Beginnings, Endings, and the Space Between

Lots of noise in my head lately, wanting out but refusing to let me let it out. At times, it feels a bit like some malevolent force scraping at the paper-thin membranes in my mind, maybe testing the prison walls, maybe just reminding me it’s still there.

Ah, the joys of mental illness.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


Some days, this is an accurate sonic representation of the inside of my head.

Also, it entertains me to pieces when technical metal drummers look so bored.

It comes in cycles. Each cycle has a beginning and an ending, interchangeable. When you begin a new relationship, you end a period of solitude. When you end a new relationship, you begin a new time alone, with all the good and bad that accompanies it.

Without those endings — and, importantly, honest and open self-exploration — the next beginning is doomed. And you can find yourself trapped in a loop, endlessly repeating the same patterns and endings and beginnings and endings. Well, endlessly, until you shed your human form and hitch a ride to the alien overlords on Comet Halley…

Imagine a slice of a video — like the screenshot above, for instance. It’s a picture, right? Video is simply a string of still two-dimensional images (with the addition, in our age, of audio) (try really hard to image a still-capture — a two dimensional version — of audio) (sorry for the migraine). Video is a three-dimensional thing — width, height, and time. Life is just that with depth added. (quick — imagine a three-dimensional slice of your life, removing time, leaving a frozen snapshot, like a landscape that you are trapped in)

The nature of time is debated over and over, whether its singular ‘direction’ is real or just a by-product of the way we perceive things. But if we somehow found a way to navigate, temporally — would you? Would you try to experience things backward, maybe? Relive sections of your experienced life? Fast forward past bad times?

What if your entire life and all its experiences were laid out in front of you, birth to death? What if it turns out that everything in between is terrible misery, with not a moment of hope or release?

If you knew that every relationship you were ever in would end, no matter how awesome parts of the filler would make you feel, would you instead choose to live a life alone?

Would you sacrifice the good to avoid the bad?

Image may contain: flower, plant and nature

It’s pointless, but I keep at it nonetheless.

How do you know that something feels good without ever having experienced pain?

Look, on a long enough time scale, the survival rate of literally everything drops to zero (sorry, First Law of Thermodynamics). It ultimately doesn’t matter (unless we figure out how to experience time differently, in which case, nothing will matter either, because we’ll all just be living our own personally selected virtual realities).

And if there are infinite parallel universes, with an infinite number born every passing nanosecond, then all this starts to get really weird, really fast.

See why I drink?

(I often wonder how insane — or worse, intellectually deluded — leaving my thoughts in public like this makes me seem…)

On power

This seems to stem from the idea that you have to be a ruthless monster in order to achieve power in the first place. The truth might be scarier. For years now, several groups of scientists have been studying the ways power impacts the human brain. They’ve found that power causes people to become more impulsive, less conscious of risk, and less able to empathize with others. The effects are severe enough to be comparable to brain damage.


The elusive beauty of parity and perspective (Or: the lack thereof)

In the cathedrals of New York and Rome
There is a feeling that you should just go home
And spend a lifetime finding out just where that is

-Jump Little Children, “Cathedrals”

I have lived a very fortunate life – one for which I try to remember to always be appreciative. I mean, it’s all about perspective — half-empty versus half-full, things could be better but things could be worse, etc., ad nauseum. But I’ve known poverty, and relative wealth. I’ve known health and illness. I’ve known great jobs and bad ones. I have lived so many of my dreams — I’m a published writer, I’ve played music on national releases, I’m a member of a band with a (teeny tiny) local following, I’ve made films that won awards. I have friends that on so many levels can’t be touched, in terms of quality and pushing me to be better and teaching me and always being there when I need them.

Maybe most importantly, I’ve loved a lot, and been loved more.

I’ve now sat and stared at this screen and those words for five minutes. Why ‘most importantly’, I wonder? And I think maybe it’s this: there’s a lot of life that we as individuals have control over. Not everything — not nearly enough, I might even argue. But I can work hard, I can seek out the industry secrets to success and apply them, I can find mentors and listen, I can play whatever game is appropriate and climb whatever ladders are put in front of me, for ninety five percent of what we humans think of as success. But love?

