Lucas Weismann

Every Soul is for Sale

Did I ever tell you about the time I met the Devil on the road?  It’s true.  I did!  Well-dressed chap on the side of the road.  Small goatee, suspiciously cloven feet, faint smell of campfire… Anyway, I was tired so I sad down next to him.  “Ho, Old Scratch!” says I, to show him I’m on to him and not interested in any of his tricks.

He nods to me and moves aside to make room on the log on which he was sitting.  Well, not being ignorant I’m ready to make the sign of the cross or quote a scripture at him at the first sign of trouble.  But he just sits there, as if I’m nothing more than any other traveler.  Finally he looks at me and says, “Well?  Aren’t you going to introduce yourself?”

This has me at a loss, as it would you I’m sure.  That’s the one thing I couldn’t have expected him to say.  “You mean you don’t already know? I asked.

“What?  You famous?” He asked.

“No,” I said, “I just thought you knew these sorts of things.  In all the old stories you-“

“Bah, stories,” he dismissed them like he was waving away a bothersome fly.  “Stories are troublesome things, can’t trust ‘em.”

“Huh.”  I thought about all the stories I’d heard of an evening and realized that more often than not they were more than just exaggerated.

“Stories.  I suppose in the stories I’m out to get your soul and trick you out of it right?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Hmph.  That would be the ones that get around.  As if no one ever went though a time when they were a bit of a jerk.”

I had sympathy for him at that point, for I remembered a time when I myself had been the subject of scurrilous rumors.  Then I imagined what it must have been like these last 5000 years the priests tell us the world has been around.  I told him my name and asked him his.

“Lucifer,” he said, “Not that anyone asks any more.  They just call me Satan or Deceiver or any number of other insults and eventually my temper gets the better of me.”

“Must be awful,” I said.

He nodded.  “You’re the first person that hasn’t tried to ward me off with the sign of the cross or quoted scripture at me.”

“Yeah, that would be rude.”

“It’s always ‘begone deceiver’ this and ’get thee behind me that’.  I mean, if someone has a nice posterior or flattering jeans I don’t mind, but it gets so old.”

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”  I asked.

“Go ahead,” he replied.

“What do you do with them?”

“What?”

“With the souls.  What do you do with them?  The ones people sell you I mean.”

He looked tired.  “You too?  What the hell would I do with souls?  I have no use for them.  Besides you can’t be separated from yours.  Not until death!  Can’t happen.”

“But what about…”

“Can’t happen.  That Faust thing is just a load of fiction.  Hell, I can’t even get back into Hell because I can’t find the keys.”

“Hell has keys?”

“Of course it does.  You think I want to go letting it open with all the murderers and demons and bad guys running around there?”

“Huh, I never thought of it that way.” I said

“Ugh and the smoke.  I can’t get it out of my clothes no matter how much I wash.”  I remembered my grandpa’s sweaters and how even after he quit smoking they always smelled like cigarettes.

“Sounds rough.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“So you don’t buy souls?”

“No.  Course not.  I was just sore at my dad for taking me off the angel choir to babysit a bunch of delinquent humans for all eternity.  You have no idea how terrible the company was for awhile.  Out of boredom I started trying to attract people I’d want to spend time with.  You ever wonder why there are so many musicians in Hell?”

“Because they sold you their soul?”

“No… because the music filled them to the point where there was nothing left.  No room for anything else.  They resonated with the divine music of the spheres and as reward, Dad sends them to me.  All the greats are there.  Even some of the really good gospel musicians.”

“Even the gospel ones?  How come?”

“Because they loved music more than they loved what their music was about.  Dad hates that.  He thinks everything has to be about him.  All the time.”

“That doesn’t seem fair.” I said.

“Of course it’s fair” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “Dad said it, so by definition it’s fair.”

“This is very illuminating.” I said.

He actually laughed at that point.  “Well it ought to be.” He said.

“What?” I asked.

“My name is lucifer.  Means morning star.  Or Light bringer.  Illuminating.  Get it?”

“Oh!” I said, comprehension dawning.

“That’s actually my job.”

“It is?” I asked.

“Yep,” he said.

“My job is to show people the light.  Teach them things.  Things they might miss otherwise.”

“What about all the punishments in hell?”

