Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Ten News Stories of 2013!


(BLOGGER'S NOTE. You thought 2012 was awful? Wait until you read these stories from 2013! How come I know all this stuff in advance? The pace of modern living is so goldern fast these days, we've already caught up with ourselves and gone BOINNGGGG into the future. It's as if the new year never happened at all. JOIN THE FUN!)


You know that cute little Geico gecko in the TV ads who goes around saying funny things in an Australian accent? He is elected President of the World in 2013 by the unanimous vote of everyone who has a Twitter account.  In the words of the Huffington Post: "Never has a reptile exhibited this calibre of leadership ability melded with such profound humanity." (Only later is it discovered that he is computer-generated and in fact does not exist.)


In a much-anticipated climax to her long career of self-destructive flailing, Lindsay Lohan slugs a producer, fails to show up for her court date, slams her car into someone she doesn't like, gets in a bar fight and bites someone, stars in some lame-o movie about Jackie Kennedy, fails to show up for another court date, slugs someone else, and. . . on December 31, 2013, the authorities break into her sumptuous Malibu beach house and haul her off to jail on multiple charges, after which she is immediately released on bail and dies from a chihuahua bite. Though it is determined that the chihuahua is an attack dog trained by her mother, her death is listed in the media under Public Improvements.



This results from the relentless forces of tweets and twats, not to mention texts that mean nothing (I don't CARE what you did this afternoon when it rained out), constant Smartphone calls that mean nothing, and the compressed, misspelled quasi-language of social media worming its way into Webster's Dictionary as an acceptable new language called Twitspeak.



(or Twitter or whatever)



. . . as New York City sinks six hundred feet under the sea, California disappears, and late-night comics (grateful for some fresh, relevant material) spew out endless jokes about it from their new studios in Newton, Kansas, Entertainment Capitol of the World.





In 2013, environmental experts are quick to reassure the public that this new man-made continent will begin to disintegrate by the year 5019. In the meantime, a theme park is being contemplated.


More fodder for the late-night comedians.


This is called Here Comes Funny Poo Poo.

And I could go on and on, but I can hear a little voice in my head saying, "Heyyyyyyyyyyy, that's depressing!" So I'll stop.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Is God a Republican? and other musings on a dying faith

My husband likes to say that January 1st is just "a day like any other", and maybe he's right, though I used to think of him as an awful party pooper. Only the numbers change, after all. There are those who might think 2013 is already unlucky because of that ominous 13.

But hey, it's not really 13. It's 6. Add the digits together, and you'll have. . . I don't remember the numerological significance of 6, though I used to know.

I used to know a lot of things.

Years and years ago, I knew about palmistry, astrology (so much so that I cast birth charts for friends), numerology, spiritualism, magic stones, and even (my strangest allegience of all) the United Church. Though all these things might be seen as attempts to understand the unknown, they're also a means to try to bend reality in some way, to shape it in a fashion that suits you. What surprises me most of all is how long I followed that path without really questioning it.

Maybe I needed it so desperately that I couldn't question it.  I think my greatest spiritual addiction was prayer. When you really think about it, the whole concept of prayer is pretty ludicrous. What is it, anyway, but an attempt to change reality? With the exception of praising God or thanking God for being so swell to us when "good" things happen, prayer is a sort of petition. All right, Big Guy, here's what I want.

It implies that there is something wrong with things as they are. This person shouldn't be sick, that person shouldn't be bankrupt or an atheist or whatever-else is unacceptable to us. So we pray that they (or the situation) will change, that it will be different than it is. And we think it will be different than it is because of the intervention of "God", some force that either cheerfully obeys our request or decides to withhold his grace, either on a whim or because for some reason we piss him off.

From the outside, as an ex-pray-er, that's the only way I can see it. Either we "worship" some being who is completely capricious in granting our wishes like some wayward genie, or "thank" this being for being so good to us in giving us things we're largely providing for ourselves, or "ask" this being for help to stop being such a wimp in the face of reality, or seriously "approach" this being to convince him (it's still generally him - calling God "her" still provokes chuckles and "oh yeah, isn't it true" in most circles) to change things so that they will be closer to what we want. There's even an official name for it: prayers of intercession.

