Monday, December 29, 2008

circling around balance

Little yellow squares zip down and down and down. In grid formation they speed below her bony feet and up the side behind her, brushing her long tail. Faster, faster, faster, her feet slam down on the wires. Her running accelerates to fervent leaping. Faster, faster, faster, the squeaky wheel spins. She channels her fury into the repeated motion, even though it leads her nowhere. Faster, faster, faster, her heart pounds. Her efforts are fruitless but she won’t give up.

Finally her legs slow. Squares emerge from the blur. As the wheel stops she rocks back on herself to sit. She looks around and finds herself where she began. Quietly accepting her surroundings, she turns her head forward again. The squeak of the wheel recommences.

We are born. We try to push the path in front of us behind us, but it only goes around us to catch up with us ahead. It can be wonderful because the path is beautiful, but sometimes we move too fast to see that. Regardless, we die where we began. And the earth goes on spinning.

"Sometimes I get overcharged, that's when you see sparks. You ask me where the hell I'm going, at a thousand feet per second. Hey man, slow down, slow down. Idiot, slow down, slow down."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Tickling is strange, because it's a gesture of love that hurts the beloved. The laughter reflex is at the same time the beloved's vice and protection. It encourages more tickling, but it's also the only way to relieve the tension.

Sometimes I feel like my heart is being tickled. When I can laugh, it's not so bad. It even feels good. But sometimes I can't laugh. My brain decides to protect my heart from more tickling, so it hides my laugh where I can't find it. And then there's no way to relieve the tension.

So, I try to fight it. My heart is tough. It can handle poking and stabbing and squeezing and punching. But tickling? I don't have a defense built up for this. It's so light, I don't know how to fight it.

I can't fight it out
I can't laugh it in
So the fingers linger on my heart,
slowly crawling along with painfully little friction
The corners of my mouth rise obediently,
but they wobble on shaky nervous muscles,
which quietly endure the pain

Sunday, December 14, 2008

hold steady

I’ve been trying to pretend I’m past The Hold Steady, but I keep coming back. I’ve been trying to look at angst retrospectively but I keep feeling it. I’ve been trying to call this character Craig Finn, but I keep calling him Jesus!

The Hold Steady makes it okay to feel unsteady. It’s like I’m taking all my insecurities and uncertainties and mistakes and trips and faults and regrets and nerves and misgivings, and I’m packing them into a heavy fist punch where they become righteous and strong and unified.

And everything that is unsteady comes together and becomes steady. And when I look around and see all the fists I don’t feel so alone.

So here I am trying to “reach into the speaker and hold on to the quarter notes” because “certain songs they get so scratched into our souls.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

near is dear

A fish in a tank
Back forth back forth back forth back
On a shelf in space

It’s so frustrating—why can’t you stop caring so damn much about that fake plant?
But it’s ok. It’s yours. It’s yours to care about.
Besides, you feel the vibrations coming through space…..

Let your arms fly high
Let your waist whip round
Let your feet jiggy jig
Feel it, feel it, feel it
And let go of it, let go of it
Meet it and greet it, open the door wide
Do the electric slide
And let it pass out the side

And there’s that plant again. There it is. And it’s all you can think about.
But it’s ok. It’s yours. It’s yours to care about.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

our saving graces

I left Van Hise today feeling restless and stressed. I let my feet carry me toward the lake.

I let the fog in the air fog the hurtful details of my situation, and I let the branches above me protect me from the unceasing poison arrows falling from the sky. I let my body collapse on the moist dirt and leaves, put my face to the ground and took in the wet smell. I let my tears join the rain, taking my emotions with them into the ground, into the roots, into the trees.

Eventually I sat up, propped my back against a trunk, and looked out over the still lake blending into the foggy sky. This is all I want. This is all I need. There is so much beauty here, and so much love.

I struggle with putting my overarching perspective on the human condition into logical form. But as I sat by the lake today I pulled out a notebook, and gave it a try.....

