How To Escape A Drama-Filled Society

Living in a drama-filled society can be exhausting and draining for anyone. It’s no secret that drama often causes unnecessary stress, anxiety, confusion, distraction and it can be difficult to escape. But not impossible. There are a few steps you can take to remove yourself from the morass of drama and create a more peaceful, stress-free life.

  1. Identify the sources of drama:
    The first step in escaping the drama of your society is to identify its sources. It may be certain friends, family members, or co-workers who create drama. Alternatively, it could be social media or news outlets that stir up emotions and create angst. When you identify the causes of drama, it’s easier to avoid them.
  2. Limit your exposure to drama:
    Now that you’ve identified the sources of drama, take steps to limit your exposure to them. For example, if you have a mentally unstable sister who constantly involves herself in your drama thus creating even more drama for yourself, you may need to distance yourself from her or set solid boundaries. Similarly, if social media causes negative emotions or triggers drama, delete the app or take a few days off.
  3. Surround yourself with positivity:
    To counteract the negativity and drama of your society, focus on surrounding yourself with positive people who bring you joy and make you feel good about yourself. I realize that positive people can be superficial and dull. This may mean eliminating friends who don’t share your values and interests or making time for self-care activities that lift your mood and counteract all the soul-destroying drama.
  4. Practice mindfulness and self-care:
    Mindfulness practices such as meditation and deep breathing can be helpful in reducing stress and anxiety. Self-care activities like taking a hot bath, reading a book, journaling, stretching, cleaning, listening to music, being naked with another human, hanging-out/doing nothing or going for a ponderous walk can also help reduce the impact of deadening drama on your life.
  5. Focus on what you can control:
    Finally, remember that while you can’t control the drama in your society, you can control your reactions to it. You may feel like being distracted from everything but focus on the things you can control, such as how much time and energy you devote to drama, and let go of things you cannot control. By taking ownership of your own life, you’ll reduce the impact of drama and create a more peaceful and interesting existence.

Escaping the drama of society takes effort, diligence and discipline but it’s worth it to create a more fulfilling and stress-free existence. By identifying the sources of drama, limiting your exposure to them, surrounding yourself with positivity (that is not superficial or dull), practicing mindfulness and self-care, and focusing on what you can control, you can escape the drama and create a more relaxed living situation for yourself.

Bizarro Land

“To be authentic, one must be willing to show their contradictions.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

I’ve been thinking a lot about authenticity and what it means to be authentic in everyday life.

The general definition of authentic is of undisputed origin; genuine. When applying this term to a person, I understand it to mean a person who is clear or transparent about where they are coming from, true to how they are thinking and feeling in the moment. A person who is honest about their contradictions.

In my psychotherapy practice the struggle to be authentic in relationships and at work is one of the topics that comes up most in my work with people. I work with many younger people who are resisting entering the workplace because they do not want to give up their authenticity.

It is my opinion that we are currently living in a culture which advocates for non-authenticity. We are expected to play a part, to not be authentic. If we are authentic, we worry about the harsh consequences that will occur. So many of our daily interactions seem to be built upon this unspoken expectation to not be authentic. If we are, we fear we will be harshly judged and even discarded. So, we hide who we really are and play along.

For whatever reason, authenticity has always been important to me. Maybe it is the residual effect of my more youthful punk rock values. I don’t like or respect myself if I am not being authentic and having respect for myself always trumps other people respecting me. At the end of the day I have to still live with me and if I am not practicing transparency in my life it is hard for me to like who I am. But still, it is often very challenging and even frightening to be authentic. Why? I have some ideas.

We all want to do what is right. We all want to be seen as being right and making the right decisions. We live in a culture that supports this idea that we should always do the right thing and be striving for perfection all the time. But the problem with this ideal is that it is impossible to achieve.

No one is consistent all the time. If there is a person out there who always makes the right decisions, always does the right thing, never messes up, is always on time and always says the right things and who has no contradictions– well then, good for them. But I doubt this person exists.

It is very difficult to be consistent all the time, in everything we do. There are often two parts to our brains; one part that always wants to do what is right for us (exercise, meditate, be kind, be honest, eat well, be organized, be on time) and another part of our brains that wants to do what is wrong for us (eat unhealthy, sleep too much, not do anything productive, skip exercising, skip meditating, watch mindless television shows, procrastinate, avoid and on and on).

It is very difficult for anyone to be as consistent as they want to be all the time. We often give into what is not best for us because of how we feel emotionally or physically. If we feel good it is easier to do what is right for us. But if we are not feeling well emotionally or physically it is much easier to neglect brushing our teeth or skip exercising.

The truth is that most likely everyone deals with an inability to be consistent. No one really discusses their contradictions, so this often goes unnoticed in our culture. But we all struggle to do what is right and best all the time. We all contradict ourselves much of the time, but yet we prefer to not talk about it.

Appearing to be this good and perfect person who has it all together is a false narrative that we have created as a society. This false narrative creates a constant and intense pressure in people to be always seen as perfect and doing the right thing. Especially in business. Authenticity is what gets lost as a result.

It seems difficult for people to admit their imperfections or contradictions out in public, since this stuff is not accepted by most. As a result people pretend, or play the role of having no contradictions within them. “I am not like that,” people often believe and as a result harshly judge those whose imperfections and contradictions show through. It is much easier to judge and discard others for their contradictions than it is to be transparent and authentic about our own.

Someone I know once called this “Bizarro Land.” A place where the norm has become everyone living their everyday lives where everything is seen as being great and perfect. A world where when a person’s imperfections show up they are harshly judged and even dropped. The problem with Bizarro Land is that it creates these standards of who you need to be that are so high, that we spend our entire lives (or at least until retirment) trying to achieve them. As a result we surrender our ability to feel authentic in our lives, because we are afraid of being seen as the contradictory person we really are.

The Man Who Grew Breasts (Overnight)

Yesterday, the majority of Americans elected Donald Trump as President of the United States. I was angry. Very angry. This morning I woke up with breasts.

These are not male breasts. They are good-sized female breasts. It is as if while I was asleep, someone came and took my male breasts and replaced them with thirty-five year old female breasts. I don’t understand how something like this could happen.

The minute I got out from bed this morning I felt a heavy weight pulling my chest towards the ground. I immediately became concerned that I was having some sort of heart issue. Maybe I was too angry yesterday, I remember thinking. But then as I was walking to the bathroom I noticed feeling like I was carrying decent sized water balloons inside of my chest. I could feel something jiggling around. I stopped in the hallway, turned on the lights, lifted up my t-shirt, looked down and noticed I had decent sized female breasts.

I couldn’t make sense of this right away. I thought maybe I was still in a dream. When I realized it was not a dream, I thought that maybe I was hallucinating. I have been meditating a lot recently and have heard that sometimes walking hallucinations can be a side effect of too much time spent in meditation. I looked at my breasts in the bathroom mirror. I touched them and that is when I realized they were real.

I don’t understand how this could happen. My wife has been Googling all morning. She is trying to figure out how a man can go to sleep with perfectly normal male breasts and then wake up with a pair of decent sized, nicely shaped, female breasts.

This must be the result of feeling too much anger yesterday. I don’t normally feel such long-lasting periods of intense anger and somehow the anger must have messed around with my hormone levels. I have read about men who are really angry suddenly losing all their hair or getting a non-viagra induced erection that does not go away. It is well known that anger messes with chemical constructs in human bodies and yesterday my anger was so strong that I was sweating throughout the entire day. My anger intensified after my father told me that he voted for Donald Trump and that he thought that Donald Trump was going to “Make America Great Again.”

I suppose it would be fair to say that my anger reached levels that if documented by a medical device could be safely called rage. But I did not yell. I did not express my rage in any way. I just let it be there as I kept myself present and aware of my breathing. I know that all emotions are just waves and because of my meditation practice I do not really identify with waves. I just notice them. But I wonder if the meditative suppression of my rage with regards to the election of Donald Trump as President is what has caused me to grow these breasts.