Not in the sense of cultural bindings, here. Clearly — I’m a flat failure at that. Three divorces in the last 29 years doesn’t exactly speak strongly about the strength of my sense of commitment and promise. And that’s fair, and I accept that.


And here’s why: I have a high bar. That high bar is crucial to me. Don’t get me wrong — I”m not looking for perfection. I have likely been guilty of that in the past, as I certainly possess a certain naivete that lets me believe in Hollywood romance and forever-after a bit too easily. But it’s not about that, and it’s not about “soulmates” or “the one” — that’s rubbish, at the end of the day. That’s the joy and the curse of being human, and all the variables that that entails.

But we get one life, in my belief. One. No do-overs. No greater beyond waiting past this. So I’m going to make the best of it. I want to be as happy as I can in every moment that I can, and when I can’t, I want to minimize my discomfort.

No one else is gonna do that for me. That’s on me.

Those past lovers — wives, girlfriends, even one-night stands — all had something wonderful to offer. Whether it was physical comfort in the moment, an ego stroke or a random release, or something more lasting and meaningful that involved learning and sharing and late-night drunken philosophical conversations, I benefited from them all. Some I will always care for, always love, always miss on some levels.

But that’s past.

The here and now, and the future — those are murky and uncertain, but goddamn if I can stop hoping. I miss the wonder of romance, of being a part of something one person greater than myself. I miss holding hands, and finishing sentences, and staring randomly, and getting caught, and catching stares. I miss sharing movies and books and music (oh, the poor people who have been on the receiving end of my music sharing). I miss the weird discoveries about a new person, and new food, and new beliefs. I miss the slow and awkward merging of worlds, and kisses, and the eye rolls of friends because I’m a sappy romantic, and making mix CDs, and surprise gifts.


And I miss the things I never got, but always dreamed of. I miss people wanting to read my writing and listen to my songs, no matter how choppy or geared specifically to me and my tastes they are. I miss big and maybe expensive celebrations of my birthday. I miss being treated like I have treated people.

(And a quick sidenote, because that last paragraph will make me eventually sound at worst forgetful and at best ungrateful: I do remember the times I was gifted such things, and the people that gave them to me. I promise. I’m forever thankful for those who gave more than they could or should have, and I will always remember that. Hugs. Etc.)

So… I don’t give up.

But it’s not to say that I don’t get discouraged. Dominantly, chemistry is sadly a two-way street — there’s plenty of times in one’s life that the attraction is one-sided. And then there’s the temptation to ignore things for the sake of the happy parts, forgetting that that shit will bite you eventually, and the venom will backlog in a big way.

And the worst — the absolute worst, the kind that makes you want to beg at the feet of God or deny his existence absolutely — is when the universe has shit timing, and you meet at the wrong time. Maybe you’re too young, or too old, or dying, or moving to another coast, or suffering a recent loss. Maybe you’re already involved, or maybe they are.

And maybe those times are okay, because your partner or theirs is actually a really awesome person who treats them better than you could have hoped or dreamed. Or yours is so wonderful that you never even notice them. The universe unfolds as it should.

But maybe those times are most certainly not okay, on any level. Maybe you’re stuck — for religious or cultural expectations, for nostalgia, for some sense of martyrdom or Christ complex. Maybe they’re treated poorly — from ignored to abused. Maybe there’s just something unfair —


— about the way the universe likes to remind us of things sometimes…

Fucking universe. Unfolding exactly as it fucking should, eh, Max fuck stabby eyes wisdom Erhmann?

(enjoy a brief musical break, while I pour a nice bourbon to calm my nerves a bit)

(quick random bit of trivia: bourbon is quite good for sunburms. Apply liberally to your stomach, and you will gradually stop feeling the pain of the burn)

I am fully cognizant of the entitled tone to a lot of that. It’s not a feeling that I experience often — or at least, not one that I give into I’m not a millionaire and never will be, realistically, and that’s okay. I’m not a famous guitarist, and never will be, and that’s okay. I’m not a successful writer who makes a comfortable living doing nothing but that. I’m not a genius programmer or an entrepreneur or any number of things, and that’s okay. And I don’t necessarily deserve any of what I have already, much less what I want.

