The End of Everything Is the Beginning

beautiful silhouette

Today feels like the beginning of the end of everything, just like it did yesterday and the day before that. Every day I wake up and am overcome with the feeling that human beings have reached the end of their evolution and have begun a massive devolution back into a primordial sludge that will (hopefully) yield something better. Then I have to get my kid up for school, make breakfast, drink coffee and realize that Trump is not a grotesque fantasy of H.P. Lovecraft but the leader of my country. I fantasize about drowning myself in my pot of coffee.

I know a lot of people relate to this feeling of desolation, that there’s no fixing what’s broke, and that there’s no way to hold back the tide of bigotry and ignorance that have such a powerful hold on so many people across the world. All around me people are having the same angry desperate conversations with each other about how we’re all too small to change the tide of hatred, violence, and environmental destruction happening all around us. How can any of us make a difference? How can we fight Monsanto/Trump/True /Evil?

Self Care

I believe we must start everything within ourselves. Anything we want to accomplish outside of us must happen first inside our own bodies, minds, and spirits. I am useless to others when I’m useless to myself. Self care is the very first thing all of us must tend to if we want to light up the world with change. For me this means I’ve had to completely detach myself from all sources of news, cook more nourishing food for myself and my family, and seek out the companionship (in person or online, makes little difference) of people who, for whatever reason, seem to always take the time to let me know I matter and am loved. I’ve been spending more time working on my potions and getting out in the garden.

What do you need to do to nourish your body, mind, and spirit? What do you need to do in order to get the extra support you need right now when everything feels like a damp shadow is living in your bones? Do the things that work for you and do them now. There’s so much we can all do to keep progress marching forward, to stop the course of environmental pollution, and to keep the lights lit in the world, but we can’t do it from our blanket forts. We can’t do it when we’re in the middle of a downward spiral. So take the time you need to refresh yourself, to recalibrate yourself, and to re-light your own pilot. I promise the despots, bigots, and smog will still be there when you’re feeling strong enough to jump back into the fray. And if you yourself are fighting strong but someone you care about is floundering under the weight of current events, please stop and give them a hand.  Because the next thing we all need to work on is taking care of each other.

Reciprocity Is Survival

Human survival has always depended on reciprocity. Even before we settled down with the exciting discovery of agriculture, we depended on each other to eat, find shelter, and fight off larger animals. A lone human is a very fragile being. We have tricked ourselves into believing we don’t need each other and that we can each survive without anyone else’s help. We’ve built an infrastructure around ourselves (civilization) that allows many of us quite a bit of independence. We can go a long time without anyone else’s direct assistance or company. But if you truly think you don’t need anyone else then you’ll have to take all your clothes off, leave your house or apartment behind, get rid of all your tools and accouterments to modern living that other people invented and made, and live with nothing.

Even then your chances of survival now are greater than they were at the beginning of human evolution because you benefit from the shared wisdom of a billion humans who came before you and died discovering that amanita mushrooms are not one of the amusing mushrooms so that you can wisely avoid them. You benefit from all the medicinal knowledge that was discovered by others and shared with you so that you can heal your cuts and bruises. Your survival depends on other human beings no matter how independent and skilled you are. Even money is a system of reciprocity. Money is merely a medium through which we exchange services and products between us. Before we had money, we exchanged actual services and products between ourselves that we needed to survive but couldn’t provide for ourselves.

When communities go through terrible calamities such as natural disasters and wars, and elections of megalomaniacs, the way they get through it all to the other side is by helping each other into boats and out of harm’s way. So my answer to the question “how do we get through these dark times?” is to start with kindness. First to yourself, and then to the people you know and care about, and then outwards to people you don’t know who need it too. When you see someone’s house burning, stop and ask them what you can do to help. Putting yourself out there definitely makes you vulnerable, but you have to ask yourself if you’d want strangers walking by your burning house without stopping to find out if how they can help while your house burns.

Don’t stop with humans. Offer that same generosity and kindness to the animals, wildlife, and nature all around you. Revive a neglected garden, spread wildflower seeds in empty city lots to provide more pollen and hiding places for insects. Volunteer at a wildlife center that rehabilitates injured wild animals. Volunteer to help clean up birds soiled by oil spills. Pick trash up, put bird feeders out (especially in winter), adopt an abandoned cat or dog. Every single act of generosity and care you put out there in the world matters. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that little things like picking up a piece of trash don’t matter. It was merely a little act of thoughtlessness that put that piece of trash on the ground in the first place but there are so many people being thoughtless in this tiny way every day that there are more pieces of trash along the highway than there are wildflowers, so pick up that piece of trash and you balance something out in the world. You erase the thoughtlessness of someone else’s with a thoughtfulness of your own your action.