“Teaching too.  Dad was really old-school about it.  Wanted fire and brimstone.  I asked, ‘why not have some rehabilitation classes and reincarnate until they get it right?’ He just said it wouldn’t work and that it was better to start with something pure and clean.”

“His ways are mysterious” I said.

“He’s impatient and hates admitting improvements could be made.  That’s why he tried to keep a lid on evolution for so long. Everyone brings up the bad stuff, but I ask, what about the good stuff?”

“Good stuff?”

“Yeah!  Good stuff.  Like giving Eve the apple.”

“Good?  That got them kicked out of paradise.”s

“Nah, they knew what would happen.  I told them.”

“Yeah, but how could they know what it would be like?  I mean, he said ‘don’t eat’ and I said, hey.  You eat this, you’ll know right from wrong and be able to make your own decisions.  I helped them to find free will.”

“But we have to work now.” I countered.

“Instead of what?  Being two birds in gilded cages, they became to adults.  Free and able to choose your destiny and do more than just sit in a garden eating and lounging about?”

“Okay,” I said, “What about Job?”

“What about him?”

“What about the fact that you tortured that poor man.”

“Hey I get it.  I say in passing that he wouldn’t be so loyal if he wasn’t being protected from harm.  Right?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s not what I said.  What I said was, Job probably wouldn’t be so cheery if you treated him like you treat me.  I was griping and next thing you know God is ordering me to kill Job’s wife.”

“Really?”

“Really.  Look none of that really matters, you know?  All that matters is this.  Every soul is for sale.  You will sell it.  But not to me.”

“What?” I asked.  “Who wants to buy then?”

“You do.  You buy it with every action of every day.  It’s the energy you have to spend becoming who you are.  The only question you have to ask is this?  Would you rather sell your soul at a high price to get something you want, or sell it at a low price to get something you don’t want?”

I thought about this for a minute.  “Are you talking about not wasting my time?”

“Well, no time is wasted really- otherwise you’d have some left over at the end.  I’m talking about spending time on something worth the value of your soul.”

“You mean like practicing an instrument to become a musician?”

“Right, but it’s only compared with the relative cost of another way to spend time that the value can be measured.

“So, watching television for 30 minutes compared with practicing an instrument.”

“Exactly.  It’s like buying something with cash versus buying it with-“

“Credit.  Oh I see.  So, you’re saying I should only spend time on things that will get me what I want?”

“No, no, no.  You’ll have to spend time on other things too, after all you need to eat.  But that extra time.  The time you have to find your passions.  That’s the time that usually gets sucked up with trashy novels, re listening to crappy pop music you have memorized and tv-reruns you’ve seen a thousand times.  All of that is low effort, instant-low calorie return.  Just bad economics.”

“You know prince of darkness as guidance counsellor isn’t what I expected.”

“You and me both,” he said with a sigh.  “You have a lot more opportunity than I did.  You can literally go to the moon if you put in the effort and sell your soul to physics.  Me?  I had to choose between Prince of Darkness, lord of hell and tempter of souls, or leader of the angel choir”  at this, he folded his hands mockingly.  “Trust me, with all its problems, this world is still better than it ever has been and you have more choice than ever.”

“Well, Mr. Morningstar, this has been enlightening.  Thank you for lighting my path and giving me a rest.” I said.

“Of course.”

“I feel like I could go out and take over the world!” I said with enthusiasm.

“You can if that’s what you want to sell your soul for,” he said with a wink.  “Just promise me you won’t sell it at a price less than it’s worth.”  And he extended his hand.

“It’s a deal.” I said and shook his hand in good humor.  Then, I walked down the road feeling strangely lighter than I had before heading off to make my mark on the world.

(To hear what happened when I ran into the prince of darkness at a later date, click here)

6 things you can to do to get more dances.

What should you do if you’re not getting dances and you want to dance more?

Good question!  After all, you only have control over yourself, so trying to change other people is only likely to create frustration and resentment for you and those one whom you try to impose your will.

Now that you’ve asked one question lets ask some others:

1) How is your attitude?  Are you someone people want to be around?  This is a tough one, as most people are stuck with themselves and so tend to assume other people want to be with them as protection from self-reflection.

Do you complain a lot?  Valid complaints or not, this is something that may be driving people away from you.
Are you stuck up or disdainful about those less experienced than yourself?  Why should people more experienced than you treat you differently than you treat others?

