Still Alive?

Yeah, pretty sure that’s the case.

So, a quick look tells me the last time I posted here was August 6th, 2020.

Some things have happened since then. No doubt in your life as well, but let’s not forget we’re here to talk about me. 😉

Like you, I’ve been living through this COVID bullshit and, if you live in the US, the stupidity and greed of way too many of our elected representatives – but that is a rant for another time.

So, let’s do some updatery from yours truly, shall we?

About a month after my last post, The Wife had brain surgery. (Don’t worry, I got her permission to talk about it here. We’re all safe.) My wife has a condition called Trigeminal Neuralgia. It’s a chronic pain disorder involving the Trigeminal Nerve. It’s also known, colloquially, as “Suicide Pain.” Some descriptions I’ve heard, from The Wife and others, is that it can feel a lot like biting down on aluminum foil while being struck by lightning. There’s also the version where it feels like your lower jaw is being ripped apart like something out of a horror movie.

You can imagine, this takes a bit of a toll.

For months, we went to various neurologists, had various incorrect diagnoses, and she’d been prescribed enough drugs to make a hippy jam band envious.

(Seriously, whenever I have to take her to the hospital, or a new doctor, the look on the face of whoever is taking her medical history is priceless. You need to understand, my wife is ex-Army, but she’s literally the average height and weight for a female in America. I outweigh her by significantly more than a hundred pounds. And when medical professionals read the list – we wrote it down to make it easier – they, to a person, ask my wife how she’s still awake, much less able to move about and speak coherently. It’s a lot of drugs – mostly muscle relaxers and whatever else they try to use to dampen nerve pain.)

Anyway, lots of doctor visits and consultations, and we were told her best chance for relief was something called MVD (Microvascular decompression), where they drill a hole in your skull and insert a Teflon mesh between the nerve and the artery that may be pressing against it.

So, we did that.

She was in ICU/ MCU for more days than I or her doctors would’ve liked, but she came through ok. Then it was another month before she could reliably move around under her own power without supervision. (My anxiety ignored that “without supervision” shit at every possible turn. She may have tried to get better, faster, just to get me to leave her the fuck alone for 5 minutes.)

The general consensus is that a brain surgery of this type usually takes around 18 months to completely recover from, but she should have seen some relief from the nerve pain within 6 weeks or so – once the generalized swelling subsided.

She didn’t.

Brain surgery. Risky. Expensive. And Completely. Fucking. Useless.

So, that started a new process of trying to get seen at Vanderbilt, which we eventually did. We’ve been driving the 2 1/2- 3 hours to Nashville on a semi-regular basis since this past July. She’s had a few procedures. They don’t seem to be working either.

She has good days – where the pain is just a constant 2-3 on the 1-10 scale we’re all used to nurses asking us about. And she has days where the pain runs a steady 5-6 baseline with spikes that jump up to 30 or 40. Sometimes these episodes last for days. Once one lasted a little over a week. I know it was more than 7 days, but how many more I couldn’t say because I was too busy trying to take care of her to count.

Incidentally, she went back to work something like 3 months after the operation. She was working from home, which was good on several fronts, not to mention the ongoing goddamn pandemic.

You thought I forgot about that. You’d be forgiven for slipping into that mindset. (I’d forgive you, anyways, for whatever the fuck that’s worth.)

She worked from home for a solid year, the first couple of months because of the surgery, the rest because of COVID. By all rights, she should still be working from home since they proved it worked just fine, but her employers – which I won’t currently name – are asshats.

As an aside: Everyone who can work from home should be working from home. Same with schools of every variety.

But the fucking economy?!

Yeah, fuck the economy. Make rich fuckers richer? Not interested in risking my, or anyone else’s life for that bullshit.

But childcare?!

Hey, I understand. We’ve evolved a system where some underpaid minion of the state has to watch like 30 or 40 of your brat children so you, and your partner if you have one, can go make some rich fuckers richer. Cool.

Maybe we shouldn’t be okay with that system?

Maybe we should do something to change it?

Sacrifice your children, your youth, your dreams, and your very life on the altar of Capitalism so the Masters of the Universe can continue to buy one – of whatever the fuck they want- in every color!

It’s the American way!

And you might be rich yourself one day, so…

[You won’t. In case you were wondering. It’s a lie the wealthy perpetuate to sell you on those jobs you keep dragging yourself to every day, during a mother fucking worldwide pandemic no less! But that is definitely a rant for another time. Oh, you wait. It’s fucking coming.]

Often, nowadays, I have to remind myself to stop and breathe. It works better when I’m not driving, but hey, you gotta’ do what you gotta’ do right?

By now, because you are perceptive, intelligent, and frankly quite good-looking people, you’ll no doubt be asking yourself, “Jeezus, is he even angry-er than before?”

And that answer – thank you for asking, by the way, is emphatically:

YES!

Yes, I am. But more on that in a different post. Today we’re here for updates. So, let’s get back to that.

So, we’ve covered The Wife for about as much as is safe for us all. Trust me. She will cut you.

Let’s get back to talking about me – my health and writing and such. As I’m sure you’ve noticed in your own lives, everything is interconnected and interdependent.

So, before the neo-plague took hold in the US, I’d started writing book 3 of the 3rd Eye Detective Series, (working title: Dead Man’s Party. Because who doesn’t like Oingo Boingo? Sociopaths, that’s who.)

I’m about 20k words into the first draft. And I’ve been there since March of 2020.

I’ve written copious notes – when you’re in the third book in a six-book series you need many notes. But I haven’t written any narrative, well, nothing in the stream of this book’s particular plot. Or maybe they are and I just don’t know where they go yet. That happens sometimes. They might just be bits to help me understand a facet of a character or relationship and may never make it into a book at all.

