Bereitschaftspotential Shmereitschaftspotential

As a wanna be Existential Absurdist who’s all in with team Existence Before Essence, my initial reaction to most universal-type questions, whether they be a priori, a posteriori, or somewhere in between is usually…

Meh.

I mean, such blathering existential debates to me are complete and absolute exercises in futility…

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It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: TREE OF SMOKE by Denis Johnson, a Review (of sorts)

As I sit and watch the surreal press conference between Trump and Putin after their so-called historic summit, where, after recently treating our allies like dog shit, Trump behaves like a sycophantic lapdog to a murderous dictator who wants nothing more than to destroy and subjugate the U.S. of America in retribution for how the U.S. of America destroyed and subjugated his beloved U.S.S.R., I am reminded of how I felt, or better yet, how my fuzzy, nightmarish memories leave me feeling from the surreal and tumultuous times in the U.S. of America during the late-Sixties through the mid-Seventies, you know, the era of national madness beginning with the Tet Offensive through the Watergate break-ins and subsequent hearings to Nixon’s humiliating yet palliative resignation and ending with America’s humiliating yet palliative retreat from South Vietnam.

Continue reading “It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: TREE OF SMOKE by Denis Johnson, a Review (of sorts)”

Love is the answer?

There’s a rather talkative pigheaded brute of a character in my WIP whose name is Rick, Happy, Henderson. Happy loves to philosophize and pontificate to…at?… his work partner about whatever the latest topic is he’s studying during night school as if he’s now a subject matter expert. He’s not of course and he always manages to maneuver whatever it is he’s rambling on about toward a general diatribe of how the weak with their Rule of Law and “societal norms” have managed to upend the universal natural order of might makes right, which, in the end, as he sees it, limits his ability to pick up chicks.

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The Lullaby Effect of Carter & Lovecraft versus When Nietzsche Wept

I’m only a so-so fan of HP Lovecraft. I guess I’ve read as much of him as I have more out of a sense of allegiance to the horror genre than a sense of loyalty to his literary acuity.

Which is why I was somewhat surprised when I found myself selecting Jonathan L. Howard’s CARTER & LOVECRAFT the other night when cruising my Overdrive app looking for an audiobook fix for which to fall asleep to…

Which, to me, is the primary purpose of audiobooks – literary lullabies.

And most of the audiobooks I listen to do a great job of it.

In fact, they do such a great job of it that most audiobooks I listen to, I don’t finish because each night I always have to go back to the last point in the book I can remember before drifting off to sleep the night before, which is, more often than not, only a minute or two after I started listening.

And the books I do manage to get through before the loan ends I often only remember in sketchy patches…

Continue reading “The Lullaby Effect of Carter & Lovecraft versus When Nietzsche Wept”

What is Gotham Trying to Say about Interracial Marriages?

The Mad Hatter, courtesy of modernmythmedia.com

Even though I grew up a comic book nerd, I’m pretty much over all the Marvel/DC Comics superhero movies. I used to watch them religiously at the movie theater – because if one must watch a big budgeted bloated bonanza of bombastic visual proportions, then it must be watched while on the big screen – however, I’m trying very hard to wean myself off of them. Key word: trying.

Despite the fact that I know without a doubt I’m going to be hugely disappointed at the movie’s end, I still find it hard to resist them. For instance, the buzz around the Black Panther movie is phenomenal so chances are pretty good I’ll make the trek to my local Frank’s Theatre and hope for the best… while still expecting the worst.

Fortunately, thanks to the likes of HBO, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the… like, the superhero genre has not been left behind during this amazing renaissance of television we’re happily going through.

As for there being any good content on broadcast television, I wouldn’t know. I haven’t watched anything on any of the broadcast channels, other than sports, since Happy Days went off the air… what has it been? a year or two ago?

Except for one broadcast show, that is.

Gotham.

I am off on a hardcore wide-eyed binge on that show, which should tell you that I don’t actually watch it when it’s broadcasted on Fox. No way. Never again will I be a slave to a network time slot.

I watch Gotham as any discerning 21st Century viewer would, at my leisure on that amazing little channel of an app called Netflix.

With all its dark, demented, hyper-violence, let me tell ya… Gotham is good. Real good. It actually feels like a comic book has been brought to life, making it exactly what a discerning 21st Century television viewer like yours truly wants…

And deserves.

Anyway, onward to the point of this overly prolific post…
Continue reading “What is Gotham Trying to Say about Interracial Marriages?”

The Irrepressible Nature of Irony*

Or, Nothing Is As It Appears To Be

If you were to do a search on my site for the word “irony” — and why would you? — but, if you were to, of the ten results you would receive, the first three would have the word “irony” in their heading, so it’s easy to see why they would be pulled up in the search; but as far as the other seven, it’s been so long since they were written that I have no clue why they were pulled in with the results, except for maybe the eighth one: it’s a post about Radiohead allowing fans to pay whatever they want for their latest release at the time. There’s probably a decent amount of irony to be found in that one.

Anyway, of the first three positively ironic posts pulled in the search, they are:
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The Absurdity That Isn’t

An Existential Moment

I’m not a philosopher despite the fact that it is my belief that everyone with a thinking brain, and especially those without, is one, whether it be as a witting one or not.

No, I’m not a Philosopher, despite my occasional philosophizing about philosophical stuff, in the same regard that I’m not a Poet, despite the fact that I occasionally write poetic-like stuff.

Philosophy as a studied discipline is way too confounding for my confounded brain.

However, practicing a philosophy as a means for navigating life comes as natural to me as the act of breathing or as the desire to include unnecessary descriptive and expounding words, especially those oh so delightful words of the adverbial persuasion, into as much of my writing as possible.

For instance, I have no idea how many times other than a lot that I’ve attempted to read and understand such profound Philosophers as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and Heidegger and Sartre and Camus and, regardless how many times it’s been, without fail and after only a few pages I have to put their books down in angry frustration and embarrassment from my inability to read the words that they have carefully and thoughtfully written for me with any sustained comprehension. It is maddening to me that, while I can read and understand just about any individual sentence of theirs, when moving on to a succeeding sentence, of which I can also read and understand, I invariably lose comprehension of the sentence which had just preceded it and which only seconds before I had understood.

If hell is other people, then a deeper hell is other people other than the people I can understand…

Reading the work of real Philosophers, just like reading the poetry of real Poets, leaves me feeling inadequate and insignificant, just like I felt in high school during any class not related to Civics, English, or Shop.

Yet, despite the negative feelings the Philosophers’ writings leave me with, or, more likely, because of them, I have somehow managed through these feelings and through the course of my life to come to some level of understanding of the Philosophers and their writings.

Just as, when I drive my car I know not all the inner workings of the machine that allows it to move, or, when I click the keys on my keyboard, I know not all the math and electronics that enable the words to magically appear on my monitor, I know not why my life is, I only know that through my practice of it, it, powered by a mystical Absurdist and Existential philosophical elixir, is.

For, I know without knowing when I first knew or learned it, though I dare not declare it instinctual, that my life in its physical being certainly preceded my life in its essence or spiritual being.

And I know just the same that every choice I make can only but leave me with a sense of both knowable and unknowable angst from it, as well as from those choices I choose not to make.

And I again know just the same that while I [want to] believe that there is an Essence to Life, a Universal and Infinite Guiding Force, a God, so to speak, I, too, [truly] believe that it is absurd to believe that we can ever know with certainty the existence of such an Essence while alive and spinning helplessly within an infinitely indifferent and chaotic universe(s).

Such as it is, we will and must come, with or without a wit, want, or wont, to an understanding of our personal philosophy of life only through the act of living it.

