4:31 AM (monologue)

   4:31…too early…no, too late…. so tired, can’t sleep…. nothing but hard……..think of something else…nothing but time to burn in my mind…..I’m walking down the street….flowers…..go to a market….there she is…. a woman …….glances at me…….tingling smiles…..no, no, don’t bother……just a surefire way to fill time….there must be something else to do with this time……some other feeling, less often felt, to feel…..there must be……..did they understand…..can’t go back……my sad companion……….start tomorrow right….no regrets…..oatmeal….again ……fruit…….. always good ……start that project…..or fit that one between those two others……that’s better……..then when the break comes I’ll have really earned it………and then I’ll be almost halfway done……… scheduling away another day………another day well-spent…… to earn that sigh of relief……that relieves nothing but pent-up annoyance …….nothing like true purging…….that can’t be hoped for……….. they didn’t understand …………… or care……..they had their own tragedies…………walking down a street …………there she is……………noticing me………………no, please, just stop, don’t you ever get tired of this stupid game…………there must be some other feelings to feel………felt less often………..my brother……….there was love………..something like understanding………at least for a while……….between tragedies………..did they understand…………what’s to understand………….nothing………..together……….it only seems worth celebrating when it’s unavailable………wife and son……….we celebrate……….because we can………..but what do we celebrate……….that our tragedy has not yet come………my parents and I never had understanding …………..and now they’re gone and we never will…………..and my son will walk away from my grave feeling depths that never occur to him now…………it’s natural………slim consolation……..consolation……….souls together……there’s an oxymoron………best we can do is put our bodies together………best wife in the world…………standing there………..looking at me………..no, don’t even………..there must be some other feelings to feel………….what can I make……….will anyone ever see what I create……….do I care………work is real…………..but that’s just the good I produce when on a treadmill………what do I produce freely……of course, all my choices are free………but what can I purely, truly create………things to hear, see and read, to go unheard, unseen and unread, or worse….I respect those who like what I make as little as those who dislike it……..silly people with blown-up ideas about themselves and creations……..and creation………who can get overly wound up in this absurdity ………me, that’s who…….piling little creations about myself………born in a hole, spend a life burying myself in it……..who can stand this……….what’s so difficult to understand ………..humans are so infatuated with themselves……… and with understanding …………inventing meaning to suit their needs, and then marveling at their ‘discovery’………just let me hold my wife….some feelings are so good they require no meaning………..of course they acquire meaning……….humans can’t help themselves……..if she were awake now, I’d……..no, just stop, bear the damn unbearable time and feel something else for a moment if you possibly can……….I can see their faces……..did they really look like that…….they did understand………it was me who didn’t understand……….but I was just a child……….but not too young to hurt others………..or myself…………those kids at work………right in the middle………still have a chance………….but they’re too young to know……….they laugh at me……I cry for them………my son……….oh god, my son, the tortures he’ll have to bear…….the idiotic impulses he’ll succumb to……….the regret he’ll feel……wondering if I understood……….falling in love………oh god I hope he does…….but if life is so unbearable with love, could it be any worse without it…….he’ll just dwell on that set of things, like I do on these………or not……maybe he’ll sleep through the night…………maybe he’ll fall in love……….with a beautiful girl………who’ll look at him and smile……..oh god, please smile on my poor son…….and wink……….and hold him……….and say those things………oh please, stop, can’t you think about anything else………..give it a rest…………oh, dear god in heaven, 4:32………..