That’s what I mean by I haven’t written anything.

I’ve said before, I’m a writer because I can’t not write. That reality has taken some weird roads to get out over the last too-many-fucking-months. A few of my Instagram friends can attest to this, as they have been the recipients of poems, micro fiction, song lyrics, incantations, etc… in the comment sections of any pics they post that spark anything in me. (I haven’t asked, but no one’s told me to stop, so I’m not.)

I’ve also been working up notes, characters, locations, etc for 2 other books, unrelated to Caleb and his misadventures – or each other for that matter.

Back to the actual nitty gritty of the thing: I wrote roughly 20k words of book 3 before book 2 was released.

Book 2 – “The Hungry Dark” – was released on the vernal equinox in 2020. That was March 19th, a Thursday. I know this because I went to karaoke for the last time that night, and the next day when I was going to have my release party at my favorite local geek bar, Green’s Tavern, about noon-ish the government of Tennessee finally got off its dusty ass and declared a lock-down. That was about 6 hours before my party. I still have not been able to reschedule that party, but in the light of *gestures around at everything* it hasn’t felt like a priority.

One of the many problems the canceling of my release party caused was this: I learned my lesson from my first release party: have more books to sell. So, I bought a little more than twice the amount I had at the signing for Drawn to Flame. That was about $1,000.00 USD. Had I been able to sell them, I’d have made that all back plus enough to run the online ad campaign I’d been working up.

Those books are still in their boxes, stacked up next to my desk. They’ve basically become office furniture now.

I ran a short ad campaign. Didn’t make enough back to even keep that going. And, apparently, word-of-mouth advertising works less efficiently through masks.

So, that was the end of March 2020, for my writing.

And my job, then as a community health worker, got real interesting as a number of my members caught COVID.

Another aside: between talking with medical staff, members, and members’ surviving families I can not fathom how anyone can call COVID a hoax. In fact, it really pisses me off when people do.

So, just know – you’ve been fucking warned.

(Not that any of you would do anything so ignorant and insensitive. I have the coolest readers. I’m pretty sure there’s a peer-reviewed scientific paper somewhere that proves it.)

So, being neck-deep in the misery caused by this fucking virus was super stressful. And, while I’ve known some artists who work better under that kind of strain, I am not someone who can operate that way.

And then 60k Americans died.

Ok, so like most people, I can push shit aside to get my business done or keep my sanity, whatever.

But we all have a limit.

Mine was 60,000 Americans.

I heard the number on the news during a lunch break.

And it fell on me like a lead overcoat.

Seriously, I felt my shoulders actually sag.

Now we’re over 800,000 dead, just in America.

I don’t know what your number is, but if you have a soul I know you have a number, and it’s probably been passed by at least an order of magnitude by now.

That day I didn’t want to go back to work. I didn’t want to go outside or talk to people or even try to focus. All I wanted to do was cry, and probably never stop.

There are people who have handled this situation, at least outwardly, better than me. I’m certain of it.

But this isn’t a fucking competition.

It’s 5.46 million deaths worldwide, at the time of writing.

5,460,000 dead.

They say the average person knows 150 people (IRL). Imagine every one of the 150 people you know, (again IRL), imagine them dead. Now try to imagine every one of the 150 people that each of those 150 original people knows, dead. Now, do that one more time: each of the 150 people that each of the 150 people that each of the original 150 people you knew, dead. That number is still more than 2 million short of the actual number of dead – at time of writing.

It’s soul-crushing.

And it should be.

Anyone who tells you different is not someone I’d trust around the collection plate or the children.

If we, as a species, come back from this brink, it will be a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit – and no thanks at all to the Capitalist cocksuckers that keep telling us we should go back to work to get the economy going – the economy that’s fake anyway. But, yet again, a rant for another time. (And a tip o’ the hat to the late, great Bill Hicks.)

So, that stress has been making anything more than cluttering up my friend’s IG pretty much impossible.

And that would have been enough, right?

Around the time of my last post, back in 2020, I got diagnosed with ADHD.

(Some of you knew that already, I’m sure.)

It took a while to find medication that helped. And when we did, holy fuck-balls!

Like, is this what regular people experience the world as? Coherent? Able to focus? Not the constant low level of frustration from feeling like you’ll never be able to learn the rules of this life game that everyone else seems to know already?

When we got the right dosage I felt like myself.

And then I realized how long it had been since I felt that way.

There aren’t words for the emotions involved. But it was quite a bit like being reborn.

(And I don’t mean that nonsensical Christian shit. I mean feeling like someone had hit the refresh button on the browser of my Mind, Body, and Soul.)

And as the first full year of COVID rolled in, I realized I hadn’t had anything like a vacation in 2 years. I took a week and a half off for The Wife’s surgery, but we all know that is just the opposite of rest.

My therapist, and a few other perceptive people, started telling me I was suffering from compassion fatigue.

True story. I was.

Less so now, but back then – about a year ago – a severe case. My work manager at the time let me take a week off, just to decompress. It didn’t cure my ills, but it might have saved my soul.

A couple of years previous, my med manager and I had finally stumbled upon an anti-depressant/ anti-anxiety drug that actually worked without any nasty side effects. Escitalopram. You might have heard it called by its brand name: Lexapro.

Worked like a magic charm, once we found the right dose. The addition of the ADHD meds only amplified the positive effects of the Lexapro. I was, in a phrase, doing well.

And then this past October – the first week actually- I started to break out in these red, hot, itchy rashes. Small spots at first, but they spread quickly.