I’m aware that picking up trash from the street isn’t going to stop Trump from being president of the United States and breaking the world. I realize that giving shelter to abandoned animals isn’t going to keep the pipeline from being built further down the river. When people are asking “what can we do to change the course our country/world is on?” what they want is revolution sized action, something to immediately abate the rising panic in their chests. But you have to also recognize that the little choices we make every day DO matter or you’ll never be able to make the big choices that will change the world on a large scale, the hard choices, the sometimes dangerous ones.

As above, so below.

The revolution starts with the minutiae. The revolution starts with you.

Beyond self care and outward generosity there’s so much more.

Civil Disobedience

Protesting remains one of the most important tools humans have for voicing their disenfranchisement. Whether sanctioned by a constitution or punishable by death, there are few things more powerful than a mass of human beings standing together for a single goal. Don’t discount it just because you went to one protest that didn’t change the fabric of the universe. We don’t live in a magical world, but we do live in a predictable one. Protests generally require perseverance and tenacity to be effective. You’ve got to be willing to go for the long game, to stake out your square foot of turf for as long as possible and take the rubber bullets and the pepper spray. Protesting is serious, protesting done with peace and conviction of spirit can, and has, changed the world. So take on the issue that scares you the most, that you most desperately want to have a hand in changing and take to the streets.

There are a million small things we can all do that will add up to huge change.

Start a Seed Library

The most vital component to human survival at this point are seed banks that preserve the biodiversity of food crops that can sustain human life. Are you sick with anxiety about the damage companies like Monsanto are doing to crop diversity around the world? The  best thing you can do as an individual is start a seed library. I have thought about saving seeds for years and felt intimidated by the problem of cross pollination in small gardens. Seed saving seemed fraught with insurmountable difficulties until I set myself free this year and realized that even if I only grew one variety of lettuce this year so that I could save the seeds with confidence that they’d grow true to seed, it would be more than I did last year.

If every single one of us who gardens were to save the seeds of one variety of vegetable or fruit every year we could cover the world in food. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the only seed saving that matters is by people with extensive gardens and scientific degrees, we all have power here. For the first time this year I saved three kinds of seeds; purslane, red orache, and a perennial pepper variety called Aji Crystal.

Vote With Your Wallet

Every day you support other people, companies, and organizations by giving them your money. I know someone who supported same sex marriage (and was gay themselves) but continued to eat at Chik-Fil-A knowing that the COO of the company, Dan Cathy, was speaking out against it and giving financial support to organizations considered hateful to the LGBTQ community. Their excuse was that “The food just tastes so good I can’t help it”. But consider this: after a huge outcry and active boycotting of the franchise by supporters of same sex marriage and the LGBTQ community, as well as other companies cutting ties with them over this issue, Chick-fil-A stopped financial support of organizations considered to be discriminatory against gay people. I don’t honestly believe that the company COO has changed his views on anything and I’ll never step foot in one of their trash-pits, but that company has a lot of money and through public outcry and boycotting, they are giving a lot less of it to organizations known to support conversion therapy. That’s what power your dollar has.

So if you want to wield more power to change the world, you already have it in your hands, you just might need to use it more critically. What companies do you shop from? What organizations do you support? What stores or farmers do you buy your food from? What financial institutions do you allow to handle your money? Find out what political candidates they’ve openly supported, if any. Find out what “charitable” organizations they give their money to because they got their money from consumers like you and me. Dig deep, share your information. The less you shop and eat at big chain stores and corporations the easier it is to find out if they care about and support the same things you do. You may not have a lot of money to spend, you may be struggling to get by, but don’t let that shake your activism. Every dollar you spend is making a social and political statement whether you want it to or not. Every dollar you spend can be supporting organizations that care about the earth or are callously destroying it one dollar at a time. It’s your choice and mine, every single day.

Take comfort, the world will go on without us.