But I am reminded periodically through my life that there are things that I wish I could have. I do experience jealousy, envy; I covet. I’m not proud of it, no, but there it is. And sometimes it’s easy to let go — my rich friends that are giving and generous and don’t rub anything in anyone’s face, I never think twice about. My famous or successful or brilliant or lucky friends that watch out for others and are good and conscientious, I’m happy for (truly and sincerely). But once in a blue moon… every random number of years, something comes along in the hands of someone who doesn’t appreciate, doesn’t treat as it should be treated, doesn’t deserve.

And I turn into a small crying child in the middle of the busiest aisle at the supermarket I KNOW MARGARET GODDAMNIT JESUS DON’T YOU HAVE SOME ERRANDS TO RUN OR SOMETHING FOR FUCK’S SAKE?

I’m reminded, for whatever reason, of the speech training they give to kids in rehab (and also from IT): “He thrusts his fists against the post and still insists he sees the ghosts.” But at least that helps stop stuttering…

Sometimes, the thought skates across the dura in my thick skull that maybe we all have a lifetime budget of Nice Things. Some people appreciate this from an early age, and go to their grave with a surplus of Nice and Happy Things still waiting for them. And maybe some of us (ahem) take a little too long to appreciate — maybe the rarity, maybe the actual beauty that is right in front of us — that by the time we figure out what we might like our home to look and feel like, it’s too late, and all our Nice and Happy Things are nothing more than window shopping opportunities at this point.

Shit. That’s depressing as anything, innit? Lemme try some music again:

Sorry. But in fairness, it was almost Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” so be thankful I went with the lesser of two heavies.

Jesus, Margaret. Where’d you get this bourbon? It tastes like firebombings in third world countries.

I can see where so much of what I always dreamed of and so much of what I’m come to realize I want is. And in this, too, I find a nugget of wonder — while maybe this timing is wrong and the universe is unfolding in a different direction, I can at least accept hope, the recognition that what I want does exist, and that maybe one day I’ll find it with the proper time and place and appreciation.

And in the meantime, I’ll remind you all: be thankful and show that thanks for what you have. Treat your friends and family and pets and lovers as best as you know how, and better still, because somewhere out there is maybe waiting someone who will. Be the person and the dream they deserve, and demand the same.

None of us deserves any more, less, or different than what we’ve got. But maybe those we’re with do.

Enough of me. Cleanse your palette and go enjoy some ice cream.

Maybe it’s time to live

“On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”
– Fight Club

Death is an unpleasant subject. No one likes to talk about it, to think about it. It’s fun to joke about (at the very least, in the if-I-laugh-’tis-that-I-may-not-weep sorta way), maybe — at least, until you realize that last joke was really ill-timed for a member or two of your crowd.

And yet, here’s the rub: it’s one of the very few things that unites us humans. No matter what beliefs or mutations or circumstances separate us, we all evolved somewhere way far back from a singular common ancestor, not a single one of us has actually read Joyce’s Ulysses, and we are all going to one day die. It’s a chronic condition, a birth defect we all share.

I’ve found that it works best for me to avoid as best I can dread and worry, especially against the unavoidable. Gotta get a root canal on Wednesday? I’ll worry about it enough to make sure I get there in time for my appointment. Between now and then, nothing I think — no amount of mental energy, no matter in what form — changes the event itself, nor the outcome, so why not spend that time in a more pleasant headspace?

“I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.”
– Stephen Hawking

A friend of mine, Blake, died earlier this week. The word I’ve heard is that it was a heart attack, but I suppose the cause is really a secondary concern, well behind the fact that he was younger than me (and at 46, I don’t even qualify for AARP membership). I have at least four friends in my age group that are being treated for cancer, with variously hopeful outcomes. I’ve lost countless friends to car accidents, suicides, homicides, drug overdoses, and illness over the years.