Lots of doctor visits, steroid shots, a punch biopsy, and about 7 weeks later, we discover it’s a reaction to one of the medications I’m taking.

I’ve developed a sensitivity to one or more of them. At the time we didn’t know which.

By the time we got this information the itchy, burning hot redness had spread to cover pretty much all of my torso, front and back, up my neck, my scalp and face, my pelvis, and was starting to spot-colonize my legs.

I have pictures.

I won’t share them because they are frightening.

The cure for this quite painful condition? Stop taking everything.

(I had to taper off the Lexapro, but still got the brain jolts from it.)

And I spent a month on prednisone.

Oh, the mood swings.

Like goddamn cosmic horror.

And then the panic attacks.

Holy. Fuck.

(I’ve had panic attacks before. I’ve worked for a long time to recognize the triggers and learn practices to minimize or even stop them in their tracks. Because of the radical shift in brain chemistry from coming off all my meds, there were no triggers. Just machine-gun, rapid-fire, constantly on the verge of an attack, or waking up not able to breathe because one hit me in my sleep. In. My. Fucking. Sleep.)

The Wife, you know, the one with the suicide pain condition, says she doesn’t know how I managed to keep going – keep working, keep talking, keep operating at all given my condition.

I don’t know either – other than I’m bloody-minded, stubborn as hell.

(Ask anyone that actually knows me. They can testify.)

What else?

Oh, as soon as the Wife could take care of herself again, I had to do several months of physical therapy for my shoulder. About 7 months after that, I had to go back to PT for my knee this time. (Had to stop PT when I became a swollen, itchy tomato man. But my knee feels better.)

I also got diagnosed with moderate to mild carpal tunnel in both my wrists.

Thanks to the prednisone and various other injections, I gained about 40 pounds – because I couldn’t work out and was eating everything and the cardboard packaging it came in.

Oh yeah, remember that thing I said about having to stop all of my meds?

That included the Lexapro.

Actually, by process of elimination, so far the Lexapro is the prime candidate for my new drug sensitivity. More on that in a sec.

You know what stopping your anti-depressant meds does? Yep, brings back the chemical imbalance portion of your depression.

I already mentioned the anxiety back-swing of the pendulum. Wanna know what happened with the Lexapro?

I break down into body-wracking sobs – sometimes randomly. I’ve had these episodes last for… the longest was an hour.

I can not express how physically & mentally exhausting something like that is, but if you’ve ever been through it, you know.

And did I say ‘happened’ like it was past tense? My mistake. Still happening. Thankfully not as often or for as long a duration, but still a thing I’m dealing with -every fucking day.

(And, if you’ll pardon another Fuck-Capitalism moment: this is not a thing I feel comfortable telling my boss about. The red, itchy stuff, sure. But mental health might as well be black magic, even to people who work in the healthcare community. If I went blind I’d be less afraid of my employer’s reaction than if I were to explain my brain chemistry woes. And that is because of – well, partially my anxiety, if I’m being truthful – but mostly because of Fucking Capitalism incentivizing getting rid of me as opposed to making any kind of concessions to my condition – even if my condition is, hopefully, temporary.)

So, I stopped everything and the red and itchy subsided.

My med manager put me on Paxil.

I was on it for about a week when the red and itchy returned. As it was the only thing I’d added, it was easy to call the culprit. So, no more of that for me. And we wait while my med manager tries to figure out something that will work, without fucking me up too bad.

Oh, the choices we have to make!

So, has it all been bad?

Thankfully not.

I switched jobs, got a promotion and a raise.

Because I had to channel my creativity somewhere, I’ve been learning hand tool woodworking and carving. Not using power tools is good for both my health and my anxiety. Plus I like that it’s a skill I’m learning. I enjoy learning. You might have guessed that from the fact I got a degree in philosophy. Also, I like designing and building furniture. Not enough to try to make a career out of it – not every hobby needs to be fucking-monetized. (again, again, a rant for another time.)

Spent a year making a magick box for a friend. My very own Arthurian Quest. Maybe I’ll post something about that – woodworking and Magick – at a later date. Let’s face it, no one comes here expecting to read The Vanilla Times.

We adopted another kitten from a feral cat rescue. Big ole eyes on the tiny thing. The Wife and I had the same thought at the same time, so we named the new kitten Betty – as in Betty Davis. We’ve had Betty for almost 2 years now. She is no longer tiny. Lives up to her namesake, attitude-wise. Makes me happy.

Oh, probably most importantly, in between body-wracking emotional breakdowns over any old damn thing, including random song lyrics, I’m starting to get the urge to get back to book 3.

I started the book, not just because it’s part of a series, but because I have something I want to say with it. That’s the whole reason it’s a series: I have things I want to say that fit well into this particular framework and go together.

So, not trying to jinx it, but I feel it coming on, like a slow-moving storm. It’s still a ways off, but I can feel the change in the air.

Well, I think that should have you pretty well caught up to where I am…

One last thing: The Wife and I are both Vaccinated. She got boosted. My booster got put off for the obvious reason, but I hope to get it as soon as possible.

Get vaccinated.

Already vaccinated? Get your booster as soon as you can.

Do your part to not unintentionally kill somebody.

And stay safe.

Until next time…

Posted in 3rd Eye Detective series, Capitalism Sucks, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, updates, weird shit | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mystical Experiences…

Ready for another file from the “Weird Shit” folder?

I knew you were.

With all the bullshit going on in the world, we could all use a breath of stranger air.

Okay, like all good philosophy, we’re going to have to begin by defining our terms.

(I recognize that the term mystical has a lot of woo-woo connotations. Stick with me here, and you’ll find I’ll avoid the woo.)