I woke up again this morning feeling like we’ve reached the End of All Things. But even if this turns out to be true, take heart! This planet has gone through so much change long before we evolved onto the scene. Millions of animals and insects have come and gone leaving nothing but a collection of bones and impressions in earth’s crust to let us know they were ever here. I bet when the dinosaurs were all dying off they felt the same way some of us humans do right now. They had NO idea that their deaths would fuel human invention and population bursts that stretched the earth’s resources and resulted in massive pollution and trashed eco-systems millions of miles wide. There’s been an ice age that changed the climate of the whole planet for a good long time and killed off a lot of living beings in the process. Remember how one time there was a plague that wiped out two thirds of the European population? But then some people lived on and continued to be shitheads? Remember when we had two “World” wars and all those old people shook their heads and predicted the end of civilization as they knew it? Were they wrong? No, they weren’t. Yet humans kept multiplying and building and destroying. We exploded nuclear bombs (by “we” I’m obviously speaking of my own country since we’re the only ones to use them against others so far, and yes, I find that incredibly shameful) and here we are now, with one of the dumbest men on earth in a position to unleash more nuclear bombs into the world. Here we are .

I don’t honestly care that much about humans as a race, I know the earth will heal itself and re-invent itself once we’re gone and I take great comfort from that. But I DO care about individual humans, I can’t bear to see others in pain. I DO care about all the other beings on earth who’ve had to struggle to survive around us and in spite of us. I DO care about the trees, the ocean, the soil, and the tiny psilocybins covering forest floors and rotting wood. I care desperately for earthworms, abandoned pets, wild violets, and the sourgrass that I loved to chew on as a child that’s growing in my garden right now. I think you care about a lot of these things too, and maybe you also care about the survival of the human race, and that’s why we have to nurse ourselves through the shock and horror of current events and then get back out there and fight. I don’t know if humans are facing the end of things or not, but last night I took on my fifteenth feral foster kitten for the year and I’ll be damned if I give up making the world a better place for abandoned cats and kittens like him.

Goodnight Little Brother: Ezekiel (Zeke) Laforest, 1972-2016

blurry laughter

My brother Zeke died yesterday. This is my favorite picture of him and my sister Tara. Grief is a strange and personal creature, molding itself to your own specific schisms and dogmas. It coils itself around your heart delivering periodic electric shocks or administering blessed analgesics so that you feel strangely empty and disconnected from the earth even if what you think you want is to bleed your heart into cracked dry earth.

most recent dad and Zeke

Everyone will have their own version of Zeke to hang onto when they miss him. This is mine.

When we were in grade school and walked to Mira Vista Elementary he would sometimes take out his anger on me by kicking me in the shins. I forgave him every time he did it because I loved him so much and felt so protective of his fierce angry soul that I hoped I could absorb it all with my own body. I wanted to fix the world for him and still believed back then that love and compassion would do the trick. He knew better. I’m a pretty old soul but however old my soul might be, his was primordial.

Zeke three days old

Mums said Zeke was born angry. I don’t get to tell the story of how she came to think this, because it isn’t mine to tell, but I’d definitely like to know why I never wore pretty camisoles like this one when I had Max.

Tara Zeke and Max

I loved classical music when we were kids as much as Zeke loved rock and roll. We argued about the superiority of one over the other quite often since his bedroom was next to mine and he played his music loud.

He brought a black widow into the house in a jar with a flimsy tin foil covering poked full of holes and when the spider disappeared I never slept again. He loved spiders, lizards, hermit crabs, and sharks. I remember one of his early acrylics was of a shark and I was so jealous that he could paint so well while I could not.

bandw Philip and Zeke

Zeke liked to think he was taller than me when, in fact, we were the exact same height. Philip measured us. His nephew outgrew us by inches just in the last year. So Max wins.

Zeke explaining shit to Max I have been known to accidentally call Max “Zeke”. In the last couple of days I’ve done it several times but now it kind of hurts. Max is a lot like his uncle in so many ways. Especially when he was a small kid.The nerd glasses tryout

Zeke loved his family in small doses. His friends are where he sought his daily familial needs but he loved us none-the-less. You know when a person truly loves you. Even if they walk in after months away and tell you when they need to leave before saying hello. I’m his sister, not a sentimentalist. There are bonds that are formed especially with childhoods like ours that nothing but siblinghood can create. We love him so much, so fucking much, we cursed him and his prickliness, his slippery-ness, and tried to hold onto him every time we saw him because he was connected to us through spirit. He was also so much fun to hang out with.

Right before Christmas I was looking up vintage clear non-prescription glasses to wear while riding my Vespa at night. On Christmas day we picked Zeke up and he’s wearing the very glasses I was hoping to find – except they weren’t vintage. I wanted his glasses. How is it that no matter what cool thing I want to do, he gets to it before me? Fucker.

me and Zeke Christmas 2014

This is my favorite picture of Zeke and me.