 

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Telling Truths (essay)

I’d just like to take this opportunity to encourage you to share yourself with the world. If you have a poem, write it down. If you have a song, sing it out. Take a chance, there’s nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. What are you going to do? Something human. So what are you afraid of? That you won’t measure up? That you’re not ready? You’re always ready. You’ve got thoughts, you’ve got poems, you’ve got songs, write them down! Find a stage if you can and sing them out! They don’t have to be big songs or great songs, just yours. And what could anybody ask? And who’s judging you? Lighten up, enjoy yourself, share yourself. If anybody looks askance it’s only because their limited sense of the spectrum of humanity doesn’t yet include you, so it’s up to you to broaden their sensibilities, and take a stance for that part of the human spectrum that you alone occupy. No one can stand for it but you. Tell the truth, tell your truth, you’ll be surprised, it’s a little different than anybody else’s, it’ll stand out and be distinctly and inimitably ‘you’, you can’t help it, though you’re in the position to least appreciate that fact. Got an idea? Got a feeling? Let it out! Don’t be ashamed. How could anyone judge you or scoff at you? Who could be so ugly and small? If someone is that petty, that’s on them. You’re the brave one just for trying. So what are you afraid of? What are you ashamed of? Do you have dreams? Do you have visions? Write them down! Tell somebody! Do you have feelings for somebody? Tell them! What are you waiting for? Don’t wait. Don’t wait. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Be yourself! I mean, you already are, everybody can see that, so you might as well be fully yourself. Share yourself! You’re gonna come, you’re gonna go, and who’s gonna say those thoughts in your head? No one else but you. So come on! Think you’re too young or not ready? Well, what if you die tonight? What if she dies tonight, and you never told her how charming you find her? That would be a sin! Don’t hold out on her! Don’t hold out on us! Cuz I’ll tell you, there was a time that I held out on the world, that’s right, I held it all in. I wasn’t going to show the world the paltry, meager, little smudge of a person I felt I was at age 15. I certainly wasn’t going to show my parents, oh no, I gritted my teeth and I told myself, “I’m going to walk out that door a boy and I’m not going to walk back in till I’m a man. Then they’ll be proud of me. Then I’ll be something worth showing. I’ll show them that I’m more than just this”. And I walked out. “You can’t see it till I’m finished” and “I’ll know my song well before I start singing” and all that. I was ashamed to be so young and so small and I loved and admired my parents so much that I wasn’t going to let them see me like that, oh no, so I held out on them. I thought I had something to be ashamed of, because I was so young and small, but I didn’t know what shame was. Now I do. Cuz they died. And I held out on them. I didn’t let them know me. I held out on them. And they died. I held out on them. That’s a sin. That’s shame. That’s shame. And now I’m back. And I walked in that door and I’m a man. There’s no one left but everyone else, but they’re gonna hear what this little man has to say. And I’m here to tell you, that the truths you don’t tell will shame you and pain you till your dying day. So if you have a thought or a feeling or a song or a vision or a poem, I’m begging you, don’t be ashamed or afraid, write it down, tell the truth, tell your truth, tell it to her, tell it to them, get on a stage and tell it to everyone, now, before you die and it dies with you, or you’ll wind up like me, and then you’ll really know what shame is.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eternal Recurrence and the Illusion of Will (essay)

Sometime in the past, just before the Big Bang, the entire sum of the matter in the universe was concentrated at an incredibly dense and massive point in space. While thoroughly dense by any measure one can imagine, this seed of creation, however, cannot be reckoned to have been absolutely consistent; that is, there had to have been irregularities in its textural composition. That simple fact has been manifested in the patterned yet differentiated spread of matter across the universe, for if the particulization of that indifferentiable mass of matter had occurred in a thoroughly consistent manner, we would find the stars today to be spread evenly across the heavens. The force which flung those somewhat differentiated and individuated bits of gravitationally contained singularity must have been exerted with an element of unevenness, an element that must have been a function of the slight irregularities in that  ball of matter at the dawn of creation. Matter would seem to have inherently, coded into its substructure, some mysterious properties that cause it to contain certain wrinkles, even when compacted into the densest form possible. Those wrinkles have since swirled and blossomed out to form the spirallic galaxies, their uneven spacing in the cosmos, and other phenomena which would not have resulted from a uniform mass uniformly exploding. Obeying the stark laws of matter, these galaxies have come ever so gradually and inevitably into their present configurations through a protracted, continuous and on-going process, the historic stages of which have been estimated with an amazing degree of accuracy due to the basic  predictability of the forces of nature. Similarly, the status of most objects in space can be predicted into the future with reasonable assurance of accuracy.