First off, many people believe Mystic refers to connecting directly with the Divine. If this works for you, I mean really works – as in is something you can use – then don’t let me disabuse you of that notion.

(As my old teacher, Sifu Leroy used to say, “Good technique is whatever works.”)

If, on the other hand you equate mystical with dropping 2 hits of acid and going to the Phish concert, allow me to pop that fucking bubble and bring you back down to Earth where all the cool shit is really happening.

A Mystical Experience, stripped down to its essential nature, is a shift in consciousness from duality to a non-dual perspective.

What the fuck does that mean?

(I knew you’d ask, because you folx are fekkin’ awesome. And if I tell you this enough, one day you’ll realize I’m not being sarcastic.)

Dig it:

Duality Consciousness is your everyday mind.

It is the sense you have of being a separate being. It is intrinsically linked with your ego – your sense of self.

Before you jump ahead, No, the ego/ duality consciousness is not a bad thing. You should not attempt to extinguish it. It’s part of you for a reason, and it’s very useful, under the right circumstances.

Duality consciousness is the state of mind where you make a distinction between you and the tree, the clouds, the Earth, other humans, the Universe as a whole.

This is helpful for a number of things, including producing and managing this technological world we live in. For specialized understanding, for narrowly focusing in on a thing – as a thing – to get a handle on how it works, Duality consciousness is what allows us to put things in discrete boxes, to dissect things for better comprehension.

That’s our everyday mind.

If you’re quick – which I know you are – you’ve already deduced what the Mystical Experience is: pretty much everything else.

And by everything else, I mean the only other thing:

Non-Duality Consciousness.

This is the state of mind we experience when we do not differentiate between ourselves and everything else.

You, me, the flowers, the trees, all one thing.

So, to dispel the woo:

Our brains are fully capable of this state of consciousness at any time.

If you’ve ever experienced “flow state” you’ve experienced non-duality consciousness.

(If you’ve never experienced flow state, do yourself a favor and research it. I’ll post about it some other time, but don’t wait. Get into learning about it now. You will thank me for it. I promise.)

Non-duality consciousness – is a fucking mouthful, which is why I still refer to it as Mystical Experience. Also, I like the magical feeling of the old language. But really, they’re the same thing. Use which one works for you.

If you take the time to study, oh, pretty much every religion or spiritual teaching in history, you’ll see that some branch of it has been dedicated to direct, personal experience of the Divine.

Sufism. Ecstatic Christian Prayer. Gnosticism. Kabbalah. Moksha. Nirvana. Spirit journeys. Crossing the The Abyss….

Give it a name, human beings have looked for it in whatever spiritual paradigm they have found themselves in.

There is even a modern, scientific description of the phenomenon, which is what led me to begin investigating the ancient traditions more closely, with an eye to stripping away the inessentials of this experience.

Jill Bolte Taylor talks about it in her book, “My Stroke of Insight”. You can listen to her TED talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_my_stroke_of_insight.

Our brains, the fatty electrical mesh in our noggins, can function in 2 modes. MS. Taylor refers to them as Serial Processing and Parallel Processing.

Serial processing is, much like it sounds, a straight line of one thing connected to another. Causality and determinism. You know, the way we typically perceive the universe.

Parallel processing is experiencing the world as one unbroken, eternal Now.

(All that exists is now, all the we are is now, and only now. No past. No future. Simply, truly, and completely Now.)

This appears to be because the hemispheres of our brains process information in these 2 different ways.

Have I gotten deep into the weeds yet?

No?

Good.

Let’s venture a little deeper into the dense foliage, shall we?

In that unending moment of Now, the suffering of the past and the stress of the future do not, can not exist. Only what you are experiencing in the present moment of awareness is in focus.

If this sounds like some version of paradise to you, you’re not wrong.

In non-duality consciousness one experiences the world as one’s self, and one’s self as the world. Or, as Alan Watts put it, “You simultaneously feel as though you are controlling every aspect of the universe, and that it is also controlling you. You are ‘doing’ it, at it is ‘doing’ you.”

(also, also, if you haven’t looked into Alan Watts, and you dig any of the weird shit I post about, do yourself a solid and go explore. He’s hoot and expert at explaining Eastern traditions to a Western conditioned mind.)

Here’s the thing, getting back to the #mystical for a bit, most of us, in this country and elsewhere in the world, have a notion of God that is less personal and more all encompassing.

(You can thank Saint Thomas Aquinas for that shift, by the way.)

This imagining of God is of a God that is everywhere, in everything, knows and is a part of everything.

(Yes, I recognize that there are still a great many people who see God as some kind of Human-ish Authority figure. Big fuck-off beard, long flowing robes, that look in the eye of both judgement and adoration, much like the look in a favorite grandparent’s eye when they saw you about to get into some harmless trouble. A lot of people still believe that way, but as time has progressed – as well as science – it has become more fashionable to conceive of God in a more pantheistic sense – as the whole shebang, man and boy, maiden, mother, crone, all the stars and all of the grains of sand, etc… instead of some paternal HMFIC up in a mountain somewhere.)

My hypothesis is modern peoples tend to believe this, not just because of Aquinas, but also because it jives with a way we can experience the world – ie: non-dualistic consciousness.

One with all things. No conflict. Only harmony.

So, why don’t we slip in and out of this consciousness all the time?

Good question. Since it’s a part of how you naturally exist, you ought to be able to, right?

Here’s where another one of my hypotheses comes into play:

I think most people are not aware of this ability, and not using it, for the same reason 90% of the world is right-handed.

Most of us are taught to write with our right hand. Left-handers are usually forced to cobble together something functional on their own.

“Here’s the shapes of the letters, have fun figuring out how to make that appendage use them,” kind of thing.