Before humans evolved, animals never needed a sense of beauty or a love that extended beyond themselves and their family. It was all they could do to keep living. There was no room in their minds for anything besides survival, or anyone besides themselves and their family. The desire to survive, the most basic animal desire, always translated to attaining more, because that more was always necessary for survival.

When humans evolved so that there was extra room, they used that room to figure out how to create more room. Though humans stopped needing more, they didn't stop wanting it. With survival squared away, desires turned toward immortality. With the absense of nature's tensions and reliefs, reliefs were found in artificial tensions. Humans set up systems of belief which provided a path to immortality, and artificial tensions and reliefs.

Within every system of belief, there are symbols which represent needs. In most systems today, those needs all revolve around attaining more of something. Many systems create the need for more money. Almost every system creates the need for more time alive. Religious systems create the need for more goodness. Our systems also create the need for more education, more memories, more experiences. By trying to fulfill these "needs," we set up a situation of tension for ourselves. When we succeed in fulfilling them, we feel the relief we want so bad. We also feel, more subconciously, that we are defeating the trappings of our animal body and desires by attaining these symbols which give us a feeling of a higher mind-- an immortal mind.

It is perfectly natural for us to need to set up symbols of need; we would find no reason to live without them. And it is impossible to suppress our natural need to need. However, so long as the needs we create continue to be ones which bring us more, our need for need will ruin us. It will not be long before we bring our species to its own demise.

So, we must find another source for our artificial needs. I believe that our only way out of self-destruction is to find a system of belief in which the greatest symbols of need are beauty and love. If instead of needing more things, more experiences, more time, we can "need" beauty and love, we can fulfill our basic needs and spend our extra time enjoying beauty and making sure the people around us are meeting their basic needs too.

Beauty and love are our saving graces as humans. Our minds bring us a lot of trouble. Our minds perturb us with fantasies and philosophies that are forever trapped in earthly animal bodies, leaving us confused with desires and purposes we don't understand. But with its vices, our minds bring two things that can save us from all of it: appreciation for beauty and love. If we can appreciate beauty and love, we can live out the extra tension and relief we crave through them-- through music, sex, art, excercise, sharing, dance, aid. If we can channel our confused desires and purposes into beauty and love, we can ensure that everyone's basic needs are met and that everyone has a way of creating and meeting extra artificial needs without having a negative affect on the world around them.

I don't know how we'll get to that point. And I don't know if we'll ever even have the chance to get to that point. But having a vision of that world in my head makes life easier. And even if humanity as a whole never makes it there, appreciating the beauty and love in my own life makes me happier.

As I was leaving the lake, I passed a woman on the phone. "The lake is so beautiful right now," she said into her cell. "The sky is really foggy and the lake is so still. It's amazing." I couldn't stop the smile spreading across my face. That's the key.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

i feel it

I want to remember this forever.

I know it isn’t always a good thing when a group of people joins together and starts thinking as one. There’s no doubt that it’s led to some of the most horrible crimes by humanity. But tonight felt so good.

I watched McCain’s and Obama’s speeches in the union, surrounded by strangers. At one point during Obama’s speech, as tears were streaming down my face and I was sniffling through hiccups, the woman next to me said, “All I want to do right now is give you hug.” So I hugged her. And we cried some more.

After the speech I went outside and followed the shrieking to State Street. At first I just started hugging everyone I recognized. And then I just started hugging anyone. I was giving high fives left and right, chanting, singing, and screaming. Soon the calls of “to the capitol!!!!” began to mount and the movement began.

At that point I think I lost track of my identity. I stopped thinking about myself. I lost track of how heavy my backpack was, how cold I felt, how badly my feet ached. I became part of a greater identity, which was so comforting. We were all in it together. I didn’t have to worry about thinking things through, being responsible, making decisions.

We started down the street, united by a large U.S. flag at the front of the group. Just as our energy began to die down another group came down a side street and merged with us. My vision was a blur of smiles, teeth, wide eyes, flailing limbs, flags, flying hair, bodies colliding. I let my body go, kind of the way I do in a mosh pit when I don’t have the impetus to fuck with people. I just let the crowd sway me this way and that, and let my vocal chords vibrate freely into the night air.