Humans seem to be driven along  by some natural force as well,  one which we call our will, and which seems to be the result of our DNA sequences playing themselves out and developing our selves through interactions with our changing environment. This perfectly parallels the path of a comet through space or the product of specific chemical reactions under particular circumstances, in that our predictions will approach 100% accuracy as we improve the tools and equations we use to measure the forces involved. The social sciences simply have not yet developed tools appropriate for measuring the complex forces that drive humans. Geneticists, like those with the Human Genome Project, are making inroads daily into the connections between genes, personality and behavior, while other social scientists explore the interactions of genes and the environment and their impact on a person’s personality and behavior. However, we needn’t wait for the social sciences to prove what is already abundantly clear, despite our bitter protestations; that is, human behavior is frighteningly predictable.

Realize this, if you dare: if you could do anything all over again, you’d do it exactly the same. If you could do any single thing again a million times over, you’d do it exactly the same every time, because every time you’d feel exactly the same and your environment would be exactly the same. Don’t tell me you’d pause or act differently or that a fly landed on you and distracted you or anything else, because you cannot take those things out of the scene. They were there. You felt that way. After a certain amount of trepidation,  and I mean a certain amount, you made a willful decision, conscious or otherwise, resulting in your behavior. Upon examination of the subject and the environment, your behavior made perfect sense, as all behavior makes perfect sense once we truly see where it comes from. Everything does happen for a reason and always has, with environmental changes producing evolutionary changes and vice-versa and culminating seemingly with the transformation of this formerly barren planet into a world of outrageous fecundity, brimming with myriad life forms, not to mention PAC’s, of mind-boggling complexity. Indeed, today has followed yesterday as you have followed your ancestry, taking the tools of the past and reforging them in the fires of the future.

Realizing that there is a certain degree of determinism in one’s behavior is not in itself cause for undue alarm. Due to our own tremendous lack of self knowledge, we can  still feel genuinely unaware of how we will react to a given situation. Furthermore, our lack of environmental awareness will likely permit us the thrill of having truly surprising things develop in our natural surroundings. These will spur actions in us that are bound to surprise us further still, with the depth of our astonishment being an apt measure of our lack of self-knowledge. Those who know us best are actually never surprised by what we do, even when we are. Fortunately, few of us know anyone that well. As much as we want to be known, it is more important to us that we are unknowable. Ignorance and vanity grant us an exalted view of ourselves as “works in progress”, a designation which actually fails to differentiate any of us from a grain of debris swirling and melting in a methane cloud around Venus. None of this should detract from our appreciation of the surprising joy and beauty we might have the privilege to experience; predictability can scarcely dampen our enthusiasm for all those little discoveries and rituals in life that we’ve worked so hard for and cared so much about, both thoughtfully and thoughtlessly.

Of course your parents had to raise you the way they did; look at where they came from. Tracing that thread back, we see that they had to emigrate when they did; that’s where they were at and that was where the world was at. The soldier that saved you by hiding you in the box car had to do what he did. If you knew what he was going through, it would all make sense. If we had sufficient information, we could see why every interaction, every collision, every kiss, every curl on your head came from somewhere that made sense genetically, socially, personally and cosmically. If we could speed up time in reverse and watch our present fold back up into the past, we’d eventually revisit the Big Bang itself, and we’d see all matter returning to that immensely massive point in space and we might even glimpse a time before that wrinkled singularity billowed out into the twisted space we call the universe, but there would be no light with which to see it.

Some scientists believe that such a  Big Crunch may well occur to our universe after  the force of gravity exceeds the force of the expanding universe. In fact, many feel that an endless cycle of Big Bangs and Crunches are in the midst of occurring, and we are but a note played once by that endlessly wheezing accordion of time. It gives one a rather large feeling to consider that this wrinkle could reconvene in everchanging ways, producing unique universe after unique universe with each cycle, like an exploding godhead sending sprays of galaxies spinning outwards sequentially in ever-varying arrays, a resplendent fountain of matter sucking up and blowing out blueprints or seeds of evolution or entropy or extinction….