My sweet wife leant me one of her black bras, which I am now wearing as I write this. The bra has helped ease the weighted discomfort in my chest. But now I feel this tight constriction across my entire chest and back. Is this what women have to deal with everyday? Is this what bras feel like for them? If so, just like Donald Trump and all his male counterparts, I have yet again underestimated what women have to deal with everyday. No man, no matter how rich and studly, could tolerate this feeling of being hugged tightly around their chest all day long. No way.

I don’t feel as angry today. Anger is just a wave, I keep telling myself. The shock seems to be wearing off and I am accepting that as a result of the election of Donald Trump as President, nothing has changed and everything has changed. The sun has still come up. There are birds eating from my backyard bird feeder. I can hear cars racing by outside my home. But the far right has seized power in America. Every advancement America has made with regards to equality for all people over the past eight years has been undone. White patriarchy is now back in power. And I have a pair of decent sized female breasts hanging from my chest.

My wife told me that hopefully as my anger subsides, the breasts will decrease. What does this mean? I have to go to work today so I am not sure how long this will take. If I really try to let go of my anger now, will the breasts go quickly away? But anger is not really something I can get rid of. All I can do is step back, breathe and not identify with it. When it completely goes away is not really up to me. What if it doesn’t go away for as long as Donald Trump is in power?

A great deal of Americans are still celebrating today. They are thrilled that a multi-billionaire, far right extremist has seized control of the highest office in the world. Some people are not happy about this but are trying to make peace with what has happened. I am really upset about it and will not pretend like everything will be ok. I will not take my mother’s advice and just try to see the positives. What is positive about this? I am the one who has ended up with a pair of good-sized, female breasts hanging from my chest.

Everyone else seems to be getting on just fine.

How To Resist Normalization

“They know that if they put the letter x in their ad or brand, whether you know it or not, you instantly think about sex. I’m concerned about how we’re controlled or directed or conditioned, without even knowing it.” -V. Vale, publisher of RE/SEARCH

I live in Los Angeles, which is often referred to as the normalization capital of the world. Hollywood is responsible for most of the plot lines, belief systems, ways of being and images that seduce and support the vast majority of people into living in normalized ways. It is hard to know how effected by my environment I have been. I suspect some degree of normalization has set in within me- probably a lot more than I am comfortable being aware of.

Normalization has spread all over the world and it manifests in many different forms. For purposes of this essay I am referring to normalization in the Western World, mainly America. Many philosophers, social theorists and others currently consider America to be the epicenter of unprecedented degrees of normalization. I believe that a normalization of the masses is occurring in America and it is far greater than what occurred in Nazi Germany or what currently exists in North Korea.

When I use the word normalization what I am referring to is the absence of all forms of resistance. When resistance is gone, normalization is what sets in.

What do I mean by normalization? Maybe it would be easier to answer this question by stating what I do not mean by normalization. I do not mean a creative, fully-accepting, loving, non-dramatic, non-fearful, non-violent, non-addictive, generous, kind, confident, anti-authoritarian, free-thinking, self obsessed human being. I do not mean someone who does not like their work but works for the money and routinely engages in popularly accepted, corporate forms of distraction, consumerism, communication and entertainment.

So what is normalization? Wiktionary (an on-line dictionary) defines normalization as any process that makes something more normal or regular, which typically means conforming to some regularity or rule, or returning from some state of abnormality. I suppose that when speaking about normalization in a social sense, abnormality could imply existing outside the norm.

So what is the norm in American society? We know it when it sets in.

For many artists and activists in America, life is a continual process of resisting the above various forms of normalization.

Minor forms of mental illness are the result of resisting normalization (clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder), but more extreme cases of mental illness are always the result of normalization (narcissism, borderline personality disorder, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and psychopathy to name a few).

The greatest counter-culture movements, from the hippies and beatniks to the punk, post punk, grunge and indie movements have been born from resistance. Today (in 2015) this resistance is more visible in the occupy movement, the hacker group Anonymous, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. Artistic counter-cultural movements in America are currently in great decline because the pervasive forces of normalization have effected almost everyone (mainly through technology, policing, economics, public shaming and various laws).

What about “terrorist” and paramilitary groups? Insurgent groups? Any group that utilizes any form of psychological or physical violence is the norm. There are few things more normalized in America than violence.

The main symptom of normalization is chronic irritation, anger, emptiness and rage. It does not feel good to be normalized. Not everyone responds to normalization in an socially acceptable way. This is why it is often those who regularly experience chronic irritation, emptiness, anger and rage who engage in wars, violence and other forms of emotional and psychological oppression.

Normalization is violence. A violence against life itself.

Authentic resistance is never violent or harmful to others. Authentic resistance is a force of love, creativity, honesty, kindness and a strong impulse towards liberation, generation and freedom from all forms of violence.

Life is resistance. It is through a continual interplay of resistance that life exists.

Resistance is the creative process in action.

Non-violent acts of political protest are a powerful and important form of resistance (especially when living within authoritarian systems). However, this form of resistance is not nearly as effective for our inner-selves as being engaged creatively.

Creativity is the greatest form of resistance because creativity is generative. It fills the emptiness so that normalization can not set in. Normalization generates holes so that it can burrow in deep.

A few basic examples of forms of resistance are: not regularly watching television and popular movies, regularly reading literature, philosophy and poetry, viewing art, listening to non-passifying forms of music (meaning non-corporate music that requires some effort to find and listen to), being a vegetarian, not paying attention to the news, growing your own food, spending little time on-line or on a cellular phone, not engaging in social networking, loving your work, engaged in creative activities, not always looking outside oneself for fulfillment, regularly having great ideas, cooking one’s own food, engaged in transcending the ego, not utilizing the medical system to maintain health.

The internet, television, popular-movies, the news, Facebook, Instagram, politics, institutionalized education, the medical system, capitalistic belief systems (money), popular self-help books, your own personal and family drama, psychotherapy with a normalized therapist, most corporations and technology all share one common purpose- to normalize the individual. The amount that you are engaged with these things often determines the degree to which a person has been normalized.

Television, the internet and movies (there is a difference between movies and film) are the main vehicles of normalization. While watching images on a screen the human mind becomes relaxed enough that subliminal messaging is able to sneak in to the subconscious mind (everyone involved in advertising is aware of this psychological fact). The subconscious mind is like the roots of a plant. It generates what grows in the conscious mind. This is why subliminal messaging from the corporate media often grows into normalization.

If you value your autonomy, Be careful what you open yourself up to, is a good thing to keep in mind.

Ultimately a person does have a choice. To agree to normalization or engage in acts of resistance. Most choose normalization because it feels so much easier. Everyone is doing it. This is why normalization has some real benefits. A person can live a normal, relaxed and comfortable life. A person can afford what is often called security. A person can feel like they fit in and are apart of something bigger than themselves. But the normalized person is not really there. It is just a normalized version of who they think they really are.

This is why the main focus of a normalized lifestyle is the pursuit of pleasure (consumerism). A normalized person works so that they can live (consume) on their off time. When it comes time to living- it is all about the pursuit of pleasure. This pursuit takes the form of vacations, shopping, second homes, going out for nice meals, being passively entertained (movies), getting intoxicated, being in good shape, prescription medication and being happy. Once a person is no longer resisting normalization, there is more time to just chill and enjoy the fruits of one’s labor.

The reason why normalization leads to an obsession with the pursuit of pleasure is because normalization does not feel good. It does not feel good to not be who you think you are. It fills a person with anger, illness, frustration, fear and emptiness (pain). Normalization stresses a person beyond their capacity. They have to pursue pleasure in order to escape the pain of normalization.

Authentic resistance always feels good. If it does not feel good it is not resistance. It feels fluid and free. It is an energy that elevates a person out from the more oppressive forces of normalization. It fills up the emptiness and puts a person in alignment with their true self.

This is why it is so important for a person to have a creative outlet. Whether it is writing, painting, drawing, dancing, sculpting, gardening, knitting or engaging in non-passive forms of entertainment and/or psychological enhancement (listening to music, reading, watching films, meditating).

Creativity is resistance. As long as a person is regularly engaging in some form of resistance, they are still free.

The Tramp (or Watching TV In Bed)

A middle aged, clean shaven, blonde haired man with weather lines indented on his face, came to my door this morning. Knock, knock. I was still supine in bed, watching television like I do on most Sunday mornings. Before I heard the knock I was thinking about all the evils of television. I was wondering if the people who were always trying to sell the viewer something felt shame in their private lives. I was also thinking how everyone on television, with slight variations, looks the same. Television truly is a Pavlovian box. Knock, knock. I looked at my wife and asked her who the hell that could be. Knocking on our door this early on Sunday morning? Really?

My wife and I argued for a moment about who was getting up and since I was the one with clothes on, that person was me. My body is tight and old in the mornings, so I walked to the front door without the same urgency I felt. I had trouble adjusting my eyes and my hips were sore from a week spent sitting at work. Thousands of thoughts pushed each other around in my head. I was angry that I was being put through this.

He was wearing a gray suit (with a tie) and had a backpack on. His suit looked as if it had been rolled through dirt before he put it on. There were what looked like cigarette marks on the sleeves. He had a hardback book under his arm. The opposite of perfection is eccentricity and this character standing on my front doorstep seemed to be the personification of what it looks like to be an eccentric. When he reached out to shake my hand, I was hesitant. His hands were dirty and I was afraid of catching something and getting sick.

I’m a tramp, he said.
Ok, I was perplexed.
Do you know what a tramp is?
Not really.
Do you know what a wayfarer is?
Not this early in the morning, I replied while holding on to my door incase he tried to push his way in.
Well, I’m a wanderer. My home is what you see and I walk, with little concern for where I end up. I started out in Norway and am now here. I will end up back in Norway at some point.
Ok, I thought and curiously nodded my head.
Anyways, I was walking around your neighborhood and was struck by your beautiful house.
Thank you, I said.
Yes, sure, it is beautiful, such a nice garden in the front. I also love the colors of your house. Looks like you spend a lot of time caring for your home.
Thank you, I replied. Where the hell was he going with all of this? When was he going to ask for money? Does he realize there is a no solicitation law here? Should I tell him you can’t just go up to people’s houses and knock on their doors?
Your neighborhoods are so much different than the ones we have in Norway. Here it is like a ghost town, like no one lives in these homes. That is why I noticed your home. Seems like there is still some life here. I notice that American suburbs are a very frozen kind of thing. At least that is what I feel like when looking at most of the homes. But I did not feel frozen when I looked at your house. It was unexpected.
I was not sure how to respond. I didn’t want to engage. I just wanted for my bed, my naked wife and my tv. And then I was caught off guard.
Do you feel free?
Excuse me?
Free, just curious if you feel free?
Well, you have a nice home and America is the land of the free (he chuckled), so do you feel free?
Do I feel free?
Look man, I appreciate your compliments about my home but I’m tired and I don’t feel like really getting into this. I work a lot all week and Sunday is my morning to just chill out so if you don’t mind I need to end this conversation right now.
Oh, well I’m sorry young man, I did not mean to be a bother. I was just walking past and as I was looking at your home I wanted to ask you this question. In Norway we are raised to think that Americans are free but I don’t see freedom in the faces of your people. No one will even really talk to me about it. But that is a good enough answer I suppose. I apologize for bothering you young man. Back to bed you go!

And just like that, the self-described tramp walked away. I watched as his large backpack swung up and down on his back. It was almost as if he was skipping. He looked back over his shoulder at me and smiled. I shut and locked the front door and slowly made my way back into bed.

Someone trying to sell you something? My wife was looking at her iPhone as she asked me this.
Yeah, just someone trying to sell something. I didn’t want to get into it.
I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and pulled her naked body in close to me.

On television some balding white man, in a nicely pressed blue suit was talking to a panel of other white men and one black man all wearing wrinkle free suits with ties. They were talking about the latest military campaign in the Middle East and how important it is to do whatever is necessary to protect American’s freedom at home.

The Sunbather

Every afternoon that the clouds are not obstructing the sun, I become a sunbather. I do not wear sun tan lotion nor do I take any of the typical modern precautions against the sun. I am a sun lover and I do not see its golden rays as a threat. I’m afraid of many things in my life but the sun does not seem to be one of them. Instead, I strip down into the nude and shower in the sun light in the same way that I imagine a religious practitioner would bathe themselves in their god or goddess. I see the benefits of sun: a darker complexion, uplifted mood, more sex appeal and higher vitamin D3 levels. As far as I am concerned sun exposure is equally as important as a regular exercise.

However, sunbathing is not without its disadvantages. I have been sunbathing since I was a skinny youth but now that I am in my early forties I am noticing a new, less enjoyable experience when I sunbathe. For as long as I can remember sunbathing has been pure pleasure. Time well spent. Pleasurable abandon. But now after about twenty minutes or so of “laying out” in the sun I notice this unpleasant feeling creeping over me. It is a sensation that is usually accompanied by a metallic sensation in my mouth and a slight pulsation in my temples. I am naked and stretched out on my sun lounger with the sun light showering down all over me yet I am very uncomfortable.

Birds and various other forms of wild life will be active all around me yet my thoughts and a feelings seem to be tethered by a negative and unsatisfied quality. These feelings and thoughts make it very difficult for me to be still. I feel like I should be doing something else, accomplishing more, working more, being more ambitious. I notice this voice in my head that repeats words like “lazy,” “depressed,” “unambitous,” “failure,” ‘looser.” The feelings in my body seem to be shouting, “Get going! You should be doing anything but wasting afternoon after afternoon doing nothing! You do not deserve to do nothing!”

If you were to look at me stretched out on my sun lounger you would think that I am a man without a care in the world. You would not know that inside there is a battle going on between the forces of being and doing. You would not know that I am feeling like I am wasting my life and am terrified of going broke because of my laziness. You would not know what a great effort it is taking to stay still on that sun lounger.

In Eastern philosophy they talk a lot about people like me. When reading books that have an Eastern philosophy influence, I often come across the opinion that people in the West suffer so much because they are stuck in an endless cycle of doing and as a result our minds are always focused on things outside of ourselves. The moment that we stop and turn our minds inward we are confronted with the negative effects of always doing and focusing outwards. There is an immense amount of guilt, discomfort and negativity that is present because we feel that we need to be doing something. In order to avoid these uncomfortable feelings and thoughts we continually do things! Anything to avoid sitting still. While laying out on my sun lounger I am aware of this, yet this awareness does not seem to make enjoying the afternoon sun any easier.

I suppose I have been conditioned by that capitalistic logic which says I do things, therefore I am. I suppose when I am not doing anything my very being gets put into question. Who am I? What am I doing? Do I matter? Am I wasting my life? Maybe the intensity of these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings are the result of the fact that I am older now and am aware that I have less time left on this earth to “make my mark.” When I was younger I would spend my entire days “laying out” in the sun. Lazy and without a care in the world. I had plenty of time then.

Or maybe my uncomfortable feelings are more the result of social conditioning. Maybe in the culture where I live a man is expected to have made something of himself by the age of 40. He is expected to be financially independent and accomplished by the age that I now am. If he is not, then he is seen as a loser, a failure. Maybe now when I am laying out in the afternoon sun the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that are present are the result of my father, my mother, my sister, my in-laws, my wife, my government, my teachers, my culture all telling me that I need to do something with my life! However the irony is that I feel that the most productive and important thing a human being can do at this stage in our overly productive and destructive history is learn how to enjoy just being. To stop doing so much and spend as many afternoons as they can sunbathing.

The Lentil Challenge

A few evenings ago my wife made a gigantic pot of lentil stew. We have both been very low on money and we were trying to find ways to save money. My wife had the idea of making a large pot of lentil stew that we could feed off of for days. Lunch and dinner for at least three days was the initial plan. My wife added potatoes, carrots, onions, cilantro, peppers and kale to the stew, which seemed to grow as it sat simmering on our electric stovetop. When my grandmother lived in Communist Russia and suffered through the food shortages and poverty that was an epidemic in the 1940’s and 50’s, her mother would make a massive pot of lentil stew to feed the whole family with for a week. Now that my wife and I are living through an economic crisis of equal proportion, we decided that it was a perfect time to use the recipe for this lentil stew that my grandmother gave to us on her deathbed.

As the lentil stew simmered on the stove I stood over it in the same way that a man would pray at a shrine. I had my eyes closed, hands clasped and I breathed deeply. I was reminded of a time when food was more plentiful and economic woes were no place to be found. Another way that my wife and I are trying to save money is by not using any heat in our house, so I also used the simmering stew as my heater. I would grab a book or a magazine and read by the stew. My grandmother’s recipe said that the stew had to simmer for eight hours and I spent every moment by its side. I read an article about the thousands of people who have lost their homes and gone bankrupt because of medical bills that they could not afford to pay. I read another article about how the richest Americans are living the high life, “rolling in economic prosperity” while 97 percent of Americans are in some way struggling economically. The article talked about how the main consensus amongst the wealthy is that they would like to see Julian Assange jailed or assassinated because he is exposing the lies and corruption of the American government, whose job it is to work for the rich. I read all of this as I hovered over the simmering lentil stew, longing for the time when it would be time to eat.

That night at dinner I consumed three bowls of lentil stew quicker than my dog plows through a bowl filled with kibble. My wife and I did not talk much since she has been struggling through a wintertime spell of depression. Since we are trying to save money we no longer buy much wine and beer. We go a few days a week without a drink but that night at dinner she nursed a glass filled with some whiskey that was donated to us by a friend who owns a successful restaurant in San Francisco. My wife is in her final year of graduate school and the stress of her program, and the worries that coagulate in her mind (worries about what she is going to do when she is done) sometimes cause her to become quieter than a silent film. When I got up from our small dinner table to get a fourth bowl of lentil stew my wife suddenly blurted out, “how many lentils can you eat?” I turned to her and said, “I am so hungry that I bet you I can eat more lentils than any other man in the world.” She chuckled and said “no way.” I reminded her that our economic woes have caused me to have to go days on end with very little food. “The recession may cause a lot of economic despair but it also creates a lot of hungry men,” I said with an upturned grin on my face. It was at this point that my wife lifted her wallowing head, pointed both her wide eyes in my direction and said, “I have a challenge for you.”

I have always loved a good challenge, especially in times of despair. Challenges distract my mind; take my consciousness to another level. The last good challenge that I had was a few years ago. A friend of mine bet me one hundred dollars that I could not walk in a straight line for one mile through downtown San Francisco. I took the challenge and with my friend following me I managed to walk in a straight line for more than three miles. I walked through stranger’s homes, through gas stations and office buildings. I had to walk through a police station and several restaurants, but somehow I managed to walk in a straight line through the heart of the city. Sitting at the dinner table with my fourth bowl of lentil stew in my hand, my wife challenged me to eat 5,000 lentils in one day. She told me that there where at least that many lentils in the stew that she made and she would give me until 7pm the following day to eat the lentils. “Do I need to count every lentil I eat?” I asked. “Duh,” she replied. “How else would I know if you ate 5,000 lentils?”

Since I myself am unemployed and on winter break from graduate school- I had nothing to do the following day. I woke early to prepare myself for the challenge. I boiled a pot of hot water on the stove to get warm and I then did thirty minutes of meditation, where I visualized myself winning the challenge. I saw myself jumping up and down after I ate the final lentil, a victorious smile upon my face. My wife would not be home that day but she told me that she trusted me enough to not lie about the amount of lentils that I ate. I may be a poor man but I am no liar, so I appreciated her faith in me not being a cheater. When I was done with my meditation I took the ten-pound pot of left over lentil stew, warmed it up on the stove and began to eat one lentil at a time. Each lentil I ate I counted out loud and every fiftieth lentil I would make a note of on a pad of paper.

I spent the afternoon in my kitchen. I was hovered over the simmering stew pulling lentil after lentil out of the pot. On the busy street outside of my house I could hear the sounds of cars, busses and people. I heard the mailman drop of the daily mail. The symphony of commerce and daily toil was in full swing as I sat in the solitude of my impoverished kitchen eating lentils. Every hour or so I had to take a break. I would go into my living room and stretch out on the fading green carpet that I inherited from my grandmother. I would lie on my back and remember a time in my youth when my days were filled with tennis lessons, private tutoring and three large meals a day. I remembered my heated bedroom, the white carpet that I would often lay down upon, the large swimming pool in my backyard and the feel of economic prosperity that ran through my childhood memories. “Now I am living in a cold house where I cannot afford to pay the heating bill. How things change overtime,” I thought to myself. Rain came down outside, I stared at the ceiling and tried to find a way to eat more than 5,000 lentils.

Psychologists often suggest that in times of distress the human mind distracts itself with the most superficial preoccupations. This is often referred to as the denial syndrome. The idea is that often the real reality of a person’s life is too large and troubling for the human mind to comprehend. So the mind has a built in mechanism, which allows it to focus on things that are not as threatening to its survival. I realize that spending my day focusing on eating 5,000 lentils was a way for me to avoid thinking about more pressing concerns. I had bill collectors I needed to call. I needed to contest inaccurate charges on a medical bill. I needed to look for a job and register for my next semester of classes. I also needed to clean out the birdcage, exercise, clean the bathroom and check in on my 90-year-old neighbor who spends her days staring at a blank wall. But I managed to avoid all of this and more by focusing all of my attention on getting that number 5,001 lentil into my mouth. I got my lanky body off the floor and continued to eat lentils.

Time has a way of passing without my awareness when I am deeply immersed in a task. When my wife came home at around 6pm it was already dark out. I had not noticed the transition from light to dark because my head was buried in a pot filled with lentil stew. I heard my wife complain about how cold and dark the house was and I answered by saying, “welcome to our America.” In my attempts to save money I insist upon keeping as many light off as possible and my wife does not like living in the dark. When she came into the kitchen she noticed that I was still dressed in the clothes that I slept in. She asked me how close I was to eating 5,000 lentils. As I put a lentil in my mouth and slowly chewed it- I pointed to the piece of paper that I was using to keep track of every lentil that I ate. She began to count up all of my markings and when she was done counting she let out a small, victorious laugh. “Ha!” she said. “You have only eaten 2, 203 lentils?” she asked. “If that is what it says than that is how many lentils I have eaten,” I replied. She came up close to me and said, “well your still my champion.” She grabbed my penis and then gave me a kiss on the cheek before walking away.

It was at that point I knew that I had lost the lentil challenge. I may be one of the hungriest men in the world- but there was no way that I was going to be able to eat 5,000 lentils. If it took me the whole day to eat 2,203 lentils then it would take me all night and some of the morning to reach 5,000 lentils. One of the virtues of growing older is that I have learned when to accept defeat. I believe that it was the essayist Montaigne who wrote, “a wise man is able to smile when they have lost and congratulate the victor.” I nodded my head and walked away from the pot of lentil stew. Slowly I walked to the bedroom where my wife was changing into several layers of thermal underwear, sweaters and socks. “It is going to be cold tonight,” she said as she slipped a sweater over her head. I swallowed and then suddenly felt sad that this had become my life. I never thought that things were going to turn out this way. “What’s wrong?” my wife asked as she put on gloves. “Nothing,” I replied with a superficial smile. She came up close to me and took my arms in her gloved hands. “You did the best you could sweetheart,” she said looking me in the eyes. I did not want to talk about it so I asked, “what’s for dinner?” My wife chuckled and as she walked past me towards the kitchen she said, “lentil stew.”

The Joy Of Being Out Of Work

“I need so much time for doing nothing that I have no time for work.” -Pierre Reverdy

“It pisses me off every time I think about anybody thinking that work will liberate.” -Bell Hooks

“I am presently too prosperous for work.” -me

Please do not tell my wife what I am about to say. She would not be very happy about the sentiments that I am going to express here. You see, I don’t mind being out of work. Most Americans live in fear of this prospect, but I embrace it. Granted, the financial stress and my wife’s condemnations are hard to carry around from day to day, but the otherwise chronic feeling of liberation and freedom makes never having enough money easier to deal with. You see, America is a country based upon the principle of work and the illusion of freedom. Without a full-time job in this country you are screwed or relegated to the periphery. Without job and ensuing money one is unable to enjoy the bountiful materialism and gluttony that America has to offer. To not get to partake in this feast can be taxing on the nerves and self esteem, however since I have been out of work for more than eight months I have been asking myself, could there be another way live?

