthday), amassed 3,125 (55). Love has triumphed; the numbers prove it. I was born in ’61, so in ’16 I will turn 55, (two fives, two hands with digits pressed together, in love and in prayer). I cannot shed 5, but I needn’t dread 5; in fact, I have embraced the powers of five.

 

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You Kill Me (song lyrics)

You Kill Me

by Mark Zucker

 

I can’t have ya but ya haunt me

cuz I want ya cuz ya kill me

 

The pressure of your essence

Makes it stressful to stay present

Hard to say just something pleasant

While my body, I’m confessin’

Is commencin’ a-pay attention

And flashing threatenin’ intentions

Even suggesting some aggression

That would scandalize convention

But I’m just sayin’ just to mention

That ya kill me

 

I can’t have ya but ya haunt me

cuz I want ya cuz ya kill me

 

Sittin’ in my seat all ten toes tappin’ out a beat

I swear I fear a kind of heat if our eyes do chance to meet

Cuz my mouth keeps talking sweetly while my body screams obscenely

I can feel our poles align, our frequencies receiving

Yes, to one another’s sun all our flowers are all leaning

Our bodies just might topple if we surrender to the feeling

But it’ll never happen and that’s why you see me reeling

So I’ll just stand here rapping just to keep myself from kneeling

You only thrill me just to kill me

Must you fill me just to spill me?

 

I can’t have ya but ya haunt me

cuz I want ya cuz ya kill me

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The Work of the Teachers (song lyrics)

The Work of the Teachers

(original lyrics, based on the Irish folk  tune “The Work of the Weavers”)

 

Now teaching is a trade that never should be lost

Unless you’re unafraid of ignorance’s cost

The future’s being made the past is being tossed

To learn from our mistakes we need the teachers

 

If it wasn’t for the teachers what would you do

You wouldn’t attain the reasoning to drive at what is true

You wouldn’t gain perspective on another point of view

If it wasn’t for the work of the teachers

 

There’s folks that serve the rich and folks that serve the poor

And folks that serve themselves and never see who’s at the door

But betwixt those in the ditch and those with wealth galore

The folks who tried to help them were the teachers

If it wasn’t for the teachers….

 

Businessmen they mock us and count us out as fools

And plus they see the profit they could make out of our schools

But they’ve no right to knock us though they make all the rules

They cannot make a dime without the teachers

If it wasn’t for the teachers….

 

Some folks claim such autonomy they say our time has passed

They glance at the inequity, blame us, and act aghast

But look at the economy whose crimes are far more vast

And they would be so much worse without the teachers

If it wasn’t for the teachers…..

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Come Inside (song lyrics)

(listen to the song in Music)

 

I’m cruising in my junker feeling like I’m running

low on air, low on air

How’s a man to find a pumper in the middle of

god knows where, god knows where

First sign that comes up, by god, I’m gonna

go down there, go down there

 

All that smoke come out the chimney you know there’s sure to

be a fire, be a fire

Someone might have the means and ends to satisfy my

heart’s desire, heart’s desire

My engine needs a jump and I just might’ve found a

real live wire, real live wire

 

I step up to her door wonderin’ just what the

time would tell, time would tell

I screw up my courage to throw my coin into her

wishing well, wishing well

I am damn well determined that I’s a gonna

ring her bell, ring her bell

 

Don’t want to scare her off so I figure I should

hide my pride, hide my pride

Thinkin’ I might come off too rough but I prayed that she would

let it slide, let it slide

When a voice come through the door ask me

Would I like to come inside, come inside

 

Her front door swing open but she says to enter

’round the back, ‘round the back

Give it a little push, my man, I keep it open

just a crack, just a crack

Don’t have to ask me twice, ma’am, rest assured I’ve

got the knack, got the knack

 

I hitch up my pants like I’s just about to

tie my horse, tie my horse

Gotta get my engine revving I’m afraid I’ll have to

‘ply some force, ‘ply some force

And I don’t need to tell you that I got the job done

But of course, but of course

 