A rather different feeling is produced by the alternative. Let us consider the nature of that massive point that keeps reconvening at the end of each Crunch and before each Bang. One would imagine that the wrinkle embedded in that point in space would have resulted directly from the uneven distribution of matter in the universe during the previous Big Bang/Big Crunch cycle. As mentioned earlier, this wrinkle would then manifest itself again in the uneven distribution of matter in the next cycle. One must assume that certain physical laws constrain matter as it approaches that incredibly massive point. Perhaps, like the hydrogen atom, there is only one way that such a point can exist, only one kind of wrinkle that such a point could have, and only one way such a Big Bang would result. In such a scenario, each cycle would proceed along the laws of nature from the same beginning, and therefore produce the same distribution of matter in the universe. As galaxies formed, familiar things would begin to happen; the formation of stars and solar systems, the evolution of life on Earth, the ascendence of humans, the Holocaust , the American Dream, and finally, you. Remember, everything happens for a reason that can be found in physics, biology, genetics and social dynamics; that is, history. Now, if history has proceeded apace along such laws repeatedly and from exactly the same beginning, then it is clear that everything that is happening has happened before over and over again. Every moment, despite the seemingly impossible complexity of motion and thought involved, is happening because it is the only moment that can happen given the sum of the forces involved. These very forces have evolved through a series of moments that can be traced back to the wrinkled moment before the Big Bang and back through all previous sequences of Big Bang/ Big Crunch ad infinitum.

To put this theory in a nutshell: Whatever has happened in what we call history has happened over and over again and will happen again repeatedly as long as the laws of nature stand. An endless string of people before and after you have marched this route before, worn your shoes, eaten your food, had your doubts, tried your best, all for the same reasons that you do, because it’s what they came to and they couldn’t help but be thus and feel thusly, that is, you. All of them feel their feet falling to their beat and echoing up and down the corridors of time. All of them, that is, you, know what it feels like to be trapped in an iron cage of flesh and whipped by a slave-driving brain deluded by this power it calls its “will”. People of privilege, perhaps, are more likely to maintain a belief in their “will”, hoping to take credit for their good fortune and thereby elevate themselves above others. Of course, however, it is a silly notion to think that you did better or tried harder in your circumstances than someone else would have in the same circumstances; if they were in the same circumstances as you they wouldn’t be them, they would be you. Then they would do exactly as you did, moving and thinking the same way, struggling with their sense of self just like you must. And now, in a sense, all the yous there ever were and all the yous that will ever be are nervously looking up and down the corridors of history and seeing their own faces peering at them from behind cracked doors. I suggest thinking of this repeating ritual not as merely a wrinkle in the singularity generating copies of our universal history incessantly, but as a song with infinite verses. While it’s true that every verse may be exactly the same, each singer in turn is granted only one chance to sing, and if we are bound to sing, well, then, sing!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happiness ( a memory)

Ping pong pang ping ping! Zringggg! Like a harp’s glissando to announce the arrival of angels! After each player’s turn, older son Dimitri would play a little melody and younger son Solomon would strum the $5 zither we’d bought in Mexico City. I cannot remember the game we played, but the magic we felt together as a family that night will remain with me forever, and I can summon forth that feeling by simply thinking of the sound that zither made. Zrringg!

We were in the midst of a trip to Mexico City, where we’d feasted on exotic cultural treasures, and now we needed to drive out of Mexico City for some hours to get to a little town called Valle de Bravo. We always get along relatively well, but people’s differing schedules, expectations, hungers, and moods at various times made it all slightly challenging, as travel often is. This particular day had been the hardest of the trip, as the traffic was tortuous, the heat hellacious, and our directions dubious. Our arrival in Valle de Bravo came later than everybody had hoped, so we all felt hot, tired, bothered, and very hungry. When we saw the sign for Hotel Rebozo, we all screamed with glee, but our ecstasy was short-lived, because the town seemed to have closed for the night, and our stomachs were groaning for attention. We found out that only one place was open, and when the hotel staff took our order for “three of whatever they have”, we weren’t optimistic. To stave off the mutinous cries of our stomachs, we showered while we waited, and then we prayed. Well, actually we didn’t, but we would’ve if we believed in such miracles, so you can imagine our surprise when our unsaid prayers were in fact answered with nothing less than a miracle.