I once ate a big bite of salmon because Zeke loves salmon (and fish in general) so much and insisted that I would like it the way he made it. I knew he was wrong but I hated to disappoint him so I ate it and almost immediately threw it up all over him because fish is disgusting and I will never like it.

the nerd glasses

Zeke was always honest, even when it made others exquisitely uncomfortable. It never made him uncomfortable to be true to himself and speak his mind. He was not a saint. He was constantly getting into sticky situations, spent a lot of time broke, was prickly as fuck, already an old man by the time he was five, and I have spent my whole life worrying about him because I came into this world before him and was a curmudgeonly old man first.

He had a deep love and connection with music, was always introducing those around him to new sounds as he discovered them. He was a serious lifelong skateboarder, but never went pro. He was possibly the most fearless person I’ve ever known, although I suspect he was afraid of dentists. He was an incredible artist. Over the last few years he has honed his photography and his art series “Urban Archeology” so much that I felt sure he would soon be able to get his work into galleries. I don’t say this as a loving indulgent sister, I say this as a person with a strong eye for design and art but without the talent he possessed.

I loved my brother unconditionally, but not blindly. Zeke was always the coolest person in the room, but he was rough around the edges, always scraped and bruised, and there were times I was worried he was becoming a conservative republican. But the best thing about Zeke was that he had a genuine big heart. He wasn’t around his family half as much as we wanted him. We were always trying to hold onto him a little longer before he jetted off. As a sister I couldn’t rely on him to be there in ways I could count on our sister to be there for me. I think most people will agree that when it comes to Zeke, you have to take him on HIS terms.

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My most treasured memory of Zeke is the time we spent together with Tara in Scotland attending our dad’s wedding.

In spite of Zeke only knowing how to live on his own terms, and not on anyone else’s or for anyone else’s comfort, whatever he had to give he gave it freely and fully. I’ve always been incredibly proud of my brother.

I’m desperately sad that I’ll never get to laugh with him again.

I love you, little brother. I’m sorry I didn’t have the power to keep you safe.

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A Constant End Without End

pale grinder

There’s a lot of life carved into 60 seconds when you’re not sure you’ll be alive at the end of them.

Common wisdom suggests that those who optimistically embrace every second because life is beautiful and gorgeous and happy and joyful and cheerful are the ones who get the most out of life.

I suggest that those are the people who skim the surface of the universe without ever truly knowing its depth or circumference. I suggest that they are the people who think the goal of life is joy when the real goal of life is metamorphosis. I suggest that transformation is the ultimate directive of the universe. Observe it in liquid to gasses, in maggots to flies, in the acrid sting of fresh onions to a sticky sweet fond on the bottom of the pan.

Most people see life as a beginning, a middle, and an end. And they hate the end, they resent it, they avoid it at all costs, they see it as the natural enemy.

People like me experience life as a constant end without end. The middle is a mythical space where others unfold quietly and dumbly, unaware of the sharp steep chalk edge inches away from their hapless feet. Unaware of the constant dredging and sluicing of fortunes, tossing choice in favor of chance without conscious consent.

People like me don’t need to consent. We are the conscious unconscious. We don’t get to consent or dissent. We ARE. We are born BEING. Raw, charged, and full-spectrum humans from the moment we hit existence skidding our tires against a static roadway.

We appear broken, blasted, wasted, and wan. That’s just because we operate on a different frequency than most humans. We haven’t got your filters for noise, for violence, for chaos, for sorrow, for anything at all. Everything hits our exposed nerves like lightning shock. It burns us hollow.

The joy for us is in the macro experience. Looking at the unfettered layers of landscape as separate sentient beings, seeing the glory in the dust mote, the streak of light, the accidental paint dripping. The joy for us isn’t in living another day for the sake of living, which is meaningless in itself, but to watch the golden hour cross the world one more time illuminating the hungry human eye, swathing a grassy hillside in a soft dust of light. This is worth living another day for. It doesn’t need words, unless we want to share it outside ourselves, then it requires more words than there are in our lexicon.

Give up your stiff rules of thought, of belief, of starchy dogma. Release yourself into the wild. Let your thoughts get thick with shade and leaves. God might be in the details, might not be too. Don’t know what God does or doesn’t do, but I know that the divine in humans is never as far from the surface as their actions suggest. That’s the closest to blind faith I get.