You see, there was a time when everything in the human experience was intertwined with the spiritual.

We didn’t have proper science – as we know it – and so we intuited spirits and gods in everything. For everything.

But, in the not too distant past – only 4 or 5 generations- we brought science to the forefront of how we understand the world.

Notice I didn’t say the Natural World as many people do. Lots of people make that very telling distinction between the Natural world and the world of the Supernatural. Our ancestors didn’t do that. The fact that we do demonstrates how we’ve come to think of things as separate.

We’ve been conditioned, and conditioned ourselves, to use primarily only the one system of our consciousness. Like we’ve been conditioned to only have one dominant hand.

It’s not a bad thing we did, either. If our ancestors had not been primarily dualistically conscious most of us probably would have had our faces eaten off by the leopard we were trying to hug.

And because we use the dualistic-consciousness so often, because our societies are so entrenched in that paradigm, very few of us have experienced, or learned to use, this other side of our mind’s coin that is as intrinsic to our existence as breathing.

This is what the Mystical Experience is, when all the myths are stripped away.

I’ve already mentioned Flow State, but there are other ways to utilize non-dualistic consciousness.

Magicians, yogis, sufis, hermits, nuns, and shamans, throughout history have explored and benefited from this other pole of our consciousness.

I’ll bet, with a little bit of work, you could too.

Who knows what you could do if you embraced the experience of the mystical?

It’s there, waiting for you to awaken to it.

The Mystical Experience is your birthright.

What are you going to do with it?

Until next time…

Posted in Tools for a Better Life, Uncategorized, weird shit | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2nd Stimulus?..

Heads up for this one, folx.

I’m going to be suggesting something for which I have no hard evidence.

But I believe it fits a pattern. And hopefully I’ll be able to explain it well enough that you’ll see it too, and be able to do something about it.

Ok, you know how the GOP in the Senate just came out with their bullshit 1 trillion stimulus package proposal?

The one that drops the increased unemployment benefits to $200 per week from $600 per week and looks to shell out another one time $1,200 payment.

(Incidentally, at the time of writing, this is still just a proposal. Negotiations in the Senate haven’t even begun in earnest yet, much less any kind of reconciliation with the House. Don’t get worried. Nothing’s happened yet – which makes this the perfect time for you to act.)

Here’s my proposition:

I believe the GOP has been stonewalling on the second round of stimulus to the people so that we’ll be grateful for whatever scraps they decide to throw us.

Why would they do this?

Ok, maybe it’s not obvious. Allow me to elaborate:

If they make us desperate, if they wait until we’re so starved and homeless and mired in debt, then we may have no choice but to accept anything they propose.

It is negotiating with a gun to our heads.

(Yes, they are supposed to be negotiating on our behalf. Anyone think they’ll do that? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?)

If they keep us desperate, if they never make us whole, we can be forced to be the serf/ indentured servant class so many of the wealthy in this country appear to desire.

We can be made into good little workers, happy to almost scrape by, because if we’re even barely scraping by than that’s too much like security and we might get uppity and demand more – even, heaven fore-fucking-fend, our fair share.

I think that is why they’ve waited so long for a second round of stimulus for the people.

I think that’s why Mitch McConnell started talking about the bullshit deficit as soon as his corporate cronies got their grubby claws on billions of our money.

As soon as Wall Street got its legs again, Main Street got forgotten.

Like you can fucking eat the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Now, Why do I believe this is the case?

Look at the history our government, the fucking GOP in particular, have of “disciplining labor.”

After the Great Depression, the government’s economic goal was full employment.

A job for everyone who wanted one.

It continued that way until Nixon.

Labor unions and movements had grown large by then – maybe too large given the amount of corruption, but that’s a debatable topic for another time.

The Unions & Labor Movement built the middle class in this country.

(along with the GI bill and a number of other things – not a history lesson today.)

By Nixon’s time in office it was decided, somewhere in the halls of power, to fall in line with the GOP’s way of thinking:

Less priority on full employment and more on lowering inflation.

(and by less priority, I hope you know I mean: no priority. I knew you would. You folx are the smartest and handsomest readers a person could wish for.)

Disciplining labor is a nice way of saying: Union Busting and The Erosion of Worker’s Rights.

If you live in a Right-to-Work state you know this well and truly already.

A program of legislation and general laissiez-faire capitalist chicanery that makes it nigh on impossible to negotiate a raise, or benefits package, or even to get benefits anymore. And so on – if I keep going the blood building behind my eyes will spurt from my head, washing the monitor in a lovely shade of red and making it damned hard to keep writing.

And all that was just here at home.

For the more intersectionality-minded of you there are also plenty of more extreme examples left in America’s imperialist wake out in the world.

(please go look up some of the shit we have pulled in other countries. I don’t have the time nor the extra blood volume to even begin listing them here.)

All that to say, that I think it can be fairly persuasively argued that our government – again the G-O-FUCKING-P in especially – has engaged in a pattern of behavior that suggests making us desperate so we’ll accept less is not only par for the course, but is actually seriously fucking likely.

If you look at history it damn sure seems like the rich in this country – who pretty much own our government now, there have been studies done, go check them out – want to turn our democracy into an aristocracy with them as the nobles and us as the servants and workers.

Serfs and indentured servants.

Judge a person by how they act, not what they say.

And the actions of a the vast majority of our representatives show that they no longer represent us.

They act like we are cattle to be herded, and when necessary, culled.

Think I’m wrong?

Easy way to find out:

Contact your representatives.

Tell them your concerns. Advocate for yourself and your community.

Don’t take it for granted that they have your best interests at heart.

History shows us they don’t.