Now don’t get me wrong. I like nice things as much as the next person. I love going to spas, eating nice meals, taking yoga classes, drinking high end wine and having a luxurious bed to sleep in- but I don’t partake in these things at the moment. Instead what I have gained is time. A plethora of time. By not having a job I have lost money but gained time. Time to sleep in, time to sun bathe in mid afternoon, time to go for long walks everyday, time to read the books that I love to read, time to work on a novel, time to be with my wife, time to watch the sun set, time to contemplate the nature of existence, time to meditate, time to better my relationship with my cat and time to work on my own spiritual and psychological development (in other words I have time to be fully alive). When I think back to the time when I was working a job I remember not having much time for any of these simple pleasures. I was stressed out, tired, discontent and overworked. Sure I had a lot more money in my bank account. I knew the rent was going to be paid. I could afford to go out to dinner every night and see a shrink. I could buy my cat expensive cat food and take him to the vet when he had a chronic itch. But I got to ask- was all this really worth it?

In physics work is defined as the amount of energy transferred by a force. In thermodynamics work is defined as the quantity of energy transferred from one system to another. Work refers to human labor and labor is a measure of work done by human beings. Even though work is a loss of energy for the human being, work is not necessarily a bad thing. I know many people who truly love working (even though I think this is because they have forgotten the simple pleasures of living). If one is transferring their energy into something that is a unique expression of who they are and what they love- then I would say that even though work will be exhausting, it could be worthwhile. Even though it is a generalization, I believe it to be an accurate generalization to say that most people who work in America are transferring energy from themselves into another system, a process, which they do not enjoy or love but do because they need to pay the bills and attempt to live the illusive American dream.

I always saw work as an unfair punishment. Just because Adam fucked up in the Garden of Eden does not mean that my life should be subjected to a life spent working by the sweat of my brow. This does not seem fair to me. Living in America, I cannot help to see the numerous amounts of people who are willingly paying the price for Adam’s sin. The whole edifice of America is based upon people laboring day after day by the sweat of their brow just because Adam had to eat a piece of fruit.

I don’t mind putting effort to accomplish a task. I do this when I write, paint, walk, cook, read and clean out the birdcage. What I do mind is when I feel obligated to transfer energy from one system to another system when I cannot stand the whole process. And this is where the problem of employment comes in. You see, employment is a contract between two parties, one being the employer the other being the employee. An employee may be defined as a person in the service of another under any contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written, where the employer has the power to control and direct the employee in the details of how the work is done. Employees provide labor. I think it is fair to say that most American are employees and I feel like it is also fair to say that this condition has created a country built upon the backs of slaves.

I have always made a terrible employee. I do not appreciate being told what to do- especially by employers who just want to use up all of my energy without any thought about my own personal well-being. In my twenty years of working I have only experienced brief moments of pleasure as an employee and I think it is fair to assume that this true for most of us. No one likes being told what to do, no one likes being used, no one enjoys having energy sucked from them- but this is what it means to be an employee. This is why Americans are so fascinated by celebrities, who are people who have escaped from the human bondage of being an employee. Employee’s look upon these celebrities with envy, in the same way the Greeks once looked upon their Gods. You see, in American the employee is no longer shackled by visible chains- instead they are shackled by car payments, credit cards, cable bills, electric bills, taxes, mortgages and the marketed desire for the American dream. What we Americans end up giving away in exchange for the American dream is free time and freedom.

Since I have been out of work I have had to give up my cable bill, move into a less expensive home, not eat out so often and spend more time reading rather than going out for entertainment. I have had to sleep in rather than get up early and spend a lot more time with myself, nature, fresh air then with bosses and people wanting things from me. I have been redefining success as a way of thinking where I realize that leisure is essential to my mental health rather than a cause for guilt. I have realized that I do not have to spend my life struggling, striving to make ends meet through working a job. I am learning to appreciate what I have instead of endlessly questing for more growth and discovering my passions without worrying about trying to fit them into the form of a job.

It is now eleven am and everyone that I know is at work. My mother just called me and asked if I have found a job yet. My Grandfather told me in my dream how important it is that a man works hard ever day. Outside it is raining and there is traffic in the streets. I am still dressed in what I slept in, my hair is uncombed and I have just finished breakfast. Even though outside the world of maximizing profits is full swing, inside the walls of my home I feel like I am living on an island, outside the system; an unemployed exile in my own country. I wonder if the only way to really save the planet is to have more people out of work, at home and spending more time with themselves. I know this will never happen because I live in a culture addicted to getting stuff done and accumulating wealth in exchange for freedom. Everyone wants to be somebody, to accomplish something and have the social status and economic prosperity that comes along with it. But I think this is faulty logic. The world of work and accumulation has no beginning and no end. It is like the cat chasing its own tail, and for what? I would rather rest, write, breathe, read and be. I would rather keep my energy for myself, my health, my peace of mind rather than laboring it away day after day. But maybe this is an impossible dream, a joy that refuses to hang around because eventually I have to go back to work (if I want to keep my wife).

The Bank Teller

Let me tell you somethings. Did you know that every time we inhale, we absorb oxygen expelled into the atmosphere as a waste product by the earths plant life? Every time we exhale, we expel carbon dioxide as a waste product into the atmosphere where it can eventually be absorbed by the same plant life? Did you know this? Let me also tell you that no matter where you live upon our beautiful earth you are breathing in trace amounts of depleted uranium from the bombs that the U.S are using in Iraq. Did you know that over twenty thousand children die a day from starvation? How about the fact that a plane never went into the Pentagon? Did you know that 9-11 and the war in Iraq (which has terminated the lives of over one million Iraqis) are a result of what is called War Games? Let me also tell you that Lao Tzu, the Chinese mystic believed that if we can somehow expand our narrow image of ourselves and live from our wholeness, then many of our problems will simply disappear on their own.

This is why I took the job as a Bank Teller. It allows me the opportunity to tell strangers things that they would otherwise never know. Costumers come into the bank where I work and think that they are only coming in to deposit or withdraw money. They are usually impatient and in a hurry- stuck in what Lao Tzu would call “Narrowness.” Rather than just taking their money or giving them their money I like to tell them things- expand their consciousness. It is one way that I can make an active contribution to my community and to the human race as a whole. Did you know that writing poetry and reading poetry helps you maintain dignity, it will help you to be better suited to defend yourself in the world? I said this to a middle aged women the other day who seemed aggravated and in a hurry. I could tell that her life had become a collection of material pursuits and failed dreams and I could see the frustration in her eyes. “I have always wanted to read poetry but I never have the time,” she said to me with a glimmer of hope between her eyes. “Well, you might want to make time.” Today she returned to the bank with a book of T.S Elliot poems in her hands and she seemed refreshed. “I am making the time,” she said to me with a smile as I withdrew cash for her.

Often times people come into my bank to find out about bank balances, interests rates, mortgage payments, and fees. I give them the information they want but I usually prefice it with information that I want to tell. I have a sense of urgency within me that drives me to say something. Did you know that Spirulina, dried prunes, beef liver and beer are excellent sources of copper? I said to one man who looked to me to be suffering from a copper deficiency. Because of global warming and soil erosion, human beings are no longer getting a proper amount of this valuable mineral in their diets. The lack of copper in our diets may be responsible for the majority of contemporary diseases. The next day this man came back to the bank to show me the bottle of copper supplements he bought. It is by demanding dignity and respect that you gain it, I told another costumer who was being passive aggressive with me and refused to tell me how she was really feeling. Something was triggered in her when I said this and she straightened up her posture and left my bank looking more confident.

The managers at my bank are on my back. They have accused me of spending to much time with my costumers and not moving the line at a quick enough speed. Did you know that capitalism is used to exploit workers by making them maximize profits in the quickest amount of time? “I did not,” one of the managers said to me with a look of stupefaction upon his white collard face. Yes, capitalism exhausts the worker for the betterment of the organization that they work for. This is what drives capitalism. Use the worker to maximize profits for the company. When the worker gets worn out or dies- just fill the vacancy with another worker. There will always be workers because in capitalistic societies only the very few get to enjoy the wealth of other peoples labor, I explained. “Look, you are one of our best Bank Tellers but you need to stop spending so much time chatting with your costumers so that we can maintain our banks reputation for giving expedient service.” Then he walked away without waiting for my reply.

Did you know that I am going to get fired from my position as a Bank Teller? I am expecting it any day now. At the staff meeting yesterday the bank handed out a list of strategies for normalizing behavior in bank employees. One of these strategies was to replace words with a smile to speed up the line. “Smile more and speak less.” I am not a very good employee because I do not like bosses. I don’t like being subjected to their expectations. Did you know that a real culture functions to limit greed. Our culture functions to increase it , because we are repeatedly told, it’s profitable to do so, though the majority of profits go only to a few people, I said to every one present at the meeting. People who go to work for corporations essentially abandon their integrity as individuals in order to serve the corporation, I added to the consternation of the managers. “Okay that is enough just keep smiling and maximizing profits and that is all,” the head manager said and then ended our staff meeting. If you have lost the capacity to be outraged by what is outrageous, you’re dead. Somebody ought to come and haul you off, I said on our way out from the meeting. Like I said, I have a sense of urgency- I have to say something.

Did you know that we pity Muslim women for wearing veils, yet almost every face in this country is veiled by suspicion and fear? You can’t walk down a city street an get anybody to look at you. People’s countenances are undercover operations in America. Oh, and let me also tell you the most important thing I tell costumers at my bank. That love is not abstract and cannot lead to abstract action. Love is the catalyst for concrete action, which is taking responsibility for what we do here and now. Love is not just a feeling. It’s an instruction: love one another. That’s hard to do. It does not mean to sit at home and have fond feelings. You’ve got to treat people as if you love them , whether you do or not. I know that I am holding up the line, and that I am going to loose my job as a Bank Teller- but I have to tell these things……….

Breasts Not Bombs

I happen to be a lover of breasts. I am also adamantly against bombs. This morning when I was on a walk and dealing with various thoughts of impending doom- I had an idea. Why not start a non-profit organization called Breasts Not Bombs? The value of the idea was greatest in its ability to get my mind off of obsessive thoughts of impending doom. Rather than thinking about my own death, I was able to focus upon the visual imagery of breasts. These breasts belonged to no women in particular but rather they were universal breasts belonging to all women.

As I walked through the park with an image of youthful breasts swinging around in my head- I found that the anxiety that I was suffering from moments ago had passed. There is something about the image of breasts that calms the central nervous system. Breasts are nurturing, comforting, cooling and there is not a person on earth who is not calmed by the presence of a breast. I was suddenly able to make sense of my chronic desire to look down women’s shirts or seek out strippers and stare at their breasts. I am seeking repose or release from the chronic anxiety that seems to be upon me day and night. I am looking for breasts to calm my frazzled nerves in the same way that a person who is about to drown searches for a life preserver.

As I watched the morning sun come up over the tall looming redwood trees I realized that I not only had an erection but that a non- profit organization like Breasts Not Bombs could possibly save the world. It was the German Psychiatrists Wilhelm Reich who said that “if man could just have a daily orgasm or be allowed to fondle a naked woman everyday, then all the wars and terrible violence of humanity could be avoided.” Men would not want to fight- because the release of sexual energy would allow them to feel rested and calm. Myself, being a daily orgasamer, happen to agree with Reich’s theory. I am a very non-violent man who has yet to throw a punch or harm another fellow human being in any direct way. I have always known that this is mainly because I am always thinking of naked woman and masturbating. If Breasts Not Bombs could stimulate this same feeling in the majority of men on earth- than maybe I could find a way to avert the constant violence on earth that I so strongly stand against. This could win me the one thing I have always longed for- a Noble Peace Prize.

I would have to find thousands of woman who would be willing to not only walk around with out shirt and bra but also be willing to allow men to fondle their breasts. These woman would have to be connected with their maternal instincts and realize that what they where doing was sacrificing their own sense of feministic decency for the larger good of humanity. By allowing men to play with their breasts- they would be effectively changing if not saving the world. As I returned to my home ready to begin the work of establishing my own non-profit, I grew a bit disconcerted with my ability to gather so many women who were willing to sacrifice themselves for a larger good. In our contemporary American war culture, where breasts have become taboo and hidden from view like the Dead Sea Scrolls- how the hell would I find a thousand women willing to bare their boobs and save the world? I have always believed that where there is a will there is a way….and the rest of my day was spent creating a plan to make my will a reality.

The Doorman

I am obsessed with doors. I have walked for miles upon many miles and spent years upon years- staring at nothing but doors. The way doors are crafted and the permission that they grant the viewer to imagine what may lay behind, give me an animated sense of being alive. I love the way doors swing and hang. When I am watching a door swing or sway upon its hinges it is as if I am watching a beautiful women seductively pull back articles of clothing that slightly reveal glimpses of forbidden flesh. A potential is revealed and then hidden.

I am a man who is drawn to doors like sailors can be drawn to sea. I am in love with the concept of a door. The way doors separate realities and tempt the mind into a certain curiosity. Doors alter moods, depending upon whether they are opened or closed. They hold the key to the riddle of the universe- all we have to do to is walk on through to the other side.

My obsession with doors grew out of a brief relationship with a woman whose father was a door maker. He specialized in making doors from Southern Spain. The doors had a Moorish quality to them and were always carved with seven sided stars and Arabic writings. The doors were large enough to allow elephants to walk into or out of a room. Aliza’s father was also a man obsessed with doors and after he was long asleep (his wife and he slept on a mattress which was set upon two 18th century doors that he brought back from Barcelona) we would sneak into his door studio and make love on the various kinds of metal door carving equipment. I remember the cold of the equipment against my bare butt as I lifted her upon my legs and made love to her in the dark. Aliza taught me all that she new about doors. We would spend days doing nothing but walking around the tree lined neighborhood in which she lived examining the various kinds of doors that separated families, friends and strangers from “experiences, perceptions and realities.” When Aliza left me for another woman the last words she said to me upon slamming a door in my face was “my doors are shut.”

I managed to steal an antiquated book about doors from Aliza’s father before leaving the door studio for the final time. My heart was in pieces and I had tears in my eyes as I ran off with the book under my jacket. I read the book at least a dozen times and got over my broken heart by traveling around America on a bike and examining, studying and documenting various forms of doors. I took photographs and documented over 10,000 doors in sixteen journals that I tugged around with me in a heavy suitcase. I stayed in Philadelphia for months amazed by the various kinds of colonial doors that seemed to exist in excess. I worked in a strip club during the evenings and documented doors during the day. In one form or another I have been doing this same thing for the past fifteen years. I have over two hundred door documentation journals. I hope that one day not to soon my obituary mentions that I am one of the most important Doormen of my generation.

A Doorman is not the standard and accepted definition of a man who opens doors for you. Rather the term Doorman goes back at least 2100 years to antiquity where a minor Greek Historian by the name of Herodumus wrote the first collection of writings on the theme of doors. He defined a Doorman as the connoisseur of the study of doors whose fascination with the transcendental architecture of doors burn like a fever in his soul. He spoke of the Doorman as one who searches with unrelenting fervor to find the secret or “alternate reality” that can only be revealed by passing through a door. This is the alternate reality that Aldous Huxley wrote about in The Doors Of Perception– another book that has deeply inspired my search. Huxley spoke of doors as a living form of matter that have the absolute power of separating and joining one reality to another. It was Jim Morrison who was the twentieth century’s greatest devotees of Herodumus’s manifesto of the Doorman. He took Huxley’s challenge to break on through and started a band that was dedicated to investigating the mystical apparatus that we refer to as a door. Morrison made doors spiritual and sexual. The textures and structure of doors became more detailed in American society (1969) after The Doors became on of Americas greatest rock bands. It is to Jim Morrison that I will dedicate the great twenty first century book that I plan to write about doors. It will be called The Doors.

