i have a cause

30 04 2009

i’m not much for voicing my opinions (except to those of you who VOLUNTARILY read it), because i feel that each person’s particular way of looking at something, however objective the subject may seem, is almost necessarily fine.  okay.  tomato/potahhto and all that.  what do i care?  the only time i bristle in general is when someone’s beliefs and actions affect adversely the way another person chooses (or doesn’t choose) to be.  obviously, i’m talking big topics here–human rights and police-state stuff, mainly–but on these topics there are so many voices that i never feel the need to make myself particularly heard.  i simply count myself among the numbers that are happy to live and let live, and voice my arguments when in a contained situation with no more than a couple of those who believe that those different from them are intrinsically inferior in whatever way.

now, to immediately contradict myself a bit… i rather do enjoy curtly pointing out to certain “religious” people when their behavior is inconsistent with that which jesus taught.  of course, it rarely bothers them, but that’s the fun of it.  two fundamental teachings they really seem to hate to be reminded about are judging not (god’s job!) and turning the other cheek.  challenging them to those tricks out of their daily constitution is like removing the jam from their proverbial doughnuts.  they are not fans.

anyway, though it’s too late to make a long explanation short, the point is that i don’t like to espouse my beliefs because most people don’t like to discuss differences.  they prefer to steel their anti-sentiments and dig a trench from which to hurl angry dissension.  fine!  i don’t engage.

but twice lately i’ve come across what seems to be a trend that scares the living daylights out of me… or creeps me out… or something.  you see, my 12-year-old nephew has recently been awakened to the world of INTERNET, and, of course, it didn’t take him long to get himself to myspace.   it was almost cute at first.  he asked me to help him put skulls all over his profile, and then animal skeletons, and blood and stuff.  it was all good fun, and while it struck me as a colossal waste of time, i sure can’t judge, seeing as how i…. well, you know me.  you know how i do.

BUT…  he has a total of 19 friends so far, and while i can’t say it bothers me that 17 of them are girls, a disturbing trend that i see when watching him navigate hisspace (furtively, over his shoulder) is that easily 90% of these 12-year old girls he has as friends have the same basic profile picture:  they’re gazing up at the cameras that they’re holding high above their heads, wearing tank tops, and leaning waaaaay over.  they are attempting to maximize and flaunt their pre-adolescent cleavage!  like—all of them!  i don’t judge, i don’t, and i don’t profess to say what’s “right” and what’s “not,” but this is an issue i cannot overlook.

oh, wait—i don’t mean to say i can’t overlook pre-teen boobs.  i was just seeing what my nephew was up to, man.  i’m not a pervert.  you know what i mean!

i have a cause!  i have no idea what to do about it!  i can’t talk about it much!  it looks bad when i do, i’m quickly learning!  i guess all i can do is ask you four nice people to alert any young girls you know to the possible inappropriateness of this phenomenon. stop them!  don’t let them relegate themselves to “item” status so flippin’ young, or ever, if they get their heads about them.  they don’t know what they’re doing yet beyond getting attention, that’s all i’m saying.

i’m no prude.  really!  i just feel that this trend is not entirely okay and maybe some people need to know about it.  oh, but not perverts.  dang, this is a tough topic for reals.

am i a just prude?


emotions are dumb/no wait kissing!

28 04 2009

it’s experiment time.  experimentation time?  whatever dude.

i have been busy writing something interesting for a few days, but i decided i should hop on here and feed the monkey a little more today.  you like drivel, right?

so the experiment is born of this:  i started writing about 30 minutes ago, and i was writing about how people take their emotional content to be the gospel truth of a situation, and in doing so, they only strengthen their (usually somewhat baseless) belief in emotional reaction.  that is, when something happens, people love to take how they feel as their indicator as to the value of the event.  it’s a thoughtless act.  a pointless act.  this is why there is something called perspective. we’ve all been overtaken by our emotions, and as bad or good as that moment is, we all know that after some time, we feel differently about the situation.  anyway, i digress.  i was whipping out example after example, proving the HELL out of the point that emotion has its place, but it’s unbelievably overemphasized by people.

after a while, i realized i was just kind of having fun being a crotchety old man, which is not having fun at all.  i was blogbitching, preaching, prattling, plernverding (don’t look up that awkward word.  i was making sure the spellcheck was working… and it isn’t, so the word stays).  so it started to sound like sour grapes to me, and that’s not what i want to offer to you four nice people.

experiment:  can i spontaneously write about something light or happy on the fly, when obviously the evening suits itself in black pajamas?  it’s mental jujitsu to be sure, and i’m not as flexible as i was when i was a young man, but i’m game.  a few days ago i was thinking about kissing and how i liked kissing in general, so that is my topic.  to do it justice, i shall try.


do you like kissing?  i do!  you may too–people generally do, i think.  but have you ever turned down a kiss?  i have too!  but if it’s kind of awesome to kiss someone, why wouldn’t you want to do it whenever the opportunity presented itself?  it must not be simple, because i can think of some very attractive ladies i declined to kiss (no regret?).  oh–i like kissing ladies better than guys. don’t ask me why.  i didn’t really choose.  if you prefer one or the other, you can keep your preference in mind while considering.

as a person, i have to say that i don’t remember spending much time thinking about why i wanted to kiss.  it was a compulsion, in a way.  it was something i wanted to do but didn’t have sound reasoning to back it up.  lucky for some of my high school classmates, the lack of a foundation for kiss-want didn’t keep me from the game.  okay, that’s enough of my wanton jackassing about for this post (probably).

i have turned down kissings for many different reasons.  attractiveness, sure.  attraction (different), yes.  location (church makes me feel gross).  once my great aunt was watching from a window.  i actually heard her say “ooooh, dougie’s out there with a girl!”  i mean, the window was open.

which is all to say that a good kiss requires (for me at least) good circumstances, a nice, easy way… a good moment.  because that’s what a good kiss is all about.  it’s a moment.

it reminds me of the best kissings of all–my favorite kissings.  the moment builds slowly because you’ve been hanging out with someone you wouldn’t not kiss for a while.  it’s been a light, jovial day/evening.  there’s laughing, usually the result of making fun of someone’s clothing or inability to know how ridiculous they are, like the time some girl told me very dramatically to “take a long walk off a short pier!”  there’s the cursory eye contact, and the moment after when your smiles simultaneously shift from being about the joking to the realization that you’re in a really nice spot with someone you’d like to kiss maybe.  as soon as that realization happens, you both glance back, and you’re both still smiling, and you slowly begin to each cover your teeth with your lips–you shift them a little to try to moisten them a bit (not too much!).  your eyes get to communicate then that you both recognize that the pause is silly, but necessary, and you’re both thinking the same thing, and it’s making you both happy to think about it.  from one of you will escape a barely audible increase in exhalation and perhaps you both then nod your heads forward, ever subtly supplying the momentum to the kiss.  and you’ve both registered your impending collision, so the shoulders can come, too, and your eyes close…. your eyes close because they’ve done their work, and finally, all four other senses get to have their part in the moment.

and that’s what makes a kiss so great–you are both 100% invested in precisely the same moment, in precisely the same activity, for precisely the same purpose.  you don’t find synchronicity like that with a person in any other circumstance–it’s a positive singularity in the workings of the universe, and you’re there to experience it, and you get to have someone else with whom to experience it.  you crack your eyelids just a little to see it from beyond the immersion.  to bring you back just a bit.  it’s an amazing event, one you can never be sure you’ll again encounter.

but you’re not thinking about that.  you’re not thinking about anything.  you’re just there, using all five of your worldly senses in a single moment of nice.
well, i changed the tone, i guess.  but i got a little sappy.  points off.  lots of points.  i think i’ve upset myself, actually.  i got a little caught up in the moment, and, to be frank, there’s a girl i will probably never kiss that i was thinking about kissing, so i cloyed unrepentantly.  just to be clear, the reason i’ll probably never kiss here isn’t sinister.  it’s not a family member or anything.  just a girl i have thought would be nice to kiss is all.

awkward mom times

24 04 2009

Here is the TRUTH.  I don’t think that much about my childhood, because when I do, it’s confusing to me.  Every now and then, I get the idea that I’d like to get to know my family better, and then I come to Goldsboro (hometown; home of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base…  a joke so obvious I didn’t get it until 11th grade) to give it a shot.  I always presume it’s going to be a relatively easy task, because I’m a good communicator in general, but then it is extremely the opposite when I arrive.  Particularly with MOM.

Mom confuses me.  I don’t really remember her talking to me about much growing up, and she doesn’t seem to want to talk about much with me now.  What she does want to talk about is usually straight off the ol’ TV (she’s newly retired, which has exacerbated her TV junkie behavior).  For instance, when I told her I was soon to drive across the country and would be stopping to hike in various places, especially (hopefully) the Grand Canyon, she told me to be extra careful because there was special on a few weeks before where a couple who met a fellow hiker who invited them to have some food, but they had other plans so couldn’t, but then he met another couple who accepted his invitation and he shot and killed both of them.  Or the time I was shooting basketball in the driveway and left the garage door open, and she upbraided me because she’d seen on the news how criminals cruise neighborhoods for open garages, so they can see if there’s anything worth stealing inside, and how I was making us a target for crime.  Or the time I was trying to buy a record off the internet and the server was down so I couldn’t send payment, and she said she wouldn’t be surprised if someone had stolen my identity and I didn’t have enough money to pay for it anymore.

You get the point.  Sorry, there are just a lot of good examples.  It’s really sad to me, actually.  My brother also has her convinced that everyone who walks down the street in her neighborhood is either on their way to buy crack or is running supplies to make crystal meth.  I think she thinks her home is the last safe place on earth.  I try to talk her out of watching so much TV and coming out to do stuff sometimes.  The other week, I told her I’d take her to the zoo, but she said it was too cold and the animals wouldn’t be lively.  I offered again this morning, and she said it was too hot.

The point is, mom and I never seem to be able to talk about anything.  Particularly about topics of a personal nature.  She gets really uncomfortable when talking about girls I date especially.  My previous girlfriend, she only met twice, and you’d have to know her well to appreciate how nervous she got.  The second time was infinitely better, though, at the seafood restaurant, she did, as the girl was looking over the menu, blurt out that she should “have anything she wanted because she was so skinny and it wouldn’t surprise her to know that she was anorexic.”  When I laughed and promised that the girl definitely didn’t have an eating disorder, she attacked my lack of concern a little angrily.  “What?!  It’s a major problem with girls these days!”

Anyway, I broke up with said girl a few months ago, and I didn’t intend not to tell my family, but they never ask about anything, and I never found myself really feeling like bringing up the topic and then answering a bunch of questions pertaining to the breakup’s connection to her eating problems (which, again, don’t exist).  So it never came up.  The family, you know, they had to know something was amiss, because I haven’t hung out in Goldsboro for more than a couple of days since college, and I’ve been here for a few weeks now.  At some point, I said something, I forget what, that set the gears in motion, though; I could tell when mom “knew” something was up but didn’t know how to broach the topic.  And I, on account of a family-borne communication deficiency, for some reason refused to help her out.  I let her twist in the wind and eventually work out a way to discuss it.  I was NO HELP.

Now, the ex has my cat, and she has to have, him, my beloved buddy, because I don’t have anywhere I can keep him.  So mom rather cleverly started by mentioning him.  “When’s the last time you saw Wesley, Doug?”  –A good while ago, mom (no help!).  “Wesley’s not even going to recognize him next time you get down (Charleston, SC, where she lives) there to see him.”  –I think he will.  He lived with me for years, and we shared a bed (no help!).  Yesterday, she even said “When’s the next time you’re going down to Charleston?”  Pretty direct, for mom.  Still, I was NO HELP… “I have no idea.  It’ll probably be a while since I’m about to leave on my cross-country trip.”

So I was kind of jerky.  I don’t know why.  I didn’t want to talk about it with my awkward family–that’s the best explanation I have.  But I got my come-uppins tonight.  Mom got dressed and ready to go out to dinner, which she never does.  I thought it strange, but I played along.  It’s really the only time we ever face each other and have to talk for more than 5 minutes at a time.  So we went Sizzler!

The conversation was halting and strange, and then we came to this:

Me:  I was reading about how the human brain is related to lower animal brains today, and what separates us mostly is the makeup of the outer layers and their highly specialized functions.