If you don’t know who your representatives are here’s the helpful links:

House:

https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

Senate:

https://www.senate.gov/senators/index.htm

First – learn who they are if you don’t know. This is important.

Second, call them up or send a letter. Tell them what they should be advocating for on your behalf.

It’s an easy experiment.

At most it costs the price of a stamp.

Just a little time and effort – less than actually going to vote.

Do it.

See how it turns out.

I’ll be here if you want to talk about it.

Or if you need a shoulder to cry on.

I’ll dry your eyes, and then we’ll get to work fixing this shit.

I’ll be waiting for you, and working.

Until next time…

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We’re Not F#$king Broke!..

For anyone and everyone who thinks we, America, can’t institute some social changes for the betterment of the people because we can’t afford it, I’m going to need you to listen to this podcast.

Even if you only listen to the first 10 minutes of it.

(Way more education than most government/ economics classes I’ve been forced to sit through.)

Until next time…

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Another Tip You Can Use…

How to think for yourself:

Proceed from the facts…

not someone else’s interpretation of the facts.

This tip really isn’t for you, oh my faithful readers; you’re all way too cool and intelligent and likely have this down already. No, it is for you to gift to someone else. Someone who needs it.

Because we all know someone who fucking needs it.

Until next time…

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Self Care?

So, there’s a lot going on just now.

Protests in the streets.

A dangerous pandemic.

The collapsing of Capitalism under its own, bloated weight.

(and like always, the ones least able to bear it are the first ones to have to shoulder the burden.)

We are told, constantly, that it is important to take the time for “Self-Care.”

“Self-Care”, as proposed by the fuckers most loudly proposing it, usually consists of making sure you get some exercise, and enough sleep, and maybe meditate, and why not – go ahead and eat that chocolate chip cookie, or binge-watch that series you’ve been wanting to see for a while now.

(let me state here, I am emphatically not opposed to self-care. I’m not one of those, “suck it up buttercup” mother fuckers. We should all be taking better care of ourselves than we do. This essay isn’t about that. So, if you were about to get pissed and stop reading, give it a paragraph or two more. Trust me.)

I am aggrieved by the now-more-than-ever focus on so-called self care because it is being used to mollify rather than heal.

For, oh-fucking-ages now, you’ve heard about the importance of taking personal time – usually away from work, (if your fucking job even provides for that, which most don’t, but that’s another rant,) to maintain one’s health.

We’ve been hearing about using meditation for the same purpose for the same amount of time.

Somewhere, in the Sacred Halls of American Business, it was decided that companies and the media should propound these ideals. And they do, but they never explicitly tell us why.

Well, if you’re bullshit detector is as sensitive as mine, you’ll have known why, long before you got to this sentence. If it isn’t, allow me to elucidate:

It’s so we can be good, productive workers.

(Yeah, yeah, they say, “productive members of society,” but we know what they fucking mean.)

“Take more vacation time.”

“Practice Mindfulness Meditation.”

“Practice ‘Self Care’.”

Not so you will be whole and healthy human beings.

Not because it is conducive to human flourishing.

So you can be better cogs in the machine.

So you can do your part to keep the system running.

But, take a close look and tell me if this even is a system we should keep running, much less sacrifice ourselves for.

Go ahead, I’ll wait…

The world-wide plague, the protests in the streets, the meteoric cratering of our fake fucking economy.

Is this a thing we should be stripping our nerves bare to protect?

Or would self care, real self care, mean figuring out a system that doesn’t require so much marginal tweaking to maintain?

Meditation, vacations, entertainment should not be what we use to insulate ourselves from the flow of daily life, but things that help us connect with it.

So much of the “Self-Care” being pushed nowadays is meant to anesthetize us. It isn’t there to make us happy or even aid in the fulfillment of our lives, but to make us just numb enough to keep plodding along, to keep greasing the wheels with our blood and passion.

To keep spending our lives to make someone else’s profit.

I hate companies that will teach some version of meditation, but only use it on your break so you can deal with the stress of doing the job.

I hate businesses that tell you to take more time, but don’t make it possible to do so.

If it was legal for these fuckers to give us cocaine or meth, they’d do it in a heart beat.

Adderall Mondays. The 2 bump coffee break. Speedball casual Fridays. The most productive in the office gets an IV bag of the ‘good stuff’.

(yes, before you get all #notall whatever, I know there are some businesses out there that do actually care about the culture and their workers. But, let’s face it, there are few enough so as to be seen as the exception, rather than the rule.)

People have said, for ages, that, “the world can’t stop just because…”

Maybe that, right there, is the problem.

Here’s the thing – we created this world.

Maybe haphazardly and partially by accident, but we made it.

We put it together for our benefit.

You dig that?

It is supposed to help us.

Not some of us.

Not a few of us.

Not 1% of us.

Us.

That’s an all-inclusive word – us.

What kind of machine have we built if we can’t stop it to take care of ourselves?

Is that the kind of machine we want to keep running?

Is that the kind of machine we want to sell our lives and energy for?

If your answer is No, maybe it’s time to think of a new way of working.

Maybe real self care is thinking up a system that doesn’t require constant sacrifice.

Maybe, instead of meditating, or taking a vacation to forget about your woes, or even – heavens fore fend – watching that next episode of what-have-you, maybe take that time to see if there might be a better way of living.

Maybe we modify the machine.

Maybe we burn it to the ground and start anew.

Maybe something in between.

I know I’ll be thinking about it.

Will you?

Until next time…

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Qui Tacet Consentire…

Yes, yes, more Latin.

It translates, roughly, to: “Silence gives consent.”