Deliver your bloody beating heart into my trembling hands and I will bury it up on the pinnacle of your crumbled hope, your grave of dreams.

I once picked up an accordion every afternoon and played Amazing Grace on it like it was the sword that defeats death.* It wasn’t, but the bees heard me, the lilacs listened, the ivy slowed down and heard the call of honey.

 

*True fact. I still have my accordion but I’m terrified to try and play it after years of neglect.

Take My Lungs

bellows

I believe, against all supposedly natural human instinct, that it’s okay to die. It’s not that I want people to die, it isn’t that I don’t sometimes value being alive, it’s just that I get a mental rash every time humans fluff their grubby feathers up and act like death is the most antithetical thing to life there is. As far as I can tell life and death aren’t antithetical to each other but are two ends of the same string. They are the beginning and the ending of the same experience. They’re a matched set, not opponents.

To be obsessed with life but see death as the enemy is unnatural to me. Death is not an enemy, it’s the natural end to every beginning. I’m not suggesting it isn’t painful, both for those doing the dying and for the loved ones witness to the dying and experiencing the losing. There’s so much pain for those of us losing the ones we love – pain that feels limitless and expansive.

But we all fit into a permanent place in the universal memory like a shiny jigsaw piece that takes children and seniors years of patience to put into place like a gravestone. Would you prefer it be easier to settle our ghosts as though they were nothing more than an after dinner burp followed by an insincere apology?

I’ve spent a few hours today sorting through the Suicide for Beginners survey results and it’s the same every time I do, I feel like I’m swimming in the same dark spirit-infested waters from which I rose before I was born and will return to when I die. I feel I’m with my spirit family. I feel my heart break in a thousand pieces simultaneously as I feel inordinate pride in everyone’s strengths that the world has yet to recognize, that most of the time we don’t/can’t recognize for ourselves. But I see it, this incredible vibrancy it takes to survive even half a life with the crippling drowning sensation many of us feel just trying to breath.

The worst thing is knowing that the best I can do for all of us is maybe educate a few people who don’t get what we’re dealing with, maybe make a few more people listen to us, and hopefully throw adequate life support to a few of the most desperate of us who are drifting dangerously towards the point of no return. I want to do more. I want to rewrite the manuscript, repaint the landscape, and change the entire narrative.

One of the hardest things about this project is that it takes tremendous energy to see it through and as a person with serious chronic depression I have very little energy at the best of times and no matter how motivated I am to get this project off the ground I first have to contend with my powerful inertia. I have a day job that sucks most of my energy from me. I’m grateful to have it, I really enjoy my coworkers, but that doesn’t change how little energy it leaves me for anything outside of it.

This is what depression IS.

This is what depression TAKES.

Nearly everyone who took my Suicide for Beginners survey can appreciate this bullshit.

Time for sleep and slim reflection.

 

 

 

Your Secret Self Without Skin

the extreme light

I can’t decide how much of my nightmares I should leak into my waking life, how much of them I should try to tell, how much to suppress, how much of them I should cherish like the skin of my child, how much I should scrape away like the sharp unforgiving barnacles of the deep regretful sea.

I have a secret self without skin.

You have one too even if you won’t acknowledge it. It’s the self you protect wordlessly because to breathe on it would collapse its wild delicate musculature, would warp its margins beyond recognition, beyond reconciliation.

Your secret self is louder than anyone can hear.

The things I want to tell you are thick with D minor in a fugue state you can’t reach from any chair.

When it’s all over there’s just enough room for you to disintegrate prettily into the second skin you knitted when your own slipped off without your permission.

Beyond this, there is less than nothing.

 

Gender Fluidity Science Will Eventually Explain To Everyone

spiked plum

The idea of feminine and masculine qualities doesn’t bother me in the broadest sense. It’s shorthand for certain characteristics we notice more commonly in one sex over the other. At least, that’s the position I’ve held for a long time that is crumbling away. It’s an idea I decided to be okay with because I have noticed for myself that there are some characteristics more of the men of my acquaintance share with each other than the women and vice versa.

There ARE differences between men and women that biology imposes. Instincts that nature has created to best protect our species. All animals have developed instincts and systems of behavior that help to protect their species. Penguins do it differently than humans. Mice do it differently than penguins. Big cats have different arrangements and instincts within their species.