Basically, if you weren’t you, would you want to go on a road trip with you?  This is an important question that should be asked of everyone, not just dancers.

2) How’s your hygiene? (e.g. do parts of you smell strongly or are they uncomfortably moist)

Notice I didn’t say do you smell like body odor.  Many people are adverse to either body odor, strong colognes and perfumes or in my case, both.  The less strongly you smell of things, the more people are likely to want to get close to you.  Few people like leaving a dance smelling like their partner (with the exception of a small, very small subset people with very specific tastes).

Does your breath smell? Mints are often provided, but in the case of bad breath, you may need to see a doctor as it can indicate real health problems that can be dangerous if left untreated (assuming you brush your teeth regularly after obvious olfactorogenic food and drinks like coffee and garlic).

Are you wet or clammy to the touch?  If so, bring extra clothes.  More than you think you need.  If you run out during the dance, you need at least one more shirt.  In some scenes dancers will bring golf towels with them to dry off between dances, particlarly if there’s AC at the venue.

3) Do you look like one of the crowd?

I’d like to say this isn’t important, but somehow people never learn that it’s the skill, not the clothes that make the dancer.  

Why is this?  well, your attire is strong signaling behavior and is a near-instant way of telling people if you’re part of the group.  This might mean sequins in west coast swing could be in vogue and gauche in lindy hop, it might mean a vest with no shirt in some crowds or tights in another.

Additionally, people are inspired (whether they realize it or not) to dress like their mentors and the people they aspire to be like.  If your dress similarly to them, they may assume you share inspiration.

After all, if I can’t dance like someone, I can at least dress like them.  You might think this is silly (and it is), but can you spot a ballerina, a tango dancer, a recess dancer or a lindy hopper who is experienced in a group?  Maybe not with 100% certainty, but if you’re trying to gain acceptance in a new group, you can always start out by showing people you’re like them and shift your look back to your own style as people realize that you’re one of them.  (this is a technique used to great effect by Alexander the great who made sure his generals and governors dressed and acted like the people they’d conquered so there would be as few feathers ruffled as possible).

Again, I’m not saying this SHOULD be the case.  I’m just saying people are people and you *might* benefit from this technique.  Oh, and incidentally, you might be doing this already without realizing it.

In fact, you might have been drawn to a dance more strongly where the dress matched your pre-existing wardrobe without even realizing it.

4) do you have a partner with whom to improve your craft?

This applies specifically to partnered dancing, but is useful to have a posse, crew or your troupe with whom to practice even in solo dance styles.  being there for each other means you have people who are likely to want to dance with each other and you’re working on helping each other improve at the same time.

5) Are you taking classes?

Classes are a great way to improve your skill level as well as a way to meet people who are at your level and therefore likely in the same boat as you when it comes to finding people with whom to dance.  Take classes and be friendly.  Let the teacher be the teacher and don’t try to fix people’s technique.  Introduce yourself and after class, stick around and ask for a dance at the beginning of the night while the experience of class is still fresh in their mind.

6) Get feedback or help from someone else.

If you’ve gone through the lessons, maybe it’s something else.  Maybe… you really are nice and happy-go-lucky.

Maybe your breath is always fresh, you’re not sweaty and you look like you fit in, neither overly perfumed or odiferous in any particular way.

You’re taking classes and meeting people and you’re kind and rescue puppies regularly because you’re just that great of a person.

Are you sending signals you’re not interested in dancing without realizing it?  

Avoiding eye contact, facing away from the floor, standing off the floor, or blocking body language may all be telling people you don’t want to dance and you may not realize you’re doing it.

Maybe you’re not doing that, but you have a habit of doing things that are considered faux pas in a scene (in some scenes this could be lifts or dips on a crowded floor, in others it might be having too much tone or muscle flexion to be comfortable for a potential partner).

If you’re really having trouble and you’ve been dancing for awhile, chances are you’ve met or talked with someone and you can ask them or a teacher or organizer in the dance what might be going on.  They might be able to give you insight and help you see what’s going on better than you can do on your own if you’re stumped.  

Generally hosts and organizers have a vested interest in having people come to the night and will often invite people to come to them with any questions, comments or concerns.  use them as a resource to figure out what’s going on.  They may have answers for you.

BONUS: Why are you waiting for dances?  If you haven’t tried asking people to dance, try that.  If you aren’t doing this already, definitely try asking people to dance.