When we made it to the capitol, it was like we had reached the head of the dragon. People were breathing fire all the way up the steps of the capitol. At the very top we all lined up and began singing the national anthem, and other celebratory and patriotic songs. Eventually, the fire started to die down, and the group needed a change of atmosphere to get fired up again. Shouts of “to Bascom Hill!!!!” became the new battle cry.

So off we were again. Thousands of feet pushed forward against pavement, shouting cries of victory. A few whistles and drums tried to send out music, but were mostly buried by human voices. Strangers became best friends, and people who once bragged of plans to leave the country ASAP shouted “USA” loudest of all.

As we approached Bascom, the crowd broke into a run. People leapt over the knee-high rope at the base of the hill, hanging on to belt loops, blankets and cameras. Bascom Hill is famous for the exhausting demand it places on its conquerors. I know I usually avoid at all costs. So as we ascended, we all lost our breath to our screams and our legs. But it became the common joke. I’m pretty sure everyone on that hill that night laughed about it once.

Finally at the top, the energy built again. All that air we had been sucking on our way up was finally exhaled down the hill in song and celebration. People coated the entire hill. I have no idea how long we were there; my sense of time left me early on. I just remember looking up at the stars, smiling, and losing my voice to the crowd.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to reflect deeper, but for now I feel great. For now I’ll let myself succumb to the beautiful feeling of togetherness and movement.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

socks with flip-flops

Every once and awhile, feet dressed in socks and flip-flops step into my mind. And when that happens, I just can’t stop laughing. It happened to me on the bus today. I was listening to the Smiths, who I haven’t really listened to since like sophomore year. My mind wandered back. Around the time I started listening to them in high school is just about the time I started to free myself from the hellish cookie cutter I had been stuffing myself into, and realized I could become any shape of cookie, without a cookie cutter. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I finally also realized that it wasn’t even imperative that I become a cookie at all. Just because I saw all the other dough going into the oven to be forever hardened into one form did not mean I couldn’t choose another path.

Anyway, on a trip to Rock Island, on a day I was particularly disillusioned with the oven, I walked past a man wearing socks and flip-flops. As soon as my eyes found his feet my mouth flew open and laughter plowed out, bringing me to my knees with disbelief at the hilarity. Granted, there may have been other factors surrounding the situation that made the laughter flow more easily, but to this day I can’t think about it without becoming giddy inside.

Today, I finally asked myself why.

Wearing socks with flip-flops is a situation where a person has a desire which he intends to solve via the societal structure in place, but where that societal structure fails him. It’s funny because it seems so uncomfortable. You can just imagine the way the sock must be tugging at his toes which are trying so hard to push out on either side of the tongs.

And yet, proponents of the style always claim their attire to be the most comfortable. They say they need the socks to keep their feet warm, but that tennis shoes are too suffocating. They go digging in the Lego box of society and come up with two Legos that together most resemble their ideal construction, and try to ignore the fact that they have so obviously just put two Legos together and pretended to find the ideal construction. And because the Lego pieces so obviously do not do the job, it’s like you’ve caught someone in a lie. And even though (and probably because) our whole lives are based on lies, we love catching them in other people.

We’re all trying to build individual dreams out of the same Legos. The only time we get new pieces is when a significant number of people demand it, so we usually don’t get all the ones we want. At least the people who wear socks and flip-flops are trying. They make an admirable attempt to use the Legos they have in their own way. I think we could all try a little harder to find new combinations of Legos, or demand different ones, in an effort to construct something a little closer to our original ideas. And if we fail….hey, I just think it’s hilarious.

he lives on

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Suddenly something was nothing, and nothing meant everything.

And then everything meant nothing, and nothing was something.

And then the sound of the water on the rocks was so beautiful it made me cry. And everything was something, and every nothing was something too.