So biological gender differences can be observed in a general way, except that nature has given humans a wider range of genders than we have been willing to acknowledge up until recently. We haven’t begun to understand what role hormones play in gender. We know that testosterone and estrogen can be higher or lower in people creating some observable physical differences as well as some behavioral ones. But there’s so much more to know about why sometimes people are born with combinations of gender that aren’t simply male or female. We don’t know how much of our characteristics are driven by biology and how much of it is produced by environment.

Gender is interesting and important to try and understand. Wherever you are on the spectrum, you can’t tell me that your hormones and other biological equipment has nothing to do with who you are.

But what bothers me, what I accept less and less is the value people put on different human characteristics. I have a problem with traditional ideas about what “strength” IS. The traditional belief that men are strong and that strength is measured in physical brute force as well as ability to withstand pain and not be emotional. I have a problem with the traditional belief that women are soft and giving and emotional and these attributes are considered weak.

Fuck traditional gender roles. People are so concerned with raising boys to be “manly” and girls to be “womanly” and all the baggage that those expressions represent. Nothing I’m saying here is new. Tons of people have observed the same things and had the same wish to see traditional roles change. But I’m just beginning to understand how that can happen and that some of the things I thought were benign before really aren’t and I’m not okay with them. So this is not me sharing some brand new thoughts – this is me recognizing myself changing. Growing. Expanding beyond some old ideas I used to cling to.

We teach our children what it means to be strong. We reinforce that every single day with our actions and behaviors. You can tell them that being empathetic is a strength but if you talk about people who show empathy as being weak, your kids will follow your behavior. How we view strength and weakness as a culture is something we teach.

If we all raised our kids with the idea that they grow up to be good people instead of “good men” or “good women” we can dispense with all this bullshit power struggle it creates between gender and the void it creates for those who don’t fit in the traditional roles or who aren’t one of those two genders. Questions rise in my head and as soon as they do I already know the answer.

Why does it scare people so much to let go of traditional ideals of gender behavior?!

Because a patriarchy can’t remain a patriarchy if power is decided not on gender but on individual character.

I think science will eventually tell us what a lot of people are already suspecting, myself included, that gender is a lot more fluid than anyone has previously perceived it. That all humans are a unique cocktail of hormones, chemicals, and physiological attributes that contribute to the quality of their person. This is why stereotyping gender doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Not all women have the urge to procreate. Not all women are nurturing. Not all men are whores –

hahahahahahaha

Back to being serious… not all men are physically stronger than women, not all men are rational thinkers, not all men are good at sports or even give a shit about them.

So many people I know don’t neatly fit stereotypical gender roles. I know a lot of women who are rational thinkers and more practical and grounded than the men in their lives. I know women who are great at and love sports. I know women who have no maternal urges. I know women with voracious sexual appetites. I know men who are empathetic, nurturing, and also love sports.

Sanguinity by Experience

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I’m a blood connoisseur. I can’t decide if that’s a distinction or a detraction. I see drops of it on the pavement and I have to follow it to its conclusion. It always tells a story. Small slightly irregular drops with radial spatter still visible on the sidewalk that starts from the door of a dive bar and disappears somewhere three blocks away says bar fight. But something like this, this is an EVENT. Someone tried to obscure quite a pool of it with chalky shit. I cannot pass. I have to consider the possibilities. Stabbing? Spontaneous corner birth? Not enough for a shooting, probably. There aren’t many pleasant reasons that much blood can spill. My son spills that much blood with a single bloody nose but that’s because he doesn’t move and through familiarity and exhaustion from dealing with epic nosebleeds he doesn’t expend much effort bothering to staunch the flow. A normal person wouldn’t stand on a street corner and let the pints drop.

I know the color of fresh blood in all its various mineral strengths. I know the color of hour old blood. I know what week old blood looks like. I know the color of archival blood. I know what it looks like 25 years after it’s been drawn across watercolor paper, across playing cards, and soaked into silk fiber. I know what it tastes like in the air when a pint of it has coagulated on a hard wood floor and caught thickly in a tub drain. I know what it tastes like in the late afternoon. I know what it tastes like as the punctuation for poetry penned at 3am in San Francisco through a pack of aggressively smoked cigarettes. I know what it tastes like in the back of the throat at dawn.

 

Love Your Enemies

dad's olive grove

Olive groves are super biblical and shit.

Bible School today brought to you by my dark disappointment in humankind:

How can Christians sanction any war? Remember Mathew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Or, how about the King James Version? “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”

Pick any version you like and Jesus’s message is still the same:

LOVEYOURMOTHERFUCKINGENEMIESYOUFUCKERS.