For now I am swamped with perpetual thoughts of doors. I see them when I sleep and I am always trying to find ways that I can sneak behind them. No matter if it is a Cabbala door, a Mulligan door, a Moorish door, a Rotunda door, a Franklin Colonial door or a simple 4 by 4 American Suburban door- I am always wanting to break on through to the other side. I am like a Scientist who wants to prove the existence of God by finding the one door that reveals all of his/her or its equations. Like the Door maker whose daughter I long ago copulated with- I am convinced that all the riddles that confuse and confound the human species can be immediately unlocked by the transcendental power of a door.


I noticed a sign in the window that said “sense of humors for sale.” I thought that this was a rather awkward thing to be selling and my interests were aroused. I went into the small store that was poorly lit and had many shelves without anything upon them. The walls were bare and no one stood behind the counter. There was an eery feeling that ran through the vacant shop and as I turned around to leave I was startled by a voice from the back that said, “good afternoon young man, can I be of some assistance.” I turned around and noticed a tall skinny man who looked similar to me standing behind the counter holding an unsmoked cigarette in his hand. “Yes,” I said- “I am curious about the sense of humors that you have for sale.” “Oh yes, I believe we have one left,” he replied looking up at a shelf that had nothing upon it but dust. “Would you like to try it on,” he asked?

The dressing room was illuminated by a yellow neon light and there were no mirrors on the walls. I commented upon this to the salesman who continued to smoke his un-lit cigarette and said “we do not sell anything that you would need to see on, so why have mirrors I ask you?” He seemed a little defensive so I asked him another question. “What kinds of things do you sell in this store?” he looked at me with an expression of annoyance and replied, “why don’t you try on the sense of humor and then we will talk.”

I put the sense of humor on by rubbing a very cold cream into my chest. He wanted me to take off my pants as well and rub the cream into my legs but I felt uncomfortable getting naked in this strange environment. I rubbed the cream all over my chest and arms and then was given a cloth to wipe off the residual cream. “Give it a few moments and then you will notice a change. The cream that I gave you was a starter cream. The effects only last a few minutes. If you decide that you would like to purchase a sense of humor, we have a permanent cream,” the salesman said to me as he motioned me over towards a chair where I was supposed to sit and experience the sense of humor.

Within seconds of applying the cream I started to notice a chuckle in the back of my thought. The salesman put up various pictures on the shelves and asked me to observe these photographs. There were photographs of Hillary Clinton, villages destroyed by bombs, a soldier in Iraq carrying a very large gun and of George Bush and John MacCain. There were also photographs of prisoners being tortured, the atomic bomb, people suffering from starvation, animals stuck in small cages, two men having sex with a woman, hospitals, ghettos, a man begging for money, and a dead body that seemed to be so violated that I could not tell if the body was a man or a woman. The salesman also placed white pieces of cardboard on the shelves that had words like CANCER, DEATH, POVERTY, UNEMPLOYMENT, GREED, GLOBAL WARMING, CORRUPTION and INJUSTICE written on them. The salesman said something like “now feel free to take your new sense of humor for a test drive,” and then he walked away. I sat there alone in the cold room and observed all many photographs and words for a few seconds- and then it happened.

The laughter was so intense that I was unable to control it. I laughed like I had never laughed before in my life. There was a feeling of great release that caused all of my stress to dissipate into thin air. All things that normally were causes of stress and despair for me seemed to no longer cause me any aggravation. I looked at the photos of George Bush, Hillary Clinton, the soldier and the dead body and my normal feeling of constriction and anger seemed to vanish. All I could do was laugh. I could see the humor in the ridiculousness of human behavior and I was able to laugh at all the ways that we take ourselves SO SERIOUSLY. I saw the ignorance that most human beings seem to suffer from and all I could do was find this ignorance very funny. When I looked at the words my laughter increased because I was able to see how funny it is that human beings create the very things that they fear and do not want the most. I could not believe how funny all these realizations were to me. I saw the whole divine human comedy in which we are the actors on a stage creating our own tragedy. How fucking funny is that!! We do it all to ourselves and then think that we are free!!!

Finally, after my allotted period of time was up, the salesman returned into the room and began taking the photographs and words off the shelves. “You can take off your sense of humor now,” he said as he still held the un-lit cigarette in his hand. The moment he said this to me my laughter halted as if someone had suddenly applied brakes. I wiped the tears from my face and tried to compose myself. “When you are ready please meet me back at the counter and we can talk,” he replied as he walked into the back room. I sat in the chair and tried to assess what had just taken place. I felt what turned out to be a pulled muscle in my upper back (from laughing so hard). I took a few deep breaths and decided that I wanted to purchase a sense of humor.

“We sell all sorts of potions and creams. Not only do we sell sense of humors but we also sell, happiness, IQ’s, ambition, sex drives, maturity, wisdom, feeling successful and we just ran out of love. We sell what we can to make life more worth living or should I say to make life more enjoyable. That is our intention- however, not many seem to want to purchase what we have for sale. It is almost as if people have become so attached to their suffering that they fear change. They are addicted to the way things are because that is how they think things are supposed to be. Little do they realize that we human beings have it all wrong. We have been conditioned to suffer and we do not even know it,” the salesman said to me as he sat on a stool with his arms crossed. “How much does a sense of humor cost,” I asked? “I can sell you the cream for $75.00 and it also comes with a one month warranty. If for some reason you find that it is not working for you- you are welcome to return it and I will give you your money back. I think this is a good deal because after all a good sense of humor is priceless.”

Will Write For Food (Organic) Or Money.

What little money I once had seems to have dissolved with a speed that not even entropy could compete with. Now you may all be thinking that entropy is a slow and gradual process, but I would argue that this is true until you have reached the end. Then entropy feels is if it had taken no time at all to move towards an end (it is like how older people say “my life has passed so quick!”). I once had money, plenty of money- but now my bank account is a few dollars away from a negative balance and there is little relief in site. It all happened so quick.

I have never been a terribly ambitious man. I have lived my life with a certain contentment that has always worried my father and made me into a man with little accomplishments- if any. I have taken each day as a thing unto or into itself and worried little for another day which everyone has always told me will follow. I have kept to myself and cultivated my own rose garden but now in my 36th year of life it seems as if this rose garden is in jeopardy of complete destruction. I have not the money to afford the soil that I need to harvest my beautiful roses. Instead I have been using compost- and it is no longer seeming to do the trick.

Money has always been an issue in my life. My parents have always had lots of it and I have seemed to struggle with cents in comparison. I have been waiting for fame to strike like a desperate man who is watching a clock move at a speed, which seems to suggest that the clocks batteries are about to die. My financial woes have been comforted by a perpetual thought of impending fame, which so far has only been a gross delusion of my misguided mind. “Tomorrow,” my mind says- “you will write a novel or be discovered to play a role in a film that will abolish all of your financial burdens, so don’t worry about today- just drink a beer and relax.” It is as if my mind has made me believe that one morning I will wake up and wealth will be waiting for me upon my door step. All I have to do is sit back, relax and wait for it to appear.

Meanwhile my wife is in a state of perpetual frustration with me, my car is not working because of $1,500 dollars worth of work that needs to be done, the price of gas has gone up to $4.00 a gallon, the utilities bill is collecting spiderwebs, my rent check bounced, the minimum balance due on my credit card is $517.00 because of 17 late fees, the price of food is causing me to have to eat cheap processed food which is in turn affecting my health, my cat is eating a cheaper form of cat food which gives him bladder infections, I am depressed and underpaid at a job which I will not be able to keep because it is taking up to much of the time I need to be working at another job making a better income. I am finding it difficult to ask others for help (although I am going to write a letter to the President asking him if he can give me a job writing something for him) and I try to not think about my ailments by spending my time staring at a wall, drinking beer, watching pornography and reading books half way through and then putting them back upon the shelf.

I will write for food (preferably organic) or money. There is nothing that I will not write about nor do I care if my name is used. I will write and then you can use your name and I will not say a word to anyone about it. I have been practicing the craft of writing for years always knowing in the back of my mind that it is a trade that I could use if everything in my life went bad. Of course, at the time I thought that this would never happen because I was young, idealistic, stoned and certain of my greatness. Now I am older, pessimistic and swimming through my own personal recession, which seems to be slowly breaking down the structure of my life. These are desperate times, especially for a man such as myself who has little ambition to do anything and only wants to be able to say at the end of the day (with a copy of Mark Twain or Thoreau’s Walden in my hand) that I did the best I can to live my life as a free man. I am living in America in a time where truth seems to have been turned on its head and all citizens of this country are living inside an irony so great that it is swallowing everyone alive. So please remember- I will write for food or money. I can not spell very well but my hope is that you have enough money to not only afford me but also an editor.