So I caught the first bus back to Milwaukee to take care of my somethings.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

exhibit a

I've been writing for the Daily Cardinal for awhile now, but I've never once had someone (besides close friends) recognize that I had written an article, or come find me to talk about it.....until today. What was the article that did the trick? "UWPD seeks man who ejaculated on student in Humanities building."
We just can't get enough sex.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

shakin the tree

You give and you hope
What goes around comes around
But then it gets caught

You shake the branches
But the ball doesn’t come down
So you walk away

Lying on the floor
High flies a snow angel’s soul
Music frees the pain

what is lost in abstraction

People like to write on abstract levels
They say it makes the writing easier to relate to, of course
And maybe they’ll also admit that it erases the trail to more personal thoughts
A picture of a situation becomes one of many on a big map
More people can find themselves on the map, but they can't find you
Maybe I'll try it

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


So I've been reading regularly for awhile, and I recently started reading secrets from other countries too. Today I found a German secret particularly endearing. Here's part of it, translated:

do you remember when we were kids
and built the greatest castles on the beach
how the sun set and the tide slowly rolled in
and the waves slowly took everything from us without mercy
how we tried to save what could not be saved
fought with such fervor so peculiar
cursing and screaming and without a chance
didn't wonder for a second what was up with us
and when it was over, we only laughed

It turned into a typical love secret, but that part really struck me. If you've never read, I urge you to try it. I think you'll be surprised and comforted by how many people share your secrets.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


no matter how benevolent we may be, we are still motivated by selfish interests

nobody is better than that

let us all remember mr. groser and his words about p.o.v. and human needs

i miss mr. groser

we're all doing the best we can

Monday, October 13, 2008


This weekend, reunions with old friends reminded me of why I love being alive.

I left Madison Friday afternoon and took the Badger Bus home. I sat front row, and the sun coming through the front window caused my side window to reflect what came through the front. The half closer to the front of the bus reflected what was on the opposite side of the bus, while the half closer to me was transparent to the outside. The effect mesmerized me for most of the ride. Cars in the reflection disappeared into grasses as the bus moved forward and their images evaporated. I thought it was beautiful. It was like the earth was taking back its freedom. Branches, grasses, hills, leaves, dirt spread victoriously over pavement and moving metals.

I devoted my time on the bus to trying to figure out how to apply all the thoughts I’d been having to living my life in the world I was born into. It’s something I have to do regularly—zoom way out, and zoom back in on my life to understand it in context. I usually begin with trying to compromise absurdism with my own natural desires. I conclude that although our actions can never affect the cosmic balance of things, it’s natural, and okay, to try to tip the balance in our favor. Absurdism is an objective idea. As necessarily subjective beings we can accept the cosmic insignificance of what is significant to us, and still allow it to be significant to us. For me, that means trying to make the world a better place for humans to live happily and in harmony with the planet.

Although I’ve long decided I don’t agree with the direction humanity has gone in the past thousands of years, I’ve also accepted that for humanity to regress to a simpler state is probably impossible without a major “disaster.” No matter how passionately I believe we could all be happier in a simpler world, I should not spend my life completely devoted to the cause and sacrifice my own happiness. I can only live my life how I want to live it, do what I can to open people’s minds, and own my actions. I am happy when the net affect of my actions is a movement toward my ideal world, and I am with people I love.

I spent the weekend with people I love. Friday night I drove from Milwaukee to Northwestern to visit friends from journalism camp. As I entered Evanston I felt I was returning home. I pulled into a parking lot, but saw that it would cost too much money. To leave the lot I had to maneuver against the flow of moving cars and beeping horns, but with the flow of my friend’s laughter on the phone. After finding parking, I finally held her in my arms, buried my face in her shoulder, and cried. We met up with other friends and danced the night away with jungle juice and laughter.

I drove back to Milwaukee the next day, and hopped into a car that night with two best friends from high school, for a journey back to Madison. We shouted the words of the Hold Steady into the night, and exchanged words of our lives (which were not very different from those we shouted). At the Broken Social Scene show that night, Kevin Drew asked the crowd to scream. And scream again. And scream again. The first time I watched him and screamed with excitement. The second time I closed my eyes and screamed with anguish. And the third time I looked at my friends and screamed with an overwhelming love for them.