One of the biggest and most influential aspects on my understanding of life, and of the development of my personal philosophy about it, is through the reading of Literature.

Just like Philosophy and Poetry, I read the stuff, not always or even usually understanding it, but ever always feeling it.

I feel bodily the expansive melancholy and spinning hopelessness that Kafka, by not allowing his protagonists the knowledge of the greater forces working against them or the ability to counter these forces (such is life), has magically suffused within The Trial and The Castle deep down to where, if their is one (and I [[truly] want to] believe there is), my essence resides.

And I feel just the same the nihilistic madness and absurdity of life Camus suffers upon his protagonists in his short novel The Stranger and short story “The Guest,” and of whom he only allows but a brief moment of sudden clarity upon their realization of life’s only one knowable truth: that it will end.

And I again feel just the same from many such similar great works of Literature that I have had the privilege and pleasure to read incomprehensibly.

It is these feelings accumulated within me that, over time, has brought me to my understanding of life and provides me with a philosophy of how I wish to live it.

Paradoxically, and absurd as it may seem, the literature that has taught me most how to live my life to its fullest and most pleasurable is that which has made me feel the most small and miserable.

By living an Absurd and Existential life, supplemented liberally by a literary verisimilitude of imagined misery, hopelessness, and suffering. I have developed a chosen philosophy that guides me happily down a path paved with angst-ridden choices going where I know not less its final destination.


I imagine many of you of a certain age were thinking perhaps a song more apropros for this post would be this fun, light-hearted one by Edi Brickell. However, I chose not to choose that one, not only because it would be the easier, non-substantive and least impacting choice to make, but mostly because the Blind Melon song leaves me philosophizing over the contrary and indelible feelings of melancholia and hopefulness it buries deep within me.

#prayforthephilosophers

The Purpose of Pain

When it comes to physical pain, it’s purpose is hardly in question: It focuses us to where our immediate attention and action is required.

We accidentally rest our hand on a hot stove top burner and, without our sense of pain, our hand, if it weren’t for our sense of smell, would become cooked well enough to serve up at the next meal.

We could laugh at this, but sadly and horrifically there are some who do not experience the sense of physical pain due to a rare condition known as congenital analgesia.

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The Power of About

I may be mistaken, but it is my belief that we’ve all been to that dark, lonely place at least once or twice in our lives where we, and the lives we have led, seem…

Insignificant.

Less than.

Pointless.

power-of-about

It’s a scary place and one which I suspect, and hope, the majority of us visit only infrequently and fleetingly because our lives are fulfilling and rewarding enough to steer us clear from the depression that can lead us there.

However, I also suspect that there is a significant minority of us who visit this dark, lonely place more often and for longer periods than most since, according to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 19% of the United States’ adult population experience some degree of mental illness throughout the year [1]. And, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States [2].

I, myself, became a frequent visitor of this dark, lonely place not long after I began taking high doses of the steroid prednisone to combat a deadly disease that was destroying my lungs, and one which I was given little chance of surviving.

It was a hard enough to mentally process that my life may soon be ended by an aggressively fatal disease — pretty tough for anyone to process, I would imagine — but couple that bummer news with a steroid that induces psychosis-like side-effects and, yeah… double bummer.

Consequently, it wasn’t long before I found myself spending nearly as much time in that dark, lonely place as I was out of it.

It’s hard to explain what I and my mind were going through whenever I visited there. I’m not sure there is a way to describe it wholly in just a few words. It is both a tangible and intangible feeling. A cold feeling sometimes. A heavy feeling other times. But it was almost always a feeling of pointlessness. A feeling of… Why bother?

I was dying. My body had failed me and I had failed my family. The only thing I felt I was good for now were my less than adequate disability checks. Were I gone, my life insurance payout would have been much more rewarding and helpful for those whom my absence would release from the burdens my illness had placed upon them.

Yeah… I was down there in that indelible darkness of depression pretty deep.

Fortunately for me I had a saving grace — several of them, in fact.

One, the primary one, was a support network of family and friends who loved me, cared for me, and prayed for me.

Another, was that I like to write.

The Writing Hand
The Writing Hand

I began blogging shortly after my leukemia diagnosis. Nothing too deep or introspective — though scared, I was completely confident I was going survive — just updates to keep my friends and family informed of my health and happenings during my treatment.

But months later after learning my lungs were slowly dying away as a side-effect result from my bone marrow transplant, and having to begin a hefty prednisone regiment in an effort to slow the dying process down, my positive perspective on things changed significantly.

Though the drug-induced and drastic mood swings made it difficult to focus, I began to blog more often and about more personal matters. And while I regard my blogging experience during this difficult time as a very beneficial, therapeutic activity — an activity I presume many others regard beneficial as well, for a simple Google search of the term “writing therapy” resulted in around 259,000,000 results — it wasn’t helping me to shake the persistent feeling of irrelevance; of feeling that I others would better off if I were dead.

Fortunately for me, since I was spending more time thinking deeply about my life for my blog, I eventually began tinkering with my blog’s “About” page.

And this tinkering proved to be yet one more saving grace; for it led me on a path to try to discover things about myself that others might find interesting enough to inspire them to read more of my writing.

And once I began thinking in more of a self-promotional, third-person kind of way about my life, I began realizing and rediscovering things about myself that I found to be very special and unique.

For the next week or so, I stopped blogging altogether and, like a gold digger after finding his first valuable nugget, I worked passionately on mining through my past to dig up and write down all the meaningful nuggets I could find.

And when I was finally satisfied that my life was properly represented on the page, I began to craft the long, meaningful list of me into a voice that, when others read it, would be heard distinctly as mine.

When I was finished*, my “About” page was more than just being about me… it was me.

And even now when reading this long and winding written documentary of me, I am filled with a sense of gratitude and purpose so powerful that, even if I were to once again visit that dark, lonely place, I could never do so feeling as if my life were pointless and without meaning.



1. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers
2. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml


*As I live and grow, so too does my “About” page. It will never be finished completely… until I am.

A Meditation on an Introduction’s Second Paragraph as found in “Nature” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Having moved slow and steady through two readings of Nature, with nightly accompaniments of Librivox audio readings that would lull me away to sleep with visions of all the vast universal wonderments dancing in my head, it is now time to sift through my sporadic notes and swirling thoughts to try to make use of what I have come across, as I look to somehow apply to my life all that which Emerson teaches with his complexly simple essays as found in Nature.

However, as I consider such intellectual derring-do, I find myself drawn back to one of the first opportunities for learning the work provides me; one found in a most bold and faith-requiring passage from the introduction:

Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy.

What a wonder of a statement – Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable.

What a brave, perhaps reckless even, proclamation – We must trust the perfection of creation…

Must we?

Do you believe that?

Undoubtedly – without any doubt?

Do I believe that?

As wonderful and bold as this passage may be, alas can it possibly be true?

Can it be possible that the order of things can satisfy completely my curiosity? Can this perfection answer all my questions, from those of the most simple and mundane to those of the most metaphysically profound?

And even if it can be possible, will it?

Only time will tell, I suppose.

Until then, for answers to all my seemingly unanswerable questions, I rely upon the only thing the perfection of creation presently allows me…

And that is my less than perfect Faith.

A Meditation on an Introduction’s Opening Passage as found in “Nature” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?

Here we find Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the opening passage of his introduction to his seminal essay “Nature,” bemoaning the distance he and his generation are from anything Original and True as compared to preceding generations. As he sees it, only through the firsthand experiences and the tales of our forefathers and foremothers have we been able to learn our life’s lessons and traditions. The gleaming highest highs our civilizations are able to reach are only because of the solid foundations built from and with Nature’s sacred mud by the caring and calloused hands of those to whom have gone before us and who now uplift us still.