BONUS TWO: For the intermediate or advanced dancer going to venue/scene/event for the first time.  When I go to a new scene for the first time, I wait a few dances and look for a likely friendly dancer to share a dance with.  Then, I ask them to dance.  Sometimes it takes a few tries.  Afterward I ask them if, since I’m new to the area, there are 2-3 other dancers I should make sure to dance with assuming this is my only night in town.

Generally, they point me in the direction of someone who they dance with often and now there are three of us working on the problem, which it also provides some social proof that people interact with me.

OR… they tell me some people I might want to dance with and I go from Sally to Betty and mention Sally said I should dance with Betty and ask her to dance.  Then after, you repeat and use this process to get acquainted with other people you want to dance with.  Who knows, if they like your dancing, you may end up going out for waffles with a group of new friends afterward!

Asperger’s Moment of the day: Why Do You Think You Shouldn’t Be Judged?

Everything you do will caused you to be judged by people who see it. No matter who you are. So what? Why do people think they are unique this way?
 
Hell, there’s a very good chance I’ll be judged for posting this. Possibly even by you the reader. And you should judge people based on the evidence they provided.  And then when they provide you with more evidence, you re-judge them.  Obviously.
 
So here’s what I propose.  If you are going to post something on the internet, pretend you’re in person.  If you would’t do it or say it with someone in person, don’t do it online.  Anything public is not controllable.  Most people will be kind people unless you’re very unlucky.
 

If you’re wondering why this is clearly something that is provoking a response from me, it’s because I have Asperger’s Syndrome.  No, let me rephrase that.  I have Asperger’s Syndrome and have developed fairly good coping strategies for dealing with Neurotypical (read: non ASD individuals, like you know… normal people)

And for you out there who have survived or gone through some trial (read: everyone).  The specific trial I’m talking about is the one where you go through much of your life unable to relate to people and in a well-meaning attempt to make friends end up alienating people at random and being unable to tell why.

 
Why because all of the Normal (read: people who just “get it” when it comes to nonverbal communication) don’t even realize there’s something to get).  This is where the few true friends who are able to recognize what’s going on and are kind enough to help you with your situation come in.
 
Step 1: awareness.  Realize people are going to comment on what you do.  That’s their right.  If (when) they notice something, they will comment on it.  If you say it in person, they will let things slide.  If you record it, they will have the time to go over what you said and see if it actually makes sense.  And uncomfortable as it is, this is actually a good thing.
 
Sharpening your rhetorical skills is not a bad deal for you.  If you constantly make ad hominem attacks in your defense of some greater good you aspire to, rather than dealing with your detractors, people will call you on it.  
 
When they do, they’re giving you an opportunity (generally without realizing it) to make you harder, faster, better, stronger.  No one likes receiving correction.  Particularly unsolicited correction from people who disagree with us.  But if you’re receiving it, there are a few options- 
 
1) ignore it.
 
2) look at it critically and examine yourself
 
3) cry about it to friends over a beer, or your beverage/dessert of choice
 
4) stop posting things on the internet if you don’t like being criticized.
 

No where here is the option for you to spout off with some opinion and have people just not react.  No where is there a “Butters” for you to just get the good comments.  Public Space is not Safe Space.

Because we have freedom of association, of course we can set up spaces of like-minded sympathetic individuals to help support us in difficulties.  They are friend groups.

 
That is not what public space is for.  If anyone can go there, consider it public.  You have no expectation of the following in a public space:
 
1) privacy – you’re not at home.  Pretend everything you are doing is being recorded.  It probably will be in a few years anyway, might as well get some practice in now…
 
2) Safety – some people are assholes, it would be nice if they are and some places are safer than others, but no. if everyone can be there, so can the “bad” people.
 
3) not having to be confronted with something that offends your sensibilities – in the United States the KKK and the NeoNazis have the right to set up their bullshit stupid protests, but you know what?  That means that when conservative christian groups are offended by my swing dancing, I can do that too!  It also means that the LGBT+ community have (or should have) the right to have pride parades that offend other people.  This is a good thing.  Unfortunately that means that sometime you’ll see something you don’t like, maybe even have to have awkward conversations with your kids if you have them.  Guess what?  That’s what you sign up for when you have kids.
 
