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.