Ok, for those of you who can’t recognize the White Lotus in the room, allow me to explain…

Silence gives consent was a maxim of Western European law, for a long time. Feel free to look it up – I’m not here in the capacity of a historian today.

The idea is this: anything that one is witness to, and one does not speak up against, one gives consent for.

By example, if I were to see, oh say an obstinate republican senator – whose favorite hobby is standing in the way of progress to line his own pockets – about to be viciously stabbed, and I said nothing/ did nothing to stop it, then I would, by the maxim, be giving my consent to the stabbing.

In modern parlance we sometimes call it condoning.

To see a thing, and not be openly against it is to tell the world that you are okay with it.

Now, there’s a reason that it’s not part of the law anymore. The law is just a bit to sticky for something so bluntly binary. As it should be.

But from the standpoint of personal ethics, it makes a lot of sense to continue its use.

(as an aside: some people run into burning buildings, some people run away from them, and some stand paralyzed by them. I am not making a judgement as to which, if any, of those things is better. Mostly they are hardwired responses, and without significant and exhaustive training, one can not override them, regardless of what one wishes or brags about when drunk.)

What I do want you to be aware of is in a real sense, if you stand by and watch something happen – this can be metaphorically, or repeatedly – that you are displaying your consent to its rightness.

You are showing the world that you’re cool with it.

It’s not a big deal.

Shows over.

Nothing to see here, folks.

So, maybe that last hint clued you in to one of the things I’m talking about not remaining silent for anymore.

Yeah, it definitely involves the police.

Killing unarmed people of color is not something I condone, and I sure as hell don’t want my tax dollars going to pay for it.

More broadly speaking, Racism, of every sort, is wrong.

I’ve known this for as long as I can remember.

It’s nigh on impossible for me to fathom how anyone couldn’t realize this basic fact.

The same goes for homophobia and trans-phobia. I just don’t understand it.

I know it exists. But I don’t get it.

As a cis hetero white dude, living in the South, I can tell you there is a social pressure to not speak out about these things.

(I’m privileged in that I don’t suffer from these prejudices, but in fact have benefited from them.)

There is this culture of insincere politeness in the South. It’s as old as the South itself, and it’s inculcated from an early age. Somethings are just not spoken about in polite society.

And that creates a social pressure to not speak up.

Now, I could tell you a bit about how I’m wired and how I handle these situations, but this post isn’t really about me…

It’s about you.

Because I want you to think about the morality of doing nothing.

Is it moral to see a wrong committed and not stand against it?

Our titular Latin friend suggests it is.

So do I.

When you see racism, individual or systemic.

When you see police brutality.

When you see the destruction the Earth for profit.

When you see radical inequality.

Will you be more than a witness?

Will you silently consent?

Or will you do something?

I, and so many others, will be with you when you do.

You’re voice has power.

Use it.

Until next time…

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A Tip You Can Use…

So, there’s a Pandemic on, in case you forgot with all the current insanity.

There’s a pandemic on and most places in the US have opened back up, hoping our corporate feudal masters will get the V-shaped recovery they so desperately want to keep this fake economy going.

Economics – that’s a rant for another day.

Anyways, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been going back out.

I love movies, and Chinese restaurants, and drunken karaoke at my second favorite bar.

But I haven’t been going out, except for necessities.

Because you know what?

Life is not back to normal. It’s not getting back to normal anytime soon.

Definitely not anytime before we have a working vaccine.

So, when I do go out for necessities, I always wear a mask when I can not social distance from people.

I don’t wear it in my car.

I don’t wear it at home, or when I’m walking my dog.

Just when I can’t get far enough away from you people.

And you’d think others would be following the CDC guidelines, you know, because that’s why we pay them, to help out with shit like this.

But no.

Still, anywhere from a third to half of the people I see, especially in the grocery stores, aren’t wearing masks and aren’t even trying to stay the fuck away from people.

Ok, I can deal. I’ve been told that somewhere around 40% of the American population has a below average IQ. (Not sure about the math on that one.)

Stupid people gonna stupid.

Been protecting me and mine from those asshats for, oh, all my fucking life.

No biggie.

I got it covered.

What makes me want to commit simple assault, just about every time I have to venture into public, are these fake macho assholes giving me dirty looks because I am, in fact, wearing protective equipment.

Because apparently, some ratings-whore on the News-Network-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named has convinced them that it’s unmanly – whatever the fuck that means – to protect yourself and others in your society.

Yep, let that sink in.

Hastur-Hastur-Hastur News has actually conned people into believing that protecting the weak, the at risk, the innocent, is a fucking bad thing.

Just out of curiosity, didn’t we used to call people that did that heroes?

No, I’m not calling myself a hero. I might risk human being, but let’s not push it.

Anyways, I imagine I’m not the only one on the receiving end of these disgusted looks.

I’ve even seen footage of people – wait, I mean sub-human scum-fucks – getting in responsible adults faces about their cowardice of wearing a mask.

This, for reasons that would be obvious if you’ve ever seen me in public, has not happened in my presence yet, lest I should be penning these missives from a jail cell.

It got me and a friend talking about our responses to this particular brand of heinous fuckery.

We both work with at-risk populations.

And she had the same thought about it that I did: We are protecting the at-risk people we work with.

And while we were having that conversation, it suddenly occurred to me – and this is where the tip you can use comes in…

I don’t owe them a fucking explanation.

I don’t, and neither did she.

And neither do you.

But, if you wanted to give one anyway, you know, just to be polite, please feel free to proffer the one I’ve been using if anyone gets within spitting distance of me:

“I’m a goddamn American, and you can’t tell me!”

They can’t tell me I can’t.

They don’t get to tell me I shouldn’t.