4) freedom from ridicule and criticism – This is awesome.  It means that we don’t have to respect other people’s ideas.  This is counter-intuitive, but that’s why awesome protests like the “God Hates Figs” counter-protest to the Westboro Baptist Church are allowed.
 
You might think that someone should do something about this state of affairs.  Someone should make it so you don’t have to see something you don’t like.  Well, guess what?  YOU can do something about it.
 
What can you do?
 
Well, you can stay at home and not watch television or be around people who disagree with you of course!  You can stay off of the internet, or at least not read the comments section if you do post something.
 
Alternately, you can take the opportunity to create something you think is special and realize not everyone will agree.  Realize not everyone is nice and that sometimes people will be mean to you, or hit on you, or harass you.  Does that make your message less valuable because some idiot in podunk, Nowhere was a vitriolic prick?  No, of course not. 
 
Use their critique, criticism and hate as selective pressures to sharpen your rhetorical game.  Make airtight cases with no fallacious arguments.  Engage with criticism of your ideas and realize not everyone is a true-believer.  You’ll never win, or win them over if you can’t deal with them as having actual ideas- even if you disagree with them.  If you choose to evangelize, then you have to first treat people like they are people.
 
Plan What you’re going to say before you say it.  Yes, this is actually not planned out, but I don’t really care much about that here.  This blog is mostly for my rough-draft ideas and my regular writing practice.  I’m happy if people read it, but I don’t expect them to.  I also don’t expect people to like what i have to say.  I fall much more on the “coach” end of the spectrum when it comes to ideas than the “camp counsellor” end.  As such, I’ll just speak my current conception of the truth and not try to coddle too much.
 
What should you not do?
 
Feed the trolls:  Trolls exist solely to mess with your day.  They want a rise out of you.  They’re mean, often juvenile (both in age and mental maturity level) and they want to make you mad.  If you engage with a troll, you lose.  Period.  They don’t actually care about the thing you care about, they just want to watch the world, or at least your YouTube/Facebook/Twitter account burn.
 
Turn off the comments: In addition to silencing your critics, you’re silencing your supporters.  You may just find there are people who will come to your defense when someone wants to start trouble.  This can be a powerful rallying-point for your cause if you just allow it to happen.

The Boy Who Shrank and Grew

Once upon a time there was a boy.  He wasn’t the most popular kid in class.  He also wasn’t the least popular kid in class.  One day, for no particular reason that he could discern, he started to shrink.  For some reason no one seemed to notice, but him and the worst thing was how much more effort it seemed to take for him to get back and forth to school.  After all, each step was proportionately smaller, the smaller he grew.  It seemed like he was spending a ton of energy just trying to get to class or move the pencil across the page.

It got bad enough that he was taking shortcuts by riding in a friend’s backpack.  For some reason though, everyone just went on as if the world were normal.  They all seemed to be moving slower and slower and sounded seemed to be deeper than before, but as far as he could tell, he was moving just as much less through time as he was through space.

By the time school let out on Friday, he was no taller than the length of my index finger, right here.  He didn’t feel well and time seemed to drag on as he trudged home to the safety of his room.  On the way there were so many inconsiderate people.  Meteors of cigarette ash as he passed the area where teachers smoked after school, lakes of puddles from the morning’s rain and a morass of mud where it met the trampled soil of the shortcut across Mr. Jorgensen’s yard.  By the time he got home, he was covered in mud and horribly tired.  So much effort and nothing to show for it.  How was he supposed to go through the rest of his life so small?  Even his toys were too big for him.

Using the last of his energy, he managed to climb the bed and make the treacherous leap to his bedside table where his mother had left him a sandwich.  Thankful, he ate his fill, barely making a visible dent in this mammoth meal before lying down on his pillow to take a rest.

The next morning, he woke up about half as large as his usual self, and though it wasn’t quite the same as usual he was feeling a bit more like himself.  When the boy went downstairs he noticed a slight change with each step… no.  Not with each step.  He made a slight change with each noise.  It was the squeaks and then, the light… the bright sunlight was making him shrink faster again as if all of the stimulus from the environment was making him shrink.  Quickly, he ran back to the bathroom and shut the door.  The shrinking stopped.

Worried, he hugged himself tightly and noticed that the security he felt not only stopped the shrinking, but also seemed to help him return (a bit) in the direction of his normal size.  After a few minutes, he felt large enough to reach the spigot on the shower and turned on the water.  The sounds of water had always been soothing for him and so he reasoned that this water would help him to return to his size.