Well right now she can’t greet you, pal, sorry but her

hands are tied, hands are tied

Seems my timing sure was perfect she could use a man there

by her side, by her side

Who could provide a firm hand to rectify her

double-wide, double-wide

 

So remember when you suffer you might find someone to

bear your cross, bear your cross

You’re about a foot from winnin’ even when you think you’re

at a loss, at a loss

You will break through every barrier you’re bound to drive your

point across, point across

 

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Graceful Exits (a tersely-told tale)

(lyrics narrated with musical accompaniment)

So I’m walking down the street and who do I run into but Tony the T and frankly I’m wishing I’m somewhere else but all I can do is act naturally pleased at the happy happenstance.

Seems Tony’s got some ideas worth investigating and he’s decided I’m the man for the job, and of course I must accept, or Tony the T might get some ideas about me and find a man right for that job.

Next thing Tony slaps me on the back and shoves a cigar in my mouth and hands me an envelope, it’s a done deal, and Tony the T leaves me coughing in a cloud of smoke.

As I open the envelope that seals my fate, to reveal the nature of the task I am now bound to execute, I am feeling no little trepidation, and my fears are well-founded.

Apparently, Peanut, a well-known louse, has earned himself the ultimate distinction of being exiled from our community in the customary fashion, and I am to be the custodian of this custom.

This is outside my particular line of work, so I begin by wondering how I can shrug this deed off onto some poor schlub’s shoulders, but it’s a tough sell, given the penalties and moral outrage and whatnot.

Unless, I start thinking, someone wants to kill someone else who wants to be killed, and then it all comes in clear, and next thing I send out two feelers because of course there are plenty of both kinds of people and what they need is a broker.

Many folks are eager to do God’s work, but it’s a tall order to find a single joe who buys my blarney and doesn’t threaten to end it or flip it or spill it, but at last my pitch snares an ideal employee, a reformed man, some religion, but with skills intact.

This particular joe concurs that this is indeed a mission of mercy: fulfilling the final wishes of people exercising their ultimate freedom, while sparing their families terrible suffering, a lifetime of awful memories, and some expense, and I’m thinking this little assignment is starting to come around to my wheelhouse after all.

Meanwhile, my Graceful Exits program rustles up some candidates easily enough, and I get the old John Hancock from a number of geezers all bamboozled by my holy-rolling banter plus it’s no risk to them because of course no charges can stick to a dead man.

The first two clients are old enough to warrant merciful endings, and I’m tickled to see joe cross himself and shed a tear of joy to dispatch them to their eternal reward, and now with the pump primed I am selling joe on Peanuts’ terminal condition which, I regret to inform, is progressing with all due haste, and I laid it on just thick enough to put paid to that.

Well, ever since Peanut’s dignified demise, Tony the T has been buying me drinks, which suits me fine even though I’m flush with gelt because the geezers keep getting in line for their dose of mercy, and the satisfaction I bring my clients is genuine, so I can scarcely afford to stop providing this service.

If Peanut minds his own business, none of this happens, and I almost feel sorry for Peanut on account I’m thinking about the widow he’s leaving, but then I remember what a miserable manx she is, and sure enough within two weeks she has wrapped herself around the leg of some other poor bastard to get in his pockets.

 

 

 

 

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The AllMart FamilySafe Security Chip (an opportunity)

The AllMart FamilySafe Security Chip ,

brought to you by

The Collective Boards (of Directors

I’m so glad you could come in today. Do sit down.

As you know, I’m the CEO of AllMart, and a representative member of the Collective Boards of Directors. The CB has had me bring you here today, because we have a little problem, and a big opportunity, and you’ve always been one of our best producers, so we’re giving you first shot at it.

First of all, I need to inform you, recently we’ve had a data problem. The stimulus provided by your last ad campaign failed to produce the predicted effect. Truthfully, your numbers have been slipping for some time, and it has certainly caught the eye of the CB.