Three covered plates were delivered, and the tension in the air was palpable. We lifted the lids off one of the plates, and there before our eyes were dozens of the hugest, most magnificent clams imaginable, nestled alluringly in a veritable mountain of pesto-laden pasta. As we opened each plate’s lid in slow motion, our mouths fell agape as the thoroughly unbelievable truth became apparent: Each plate brimmed as majestically as the first with an overwhelming bounty of the most enormous clams on this or any planet. We lifted clams to our mouths, one by one, and the room filled with oohs and aahs and the aroma of our feast, as each of us in turn surrendered to absolute pleasure, closing our eyes, pressing our lips, humming and cooing and beginning to rock slowly to and fro in our seats while gesturing vaguely into space.

When we regained consciousness somewhat, the four of us played a game, and absolutely nothing extraordinary happened, yet we were in possession of something truly extraordinary indeed: Nothing stood between us and happiness. We found ourselves as one, purged of all our exhaustion from the long, hot drive, utterly sated, safe and sound in our new home, with no pinch of hunger, no bite of bitterness, nor urge of ego interfering, no future and no fear, at last free to simply share time together, all fully present, all fully unobstructed, all fully joyous. And after each player’s move, Son #1 would play his little melody and Son #2 would strum the zither, and love and laughter ruled the universe.

Ping pong pang ping ping! Zringggg!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Clockwork Conversation (phone monologue)

   Hello?……….Just like clockwork, I swear, I was just thinking about you………How have you been?………Same, same, you know, can’t complain……….It’s just so great to hear from you……….yeah, it’s just amazing how the time flies…………..yeah, and then the people you know the best become the people you see the least…….I know, I mean those were the forming relationships of my life………no, you just can’t replicate that time of life………..or that group, right…….Oh, we had some times, no doubt, ha ha, remember that party at that house up in the hills, with the pool, and…. yeah, please, don’t even…..and afterwards, everyone’s in the kitchen, and that guy, what was his name?……….oh yeah, he was going on about………..yeah, ha ha….we were in hysterics…..I swear I was laughing so hard my cheeks hurt the next day…..yeah, the road trips, the shows, the parties………yeah, that was an amazing bunch……we were really lucky to have found one another, I mean…..yeah, I know, like I have the time for all that now? I don’t think so……..but I don’t have energy for it either………..right, or the stomach. Still, it’s great that we keep in touch….yeah…

   Did I what?…….Yeah, I read the news…….oh come on….that’s all a bunch of baloney drummed up by the media………I can’t believe people’s appetite for that tripe, while the real issues………..I know…….tell me about it, the rich get richer and all that…..no, I’m not cynical, it’s just that……..exactly. Little wheel spin and spin, big wheel turn around and around……no, there will be a change, I’m just dubious about how positive it will be…I know, what with the population to resources equation………..Probably, but I’ll be dead by then……….a mass dying off? That’s our only hope?……..Sounds like you’re the cynical one…….

Any way, you still see any of those old folks?……..Oh yeah? What’s she up to?….Whoopteedoo, no surprise there….Hey, but what about that one that you were…………oh gawd, good riddance………….anybody else on the radar screen?……Well, good for you, you can’t wait a lifetime for someone to come along and save your life……….In the old days you had them falling all over you……No, I was a different breed; once I got hooked I just turned into her dog……..yeah, I was just lucky enough to finally find someone who likes my breed of dog……….I know, but probably just when you focus on yourself and learn to make yourself happy one’ll plop into your lap……..Are you kidding? Of course you are, everybody’s beautiful once you get close enough, it’s just a matter of having the right circumstances and chemistry that allow you to get that close…..I know, and I don’t envy you the looking, but there are advantages to being single……..exactly, that’s the key……..right, finding a way to enjoy where you’re at……..yeah, and then it’s gone……time is tight……

Hey, what about your pal with the hat collection?………I hate to say I told you so, but that guy had loser written all over him………I’m sorry, I just never trusted him, or his friend……….yeah, that worm………What?……Oh, man, that is a crying shame, I’m sorry…what a waste…..how did he do it?……….. that is so pathetic……..imagine……oh gawd………like his life was a bad movie……….