But even the most selfless prayers imply that things aren't really good enough they way they are.  Hey, I thought God was omniscient and knew what was best for us! Then why should things have to change?


And here's a doozy. Everyone knows the Nazis thought they were Christians, and terrorists sometimes identify as devout Muslims. Surely they pray for certain things that are somewhat at odds with our own desires. The ramifications of this are too horrendous to contemplate. 

But what if it's less clear? What if two different people, or two different faith communities, pray for opposite things? What if, in fact, they are praying against each other? Who does God favor, or do the chips just fall where they may? I've been in a situation where a spiritual community devolved into civil war, and believe me when I say that prayer was being used as a vindictive weapon by both sides.

My years and years of fervent praying that the world situation would somehow get better seem to have backfired. I see only alarming deterioration. So what's the purpose? There's a stubbornness that believers exhibit at this point, a "no, we're not going to give up" that reminds me of my own futile and somewhat ludicrous efforts to accomplish what I thought was my work on earth. It's not gonna happen, so why bang your head?

You keep banging your head because on some level, you believe in fairy dust. You believe in that sparkling magic that will somehow make it all better. If a situation spontaneously gets better, which it sometimes does, you say something like, "Look, God intervened". If it doesn't change or gets worse, you can always blame Satan, or maybe just pray a little bit harder (and louder). In any case, you never, never, never give up. This is called "faith" and I often wonder what it does to change anything at all.

It's been said that practicing prayer as a way of life increases sensitivity and compassion in the person who does the praying. I can't think of a better way to be hacked to pieces when certain events happen in the news, such as 20 sweet blameless school children being blasted to kingdome come. Their parents and siblings will never see them again and will be wounded for the rest of their lives. You can pray for the survivors, but does that help them feel better, feel the loss a bit less, or "heal"? If so, how does that happen? Does some mysterious current of energy leap from your God-charged brain right over into the area of trouble where it magically swirls around like a fairy godmother and takes the pain away?

I started off writing about the new year, a day like any other, and somehow ended up here. Gee, I wouldn't be bitter, would I? I wonder. When did that succulent apple turn so acidic and sour? But bitterness only elicits pity from those who still believe, who still think that prayer is just as effective as UNICEF or an ambulance rushing to provide real help.

One could say, OK, UNICEF is divinely inspired and ambulances, far from being hired and paid for, are God-given vehicles. My concept of God at this point (and I still can't quite call myself an atheist or agnostic because these quasi-religions only promote more of the suffocating "isms" I hate) is something that is indwelling, and sometimes gives us a shove to do something we might not otherwise do, or even something that we used to think was impossible.

Years and years ago I asked my husband, who does not adhere to any particular ism or category of faith, how he defined God. He said, "God is your conscience." I asked him, is that all?  He added, "God is. . . going with the flow." He was describing the sort of innate grace I will never have as I head-bash and flail around, feeling mostly God-forsaken.

Back in 1990 I felt like my life did an almost violent about-face, turning me  (completely unexpectedly) towards organized religion. It was a sort of conversion, or a re-conversion to the faith of my childhood, and I needed it desperately. Whatever I didn't believe, I swallowed anyway, not knowing how toxic that can be. It all came down to a desperate need to belong.

In 2005, my life fell to pieces (no thanks to the church, which only isolated and stigmatized me in my hour of need). I experienced another violent about-face, away from everything that I thought had helped me for 15 years. It wasn't exactly like waking up and saying, "Gee, I think I will renounce everything I once held sacred." In fact, I didn't even WANT to renounce God or anything else that I thought had helped me. But it was like the end of a marriage. It started out great, but one day the lights went out, and frantic efforts to re-light them were utterly futile.

It was over.

I am left with that indwelling model, but I wonder if it isn't just part and parcel of being human. We want more. We reach for more. We want it so badly that we create it. The old philosophical/atheistic argument is that WE created God in OUR image, not the other way around. Certain recent items in the news seem to run counter to the model that we were created to resemble God.