If the great Emerson, a transcendental man, perhaps the Transcendental Man as he was in possession of a most extraordinary ability to focus and perceive that which the eye of most mortals miss, is shocked by such a revelation, then it seems to this less-than-transcendental and exceedingly mortal man just how far we find our present selves from those God beholding foregoing generations would bring about the death of fright to such a perceptive and feeling man as he.

And it is not just a distance in generational time I am referring to, but also, mostly, a distance in understanding, as perhaps the same could be said of Emerson’s meaning; though as far as he felt his generation was from an understanding of the Original and True, just how much farther away from understanding we of the present are is too hard for me to imagine.

Just what does our generation know of Nature? of God? of the Universe? Just how many more countless sepulchres have we built and how many more countless biographies have we written? Surely we know greatly of nature and of god and of the universe through the words and misdeeds of our spawning and splintering sects and religious disorders, and through the kaleidoscopic lens and the equations of the material, the physical, carried out to the farthest nth of a degree, accessible to only but a few of our most scientific of brains. Yea, ours is but a weak and plastic generation with hardly one of us finding even a germ under the nail let alone a fleck of sacred earthen mud, so far removed from Nature and Her Elements are we.

Like the everlasting trees
Of the most symbolic

Our ancients bare green before us
Full in their lustrous branches
Roots firmed in their foundation
While with the passing breeze
Our limbs naked and thin
We waive

Lo! but look at me. Look at me, me with my naked, thin limbs waiving away my right of birth to ancient spirits more alive long dead than I whose blood still courses hot will every be. I whose blood still courses hot but whose heart has grown cold and without passion for the Original, the True. I lie content each night having yet let another day slip away without once baring my feet and stepping into the grass; without once feeling the raw moonglow on my rusty skin.

But it wasn’t always so. I wasn’t always so distant from the Original and the True. And neither were you, for we were all born of and from the Original and of the True. It is who, in essence, I am and who you are.

We just forgot, that’s all.

We just allowed each passing day to take us farther and farther from who we were born to be.

So much time has
passed since then,
since I last felt raw
moonglow on
my rusty skin,
that I have forgotten
how the breath of night
can upturn a sallow face.

Long ago,
when I could still remember
how to pause,
and how to listen,
and how to breathe,
for more reasons
than just to breathe,
I knew fields
and wood,
and calico aster;
I knew how to kneel,
and how to observe,
and how to bring myself to quiet.

And I knew,
without knowing,
that if I lay
on my back
beneath the reeds
and remained hushed,
as night clouds
floated by,
shadowed and silent,
that my Self
would simply fall
away.

Step Into the Grass, an excerpt
from Poems from the River

As romping youth we did not have to be told how to meditate, how to pray. We just knew. We had no need for such technical terms as spirituality or epiphany or satori, for it was in our unknowing that we were able to truly know them. And now that we know them, we know nothing.

I suppose the question is, then, can we return to our essence? Can we, in our knowledge and understanding, return to the bliss of ignorance, to the wisdom of youth, so that we can come back again, if even just a little closer, to the Original and True.

Are we able to do that, knowing what we know?

Tonight
I’ll bare my feet
and step old and aching
into the caliginous balm
of the cool redemptive night.

A Meditation on a Title and an Introductory Poem as found in “Nature” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

A subtle chain of countless rings
The next unto the farthest brings;
The eye reads omens where it goes;
And speaks all languages of the rose;
And, striving to be man, the worm
Mounts through all the spires of form