Well, actually, our life, in its own way, has started to seem like a bad movie, too, but not a sensational one, just a boring one. We love our children and are constantly amazed by them, we work hard to continue to develop our relationship with each other and with ourselves, we work all too hard at jobs we believe to be meaningful, we have all kinds of creative and social pursuits, we get reflective on birthdays and time keeps going faster and faster and all the outrageous thoughts and actions of our youth start looking like nothing but typical for that age just like everything we do now seems so utterly typical for our age, and I’m in love with my life so totally and deeply, yet it seems more and more like a very predictable movie that’s played over and over and over again….like this very conversation could be happening between any two people of our age, all very earnest, all so bloody predictable, I mean I thought we were the most brilliant and unique people on the planet, and now I feel like just another human machine and the card of my life is just feeding through mechanically, but every dot and dash feels so significant to me as it passes through me, and each of us…..so why do we do it?……………..Yeah, I guess it’s just to share some warmth……..I  mean, what’s to say? What’s to do? Nothing new under the sun.   (off phone, “Just a minute, I’ll be right there..”)

I’m sorry, I’m going to have to cut this short, wouldn’t you know, right when I get a chance to talk to a dear old friend at last, my little boy has a complete crisis that absolutely requires my attention………I know, it’s just like clockwork. But it’s been great talking………..yeah, thanks for calling, it means a lot to me……….. yeah, let’s keep in better touch. Bye. (hangs up)

(off phone) Just like clockwork.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

That’s You (song lyrics)

I lost myself when I found the one (that’s you, that was you)

Caught in orbit by a sinking sun (that’s you, that was you)

I stood transfixed by a ticking bomb (that’s you, that was you)

That blew me all the way to kingdom come (that’s you, that was …)

 

My friends all told me but I could not hear

Above the banshee wailing in my ear

Who soon would strip me of all I hold dear

Leave me clutching nothing but my fear (that’s you, that was you)

 

A certain someone’s at my door again (that’s you, that was you)

Seeking to penetrate that mortal vein (that’s you, that was you)

Still believing there’d be more to gain (that’s you, that was you)

After not a shred of hope remained (that’s you, that was you)

 

Your knocking synchronizes with my pulse

Spins my bearings out from true to false

Strike the band up for our funeral waltz

Die to the rhythm of that, ahem, something else

 

Opened an oyster searching for a pearl (that’s you, that was you)

I found the grain of sand inside the girl (that’s you, that was you)

I cried an ocean and I lost the earth (that’s you, that was you)

I died alone and I cursed the birth (that’s you, that was you)

 

You cut my heart out from its broken shell

You shut the light out when you tolled my bell

Till I had nothing but my soul to sell

Leave me ridinʼ down the road to hell (that’s you, that was you)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I Got You (song lyrics)

Don’t need no key

Ain’t got a door

I’ve left the building

Forevermore

No need for nothing

To hold onto

Cuz I got you

 

Don’t need no shovel

Ain’t got a hole

Don’t need a temple

A-housing up my soul

No need for nothing

To hold onto

Cuz I got you

 

I ain’t got time to waste on foolish dreaming

I ain’t got time to waste on money scheming

I call you mine and I’m yours for the taking

So come on let’s get on with our love-making

 

Don’t need to worry

Ain’t got a care

Don’t need to hurry

I’m already there

No need for nothing

To hold onto

Cuz I got you

 

Don’t need a future

Ain’t got a past

She gave me a present

That will ever last

No need for nothing

To hold onto

Cuz I got you

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment