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Monthly Archives: June 2019

Anywhere But Here

There are things about all of us that are so painful to face we will do anything to avoid having to do so.

The thing is, you can’t move forward without facing the truth of whatever it is you can’t bring yourself to look at.

Good luck with that.

The Unwelcome Visitor (Scenes 1 and 2)

A Short Play (or something) by David Thomas Peacock

Scene 1

I know who you are… I said.

Is that so? You replied, looking somewhat surprised.

What? You think I haven’t been paying attention? You’re not exactly easy to miss. In fact, my first memory of you was when you came into my grandmothers life. I was just a kid, but my eyes were wide open. I may not have understood what was happening, but I filed that shit away for future reference.

Well, I guess no introductions are needed then. Besides, we’ll be getting to know each other better real soon – I always look forward to this part. But let’s be clear about something up front – I’m not the bad guy. You may think I am now, but before we’re done you’ll understand how wrong you were.

Not the bad guy? Really? You do remember we’ve met before? 

Yeah, but let’s not forget how that turned out. All in all the outcome was pretty good as I remember it. You’ve said so yourself, many times.

OK – I have said that, but we both know I was just trying to reframe my perspective. I mean, WTF? Once you show up all hell breaks loose and everyone involved suddenly has no choice but to deal with you. That was just my way.

Fair enough – I was actually pretty impressed with your response. Most people just try to ignore me. You seemed to grasp the situation pretty quickly. I admired the fact that you didn’t break.

Well, thanks, but I kind of felt like my back was against the wall and my only choice was to either cave in or just try to remain as clear-headed as I could. I’ve always been good at that. But I do understand fear, and I don’t think it’s a weak response to try and ignore you. Dumb maybe – but not weak. No one’s ever ready for you.

That is true.

You know, this may sound obvious, but after your last visit, I realized something important. A few things actually.

Such as?

Well, for one thing, I learned that it pays to remember the outcome of your arrival is never certain. I mean, sooner or later you are going to show up and not leave, and we both know how that ends. But sometimes, like with me, you eventually pack up your bags and split. And then when you’re gone, life kind of starts up again and you get a second chance. I guess this is a natural part of life, but the first time it happens it’s a rude fucking awakening.

Keep going…

Ok, I also learned that we are all stronger than we think. I really believe that. I mean, sure, some people are obviously stronger than others, but there’s nothing like coming face to face with your arrival to show you what you’re made of. It’s kind of good to learn that, ‘cuz sometimes you surprise yourself. Sometimes we’re stronger than we thought.

You were looking at me intently, and clearly not in a hurry. I sensed you wanted me to go on, so I did.

The confusing thing is, whenever you show up, it’s always different. Not like a disguise exactly – you just seem so randomly unpredictable. I think this confuses people. Like they don’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. I also think people are confused about your relationship with your boss.

Hey – she’s not my boss. We work in two different departments.

Come on, you know what I mean. You do seem to be the advance man for her, always showing up before she does. Well, almost always – there are rare exceptions where she just seems to appear out of nowhere. I always felt those people were kind of lucky – no insult intended.

None taken. I just want to make it clear that she doesn’t give me orders. She’s a fucking scene-stealer, always a diva. Making me seem like a warm-up act. There’s no art in what she does – she’s a goddamn one-trick pony. It’s like everyone loves the big finish to a fireworks show, but the real art is in the buildup.

Sorry – I see I touched a nerve here, that wasn’t my intention. It’s just that a huge part of the drama of dealing with you involves whether or not she shows up. But I do agree that your job is way more involved than hers.

See – here’s the thing – it may seem like I’m only here to inflict pain and suffering, but that’s not really the point. Looking for a point, or a reason, is asking the wrong question. There is no fucking point, and even if there was, knowing it wouldn’t change a goddamn thing. Humans are always looking for an explanation, like somehow having an answer would make them feel better. There are things that happen in life that have no explanation – they just are. Humans, for example.

But you do see why they do this, right? They are completely panicked, you show up and suddenly mortality is no longer an abstract concept. It’s fucking scary as hell! They don’t know what to do, so they look for some explanation.

Yeah, I get that. But once you get over the initial shock, you’re left with some very big questions – real questions, not this “Why me?” bullshit. Questions about the meaning of it all, about how you will spend whatever time you have left. Most people fall back on whatever religious beliefs they were exposed to growing up. Others will try to answer the questions themselves. And therein lies the point – the real fucking point.

Wait, you’re saying that you are there for a purpose?

Purpose schmurpase, I’m just here. What I am trying to say is that my presence is an  opportunity, not a death sentence. BTW, you’re all dying, from the moment you’re born. Your just not aware of it until I show up.

Suddenly I hear my phone vibrating – it’s my wife, texting me Dinners ready. I look at you and say We’ll continue this later.

Smiling, you respond Whenever you want motherfucker – I’m not going anywhere.

Scene 2

 Jesus, you are fucking exhausting – your presence is just relentless. I don’t see how anyone could possibly ignore you.

I told you – I’m not going anywhere.

I mean, I really don’t get it – well maybe I do. People can pretend not to acknowledge all kinds of things, obviously that’s not news. But for me, once you’ve made your presence known, you are just haunting me all the goddamn time. Even when I’m sleeping, you seem to be in my dreams. It’s fucking exhausting.

Maybe I’m trying to tell you something…

What? Like I’m dying?

I already told you you’re all dying.

I know, but it’s one thing to say that as a clever observation, and it’s another thing entirely to actually realize you are dying. Not metaphorically, but for fucking real. It’s terrifying!

Hey, I never said it was going to be easy – but then really, what in life is ever easy? Isn’t it sometimes hard just to wake up in the morning? And don’t you all, on some deep level, understand that your life is finite?

Yeah – I guess I just don’t feel like I’m ready to go.

Go? Did I say you’re going somewhere?

No, but you know what I mean. I just feel like I haven’t done everything I wanted to. Like I’m not  finished yet.

First of all, you have no idea what the outcome of my visit will be. And second of all, negative thinking isn’t going to help anything.

No, I know you’re right – I’m just trying to wrap my head around how not to be negative. I mean, I’m atheist for Christ’s sake! I don’t have anything to fall back on here. Even if your visit doesn’t end terminally, you’re still exposing holes in my personal belief system.

Now you’re on to something – keep going…

I guess it all comes down to what happens when you die. I’m not sure I have any credible answer for that.

Why do you need to?

Because the only way to face death without fear is feel like there was some meaning to life, and if we just die and then we’re food for worms, what was the fucking point?

See, now we’re getting somewhere. You’re actually starting to think about this. So what do you know about life?

OK – there seems to be a beginning and an end. The idea of heaven and hell is just ridiculous, I’m not a fucking cretin. So I think we can throw that shit out. But if we’re going deep, I may be thinking too simplistically. I mean – a beginning and an end? Sounds too linear – didn’t Einstein prove that time could bend?

Yeah…

Well I know that the moment someone dies, there is some kind of energy exchange. If you’ve been around death as much as I have it’s very fucking clear that when someone dies, energy has left the body. Like who they were was some kind of energy…

Keep going…

OK, if we look at science, doesn’t the first law of thermodynamics state that energy can neither be created nor destroyed?

Yes…

So then, if who we are is some manifestation of energy, and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, then what happens to our energy when we die?

Now we’re getting somewhere! You see, I’m not death, I’m the one who takes you there – and if you listen, I can teach you along the way. That’s why I’m here.

Just then, my phone rings. Looking at it, I see it’s my doctor. Fuck, I said. I’m sorry, I’ve got to get this.

No problem.

Yes? I said tentatively. Listing intently, maybe more intently than I’ve ever listened before, I hear the doc say It was a false positive. Sorry to put you through that…

I wanted to jump up and down and scream with joy, but instead I thanked him and hung up. Then I jumped up and down, screaming with joy. After a minute or so, I realized I was alone.

Smiling, I thought you were right. I now know something I didn’t before, and it was big. I didn’t yet have any answers, but I felt like a door was opening.

Everything in this life teaches us something – I was sure of that.

Why Everyone Should Write

Tomorrow I will post the finished version of “The Unwelcome Visitor.” I woke up this morning and realized how it should end and what it was about. But I digress – here’s why you should write: because the process of doing so mandates you learn more about yourself and your awareness of the world you live in. Whether anyone else reads it is kind of incidental. Ultimately it’s for you.

For example, when I started writing this piece, I simply wanted to write some dialog. So I just started it as a conversation between two characters not knowing who they were. Very quickly I realized who they were but had no idea where the conversation was going (which I guess is a good description of any interesting conversation).

But as I’m listening to them talk in my head, it becomes clear what they’re talking about. It’s obviously something my mind is thinking about, even if I’m not overtly aware of it – and that’s the whole point. I’m trying to figure shit (life) out, and writing helps me do it.

It helps me solidify my ideas and see the fallacy of bad thinking. It lets me construct little worlds where I can explore different constructs in my mind.

But most of all it’s fun – and how many things are fun and teach you something about yourself at the same time?

The Unwelcome Visitor (Part 1)

Note: This is an unfinished piece that I’m working on; it started out as an attempt to write some dialogue, without really thinking about it this is what came out.

It’s clearly part of a larger work, I’m just not sure yet what that larger work is.

Until I figure that out, here you go…

Scene one

I know who you are… I said.

Is that so? You replied, looking somewhat surprised.

What? You think I haven’t been paying attention? You’re not exactly easy to miss. In fact, my first memory of you was when you came into my grandmothers life. I was just a kid, but my eyes were wide open. I may not have understood what was happening, but I filed that shit away for future reference.

Well, I guess no introductions are needed then. Besides, we’ll be getting to know each other better real soon – I always look forward to this part. But let’s be clear about something up front – I’m not the bad guy. You may think I am now, but before we’re done you’ll understand how wrong you were.

Not the bad guy? Really? You do remember we’ve met before?

Yeah, but let’s not forget how that turned out. All in all the outcome was pretty good as I remember it. You’ve said so yourself, many times.

OK – I have said that, but we both know I was just trying to reframe my perspective. I mean, WTF? Once you show up all hell breaks loose and everyone involved suddenly has no choice but to deal with you. That was just my way.

Fair enough – I was actually pretty impressed with your response. Most people just try to ignore me. You seemed to grasp the situation pretty quickly. I admired the fact that you didn’t break.

Well, thanks, but I kind of felt like my back was against the wall and my only choice was to either cave in or just try to remain as clear-headed as I could. I’ve always been good at that. But I do understand fear, and I don’t think it’s a weak response to try and ignore you. Dumb maybe – but not weak. No one’s ever ready for you.

That is true.

You know, this may sound obvious, but after your last visit, I realized something important. A few things actually.

Such as?

Well, for one thing, I learned that it pays to remember the outcome of your arrival is never certain. I mean, sooner or later you are going to show up and not leave, and we both know how that ends. But sometimes, like with me, you eventually pack up your bags and split. And then when you’re gone, life kind of starts up again and you get a second chance. I guess this is a natural part of life, but the first time it happens it’s a rude fucking awakening.

Keep going…

OK, I also learned that we are all stronger than we think. I really believe that. I mean, sure, some people are obviously stronger than others, but there’s nothing like coming face to face with your arrival to show you what you’re made of. It’s kind of good to learn that, ‘cuz sometimes you surprise yourself. Sometimes we’re stronger than we thought.

You were looking at me intenttly, and clearly not in a hurry. I sensed you wanted me to go on, so I did.

The confusing thing is, whenever you show up, it’s always different. Not like a disguise exactly – you just seem so randomly unpredictable. I think this confuses people. Like they don’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. I also think people are confused about your relationship with your boss.

Hey – she’s not my boss. We work in two different departments.

Come on, you know what I mean. You do seem to be the advance man for her, always showing up before she does. Well, almost always – there are rare exceptions where she just seems to appear out of nowhere. I always felt those people were kind of lucky – no insult intended.

None taken. I just want to make it clear that she doesn’t give me orders. She’s a fucking scene-stealer, always a diva. Making me seem like a warm-up act. There’s no art in what she does – she’s a goddamn one-trick pony. It’s like everyone loves the big finish to a fireworks show, but the real art is in the buildup.

Sorry – I see I touched a nerve here, that wasn’t my intention. It’s just that a huge part of the drama of dealing with you involves whether or not she shows up. But I do agree that your job is way more involved than hers.

See – here’s the thing – it may seem like I’m only here to inflict pain and suffering, but that’s really not the point. Looking for a point, or a reason, is asking the wrong questions. There is no fucking point, and even if there was, knowing it wouldn’t change a goddamn thing. Humans are always looking for an explanation, like somehow having an answer would make them feel better. There are things that happen in life that have no explanation – they just are. Humans, for example.

But you do see why they do this, right? They are completely panicked, you show up and suddenly mortality is no longer an abstract concept. It’s fucking scary as hell! They don’t know what to do, so they look for some explanation.

Yeah, I get that. But once you get over the initial shock, you’re left with some very big questions – real questions, not this “Why me?” bullshit. Questions about the meaning of it all, about how you will spend whatever time you have left. Most people fall back on whatever religious beliefs they were exposed to growing up. Others will try to answer the questions themselves. And therein lies the point – the real fucking point.

Wait, you’re saying that you are there for a purpose?

Purpose schmurpase, I’m just here. What I am trying to say is that my presence is an opportunity, not a death sentence. BTW, you’re all dying, from the moment you’re born. Your just not aware of it until I show up.

Suddenly I hear my phone vibrating – it’s my wife, texting me Dinners ready. I look at you and say We’ll continue this later.

Smiling, you respond Whenever you want motherfucker – I’m not going anywhere.

Using Metaphor to Understand Existential Threat

Zombies and Kaiju – The collective consciousness of the species attempting to process its own destruction through pop culture artifacts.

To wit: Are we witnessing man confronting the inevitability of his own self destruction or simply pop entertainment?

Or maybe both?

More on Plot vs Story

I think he’s truly interested in character and behavior, and not so much plot — there’s always a good story, but the characters drive the story rather than the other way. That’s Jim’s timing. He’s a very thoughtful person, and he’s very smart and he’s very funny; his movies are like him.”

– Steve Buscemi on Jim Jarmusch, from the NYT article “How Jim Jarmusch Made an All-Star Indie Zombie Movie,” by Melena Ryzik

There it is again – it’s kind of a looser way to tell a story, ‘cuz if there is one thing that people find more interesting than a good plot it’s other people.

The trick is, they have to be true and compelling. A tall order? – yes – impossible? – no. Jim’s style of storytelling is based entirely on this idea.

And it works quite well, thank you.

At least for him.

Podcasts (Part 1)

Let’s get this out of the way right up front:

Podcasts are the greatest form of broadcast information dissemination and human communication ever created.

Here’s a few reasons why:

  1. Where else do you get to hear long form interviews, lectures, and presentations from people smarter than you, often unedited and always unfiltered?
  2. There is no middleman. No networks, producers, or committees getting in the way between you and whatever the podcaster wants to share. Expect to hear lots of swearing, which is of course the way real people talk.
  3. There is no censorship. Just pure, unadulterated free speech and the unfettered exchange of ideas. Prepare to be surprised.
  4. They are free and can be listened to anywhere.

Of course you have to curate your playlist, so you get to choose what you listen to. Caution: watch out for your own confirmation bias. Like any medium, most of it won’t be that good. But there are so many out there that there is still more good (and sometimes great) ones than you will ever have a chance to hear. And they’re always with you on your smartphone.

I got started listening relatively late, maybe three or four years ago. The first podcast that hooked me was Marc Maron’s WTF. I still listen to it – not all of them, but a lot. That’s part of their charm – if the guest or the topic doesn’t resonate with you, just don’t listen. Maron drops two 75 minute shows a week. I also listen to “The Joe Rogan Experience” quite a bit – he drops three 3 hour podcasts each week, so I only listen to the ones that seem interesting. I also like “The Moment” with Brian Koppleman and “Off Camera” with Sam Jones.