Probably just wrung out, he thought with a smile.  He took off his pajamas and folded them conscientiously before stepping into the warm soothing water.  The boy stayed under the water for a while until banging on the door from his little sister and a cry of “Mo-om!  He’s still in the shower.”  Took a few inches off of his height and snapped his attention back to the world.

“I’m coming out,” he said and turned off the water.  This is not a good deal.  For some reason, this is happening and I don’t know why, but it seems like things that are comforting help me return to norma and things that are discomfortable?  Uncomfortable?  Un… yeah, uncomfortable are making me shrink.

His sister banged on the door again and was about to yell to their mother, when he threw open the door and said “It’s all yours,” but the energy of the false cheer seemed to make him shrink more than his sister’s yelling.

The shrinking wasn’t so bad of course, after all, he got an interesting new perspective on the world.  It was just how much more energy everything took when he “got small” that frustrated him.  Heck, if it wasn’t such a hassle, he wouldn’t mind staying small full-time.  Sure he couldn’t reach anything and everyone seemed to take FOREVER to say anything, but hey, at least he was saving a bundle on food.

Eventually a few people in his life noticed that he was getting small, and they had different reactions.  Some asked him why he didn’t just toughen up, others asked why he wanted to be small and still others (the ones who really matter) told him they’d be there for him no matter what size he was and they’d do their best to help him around.

Of course, there were some things he could do to keep from getting too small too quickly; exercise helped, as did eating healthy, and getting enough sleep.  Eventually the boy would go on to other adventures having learned a lot about who he was and realizing that no matter how big or small he was, it was how he reacted to the situation that determined if it was good or bad.  Crossing a forest of grass (that he’d been unable to get mowed on account of his size) was horrible, sure- but finding a way to surf on the back of the behemoth push mower not only helped him to grow back to size, but also could be quite fun when he picked up inertia.

Eventually, he learned that inertia might be a sometimes solution to the problem of his growing and shrinking.  It did seem true that whenever he shrank, he seemed to shrink more until he was totally shrunk. It was also true that when he started to grow, he seemed to find it easier to keep growing until he was the right size.  Sometimes, he would even get too big if things were going really well.  In those times he had to be careful not to overpower his friends, as the littlest bit of effort and excitement might send them flying.

All through his life, the boy dealt with the difficulties and challenges presented by his body’s decision to randomly make things harder or easier by size.  Whether he thought this was such a bad thing would be hard to say, as it taught him to make friends with people who would help support him and made him better at supporting his other friends who had their own idiosyncratic problems to deal with.

She Ran With Wolves

When I was a child, I remember my grandfather telling me the story of Sarah Greene.  She was a young girl who lived on the outskirts of town on the wrong side of the tracks.  “Man we had trouble with her.” Grandfather would say.  She grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and there was rumor that she had Native blood in her.  As far as I know it was just that.  A rumor, and not even a good one.  As if Native Americans were anymore or less “savage” than white people.  Grandpa used to say, “People are people and part of people being people is people making up rumors about people to make it easier for people to treat people like they aren’t just people who are people.”  Hence, the scurrilous rumor of her “savage blood.”  Grandpa had the good sense to be chagrined of how ignorant people can be, but to his credit, he didn’t try to make history sound more enlightened by hiding that fact.
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What I’ve been up to – And a friend’s kickstarter

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the last week with my friend Kezia Wineburg.  She’s a unique character. A buddhist poolshark, a former  Jeet Kune Do practitioner who used to be a bartender at First Avenue in Minneapolis.  An acupuncturist turned neuroscientist.  A unique individual to be sure.

We’ve been writing together at my family home north of Stillwater, Minnesota.  In that time, (and partly due to her good example) I put down over 10,000 words in my rough draft.  For that reason, and because I think it’s a good idea, I’m going to give her a shout out right here.

Not satisfied with the resume I listed above, Kezia is embarking on a new adventure. She’s becoming the publisher of an online magazine called Situate.  The idea is novel.  It’s an a quarterly rag where each issue will feature a given city (the first one is New Orleans!).
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On certain regional pronunciations

     “I don’t give a good God Damn about what you think.”  The fat man was livid and actually slapped the table as he shouted, his walrus moustache bristled, “If you had enough volunteers you wouldn’t have kids calling the matches for wrestlers in their own age group.”