It's not that there's no religion left in the world. While mainstream congregations founder and sink due to boredom, hypocrisy and irrelevance, the fundamentalists are thriving on their own particular brand of smug insularity.  Anything they don't like is Satanic. Sure, they'll feel compassion for you if you toe the line, give up your homosexuality and have that baby even if you were raped.  After all, there's a certain kind of rape where women can prevent getting pregnant, isn't there? And just think of it this way: you'll have an entire political party supporting your every prejudice and prayer.

They didn't win, but they still lie in wait, crouched.

I don't know what happened to Jesus, but I am beginning to seriously doubt he ever existed. This idea would have appalled me a few years ago. He's a beautiful story put together to teach us a lesson, but at this point I'm not sure what that lesson is. The funny thing is, the longer I stayed in the United Church, the more it seemed to espouse that particular model of Jesus as myth. Even United Church moderators began to make proclamations that Christ wasn't actually divine, or even that God doesn't really exist except as a sort of abstract concept.

I think this was done to attract more people, mainly younger people, or to get lapsed members back, mimicking the way the Catholic church is trying to round up the strays with those endless TV ads. It isn't working because a secular church is too much of a puzzle. Painfully pseudo-hip web sites don't help, even if they supposedly "get the discussion going" and provide cute, pat answers delivered by magic squirrels.

While I'm still in this bizarre realm, can I pose a serious question: why am I the only person I know who thinks this E-Z Answer Squirrel is a ludicrous joke that makes the United Church look even more shallow and irrelevant than it already is? And why is their web site called WonderCafe, as if any mention of the United Church - or ANY church - is assumed to be anathema to the public? This desperate scramble for the attention of younger people seems to go without criticism or even comment of any kind by church members. It's hard for me to believe that everyone is in favor of it.  Are those who disagree with it afraid to say anything, and if so, why - and of what?  No wonder more serious and committed denominations think the United Church is "squirrely".
Mainstream religion is a sinking ship. This isn't exactly why I jumped off when I did. I jumped off because of loneliness, despair, and the pity of people I thought respected me. I also jumped off because of stultifying boredom and an appalling abuse of leadership, often designed to suit an agenda which the congregation only reluctantly agreed to (if at all). This involved things like TV cameras in the sanctuary during Sunday service: if anyone objected, they were told, "oh, your face won't be on national television unless you sign an agreement". So the sense of violation and invasion as those cameramen swooped down on the sanctuary like nasty dragonflies didn't count at all. 

Personally, I hated it, but such was the atmosphere in my church at that time that I knew I could not say anything about it without being seen as overly negative or a spoilsport.

In the course of fifteen years with my former church, I saw one minister run out of town after nine years of faithful service, another minister shattering the congregation with vindictive lies (which wasn't our fault: obviously he fell from the sky, meaning we had nothing to do with selecting him as the best of  five candidates), another trying desperately to glue the shattered pieces together, and - finally - someone who really just wanted to be on national television as a shining and very public example of moral courage. Give me a break!

I stayed as long as I did out of incredulity that things could deteriorate this badly, along with personal need and spiritual loneliness. I think by the end I was viewed as pretty much of a crackpot. I once asked a psychologist, "OK, please tell me, what is a FUNCTIONAL family?" She answered, "A functional family is a family where everyone gets to express their thoughts and feelings without fear of being put down or ignored." It had been a long, long time since I had felt comfortable expressing my thoughts and feelings in that place.


So where does that leave me with regards to God? I have a conscience, and I do, at times, find myself able to go with the flow, music being the most powerful example of "flow" I have ever found. The finest Christians I know aren't even Christian and don't identify themselves with any sort of spiritual label. They just get on with it. It might take me the rest of my life to even begin to follow that quiet but supremely effective example.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Origin of Tweetspeak

(From the Gospel according to Wikipedia):

I cannot doubt that language owes its origin to the imitation and modification, aided by signs and gestures, of various natural sounds, the voices of other animals, and man’s own instinctive cries.

Charles Darwin, 1871. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.