Fear not, though, you’re not on the chopping block yet. I’m confident our new campaign will be a blockbuster; the question is whether you’re the right man for the job. Of course, you needn’t worry; you’ve been the CB’s star response-producer; the “Government Sickens You” ad campaign you led was credited with turning the public completely around on the vaccine issue, despite all the facts.

I can picture your face wrinkling up at that; I remember you saying that you felt we had “duped” the public, but you can’t argue with the numbers you produced. The vaccines were administered, and AllMart made record profits, while providing consumers “critical pride” for indignantly refusing to have their hard-earned money diverted to the government. The “fact” that the government vaccines weren’t really unsafe doesn’t really matter; you won the battle for people’s hearts, and they got their shots. And that’s why you get the big bucks. These fear-based campaigns are time-honored advertising gold, and you’re the master of them.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned, your numbers are off and, worse, are part of a disturbing trend; demand is down all over. But we’re gearing up for a real game-changer with our next campaign: Allmart’s FamilySafe Security Chip. “Do you know where your child is? Well Susie does, because she has AllMart’s FamilySafe Security Chip… Don’t you want your family to be safe? bla bla bla….” And top this: free vaccination or flu shot with each chip implanted.

Now I know that you’re one of those sensitive types that is always decrying the CB for their short-term thinking, but that’s how things are different now. This time, the CB is motivated by the long-term, the possibility of being able to guarantee ever-increasing demand, which would truly solve all our problems as a society. The decline of consumption has been an alarming trend that you ad-meisters have been powerless to mitigate. The Cynics have increased their presence in the marketplace of ideas, casting our ideology in doubt, and eroding consumer confidence, despite your best efforts. Furthermore, a veritable algal bloom of rebel niche groups, the Gardeners, the Humanists, the Simpletons or whatever they call themselves, is making non-consumption almost fashionable; and that is one fashion trend that the CB cannot be expected to stomach. What need can “no thing” fulfill? Nothing. But it is not just a wasteful and bankrupt ideology; it’s a dangerous one during these times. The truth, which the Cynics can’t face or deny, is that we all utterly depend for our existence on the continued expansion of production and consumption. How else can we maintain the levels of growth necessary to sustain our lifestyle? You should be proud to be at the vanguard of the creation and fulfillment of human needs.

Of course the Cynics have their “rights”, and the government still has its judicial and legislative “authority” to protect these rights, but only fools really think that has any power. Meanwhile, in reality, a human’s voice is powerless until it is manifested in the marketplace where the real decisions are made; choosing to not participate simply prevents one from having any power. Their very lack of consumption has up to now effectively marginalized the opinions of the Cynics and their ilk. However, new forms of resistance and rebellion are metastasizing and they are posing an increasingly grave threat to our system, at the same time that the sustainability of demand has been coming into question: a perfect storm.

I’m offering you an opportunity to help us ramp up demand as part of a noble effort to make our way of life sustainable, and to protect us from the alternative: the collapse of civilization as we know it. Our “An Armed America is a Safe America” campaign made us a fortune and triggered all those initiatives forcing all Americans to buy a gun from us with government subsidies in the name of national security, but, unfortunately, we effectively armed the rebels. While the Cynics slowly undermine the public’s faith in markets, the forces of anarchy being stirred could destroy the infrastructure supporting our basic needs, and then Armageddon will be upon us.

No, the Cynics are not the real problem; it is the rebel groups, who have begun to increasingly use violence, with the unethical, immoral and criminal goal of disrupting the global economy. These threats, given the vulnerability of our computerized systems, put the basic needs of every person on the planet at risk, while wreaking calamitous effects on the security of the capital upon which our economy depends. Have you heard about the riots? The acts of sabotage? The assassinations? Of course, the CB has suppressed the most shocking reports; but just the few reports leaked produced dips in demand and a spike in hate crimes against corporations. This is a crisis, not only of demand, but of belief in our way of life. Even the CB has undergone some changes; more than ever, we need leaders who are willing to proclaim and enforce the fact that people’s true power lay in their choices in the marketplace. We’ve used any means necessary to enforce this in foreign nations; we need no less resolve here on the home front. The will of the marketplace should be our command, and then all human voices will be heard in proper proportion and through proper means: the marketplace. This is what we mean by freedom and democracy.