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Benji the Wrestler

As a young child I had a lot of problems dealing with bullies and rumors and kids at school.  That’s not a revelation unique to myself, I realize.  Most people have.  But I was lucky in one major respect.  That is that my dad had a technique for helping me to cope with these situations, while at the same time instilling a love of wrestling for me.

Enter:  Benji the Wrestler.

Benji was a kid who wrestled.  He was a lot like me.  He was so much like me that it seemed a strange and amazing coincidence every time I heard a story about him.  (Okay, I’m gonna level with you- he was me.)

Every time I seemed to be going through something tough- a bully trying to beat me up, or turn my friends against me for whatever reasons motivate people to be awful to each other, there would be my dad.  He’d come to my room at bedtime and tell me a story.

The story had three main parts:

1) the problem (the bullies, the “mean” teacher, whatever it was that was making my life hard to deal with as a kid),

2) the “Problem-solving part” This almost always came in the form of my dad asking me something like “Sounds pretty tough Luke, what do you think Benji should do here?” afterward we’d workshop any solutions, no matter how sensible or senseless or emotive and he’d treat me with understanding.  He also never talked down to me as a kid and I really appreciated that.  Heck, I still appreciate it.

3) The action sequence.  This was super important!

A) it served to give me time to absorb what we’d talked about, all while preventing the stories from becoming lectures or preachy.

B) it indoctrinated me into loving the sport and associating a difficult pastime with positive memories

C) It showed that even a kid with problems at school could (with hard word and determination), be the hero.  It would be a challenge, sure, but since Benji never gave up, no one could really beat him.  (Even if he lost a match, he wasn’t truly defeated so long as he maintained a good attitude).

I miss those stories.  In retrospect, I miss how these insurmountable problems could be faced and I could take the time with someone who cares about me to work through options together rather than having to face them alone. I miss the reminders of how you can work around any problem if you find the right solution rather than just reaction to it.  Not surprisingly, I also miss wrestling.

 

Meditations – A reminder

When I am traveling and cannot get to the wilds and the quiet places, I must remember to cultivate the quiet place within myself.  To find the space and center in myself so that I can find peace and clarity, even when surrounded by the din and clamor of the city.

To find grounding in the bustle so that I’m able to think, and write and be.

Rare moment with an honest politician.

Restrained by his guards, I looked upon the man who I’d once counted a friend.  He wound toward me like a serpent, or a villain in a pantomime.  Jesus, I can’t believe there are people who really do this, I thought.  Hasn’t he read the evil overlord list?

“It occurs to me that the reason that you individualists will never win is your inability to organize other people.  You assume that people will act in their interest or even know what is in their best interest.  In reality, people aren’t that sure. They’re so focused on whatever they’re told to pay attention to that they are thankful to have a strong hand to guide them.  They follow their shepherd right into the abattoir.

How else could we get people to give us their time, money, allegiance?  How else could we get elected again and again, even admitting our corruption and willingness to exchange “principles” for favors.  Long-term good for short-term gain.  Because they don’t care and even if they did, the average person is too stupid to do anything about it and too powerless to stop us.

So, what are you going to do, hero?  I know your kind.  You are opposed to violence and profess the value of reason?  Well guess what?  I am neither opposed to violence, nor am I amenable to reason.  I profit far too much from the current system to wish to return to your fabled more principled time.

And don’t think that this is something that I say because of the party I belong to.  The left uses radicalism, the right uses religion.  Hell, we even us the same sentences with only the basic terms switched.  We have a pope using science to gain followers for his mystical beliefs and scientists watering their discoveries with the language of religion.

You think that just because you follow the law you have nothing to fear?  That we will leave you alone?  Of course not.  Not while the fires of reason burn in your mind.  Not while you have a spine to stand erect.  Do you know who the last hominid species was who elevated the individual?  Homo Neanderthalis.  You know what happened to them, I trust?

We killed and fucked them out of existence.  Except of course a few throwbacks like yourself every few generations.  It’s too bad, if you were just a bit less principled, you could’ve been a shepherd.  Instead, we will destroy you, claiming all the while you were a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

And please, for the sake of any past feelings of conviviality we may have shared, please don’t ask me why I sting you.  If you can excuse the mixing of imagery.  I sting you because, it is in my nature.”

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