After the weekend, I have this sense that I have three homes—in Milwaukee, in Evanston, and in Madison. And while every time I have constructed a new home it has been trying and scary, it really does feel better to have three homes than one. I have this analogy I use for relationships in my life. I picture myself, my psyche, as a rope. I am always holding the rope, and it gets very heavy. In every relationship I have, I give someone else some of my rope to hold, and it helps with the weight. It hurts when they let go, but it’s worth it because I can’t hold it by myself. It’s been hard forming relationships and trusting people enough to give them part of my rope, but this weekend reminded me of why I do it. To everyone out there holding a piece, thank you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

mind over matter, a dangerous matter

I’ve always had a weird “mind over matter” ability. It takes a lot for a substance to affect me. Caffeine barely ever works, and I can psyche myself out of being drunk or high to a pretty large extent. When I’ve had as much to drink as a friend who’s falling over on top of me, I can sober up instantly and take care of them. In cold weather, I can usually think myself into being warm. When I am hungry, I can make myself feel full. My sense of smell is almost entirely thought. I’m very bad at smelling things, but I very easily imagine that I’m smelling what’s in my thoughts.

This whole concept also exists on a higher level. I can psyche myself out of almost any desire I have, no matter how significant. Some of it is conscious, but at a certain point, after I’ve made a series of similar conscious decisions, my subconscious starts to take over the decisions for me.

For a long time I’ve enjoyed this ability. I thought of the mind as a higher being than the body, and the body as a trap for the mind. But that idea has driven me mad, and led to so many confused thoughts and emotions.

I’ve wondered why I can’t seem to find truth, when truth is everywhere around me. I can see truth in the trees and the sky and the water, but I can’t see it in myself. I’ve been stuck in this paradox where my being is built of truth, but at the same I can’t find the truth inside it.
I’m realizing that I’m looking in the wrong place. I’m trying to find my own truth with hypothetical and theoretical thinking in my mind, instead of listening to my body. Instead of my mind forcing a reality on my body, my mind needs to listen to my body’s reality.

I have to stop trying to beat my own body. Any enlightenment I feel is not enlightenment if it fights what’s my body is saying. It’s easy to talk myself into devaluing my life and seeing that nothing matters, it’s all absurd, and there’s no reason to live. But this is not a valuable truth, because it contradicts everything in my body (thirst, hunger, desire, etc) that wants to live.

An enlightened truth that fights natural truth is not truth.

I'll never be able to escape my mind, and I wouldn't want to. I just can’t get lost searching for truth in my brain when truth already exists in the body surrounding it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

sobering up

I think I’m realizing that I may be too critical of western culture. I’m going to try to change my angle of thinking from “this is why our culture is failing” to “this is why our culture is failing me.” Maybe it will be true for other people too, but I can’t believe that it is true for everyone. I’ve been critical of a system that doesn’t work for me, without realizing that it might be because it doesn’t work for me. I always try to make my ideas objective, and view things from an outside perspective, but I have to accept and recognize that that’s really not possible.

I will still try to see from a bird’s eye view, but at the same time I will recognize that every bird eventually comes home to rest on the ground and has his own experiences which affect his view. This bird’s eye view idea has been a convenient way for me to avoid thinking about my own home on the shore, which could use some sorting out. As I have neither the merit nor a healthy motive to think so holistically, I’m going to try harder to remember my own subjectivity.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

hypocritical vultures

Madison is known for being a liberal campus and a hotbed of political activism where socialism is a common ideal. People are always saying things like, “Why can’t everyone just be nice to everyone?” or “Why would anyone not like someone else?” It is especially familiar here to hear people ragging on politicians or the upper class for being selfish.

But what they don’t realize is that it’s not the selfishness of the people in power that has created our unjust capitalist system; it’s the everyday selfishness that they all possess. That their individual selfishness is not as far-reaching does not make it any more ethical.

Last night I went to the Annex to see Casiotone and Sunset Rubdown. When I got to my friend’s dorm, I realized the pregaming was going to be more intense than usual. In addition to the regular drinks, white dust was lined up on the desk. I’ve never done coke, and I didn’t plan on starting then, so I just sat on the bed as I watched them snort lines.

When someone who didn’t have any coke asked to have a line of someone else’s he was rejected. When someone would finish a line, tongues would flock around the residue, pecking in competition for the dust, like vultures on a carcass. As their brains sent artificial rewards to themselves for good work that was never done, they became more elated.

There are only two elevators in Witte, shared with ten floors of residents. On our way out of the building, one of my friends called the elevator and then stood in it for maybe five minutes while some other friends went to the bathroom and goofed around. If she had let it go, we may have had to wait a little longer for the elevator, but other people could have used it too. It seems like an insignificant action to be bringing attention to, but if you think about it, the elevator is a shared limited resource with no governing. Was my friend holding the elevator away from the rest of the building really any different than money-lovers holding their wealth away from the rest of the population? The effects differ in scale, but the root cause is the same.

At the Annex, I lined up next to the stage with another one of my friends (the only other one who had not done coke), and waited excitedly for the show to begin. We talked to some people around us, including a group of girls who had come all the way from Chicago for the show. Smiling and laughing, we started dancing to the music coming over the speakers to keep us occupied. In the small space, we accidently bumped the Chicago gals a few times, and their faces stared ahead coldly. When Sunset Rubdown came on stage we really started going crazy. The band was alive with energy that just grabbed my body and shook it up. We were having a blast just riding their waves of music and dancing our hearts out. But throughout the entire show the girls behind us just glared at us and stood stone still. They came from Chicago to hear music that radiated this attitude of happiness, chaos and getting along together, but they were actively unhappy, composed, and condescending.

I’m just sick of all the hypocrisy. I’m sick of people saying things they don’t understand, and not owning their own actions.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

welcome to my mind

I think a good way to start out this blog will be to try to explain the way my mind works. I have a very hard time thinking about practical situations without getting lost in space. My mind constantly yearns for a broader picture, for context in which to place the situation before I can consider it. This can get frustrating at times, when I have to devote hours to a process of making a seemingly simple decision. It can also make communication difficult, because it’s hard for me to freely converse on a subject I haven’t thought much about already. As soon as a subject comes into conversation, instead of quickly determing how to articulate how I feel about the subject, my mind immediately wanders away, attempting to place the topic in context and figure out how I feel about it. But while my mind often struggles to interact with the physical, practical world, I’ve learned to appreciate the way my mind works. It stops me from getting tunnel visioned and keeps me thinking for myself.

Because my mind operates this way, I've always avoided blogging because I didn't think I'd be able to write about, or draw conclusions about specific situations without finding myself sailing away into broader questions. And I was probably right....but I decided to try anyway. We'll see how that goes. The way this blog is written will probably mirror the way my mind thinks. While most blogs cover current events or daily happenings, this will probably be much broader and more confusing.

The title of this blog comes from a song by Kimya Dawson: “I Like Giants.” Here is the quote in context:
"When I go for a drive I like to pull off to the side
Of the road and run and jump into the ocean in my clothes
And I'm smaller than a poppyseed inside a great big bowl
And the ocean is a giant that can swallow me whole
So I swim for all salvation and I swim to save my soul
But my soul is just a whisper trapped inside a tornado
So I flip to my back and I float and I sing
I am grounded, I am humbled, I am one with everything

I like this quote because it reminds me that no matter how hard we try to protect ourselves from nature, it is pervasive and will always win. No matter how hard we cling to religions that promise immortality, fight for stardom to be remembered forever in history, or struggle to attain any product that will prolong our lives, nature will always have the final say and bring us back down to earth at the end of our attempted escape.

This is something I hope to keep in mind as I struggle to figure out what I want to do with my life. I hope this blog will serve as a regular reminder that the traditional success symbols in our culture are only symbols. And while I may never be able to replace the need for attaining some sort of success symbol for myself, it does not need to be a symbol our culture has determined for me.