We want you to be the lead man on this security chip campaign. The CB wants you to pull out all the stops. We’re going to make these chips urgent, necessary, and then cool, and soon it will be the norm, just like contact lenses, guns, or insurance. And then we’re in. You see, this chip represents a true revolution, a crossing of the boundary of the flesh, with advertising now able to penetrate the very skin and bloodstream of the consumer. Because, of course, this is not merely a security chip.

Allow me to explain. Formerly, we were limited to bombardment by radio waves, aromas, pheromones, colors, and motion, to develop affiliation, but all strictly employing external stimuli. With this chip, we’ve broken on through to the other side: the inside. Oh no, this chip is not just about security. Of course, security is the selling point, but it scarcely helps the CB. The chips are cheap, and once uploaded they’ll probably displace thousands of security workers that we have been dispatching at huge profits for years to private vigilante groups, ever since your “Can’t Trust the Police” campaign caught fire with the public. And we’ll certainly have to ramp up our Paranoia Induction Program to facilitate the roll out, which is bound to cost us millions: media doesn’t come cheap. No; sure, we’re piggy-backing this security chip on the vaccine and flu shots for the PR boon it’ll provide, but moreover, we’re doing it because we have the opportunity to break the barrier of skin, and now we have the technology to tap into people’s minds and metabolic systems. You see, this isn’t merely a transmitting chip; it is equipped to channel chemicals to the root of our demand problem. We’ve found how to trigger the human brain to release the very chemicals that spur feelings of anxiety, meaninglessness, insecurity, and depression; exactly the chemical recipe for consumption desire. As effective as billboards, commercials, product placement, education, information, and propaganda are, they may have reached their limit as far as their ability to increase consumption; the drop in demand attests to that. With this chip, customizable to various purposes, we can mass-dose the population with chemicals to spur consumption and production as necessary to sustain this system which serves us so richly. That’s why this campaign is to be a watershed; from here on out, we’ll have our sales team truly under the consumers’ skin, working from the inside.

I can see your face twist with protest at the exploitative potential of remotely controlling and engineering human desire, but it would seem to be a necessity if human life is to be sustained. We have always “cultivated” humanity as we’ve differentiated our species from other animals, and the desire for things has become the hallmark of our species. If you can no longer make products that people find attractive, we must make humans who are attracted to them. Are we not the toolmakers? And what do we derive from things? Isn’t this Thing-ism the Cynics decry simply an application and democratization of our human desire for communication, beauty, truth, and the other evolved ideals of humanity? It has been said that God leads not by force but by attraction; then let humans be attracted to things and find meaning in them. We aim to help them, because we believe this attraction is fundamental to our nature as human beings, and we intend to cultivate it.

The CB is simply owning that process and, in an attempt to truly represent the consumers that put the CB in power, make the conscious choice to engineer humans that will be able to sustain our economy and avert our society’s collapse into chaos. If humans are to work in factories, why shouldn’t they have a chip to release endorphins and let them enjoy it? If people feel guilty about insufficiently helping the needy, why shouldn’t they be chemically relieved of that guilt, allowing them to be happy, productive citizens?

I can well imagine you wringing your hands over this, but you oughtn’t. What system of “democracy”, what kind of “voting” could be more inclusive than the marketplace? People keep voting for whatever the CB puts its money behind. Moreover, how hard has it been for the CB to spin the public into believing government is the problem? Your “Fear Big Brother” campaign prevented their passing the National ID Law. Meanwhile, AllMart just issued a membership card to its 300 millionth member, each of who treasures their feeling of belonging and takes pride in getting the 10% member discount; and they give us their data gladly. Your “Information Liberation” campaign helped pass the law allowing the CB to automatically share all data about a consumer with all other corporations every time a purchase is made. No one made a peep; not that anyone would have listened, anyway. And our friends in the legislature were sure to put a rider on that bill that allowed the CB to track the activities of non-consumers, that we might more effectively engage them with the marketplace, where their true power lay. Government can only do the will of the people as we’ve educated the people.