I’m not hurting anyone or breaking any laws, and that means they can mind their own damn business.

I don’t owe anyone a justification.

And neither do you.

Fell free to whip that out when the dicks get thick.

Until next time…

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The Part of the Conversation…

The world seems to be on fire right now.

I have been trying to find a way to process it, to turn it into some kind of positive action.

I like to imagine many of you have been making the same attempt.

Let me say that, if like me, you’ve been floundering, there is no blame in it.

Overwhelming things will overwhelm. It’s why we call them that.

No shame in being overwhelmed. You will come out of it at some point.

The world will not break you.

(and yes, I need to hear that as much as some of you do.)

So, I’ve been trying to process this insanity we call life. I’ve had things to say. Many other people have said them better and with more eloquence. And sometimes I find it just isn’t the place for a white, cis, hetero dude to try to occupy the bandwidth. Sometimes it is just better to listen.

But I still feel like there is something I can add to the discussion; something I should add.

Something I haven’t yet seen talked about regarding the current state of affairs.

It started when I watched an interview with the Mayor of St. Paul, MN. It was the first time, but oh not-the-fucking-last time I’ve heard this phrase used:

“We need to have the conversation.”

The phrase is usually uttered when the feet hit the streets. When the people come out to protest. When the protests turn violent.

We need to have the conversation…

I’ve got news for anyone using this phrase – especially if they’re using it to tell rightly upset people to calm down and behave.

We are having the conversation.

I grew up in what is politely called an unstable home. And I can tell you with dread certainty that we have been having this same conversation, for decades now.

And this is the part where the conversation gets loud.

Some of you, dear readers, know this too.

Like a law of nature.

As sure as gravity:

Any conversation that continues too long without resolution, will get noisy.

Will get violent.

This is part of the conversation we’ve been having.

It will continue to be part of the conversation until we come to terms.

Until we no longer need to have this conversation.

To that end, the only thing we can do, other than protect ourselves, is to decide how we want this conversation to end.

Take some time to think about that.

And take more time to listen to the people offering solutions that move us forward.

I’ll be doing the same.

Until next time…

 

 

 

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Capitalism Sucks: Pt. 2

So, if you follow me on any of the social medias, you might have noticed I occasionally like to write in my favorite bar in Knoxville, Green’s Tavern.

I’ve written a few short stories there and edited a few more.

I wrote parts of The Hungry Dark, snuggly ensconced in one of its booths.

I’ve even written a few of these posts from the comfortable confines of the only geek bar in town.

And it is with a heavy heart, and a burning anger, that I come to tell you of its demise.

Green’s Tavern had to shut down, permanently.

One might be quick to blame the pandemic.

But COVID-19 is a mindless evil.

It makes no choices.

It takes no sides.

And I’ll not blame the mechanics of the trigger over the villain that pulls it.

The villain, in this case, is capitalism.

More specifically, how our government has rigged the system.

The System? Rigged? The hell you say?!

Yes, fellow travelers, the hell I say.

I know people will want to argue that the government provided loans to small businesses.

And those are the types of idiots you don’t even want to bother arguing with. They obviously didn’t watch or read any news or even commentary regarding the subject. And while I am not a stickler for the rules, I’m loath to waste my time on someone who refuses to do even the barest amount of homework on a matter of this level of importance.

(A little gossip cum back-channel info: my favorite tavern has fekkin’ smart owners. I am told, unofficially, that they did indeed apply for a small business loan under the CARES ACT program. I am also told that after 7 weeks, they were finally approved for 1/10th of what they applied for. 1/10th. Imagine a small business, in good standing for 10 fucking years. Now imagine what amount they might have applied for. The actual amount is likely lower than you’re thinking. Then imagine, if you were them, and instead of receiving this reasonable loan, the bank told you all they had for you was 10 percent. After almost 2 months. Well, dear readers, not only wasn’t that amount sufficient to keep the place open, it was low enough to be insulting.)

Everybody knows what happened to that small business loan money.

And if you don’t know, the majority did not, in fact, go to small businesses.

That was our government’s doing.

They set it up. They rigged the system for their rich, corporate friends.

That’s how national chains got small business funds.

(And the only reason any of them gave it back was because of intense social pressure. Take a second and imagine what would have happened if there had been no pressure. Now imagine how many other large companies took funds meant for small businesses but were not caught out by the public. Then take a minute to let your blood pressure drop back down. Go ahead. I’ll wait…)

The law could’ve have been written in such a manner as to preclude large/ national chains. It wasn’t.

And I’ll bet every dime I ever make – less the money for my cremation – that it wasn’t an accident the law was constructed the way it was.

The system is rigged for the rich, because, as Rousseau wrote, the rich write the laws.

What does this have to do with Capitalism?

Why is it not just inept and corrupt governance?

Because Capitalism is what drives the government, and those in control of it, to create the framework of laws that benefit the capitalist – ie: the holder of capital. The rich.

Poor people don’t have capital.

The working class has only the worth of their labor, which Capitalism is geared to exploit.

The nature of capitalism is to drive for profit above all else.

It is only when capitalism is effectively regulated, and its worst tendencies strictly curtailed – as it was in FDR’s New Deal – that it can function for the benefit of the society as a whole, and not just for the few.

And the COVID-19 crisis has shown us that Capitalism run amok is not equipped to deal with anything even resembling an existential threat to humanity.

Capitalism, un-restrained, corrupts the government to its own, profit-seeking purposes.

A government twisted by capitalism neglects the needs of its people.

And my favorite bar is forced to close.

In some other post, I’ll tell you more about Green’s. It deserves a better eulogy than this.

But just now, I’m too fucking angry. So it’ll have to wait.

Until next time…

 

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