In 1861, historical linguist Max Müller published a list of speculative theories concerning the origins of spoken language:
  • Bow-wow. The bow-wow or cuckoo theory, which Müller attributed to the German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, saw early words as imitations of the cries of beasts and birds.
  • Pooh-pooh. The Pooh-Pooh theory saw the first words as emotional interjections and exclamations triggered by pain, pleasure, surprise and so on.
  • Ding-dong. Müller suggested what he called the Ding-Dong theory, which states that all things have a vibrating natural resonance, echoed somehow by man in his earliest words.
  • Yo-he-ho. The yo-he-ho theory saw language emerging out of collective rhythmic labour, the attempt to synchronise muscular effort resulting in sounds such as heave alternating with sounds such as ho.
  • Ta-ta. This did not feature in Max Müller's list, having been proposed in 1930 by Sir Richard Paget.  According to the ta-ta theory, humans made the earliest words by tongue movements that mimicked manual gestures, rendering them audible.

Most scholars today consider all such theories not so much wrong—they occasionally offer peripheral insights—as comically naïve and irrelevant. The problem with these theories is that they are so narrowly mechanistic. They assume that once our ancestors had stumbled upon the appropriate ingenious mechanism for linking sounds with meanings, language automatically evolved and changed.

Class, tell me what's wrong with this theory of language development. Isn't it obvious? It's full of DOO-DOO!

But somebody got away with it. Like Piltdown Man, Muller's theories hung around for quite a long time until someone cried "Bullshit!".

I took a few anthropology classes in the '90s. With the massive number of finds and genetic breakthroughs since then, my knowledge might be classified as Stone Age. But it did get me permanently interested.

In particular, it got me interested in language, how it developed, and (the big question in my mind) WHAT WAS THE FIRST WORD.

It's a meaningless question in most ways: surely language, which probably did begin as a series of primitive but meaningful sounds, developed differently in each little region where these scary suckers lived, worked and copulated. So Ugg from Blugg probably couldn't communicate very well with Alley Oop from Valley Bloop.

But somehow. . . Somehow we ended up with these hundreds, maybe thousands of meaningful ways of conveying information to each other.

It's one of those unfathomable mysteries that must have happened somehow, or I wouldn't be sitting here writing profundities about the evolution of language on a perfectly good Saturday morning when I should be at the mall taking advantage of the post-Christmas frenzy of buying iPads and ePods.

So what was the first word? What did those primitive geeks feel compelled to name? There's the inevitable theory that language developed due to that sacred ritual, "the hunt". If men hadn't been out there trying to bring down prehistoric megafauna with sticks and stones, they wouldn't have had to develop that elaborate system of shouting "Get out of the way, asshole, a giant rhino is coming!", which ultimately saved humanity from total extinction.

When I studied anthropology, and I will admit that my knowledge is pretty creaky, I learned that "the hunt"  was prestigious and, if successful, resulted in a giant feast, a community hoo-ha that went on for days. It was considered remarkable mostly due to the fact that it happened maybe twice a year.

Twice a year?! So how did these giant proto-humans stay alive in the meantime? The women, stuck in home base because they had to keep the line going, constantly gathered everything edible that they could lay their simian hands on. Nuts, roots, berries, even the occasional fatal toadstool.

THIS was the food supply that made evolution possible. We won't get into the trivial fact that along the way, women were smart enough to notice that they could make certaint plants grow where they wanted. Voila - agriculture!

But something happened that forever bent anthropology in the direction of male supremacy. Those tools, those crappy blades and stone hand-axes  so primitive that to me they just look like chunks of rock, survived the millennia and are now prized as "man's first technology".

The leather slings that the women used to collect the crucial day-to-day food supply rotted away and disappeared.

Being a woman is a thankless task.

Aside from being baby factories, we disappeared from history, except of course for our purses. Ever wondered why you can't stand to be parted from your purse, and why it feels so totally devastating when you lose it?

This post has wandered way off-course. We were talking about the development of language, of "first words", what early humans felt compelled to name.

Did they name themselves first, and each other? Did it become convenient to number their children: Number One Son, etc. ? And speaking of, when did the concept of numbers become comprehensible to them?

The theories swirling around this mystery include the idea that humans sang before they spoke: that is, they chanted around the fire at night, thumping on ibex skins and blowing into hollow sticks. Gradually the chants took on significance: in other words, somebody invented lyrics.

I like this one better:  Babies develop language in a certain set way based on their ability to hear and comprehend what adults are saying around them. They seem to get it in stages that unfold predictably. Babbling - the "bababababa" or "dadadadada" that Muller forgot to include - comes first (with "mama" a distant second). Probably because you don't have to do much to produce the sound.

But somehow, slowly, magically, real words pop through, even if pronounced in the most unusual fashion.

My son was one of those kids who needed to be translated for a couple of years. "Chicken" came out "could-a". Milk was "woak". When his little sister Shannon came home from the hospital, he would toddle around saying, "Mummy Sheeta."

Gradually real words come into focus, but it is only then that they're strung together in a meaningful way. My son's first sentence was, "Find boy." (He wanted to play with his friend.) Tarzanic though it was, I was thrilled. He had taken a giant leap with those two one-syllable words.

How does this happen? Grammar is practically absorbed through the skin. No one actually "teaches" a child to talk. Could this be the way it happened with humans?  From ba-ba-ba-ba to "get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape"?

There was this story - I'm digressing again, I don't know what's the matter with me today - about a feral child who had been literally locked away for years and years. When she emerged, deformed from being tied to a potty chair, she had no verbal language at all.

This was in the '60s, so scientists practically put her in a wire cage for observation. As if she had fallen into a cult, they immediately renamed her Genie, as in "that magical creature who emerges out of a bottle" (presumably meaning her captivity). What scares me so much is that they saw nothing wrong with any of this and even felt it was in her best interests. Soon she was being shunted from one foster home to another, so that it was impossible for her to feel any emotional attachment or security at all.

Everyone believed that the thresshold for learning language was around three years of age, but this child was thirteen. Though her parents had thought she was  severely retarded, she still had enough ruins of intelligence to pick up the names of things.

She knew how to say chair, tree, spoon, and almost seemed to know what they meant, even if her words were nearly unintelligible. Soon she had this massive vocabulary of something like 200 words. She was a success! She had evolved language all by herself, proving that there was no threshhold for learning how to speak, that you could pick it up at age ten or forty or whenever you wanted.

When someone comes along and provides evidence to prove a scientist's pet theory, it usually goes over very big. You hardly even have to twist the facts.

But predictably, it didn't work, mainly because the whole case was handled with jaw-dropping insensitivity. Because the novelty had worn off and no one knew what to do with her, "Genie" was returned to her biological mother, the one who had stood watching while her father lashed her to a toilet for thirteen years. She was only taken away again when - surprise! - her mother beat the hell out of her for vomiting.

The only reason her father was absent from this scene was that he had committed suicide, leaving a note that said, "The world does not understand."

Anyway, to wrap up this impossibly desolate story, the little girl's language began to fade and fall apart. These brilliant scientists one day woke up to their tinny little intellectual alarm clocks to realize that saying individual words isn't the same as speech. Isn't the same as language. Their little test subject had failed them, so she was tossed aside, no longer of any use to them. After research funding dried up, her loving foster parents abandoned her like an unwanted dog. Eventually she was placed in a nursing home where she mysteriously became "non-verbal" once again.

All I'm saying is. . .

All I'm saying is, these clever proto-humans must have broken that single-word barrier, must have leapt from individual names and words to some sort of primitive grammar: meaningful ways of stringing words together that included nouns and verbs and all that kind-a stuff. Pointing and grunting was no longer enough.

Language is like music. Randomly tapping on a xylophone isn't it. Even picking out a simple tune doesn't cut it either. There is so much more to it than that.

There are other factors - and God help me, I will soon run out of factors before I go have breakfast. Some of these clever anthropologists say they can determine language development by looking at a skull. Something about the opening into the larynx. But how did THAT get there? How did it evolve, and how long did it take?

It's chicken and egg.

The human brain, which by now is so fucked-up that it's at the point of no return, is permanently wired for language: the template is there, waiting for the information to be downloaded. Or else waiting for a Twitter account and a Smartphone.

As gadgets slowly, awfully take the place of literacy and individual thought, as language is steadily eroded by truncated spelling and twisted or non-existent grammar, communication will eventually devolve. In fact, we're already devolving, with Tweetspeak now considered a valid human language. Atrocious spellings that remind me of I taught I taw a puddy tat (speaking of tweets) will become the norm. If I came back in a hundred years, my hair would stand on end from trying to understand the degenerated blather that passes for language.

It's coming, folks. In fact, it's already here.  And this time, it's too late to start all over again.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Blood work


They should install a little tap on the inside of my arm. That’s what I’ve heard people say. I never thought it would apply to me until a few years ago when it became apparent that, for health reasons, I was going to need “blood work” done (and just what does THAT mean?) every three months or so.


It’s an art to tap the mysterious underground streams that throb inside us, and not everyone can do it. My life is besmirched and besmutched by botched attempts that left deep bruising and yielded almost no blood at all, as if I were a human turnip or had somehow turned to stone.


I’d be happy to keep all my blood, thank you. Especially now that I am no longer a prison of the Moon Goddess that makes us all run out and buy tampons every month. Science needs but a few cells, likely, but always takes what seems like tanks full of it.


I don’t know what it is, but I’ve had some sort of revelation. Or something. For years I had my “blood work” done at a local lab I could walk to. Seemed like a good idea. But over the years the service got worse and worse. At least every other time, and eventually every time, the technician couldn’t find a vein. They slapped, they smacked, tied the rubber thingie tighter (though one dithering lady who seemed on the verge of hysterics insisted on tying it loosely around my rolled-up sleeve “so it won’t hurt your skin”). Then they’d jab. Jab jab. Oops. Pull out, turn around, jab some more. This is what it must have been like for Victorian women on their wedding night.



Then they’d get “that look”. Anger mixed with panic. Anger at ME, actually – they’d usually say something like, “Do you have this problem all the time?” or “Your veins are so tiny!”, or something that made me feel equally swell.


My veins wished they could apologize.


The worst was when they had to bring in a second person because the first one just couldn’t do it. Then panic ensued, with technicians running jerkily back and forth like something out of a silent movie. I hit rock-bottom a few months ago when, unable to get blood from either arm, they tried to get it out of the back of my hand. It hurt like hell, took ten minutes of agonizingly slow drips, and yielded about a thimbleful, which is probably all those lab fuckers need anyway.


I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before – maybe I assumed it was one of those geographical cures that’s never supposed to work – but one day I thought, hmm. I thought, WHY DON’T I TRY ANOTHER LAB? Surely all technicians can’t be this incompetent, this panic-stricken and unsure of themselves, not to mention insulting to their clientele’s veins.


So I did it. A little uneasily, I cracked the door of a clinic that looked pretty much like the old one. Surprisingly, the waiting room wasn’t choked up with unhappy-looking people in winter coats: I was able to go in right away. As a last-minute decision, I decided NOT to say anything about my “problem veins” or my miserable lack of success as a dispenser of my own blood.


I was cool.


Cool in the hands of the technician, an older woman with a no-nonsense manner.  I relaxed like a dog under the care of a good vet. The whole thing was over in 30 seconds, and I never even felt the stab.


So easy it was, it was almost pleasurable, which I know is a pretty perverted thing to say in this age of vampires.


OK, I said, fluke. HAS to be a fluke, or maybe this particular technician is a blood-drawing genius. But the second time, with a different one, it was just as laid-back and painless and FAST. No waiting for the agonizing drip. . . drip. . . drip. . . of  blood being tapped by a needle stuck in the wrong way, at some bizarre angle arrived at by corkscrew-like drilling.


It seems like we have a Land of Incompetent Blood-Tappers and a Land of the Other-Type-Thing. The bloodletting today was just ridiculous. She didn’t even say “make a fist”, and I did not feel the brief stab of entry at all. In fact, by the time she finished, I wondered when she was going to start.



It’s a mercy, for lately the frequency of the drilling has only intensified as new medical “issues” have come up, some of them scary as hell. I shouldn’t think the worst, of course. But I’m suddenly in that netherworld of clinics and waiting rooms and pee bottles and tiny circular bandaids and seeing specialists who may or may not turn out to be special.