Mom:  I don’t believe we came from lizards or apes or any of that shit, and anyone who tries to tell me different is full of it.

(awkward silence)

Me:  This tea is watered down.  Or really weak to begin with.

Mom:  So are you still dating Heather?  (the girl’s name was Lauren)

Me:  Umm.  No.  Not since 1997.  (this is true.  I dated a Heather from 1996-7.  Still, it’s NO HELP)

Mom:  What’s her name?  I don’t know who Heather is.

Me:  Yes you do.  She’s from high school, and I dated her in college for a while.  You met her many times.

Mom:  Didn’t leave an impression.  Are you still dating the girl I’m talking about?  You know who I mean.

Me:  Lauren.  And no.  Not at all.

Mom:  Why not at all?

Me:  Why at all?

Mom, looking away:  My tea’s weak too.  The tea is usually good here.


17 04 2009

i am a better person than i was ten years ago.  by far, speaking relativistically.  by relativistically, i mean to say that if you looked at a pair of dung beetles and knew that one was by far a superior dung beetle to the next, would it seem like such a big deal to you?  that’s how the universe looks at people, i’m sure.  still, if i look at myself ten years ago, and then consider myself now, i like me better.  i would hope that’s how everyone feels each time they offer themselves a moment to look over their shoulder.

i rooted through old photographs last night, and in doing so, i came to a realization.  i didn’t dislike the young gentleman in the photos at all; he was a good kid.  a few minor character flaws and confused ideas were his primary problems.  he’s gained a little hard-earned wisdom and learned to handle certain situations a little better, and that’s good news.  still, what’s also obvious are the ways in which we are still similar but which i probably consider to be less gratifying.

again, it’s not that i don’t like myself or have timeline-guided expectations of growth and understanding (anymore).  i guess, in the end, the “problem” is that i am a natural observer, thinker, weigher of sides.  i am a libra, if that helps to make any sense of it.  it doesn’t to me.  one of the things that bothered me about the 21-year old kid in the pictures is one of the things which we have in common still today:  i think far more than i act.

even in obvious ACT situations.  my nature prefers that i try to take a detached view, to act as though i’m not even there.  to simply map out the best course of action and… i don’t know… be satisfied at that?

it has its advantages, and i do not regret my nature in the least.  i tend to understand people’s problems well, and am generally well-trusted by others to be thoughtful and non-judgmental when they present me with problems.  i tend to understand both sides of an issue well, and i like to hope that i give good advice, but i have to admit that i can be impatient in doing so.  people aren’t always emotionally prepared to understand a situation in a way beyond their personal understanding of it, and even when i know they can resent a viewpoint not entirely sympathetic to theirs, i tend to give it to them anyway.  whatever, that’s another topic altogether.

so that’s it?  is it my role simply to be 80% observer, 20% other in my life?  it suits me, i know, and it functions for others as well, but i’ll admit that i think sometimes about being more proactive, which sometimes means being less afraid.  that’s a change i can get behind.  to be a little more daring and participatory in making the mix at which i have become so adept at deconstructing during and after the fact.  i have to say, this is a big reason i’m making myself do this solo drive across the country with so many stops along the way.  if i force myself to be the lone actor in my narrative, i shouldn’t get to lounge in the comfort of my observation pants very much.

maybe in ten years, i’ll go through some old, old bloggings and see what a different person i was back then, and be glad to have progressed as i have.

it’s worth the wait… and you can have it now

14 04 2009
What makes you think I wont cut you?

What makes you think I won't cut you?

I went to see the Appleseed Cast tonight.  They were good, but as always, the sound at the 506 was not my favorite.  Is it just me, or do they hire aggressive, confused 15-year-old boys to work the soundboard?  Dudes, cranking all of the volumes up to 10 doesn’t sound “super tight,” okay?  It hurts.  It always hurts, and it doesn’t usually sound very good.

Anywho, before I went, I was able to cajole a friend of mine into coming out for a beer at the wine bar.  Enter Chris, who used to do my bidding at the dental school.  I’ve always enjoyed Chris because, among other reasons, he’s got a streak of modification mania that is not unlike mine.  He’s got something in him that won’t allow for accepting something as it is.  He hacks his iPod, he mods his consoles, and he generally loves to figure out how something he has works and make it work better.  He has an appreciation for the mechanics and potentials of things that many people, particularly people of his age group (or even mine), simply don’t.

So today, when I asked him what he’s been up to lately, I was a little surprised to hear him say “straight blades.”  I actually never got an answer when I asked him how he developed this fascination, but Chris has lately been into shaving his face (he swears that’s all) with a straight blade razor.  Old school.  He’s been buying old ones for restoration, which he’s been enjoying.  This isn’t the technological trickery I’m used to hearing about from Chris, which made me all the more fascinated with his newest hobby.  I mean, nobody uses straight blades anymore.  I can’t think of anyone besides my late grandfather whom I’ve ever known to own one.  I even have an electric that I quite like, though I have lately been shaving with my safety blade just because I enjoy the ritual of it.

And that’s what Chris likes so much about the straight blade.  It requires attention.  Skill.  Touch.  Sure, he told me, it takes him 10 more minutes to shave than his friends, but he gets to enjoy it more.  It’s not something you expect a 21-year-old guy to be extolling, but there he was, explaining that he found a measure of serious gratification from the deliberate effort of shaving like they did in the 50’s and beyond.

I was very excited to hear about his discovery.  We’re all so spoiled by the speed with which we can do things.  When is the last time you pulled out a dictionary to look up a word?  Have you ever been annoyed because a flight to the opposite coast takes six whole hours?  Astride our tedious complaints are a slew of continually invented products meant to capitalize by assuaging our petty annoyances (snuggies are blankets you can wear!).  People are losing touch with the sheer enjoyment that can be derived from taking our time and paying unbroken attention to the activities in which we’re engaging.

I mentioned to Chris that I had been buying my music on vinyl for a while now, and it’s not because I’m an audio snob who thinks the analogue recordings sound more rich or pure or deep or anything else; I really enjoy the deliberate action necessary in listening:  physically browsing and selecting an album, removing the disc from the sleeve, cleaning the record, placing it on the turntable, gently dropping the needle to the groove.  It is a ritual of intent that pleases me so much.  I could have much more easily just pressed play on my iPod.  But then, somehow, the music becomes as disposable as the action to start it was effortless.  The investment of time and effort that goes into playing a record makes for a personal payoff that seems greater than the sum of its parts.

So does straight blade shaving (Chris has promised me one of his refurbished blades!), and changing the oil in your car, or learning a musical instrument.  I don’t think it’s too dramatic to say that making an investment of craftsmanship into mundane or slow-to-reward tasks lends an air of personal satisfaction and accomplishment to the process.

When you take the time to do something that you could otherwise have done in an instant, you’re opening up an exchange of intent and meaning that you would have never discovered otherwise.  It’s why some of us love to work on our own cars while others of us can only be annoyed that our cars aren’t running properly.  It’s why some of us value preparing our food while others would prefer to hit the drive-thru on the way home and have dinner out of the way.

We all find it a little bothersome that we have so many tasks to do in a day.  So much of our lives is given to the maintenance of ourselves and our things that it’s easy to sometimes resent these necessary rituals, looking for whatever device will help us obviate as much of our effort as is possible.  But hey, you could as easily slow down and look to discover a way to enjoy the moments of your day, moving from one activity to the next feeling satisfied that your success was well-earned and brought you just a little more sense of pleasure and accomplishment.

big news

8 04 2009

i have big news for you:  you are hundreds, maybe thousands or millions or billions, of times larger than you were when you awoke this morning.  so is your shower.  so is your kitchen.  and so is every other room in which you’ve been during your life, and every other room in which you’ll be later in your life, none of which has cared in the least whether it was you there, or someone else, or no one else.  but if you’ve ever made marks against a doorframe to chart your growth, or been measured at a doctor’s office, you are immeasurably larger than when those measurements were taken.  also, those measurements are immeasurably larger.

everything is speeding up, and the faster something goes, the more mass it has.  that doesn’t mean that its size is any different, but it does mean that the observer has the opportunity to observe that the size is different.  check yourself now.  and now.  any difference?  the answer is yes, you’ve rolled into another part of space-time, or curved off for one theoretical reason or another, but i can assure you with all the confidence that comes from being and having been for so long that you are growing at an alarming rate, and so is your shower, and your kitchen.  so is this screen.  so are your eyes, and this corrects the unbelievable distance growing between them and this screen.

so much lies, and warbles, and hangs, unseen between your eyes and this screen.

it’s confusing!

3 04 2009

so here we are, in a generally mutually agreed-up reality.  did we get here because reality is just that objective and what we all see is what we all get, or is there something more collusive behind the scenes?  after all, you could barely ask for a more regimented introduction to the world–every culture has thousands of normative childrearing activities, objects, and guidelines.  every culture has a relatively well-defined path to adulthood, as well.  i’m not blaming cultures or civilizations!  this makes sense, coming to generally agreed-upon methods of nurture, growth, and living and abiding by them.

likewise, who could blame the individuals?   when one is born, one knows nothing about the world (probably), and must be shown a way.  but what if the way that one is shown is believed to be the only way?  can’t we all agree at least that there are an infinite number of ways?  many of our cultures don’t generally like to admit it, but i’m prepared to say definitively that it is true.  it’s the source of any dissonance within a culture. every differing opinion is a notch in the “different view of the world” voting box.  if we’re all seeing the “same” things and still don’t agree as to what they are or what they mean, it’s explained as people being different.  but why are they different?  it’s because their reality is different.  if we have so many differing realities within such a highly homogenized set of cultures, why is it so surprising to think that we could all be living in drastically different worlds?

i’ve become convinced of the highly subjective nature of reality several times in my life, most recently (and possibly profoundly) through my Vipassana meditation.  things i “knew” were torn to ridiculous shreds at my feet, ideas i had were exposed to be the ridiculous patchwork of assimilative “rationality” that they were.  in short, all of the inconsistencies i’d found in my world that had previously angered and upset me became punchlines in the joke that is each human’s belief in a universally known reality.  it was weird.  i learned that it was important to view each and every thing, event, person, and thought with a beginner’s mind; that is, to try to forget anything i’d been taught about anything and to try to see each new experience for whatever it was in the starkest of ways.  even more importantly, i had to learn not to accept even my new concepts when next an opportunity arose.  it became clear that one’s memory, while not the enemy in seeing things as they are, wasn’t exactly there to help.

BUT!  in a way, doing this properly is like cutting yourself out of  your own body.  all of my understanding about the world is predicated upon the same thing that my understanding of this “new way of seeing things” is–and it’s the world!  none of us knows anything (rationally speaking) about anything but what we’ve learned from this world, and that includes any “insights” we’ve had while meditating or thinking or anything else.  so i’ve formed a belief, an idealistic way of living, based on experiences i’ve had while operating in the very framework that i apparently hope to transcend (in a way)??  it’s madness, i say.  and it’s confusing.

physicists are routinely frustrated by their work in particle physics, because they now know that the things that happen that make our world work the way it does are, by their own observations and participations, beyond the scope of understanding of the human brain.  their understanding of space-time denies the possibility of time’s existence in the way that we understand it.  great speed slows time down and increases the mass of the traveling matter.  particles are predicted to exist in far more dimensions than the ones we agree that we can experience—three.  it’s all beyond them, and they admit it.  they continue to work and describe it in terms we can understand because they know they don’t have any other way of doing it.  they’re stuck in this 3-dimensional world, and so they do the best they can, knowing that it’s inadequate (for now) to truly understand what they’re doing.  as Dr. John von Neumann, Hungarian mathematician, explained to molecular physicist Dr. Felix Smith, “Young man, in mathematics you don’t understand things, you just get used to them.”

so, are we really trained out of our other birthrights of understanding by a culture so impressed with its knowledge of the world?  is it possible that we are able to access other understandings, but it’s made more difficult by our largely scientific/rational approach to the world as it is?  could the Buddha and Edgar Cayce really see “the world without time” and understand life on a much grander scale because they were able to [insert understanding of “reality” transcendence here]?

does the fact that i am now able to routinely and definitively stop any impending sneeze without so much as an aftertremor of sneeze-feeling mean that i am getting closer to controlling my reality, or does the fact that i can do no such thing with hiccups mean that i am forever prisoner to the agreed-upon dictates of the reality of our world?  umm…  you decide.