I’m an atheist who believes Jesus is fictional and yet I believe in and live his philosophy more fully than many Christians do. How can anyone call themselves Christian and fight in or sanction the fighting of a war?

Jesus said to love your enemies.

NOT SHOOT THEM, BOMB THEM, STARVE THEM, OR RAPE THEM.  HE SAID TO LOVE THEM. LOVE THEM. LOVE THEM.

This is why, if you’ve ever wondered*, I have such a hard time with religion. People say they love Jesus and then they do whatever the fuck they want. If Christians really believed in and trusted in and lived by Jesus’s teachings, no Christians would own handguns or military weapons. They are incongruent with Jesus’s teachings.

You know what’s amazing? The fact that rare people from all faiths have said the same things as Jesus over the course of human history. Gandhi was a Hindu and basically lived by the same tenets that Jesus (Jewish) asked people to live by. Martin Luther King Jr. was a protestant and he believed what Jesus taught more truly than most other Christians. Nelson Mandela is another luminary in the world of good people who happen to be religious. The Dalai Lama (Buddhist) espouses the same philosophy as all of these other luminaries.

The things Jesus tried (and mostly failed) to teach his followers are things that all enlightened thinking feeling human beings have embraced. There aren’t many of those people. I don’t worship humans. I don’t worship anything. Worship is, to me, anathema to the development and evolution of the spirit. I believe there are people and beings and elements that can teach us a million things and I believe in learning and adjusting myself to new information, but learning from teachers isn’t the same as worshiping them.

Gandhi is a teacher. Martin Luther King Junior is a teacher. Jesus too, is a teacher, though fictional to me. All of them have much for me to learn from but I offer no worship to any of them. None of them actually asked for worship, they asked only that we listen and take to heart the things they have to say.

As long as humans cherish firearms over the safety of other humans and are capable of convincing themselves there are circumstances in which it’s okay to kill other humans (aside from accidentally), I can’t appreciate the unrealized potential for good in our species.

This has been a dark weekend. I desperately need to believe in the inherent good in the world but there isn’t enough evidence of it for me to hang onto.

And then I got the worst haircut I’ve gotten in seven years and cried for an hour because my new buzzed-cut makes me feel like a bald sea-cucumber.

I know of only one way to deal with all the darkness: be as honest and authentic as I can be in everything I do. Shed light in every corner I’m able to reach. As a person who suffers from depression and anxiety, those corners are often a thousand miles out of reach, I shine light into them when I crash through and hope others will keep the light burning when I’m miles deep into the dark.

I don’t have hope to offer anyone. Hope is something I’m often out of. I have only myself to offer. Having a lack of hope doesn’t mean I have no light.

Every day I go out in the world (when I have to) and I greet other humans with good will from my heart and the most honest and best part of myself I can. It doesn’t matter if they deserve it or not. That’s not for me to judge before I even know them. I think of all the souls out there who are doing their best to move forward, give back, and love honestly. Sometimes I smile at strangers and they look at me like I’m the Polio virus incarnate and then I have no problem flipping them off as they walk away. But mostly I greet every person as I believe persons should be greeted. The same way I greet every other animal I meet. The same way I greet the plants I see throughout my day. It’s all the same matter to me. Yes, I pass by your garden and salute your hedges. They live as we live.

Every day at work I pick up the phone and I greet customers as though they were people who deserve my care and my time, because most of them do. I’m human and the ones who make unreasonable demands and chastise me for rules I didn’t make up and that are, in fact, reasonable, understandably tick me off. But I express it and let it go. In my heart I don’t hold their attitudes and entitlement against them. Much.

Everywhere I go I treat people the best I can because I believe it’s vital to my spirit to be this kind of person. I smile at people all over town like the goddamn village idiot, but the truth is that smiling at strangers, even when I’m dying inside, ESPECIALLY WHEN I’M DYING INSIDE, feels powerful and regenerative. I let people get in line in front of me sometimes because I see no point in living in a rush. I hold the door open for both men and women whenever I can because it feels good to let people enter a space without the door crashing against their asses. And some of them I hold the doors open for are big fucking asses, but none of this is really about them, it’s about being a person I can live with being. It’s about being like the people who make ME feel good. It’s about being a human who grows and evolves and learns from my mistakes and never behaves as though other humans are less important.

No matter what else I do (or don’t do) in my life it’s vitally important to me that I never stop trying to become a better human tomorrow than I am today.