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Too often I’ll show little regard to introductions and read through them with hardly reading them at all, my eyes skimming dismissively over the words in an effort to get to “the true essence” of the work. However, as I have resolved to not just read, but to read deeply the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, I have to remember, then, that care needs to be given to each of the words that Emerson had specifically chosen to pen, as he had entrusted each chosen word to convey its part of a broader message that he had, himself, intended to convey. So it is with care and attention that I proceed.

~~~~

Other than the title, the above poem is our first encounter with the essay “Nature,” the first piece presented in The Complete Essays and Other Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson; and, consequently, the first commitment to that which I have resolved myself. But before considering the poem, we mustn’t overlook the essay’s title; for, from it, we can focus more clearly on the meaning of the poem specifically, as well as the body of work writ large.

Hardly can there be a title broader in meaning than “Nature,” for the word encompasses so much: the essence of the Natural Environment – all within the world and all the worlds within the universe; the essence of the Human Environment – all that which the mind thinks and the body feels; as well as the Environment of the Animal, which may or may not include humans, depending on one’s belief. Though broad and ambiguous, it is full of meaning, as any title should be, as it prepares our minds for all the largesse and grandeur that both Nature, Herself, and the mind and poetic ambition of Emerson can account for. The title, therefore, helps us greatly in our discovery, in that it prepares us to read both the poem and the essay with a universal and open mind, where metaphors and allusions are to be found with meaning, and meaning more.

The poem, itself an introduction to the introduction, is both untitled and unattributed. Often we find authors will select poems and quotes from others, mostly those recognized by history as being of the elite authorial class, as a preface or opening to his or her work. These introductions in brief are generally an attempt to provide a broad look into the author’s mind and, hopefully, to the direction that his or her writing will be taking us. However, as it is untitled, and as Emerson’s reputation precedes his work, for he, himself, is regarded by many to be an elite author, it is easy enough to assume that the poem is an original piece by him. Still, the poem remains untitled, which only means that we will have to rely more heavily on its content, looking closely at each sentence and the words within for us to gain of it our fullest appreciation. So with the poem, let us begin.

A subtle chain of countless rings / The next unto the farthest brings;

Right away, the poem’s “subtle chain” announces that in the essay, as in Nature, we should expect revelations of mysteries linked yet boundless; simple in form, perhaps, yet complex and profound in meaning. For the “subtle” or simple chain, a common yet powerful metaphorical device, enlightens us with its “countless rings” – its circles of life – by alluding to the eternal fact that Nature in all her majesty enjoins all together in common constituency within her universal realm, from the most diminutive to the most grand, “unto the farthest brings” – to the infinite’s endless end.

The eye reads omens where it goes;

Sad would be the soul who hasn’t walked even the shortest way into the wood or out into the empty, expansive field, to where everything slows down to quiet and allows one to hear Nature’s call, be it through the creaking sway of the trees or the hum of the wind upon the grass. For once where She Her presence reveals, so, too, will Her omens, signs signalling the nature of our Collective and Universal Soul through the mundane: acorns scattered on the wooded floor signals life’s endless cycle of birth and death, as the mist of the passing clouds signals the transformative and transient nature of life itself.

And speaks all languages of the rose;

While not all of us speak the same language, we all can look at the rose and equally understand its beauty. And, regardless of all the many different ways we may express it in words, we all have that same feeling of awe and humility as we arrive at that deep and soulful understanding of just how small our presence is when looking up towards that grand vastness above filled with its countless twinkling diamonds of light.

And, striving to be man, the worm / Mounts through all the spires of form

The line suggests that the worm in its striving is emulating our behavior; however, I read it as further suggesting that from the worm’s behavior we have learned to strive, from the worm we have evolved, and as the worm forever works through all forms of nature – be it the soil, the wood, the apple – to realize its true nature, we, too, forever work “through all spires of form” – be they the physical or metaphysical – continuous “unto the farthest brings,” as do links of an endless “subtle chain,” in a most noble and enduring of effort to realize our own true nature.

~~~~

With this meditation on a one-word title and one-sentence poem we discover that, while both may appear simple in form, both hold complex and profound messages that are, we must assume, a herald’s call as to the further complexities and profundities that await us.


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Edition 003-15 is germane