Read it in your best horror movie narrator voice: “Death is coming for us all…”

Which leaves us at the end of the day with a limited (and in an unknown quantity, to boot) number of days to live. We can choose to spend that time anxious and worrying about the inevitable, we can choose to simply pass the time in a state of bland existence… or we can choose to enjoy it to the fullest possible extent, whatever that means to you.

Things to ponder heading into the spring weekend…

Sitting down on the steps at the old post office
The flag was flying at half-mast
And I was thinkin’ ’bout how everyone is dying
And maybe it’s time to live
– eels, “P.S. You Rock My World”

What’s the German word for “Chronic Self-Inflicted Wound”?

If anyone has a word for it, it’s the Germans. I would say the Japanese, too, but that one’s probably beautiful and tinged with a dash of hope.

It’s odd, to discover that what you thought was a scar — an old one, at that — is actually barely held shut with a thin scab. And that might be more illusory than not. It’s a wound that I’ve only half-come to terms with; acceptance of the past and present, but not so much of the ramifications and implications cast on the future.

The narrative has changed. The scope has narrowed, and the map has shifted: certain paths are closed off, the way home is no longer what it always was.

Is it a sign of age and maturity or just cynicism that all that is what it is, and there’s no point in being sad or upset about it?

C’mon. The Germans have words for all sorts of weird shit. It’s gotta be out there, right?

Dominoes falling

As a consumer of the creative, this is exactly the sort of thing I live for.

Stumbling across this on YouTube (the drummer is also in one of my favorite bands, Leprous), my brain is knocked completely loose from it’s moorings. The polyrhythms alone at the very beginning, beating against the piano’s already off-kilter timing – to me, like being thrashed about by rapids while at the same time realizing that you’ve developed gills, so it’s suddenly comforting to just settle in for the ride, knowing that you can survive long enough to hear the siren’s song to completion. The melodies throughout, the violin and the melodic transition at the half-way mark, the shifting time-signatures, the wall-of-sound production, and my god that flawless ritardando at around 8:00, right back into a half-time march toward the end…

For me, these moments — hearing tracks like this (for another example that froze me in my tracks, check out Nils Frahm’s ‘Hammers’, above), reading a unique voice like Chuck Palahniuk or Warren Ellis, seeing your first Dali painting or video by Floria Sigismondi — are less moments of rebirth, less reminders that the world I live in is glass-half-full with plenty of things that still taste great… and more reminders of all the doors that haven’t been opened for me. Aren’t there always more of these waiting for me out there? For all of us? Maybe not even waiting to be found, but instead waiting to find us when we’re ready for them?
(I’ve been thinking a lot over the past year about the differences between illusion and magic, and this all seems to fall in there…)

Solitude Notwithstanding (Apologies to S. Vega)

I don’t want to be lonely
I just want to be alone…”
-silverchair, ‘across the night’

For his second wish, Steven chose to give the genie freedom.

It felt momentarily surreal, using a wish to provide the giver with something equally powerful, but also right. Why shouldn’t he, having been given the present of solitude through a wish, not show his gratitude by reflecting that gift on a being who was imprisoned, chained to him through a fairy-tale curse?

Not to mention that Steven wasn’t really sure what else he could want, that wouldn’t have the dreaded cataclysmic kick-back effect.

And so he wished for the genie what he had wished for himself, and the genie thanked him, and disappeared, a fog that gradually faded from view, leaving Steven unable to say with certainty that the genie had ever been there.

Although of course it wasn’t imagination or dream; his first wish had been been granted, and he still had the weirdly disconcerting bottle on his shelf, the genie’s discarded prison left behind as a constant reminder.

Solitude, Steven was coming to realize, was a one-way mirror, and your enjoyment of it depended entirely on which side you stood, and what you wanted out of it.

On the one side, self-reflection was all that you found. Yourself staring back at you, with everything that lay behind you as well. Pleasant for the narcissist in yourself, probably.

On the other side, you can watch as the world goes by, crawling day by day through its paces. It’s a real-time reality TV show, without the scripting and the editing for reaction shots. So much so, as it happens, that watching it is all the interaction you have.