*Seeing as I’m never secretive about such things, no one ever need wonder.

speghett Western-ish

As lgradientYou’ve invested so much of yourself into your national identity as a gun carrying old west hero that your life has become a spaghetti western from which you cannot disentangle yourself. You wake every morning wondering how the saloon whores got you out of your pants without removing your chaps, but it wasn’t saloon whores, it was syphilitic clowns and you were roofied because no amount of gun protects you against your own appetite for gross idiocy. – The American character as Angelina sees it.

Second person point of view is not an easy perspective to tell a story in but I think I’ve got one in me that will some day have to come out. It might be the making of me. It might be the one I’m working on right now. I’m listening to the Mauro Ermanno version of “Bang Bang” and it screams for a second person narrative.

There is a tremendous amount of ugly in the world. There always has been. It will not dissipate just because we wish it so. We have to each work our asses off to combat it with liberal applications of love and spirit graffiti across the troubled sleep of the haunted and the graves of our neighbors. Fighting the ugly doesn’t require God, or faith of any kind. I have no faith and believe in no God and yet I possess the tools of peace in my heart. I often lack hope and yet still I slog forward seeking what will add to the counterbalance of evil. I do it because I do still (against my better judgement) have love.

There is one thing, above all others, that will add weight to love, to light, and to hope in this world: do for others. It need not be people you do for. People pretty much suck most of the time, like hangry ticks. You want to add weight to love and peace but kind of hate humans? Do for other creatures. Do for domestic or wild non-human animals. Nurture a being that’s hungry, or scared, or sick. Wake up in the morning and feed the birds in your garden. Or feed a stray cat. Or leave something out for squirrels. Or volunteer at a wild animal rescue center. Or go walk dogs at your local animal shelter. Or sew dog beds or cat beds for any/every local-to-you organization that could use them.  Save a spider if you have the guts. I’m not fucking kidding, whores.

Do for others.

You won’t see a difference in the news. Not really. You won’t see a lot of evidence of change just because you’re doing for others.

But you’ll feel it in your marrow.

There’s something I want desperately to explain but I’m not sure this is the moment. I want you all to understand how I can extend myself in the most cheerful and honest way even when I’m dying inside. Even when I’m struggling hard against the irrepressible tide of my depression. The cheer I extend isn’t fake. It isn’t a steroid version of my emotions. It’s genuine. It represents my ability to feel a deep rift in my spirit, in my mind but separate it from my experience of you. When I see you I recognize your pain, which is my pain. When I see you I recognize your struggles, which are my struggles. When I see you I recognize your broken bones, which are my broken bones too.

It’s you that lights the light in me on the darkest days.

The light in me answers to the darkness in you. The lightness in you answers to the dark in me. We survive on reciprocation. We die without it.

Do for others.

But don’t be a fucking martyr about it because martyrs are the most tedious people EVER and I want to feed them raw potatoes and eggplant.

Charcoal and Earth

succulent blooming

I can’t help but wonder if my whole life is being conducted at the intersection between life and death. Between city and town. Between waking and dreaming. I have to wonder if this whole living affair is nothing more than the hoax of a richly bearded king of farse and his partner, the ruler of Jupiter. You all think we can walk away cleaner than we arrived. You all think when this is over you get to walk on cotton wool and weathervanes, traversing your idea of heaven unimpeded by the cosmos and consequence. I am here to lead you to the center of it all and I don’t even know my own name most days.

The degradation of body is the obsession of the mind.

I’m mostly ghost now.

I can’t shake the scent of lime oil. It reminds me of the Bowie T-shirt I bought when I was 14. It reminds me of the store that understood the cross-section between flower child and dissident even before I did.

It’s time to record the parallel lives. Time to let the illusion of sleep die. Time to admit that this thing we are is pervasively sleep-allergic and people-allergic.

Today I shoveled a million buckets of hot fly-swarmed compost into my garden and barely scratched the surface of the pile filling my driveway. I sweat all the water from my body filling and dumping buckets of the aromatic ammoniated crap into the empty beds.  My back threatened to break, my skin threatened to blister, but my mind was keen and eager to empty itself of the angry stink. My power rises when I don’t require it to help me survive, it rises when others need it to envelope them in a protective dream. All my power draws itself from an instinctual charge of lightening.

I know all the languages in my dreams.

My spirit outgrew my body before I was born.

I’m all fire and charcoal earth inside.

Your minor principality is crumbling.

Burn sage.