Seriously – I have listened to podcasts that had a profound influence on my life, if only because they exposed me to ideas, knowledge, and ways of thinking that were outside my sphere. Because of their free-flowing and non-linear structure, they’re perfect to listen to whenever you have a few free moments – commuting, for example, or at the gym. Just stop whenever you want – you can always pick right up wherever you left off.

But what’s really compelling about the medium is this: At their best you feel as if you are a fly on the wall listening to two really smart people talking, unguarded, about topics they are passionate about. There have been times where I felt like what was being discussed was so personal I shouldn’t be hearing it. People share some very vulnerable moments.

It’s a big world out there, and podcasts reinforce just how big and interesting it is. They’re a great way to remain connected and engaged with life.

Enjoy!

EtOH Parade

Brought by EMS, they are life’s living casualties, slowly dying by their own sword.

Temporarily self-sedated, oblivious to the pain of the world, they are comfortably obtunded.

Occasionally ready for an imaginary fight that won’t happen, soon enough soothed by the warm embrace of security.

Ready for a few hours sleep and a stale sandwich, then sent on their way only to start the whole processional again.

Hurrah! Hurray! Huzzah! Huzzay!

The parade’s about to begin!

David Lynch (Part 2)

If you have any interest in the creative process, or outsider artists, check out “David Lynch: The Art Life,” a documentary from 2016. But first, a definition.

Outsider art: Art produced by self-taught artists who are not part of the artistic establishment.

I have always been a huge fan of David Lynch’s films, but didn’t really know much about him beyond them. It turns out “filmmaker” doesn’t even begin to describe his art – or rather, it represents a very small part of his artistic expression. Like all art, it’s kind of hard to put into words.

For some artists, creating art isn’t something they do, it’s who they are. Their whole life is an art project – Ray Johnson, Frank Zappa, Salvador Dali, Duke Ellington, Prince, Picasso… it’s a long list.

David Lynch certainly falls in this paradigm – watching him create in this film is like watching a child, and I mean that in the very best way. There seems to be no conscious thought, just the purposeful actions of creation. It seems as if he is in touch with a deeper part of his mind, one that is primaly in touch with his interpretation of the world around him.

The Worst Feeling Ever

All ER nurses and docs know this feeling well – it haunts all of us who have been through it forever. It can, however, also serve as a catalyst for becoming a better practitioner – you just have to face it and learn from it.

What am I talking about?

That sickening feeling where it all starts slipping away from you. You’re caring for a patient when suddenly something happens and they start crashing. Normally, this is business as usual. After all, this is what we’ve trained for all these years, so we know how to respond and get the patient back.

But every now and then, a perfect storm builds up, one where suddenly one emergency begins piling up on top of the one you are treating – then another, and another. Quickly things begin to breakdown and you can’t keep up, and that’s when it hits you, chilling your soul all the way to the bone.

It’s all slipping away and you can’t stop it.

Taken separately, you could have fixed any of these problems. But in aggregate, they overwhelm you and everything in their path.

Slipping away. Someone in your care is dying and you can’t stop it. Slipping away. Too many things are going wrong at once, and the harder you try the worse it gets. Slipping away.

Reality check: It doesn’t mean you are a bad practitioner. You can’t save everyone. You can only do your best, learn from your mistakes, and move on.

Take a deep breath and be kind to yourself.

You’re not a bad person.

Clusterfuck (Part 2)

Vernacular for a whole bunch of fucks all gathered together in a cluster, so as to properly overwhelm you when you least expect it. In fact, the surprise element is an essential component of this phenomenon.

Unsurprisingly, a clusterfuck generally precedes a meltdown, which may be conceptual, partial or total. Said meltdown may or may not be obvious to observers, but it is always there nonetheless, at least to some degree.

Note: Some shit in life you just can’t avoid.

P.S. – If no one dies consider the outcome successful.

Well That was a Good Call

In a lifetime filled with questionable decisions, thirty four years ago today I made the single best decision of my life. June 1, 1986 I married my wife.

At a time when my life could have taken a detour to god knows where, I had the presence of mind to trust my instincts, which, it turns, out, were right on the money.

Happy Anniversary baby!