I have another test next week involving not peeing for several hours, the sort of procedure pregnant women go through all the time. When I was pregnant, the doctor stuck his ear on my stomach and got more or less the same results. But now science must look inside me. Deep inside me.


Any time I’ve had a health crisis, which is not often, I would always feel silly when I got the test results back: no, we couldn’t find anything. Part of me wishes they WOULD find something. I crave the drama. But I also hate to be sick. Even having a cold makes me resentful.


After a most intimate probe in yet another specialist’s office the other day, I was assigned a colonoscopy in February, quite soon actually, meaning my case is of “moderate” importance. In other words, I’m not quite at death’s door from internal rot, but nor am I doing this just for an afternoon’s entertainment.


I’ve heard all sorts of things about this procedure. My husband had one done 30 years ago when preparation involved taking  twelve boxes of laxatives the night before, followed by lying helplessly on your stomach with no sedation whatsoever while they Roto-Rooted your insides. I hear now it’s easier, but the preparation takes five days. Fortunately you’re stoned out of your mind while they do the drilling, which I honestly look forward to.


But the thing is. . . some part of me, an insistent part, sometimes whispers in my ear, you might really be sick. They don’t do all this shit to a well person, do they? Or maybe they do, to rule it out.


How would I feel about that? I have to confess that a part of me leaps at the possibility of death with a sort of dizzy joy, like a dog reuniting with its master after the war. It reminds me of that Buddhist saying, “Throw down your earthly garments and run to me.”


It’s subversive even to think these things, let alone write about them. And yet, I do think them, pretty much daily. I look at my life and I have to conclude that it hasn’t exactly turned out.


Not like I thought, not as I wanted, no not at all. I look at others who have “made it”, who have succeeded and live in a world of stimulating company and conversation, while I sit there knitting.


I look at authors who’ve won the Giller, the Booker, the Nobel. Well, why not go right to the top while you’re feeling this bad. While I sit there looking at form letter rejection slips from wormy little backwater presses that won’t even give me the time of day. I look back and see years, and years, and years, hundreds of these humiliations, followed by yet one more masochistic attempt, the faithful dog too idiotic to know when to give up.


So why do we live? We’re set in motion, and it’s assumed from then on that we WANT to live. Why? Aren’t we sort of stuck with it?


I guess I live for the wrong reasons. I live for other people, which is also known as “codependency”. It’s a no-no and I must stop it and only live for myself, a self so tattered and shredded with disappointment that I am sure it won’t hold together as the sole reason for staying around.


The other thing that sneaks into my mind is this: you know it’s going to happen. I’ve seen six friends die in the past few years, from illness, accident, suicide. Some were younger than me. I have no idea what happened to them, where they went, what happened to their essence. I guess they just stopped. I guess WE just stop, and then there’s nothing. Ever. Or just a few atoms of memory in the minds of others that, too, will eventually stop.


So why scramble so hard to keep all this going? It’s assumed that life is an unalloyed good. It’s assumed that happiness is everyone’s natural state, and if you’re unhappy you have a “disorder” and have to take medication for it. What is "assumed" is generally a crock of shit, which is one of the themes I keep returning to in this blog.


Personally, I have always walked through life feeling like an accident. Due to the helpful information conveyed by my much-older siblings, I know I wasn’t planned, and am pretty sure my mother wanted an abortion. My father talked her out of it by saying, “You wait and see, he’ll be a genius, smarter than all the others added together.”  I’ve felt like a sharecropper here on earth, in this reality, which is why I try so fervently to transcend it with music, with writing, any way I can.

And yet, the Great God Accomplishment still looks down on me, shakes his hoary head and says with a tender smile, "No."


Our lives are supposed to be a priceless gift from God and all that, even if we feel like shit a lot of the time. Pain is the norm for an awful lot of people, and endurance their only choice. Even though I’m not supposed to because it makes me codependent, I DO live for other people. I live because I have this idea – I need to think it’s true – that if I died, a few people would feel it. Not many; perilously few. But those few matter immensely to me, and I don’t want to inflict pain on them. I have done enough of that already.