But that mirror, he thinks, has its flaws, those areas where light is refracted and bent, making you look warped. There are smalls slivers of glass missing, and those places make the worldview hard to enjoy.

And after a while, when you’re the only one left, who else is going to clean the glass but you?

He had almost missed out on his chance to live a fairytale altogether. It almost seemed to him, on reflection, that the genie wanted to be found. The bottle was attractive, certainly, but not the usual thing that would catch his eye. Not to say non-descript or ugly — more that he was past the point in his life at which he looked for treasures, hidden or obvious.

Simple was enough for him, but after passing it a few times with his eyes, he was eventually drawn enough to it to pick it up, and out came the genie. End of story. Or beginning, as such things happen.

Steven had long dreamed of something special, something unique happening to him, so when it happened, he had thought himself ready, incorrectly. It took a ridiculously long time to make his first wish, though he quickly followed that with his second, almost as though the two were intertwined.

He had a fear of consequence, of reactions unforeseen. That was the way of the fairytales he knew – penned by Serling and Joyce and King, where the wish is granted, and enjoyed, until ultimately revealing the universe’s desire for balance. He worried that wishing for world peace would end in overpopulation, that riches for himself would deprive another of everything they had ever known, that any of his desires would be met with something inversely undesirable.

In time, after careful consideration and thought, he asked for and was granted the same thing he gave (in a way) to the genie – freedom, which in his case meant solitude.

“Time can erase not just the future, but also the past.”
-penn jillette

Steven was very bad at many things, but he was very good at discovering that. He wasn’t bad at everything, by any means, but many things that he thought he wanted to do quickly revealed themselves as out of his reach, for varying reasons. He wanted to play sports, but his body wasn’t built for physical competition; he wanted to act, but was far better at exploring himself than understanding not-him people. But he tried, over and over – that, he was very good at.

He tried relationships, but was never very good at them. He tried being part of groups with similar interests or hobbies, but quickly grew exhausted. Teams asked too much of him; friendships, over time, would change and drift away. Even being a hermit didn’t work out, but in time, he finally sorted it out – he liked being around people in a distant way that didn’t ask or expect too much from him. It was far from what he had dreamed of – just like his films and his chess playing and his woodworking abilities – but he accepted it, because Vonnegut once wrote “So it goes,” and he liked the simple poetry in those three syllables.

And so he wished for a world in which that was okay, and granted the being with the power to give him everything he had could ever wish for, anything he could ever want, the freedom to chase the same, or whatever else the genie might want for itself.

In time, Steven grew to learn the consequences of his wish, and they were everything he had expected. He was happier without having to make commitments to others, or having to account for their wants or desires. He was sad many nights, without someone meaningful to share his thoughts and experiences and feelings with. He did what he wanted, whenever and wherever he wanted, without explaining himself to anyone for any reason. But he did everything alone.

He did everything lonely, which was fine, because that’s what it was.

One day, Steven decided that he needed a change. For no discernible reason — no one incident changed things for him, no overnight dream of different things or sudden light bulb that things might be better, waiting on him somewhere else. It was just time.

He had forgotten that there was one more wish waiting for him, but he had never forgotten the genie. They had spent so much time together without the expectation or hope of what would come out of their relationship, and he had grown to love the genie, without ever realizing it, without naming it. Theirs was a preternatural closeness and understanding, and though details of the genie’s face and voice had begun to fade into a glamorized imagination of a memory, his love for the genie’s company remained crystal clear in his heart and his head.

And so he set out, with only the most important of physical possessions, leaving everything he had ever known behind. He didn’t know how to find the genie — not even how to begin — but he knew that it was worth trying, worth the look.

Because with the genie, he had found someone with whom he could be alone without ever being lonely.

He didn’t need another wish — just the determination and opportunity to really make his first wish come true.

You got your solitude
And I got my peace
And nothing in that moment matters more
If only in just this one fragment together it grows
This tree… may be i must maybe lost
Right where i need to be…”
-steven wilson

12/19-12/24 2015

On marriage for all

As with way too many things in life, I’m confused and frustrated with the way things are, with the way people are. I know that people are confused and afraid and distrusting of things that are different from them — by belief, by nature, by choice. What confuses me is why, and why more people don’t make the concerted effort to overcome that basic human trait.