Yes, I suppose in our system one dollar, one vote is more accurate than one person, one vote. What I’m saying is: How could it be otherwise? The truth is this: People vote for the CB every time they buy something, every time they ignore the protests of aggrieved workers, every time they fail to inquire into the ramifications of their actions on one another and the Earth itself, which is every day of the year! They vote with their money, and then they flaunt what they’ve bought and hail it as self-expression. We’ve studied humans; we found what makes them happy; we’ve created a system that provides what they want; and now we’re simply ensuring that our system is sustainable. Shouldn’t people be happy?

The Cynics have got it all wrong. People believe in things, and that things do make life worth living. The consumer is a human faced with a new challenge or a new way to find meaning in this world. Would you deprive them of that? We are dedicated to serving their needs as they define them in the marketplace, which is where they go to define themselves. The government can’t do it. Citizenship’s got no sizzle. Humans, like machines, only do what they’re programmed to do; we are the programmers.

Look, at this point, there are only two possibilities, short of everyone legislating that we become hunters and gatherers again. First, we prop up demand as necessary to keep the production/consumption cycle flowing. Second, we let the Cynics and the Luddites drag down our economy with their petulant complaints, and wait till the rising tide of armed, unemployed, angry, dispossessed people annihilate a thousand years of progress in an anarchic wave of violence. And then everyone will be a hunter-gatherer again…. Sensibly speaking, there is truly only one possibility.

At any rate, this talk is getting tiresome. I’m here to sign you up for your next campaign and I needed to give you the big picture, but now I’m done entertaining all these pointless philosophical arguments, all of which have been effectively settled on the battleground of the marketplace. We still think you’re the best. We’ve simply exhausted the efficacy of using external stimuli to produce the results we desire; your data proves this. Now we’re ready to crack the barrier and start working on the inside. The CB has the technology and the plan. They need a campaign. You’re our first choice to run it. But you can easily talk your way out of it. And then you’re free to join the other Cynics picking through garbage for their sustenance. We noticed that you’ve been frequenting Cynic sites; it’s time for you to make a choice and face the consequences. We’re confident you’ll freely make the right choice.

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Lord a-Mighty, I Mean to Teach (lyrics)

(lyrics by Mark Zucker, to the old traditional tune “11 Cents Butter”)

Call me a commie, a zealot, or fool

I got me a job in a public school

I heard about the pay and I heard about the stress

But I was on a mission, man, I gotta confess

See, I was raised by peculiar folk

That taught me that work is not just a joke

We all change the world in ways large and small

You’re gonna be counted, better stand up tall

 

Man, oh man, I don’t mean to preach

But Lord a–mighty, I mean to teach

 

Got me a carrot, got me some sticks

Learned me the content, learned me some tricks

Rolled up my sleeves and rubbed my hands

Opened the door and then it hit the fan

They tumbled in with a howling roar

Bounced off the ceiling and walls and floor

I lifted my hands as if to pray

They ran out the door and left for the day

 

Man, oh man, I don’t mean to preach

But Lord a–mighty, I mean to teach

 

It took me a month till I found a way

To get ’em to sit and sometimes even stay

I was pouring out knowledge with all my heart

But its hard to compete with the common fart

I found out their skills were … a little.. behind

So I drilled and I probed, tried to tickle their mind

I worked and I learned and I started to care

Too bad there was only one of me there

 

Man, oh man, I don’t mean to preach

But Lord a–mighty, I mean to teach

 

Now I’m a veteran so I‘m the one

Who’s supposed to know how this job is done

After all these years all I’ve got to say

I love my job every single day

Takes a little blood and a lot of sweat

To swim the flood while you float your debt

I build a world of love as I teach my class

And the haters outside can take it up…. with the authorities

 

Man, oh man, I don’t mean to preach

But Lord a–mighty, I mean to teach

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