SCOTUS declared yesterday that marriage as a legal entity (with the legal benefits that it provides) can not be denied to anyone based on their sexual orientation. To my knowledge, it hasn’t been stated that any of the religions have to redefine marriage, or that any minister, pastor, reverend, rabbi, or any other religious leader will be forced to perform a ceremony wedding two people in a manner that disagrees with their beliefs. It simply says that there can be no law denying marriage and its benefits to anyone, straight or gay.

My religious friends and family that object to this ruling continue to repeat a thought along the lines of, “The Court has redefined marriage, contrary to what Christians believe it is.” First and foremost, if this is true, then certainly, SCOTUS made the correct ruling, as:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

My interpretation of that is that there would be no laws related in any way to religious beliefs, including marriage (my bachelor’s degree notwithstanding, I’m clearly no legal scholar, so I’m open to being corrected by someone who knows better). And what SCOTUS did yesterday, contrary to some beliefs, was NOT to create a law redefining marriage; anyone with an elementary knowledge of the U.S. government can point out that the judicial branch can not make laws, only rule on them; quite the contrary, SCOTUS only said that laws preventing gay men and women from marrying are unconstitutional.

I take issue, too, with the fact that Christians are speaking as though their definition of marriage is the only one, ignoring the fact that there are different definitions of marriage for different religions and cultures, and that marriage, as an institution, predates Christianity (and Judaism, for that matter). This stance, while it may hold true for a vast majority of Americans, is still arrogant and unfair.

But really, I guess the bottom line is this: why does anyone — ANYONE — care? There’s this atmosphere of horror surrounding the whole thing, as though this is the beginning of the end, or that tomorrow, there will be armed soldiers knocking on their door and forcing them to marry their best friend. But none of these things are true, or have any grounding in any truth, at all.

My understanding of Christianity — and again, I’m not as well versed as many of my friends, but I have spent a lifetime learning and questioning and exploring, so I feel comfortable publicly stating my opinion — is that no sin is greater than any other. It’s a tough pill to swallow, that having wanton thoughts about your neighbor’s wife is no better or worse in the eyes of God than wholesale genocide, but that’s what is put forth – not directly, but it can be inferred from verses like the following:

James 2:10 (NIV)

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

And then there are the words of Christ Himself:

Matthew Chapter 22

36Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law?

37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38This is the first and great commandment.

39And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Now, I’m not particularly interested in getting into religious debates. There are many, many levels on which I am still exploring and learning and discovering my faith, and I’m definitely sure that I’ve had more than my fill of being the audience to too many people presenting me their (or worse, a spoon-fed) opinion of what’s right and wrong as though it were fact carved in stone. But I will say that I find Jesus’ teachings — the words that came from the mouth of the man Himself, even presuming that they are subject to having been changed and revised over the last two millenia — to be the most important part of Christianity for me, with the Old Testament laws a distant second. Christ spoke, at the core, of love — for our fellow humans, regardless of profession or behavior or belief; and for God and His love for us.

There’s also this idea that this decision, and the new-found right to marry will be somehow detrimental to society as a whole, but I think that’s nothing more than fear speaking. You know what’s detrimental to society? Families where one parent or the other has abandoned the family. The ease of divorce. Our cultural glorification of violence and our quickness to show anger and hatred and to deny happiness and love. We choose to focus on the differences between ourselves and others rather than embracing our commonalities. We push the less-fortunate down and create as much distance as possible between us and them instead of doing all that we can to lend them a hand and help them rise closer to our station.

It is my opinion — and only that, an opinion — that those who are decrying the right of gay people to marry, preaching to anyone who will listen that it’s the end of the world as we know it because two men or two women who have love in their hearts for each other can now enjoy the same legal right and benefits as a man and a woman with the same are the real detriment to society.

I can’t understand why we can’t, as a people, just live and let live, when the actions and beliefs of others do us no more harm than make us uncomfortable, because we’re too lazy to try and understand differences better.