Man Of Miracles

I’m a mess. This morning I awake with my left foot swollen to three times its size and my wife crying in the bathroom. Our electricity is going to be shut off in three days because of unpaid bills and our cat is suffering from fierce scrape wounds to the nose and head. Last night at dinner my wife and I spent two hundred dollars because we drank and ate so much so that we could forget about all the difficulties present in our life. It was fun but now we are both hung over and broke. My house is cold and my job is starting to give me chest pains. If only I could jump into a hole and bury my head. I am a mess,

… father sent me an article today about debt. I have more debt than a mountain has weeds. Sending me an article on debt is like sending a cat and article on language. A cat has no words to speak and I have no cash to pay off my debts. I wrote him back a letter telling him that if he wants to help me with my debt, send cash, otherwise let me be. My car has two big dents in it and every time you push on the brakes there is a sound of metal. My wife is frustrated with me for the large amounts of stress my way of life brings to her. If I was only able to find a way to have balance and be happy, she keeps telling me. The roof of our home allows rain water to fall on the floor and currently some workers are banging away beneath my desk trying to fix an broken floor beam. I feel as if inside of me there is a boiling pressure cooker than at any moment could pop. I am a mess,

…I have rent due and not nearly enough money to pay it. My refrigerator is filled with aging food and my liver is aching from all the booze I have been consuming. Panic attacks have been a daily occurrence and usually before bed at night I think about death. I am filled with unmanifested dreams and am always feeling like nothing is good enough. My wife cries in the bathroom all through out the day and the only solid pleasure I seem to be able to find is masturbating to porn on the internet. My chest is always tight, my mother is always concerned about my well being and I am three years away from being 40. I am a mess,

…I nap a lot ion the afternoons and have a hard time climbing out from bed. I do not remember my dreams and I often eat burnt toast for breakfast with a boiled egg. I am addicted to email and have been writing people that I do not even know for help. Yesterday, while driving across the bay bridge I had a terrible panic attack which made me feel like death was sitting upon my shoulder. I tried to jump out from the moving vehicle, but once again my wife saved my life. I have experienced very little success already I have been afflicted with two chronic diseases, one which could be fatal. My wife and I seem to fight constantly and I can not stop looking at other women because it is another form of fleeting pleasure for me. I spend all my money on books (that I never read) and food and often dream about prostitutes and flying through the sky. The mattress I sleep upon is old and almost undone and my bedroom collects dust like a garbage can collects trash. I am a mess,

….my sister is an alcoholic who thinks that Arabs are going to take over the country. All around me are signs of affluence but I struggle for every dollar I earn. I am underpaid and overworked and like all lower income people I am taken advantage of time and time again. I am tired of it all and seek out a solution. I think about suicide, killing sprees and self mutilation but none of these answers would I be capable of performing. All day I have been looking for another job, but there is nothing I am interested in doing. My back hurts from writing out my soul so much and I am suffering from chronic diarrhea and palpitations because of my nereves. All I want to do is eat and drink to forget about the pain. I go from meal to meal as if I trying to erase the desperation that I feel in between. There are wars being waged, poverty all around, starvation and injustice walking through the air and I am a mess. Such a big mess that I have no clue as to how to clean it up,

….I have thought about buying guns, mops, towels, and blankets all to clean up the mess that I am. I have thought out self help solutions and consulted with great gurus. I have prayed, meditated and walked on pilgrimages for miles a day. I am out of shape, winded when I walk up stairs, afraid to ride my bike because of various cardiac issues and wondering around my home like a zombie who has been beaten by the struggles of the world. If this was not enough I see ghosts, spirits and can look deep into peoples souls. I know what you are thinking before you think it and I am aware of the truth. I can see through time and I know what the future will bring and so I try to preoccupy myself with various forms of pleasure and sleep so I do not have to think about it. In one more day I will be done, done with this way of living. I will change and do what I have to so that I am not all messed up. I will use a broom or mop and clean myself up so that you will see all that I can be. I will get a haircut and seek out the help of psychologists and chiropractors. I will brush my teeth put on my best face and find a decent job. I will stop complaining about my situation and accept all of this as the way life is. I will stop envying the sucess of Brad Pitt or Johny Depp and try to enjoy my job as a Teacher, my bank account with a small balance and my freezing cold home. I will think positively and learn to identify my good feelings from my bad ones,

….in one more day I will become a man of miracles…. but today just let me be a mess.

Living In A Police State?

photo.jpg Lately I am feeling surrounded by the police. Every place I go there they appear. Like looming premonitions or predictions, they hang around awaiting the citizen who falls out of line. Some of these officers wave at me with a cynical smile as I pass by them wide eyed and with one hand on my internal eject button. There are other officers who stare at me or point with a look upon their face that seems to say, “just one false move, and your ass is mine.” The older I get the more I notice these strange exchanges between myself and officers of the law. Even though these exchanges may not be taking place in reality but rather are projections of my paranoid mind, I can not help but wonder- am I living in a police state?

As I was walking my invisible dog through downtown Oakland the other day I noticed a sign that was hanging over the entrance to the police station. It read “Join The Police Force, Officer’s Starting Pay, $67,000 a year.” This recognition stopped me dead in my tracks and caused me to stand still in a state of muted anxiety for over ten minutes. My invisible dog was restless to walk on but my feet refused to move. “They pay these men in blue studded uniforms with weapons of mass destruction hanging around their waist and brains filled with citations, violations and obstructions close to $67,000 a year while a high school Teacher who teaches restless and abused souls how to find the way to personal liberation through education is paid a starting salary of $35,000 a year????” I was perplexed. A good amount of my life I have dedicated to education and my bank account is empty as proof of this. The contradiction in what I call society was staring me straight in the face- I live in a country that values imprisoning minds more so than educating them.

I often refer to police officers as disturbers of the peace. Some people laugh and agree when they hear this while others take offense (because they still believe that an officers purpose is to protect and serve). My perspective is shaped by the fact that I am yet to have an interaction with a police officer that has left me feeling protected or served. Rather I am left feeling a form of personal violation and nervous system over-excitation. Usually I am either handcuffed, given citations that I could never afford or questioned about driving drunk (which I never do), kidnapping(also something I have not done) or suspected of being a possible pervert (something I am guilty of). Ever since high school when I was first arrested for driving without a license (simply because I was yet to reach my twelfth birthday) my relationship with the police has been built upon a bedrock of suspicion, the end of which seems to always turn in their favor.

Maybe it is representational of my neurosis, but I swear that I am living in a police state. I ask others if they believe this to be true and the typical response is “yeah sure,” as if we have all been entrained as citizens to think a constant police presence is normal. Now when I head out into the video taped world I feel as if my breathing is restricted and my chest constricted by the freedom that seems to be slowly dissipating with each passing day. Police officers seem to be duplicating themselves faster than any stem cell could conceive (nature or science can not compete with $67,000 a year). A perpetuation of the species of police (police officers are indeed a separate species of humanoid) seems to suggest that America is under siege. However, it is my belief that the threat is not external as seems to be the popular belief but rather the threat is individual freedom or what is more commonly known as Democracy. The more police on the street, the less Democracy you have to enjoy….and this is the way those in power need it to be.

Maybe I am neurotic and reading into this police boom to heavily. Yes, I believe that Fascism has entered the American arena but I try not to think about it much. Sure if I detract my attention from the police presence I may think about this situation less. I will not be as disturbed by these disruptions of my peace, because I will simply accept the situation as “the way it is.”. But it is difficult to do so when these very police officers taunt me with their loud sirens, scream out my name as I am riding my bike or point at me and make strange faces as I am walking my invisible dog (which ironically I have named Democracy). The police presence is like lice in my hair which creates a perpetual itch. How is one to leave a burning scalp alone? Possibly in time the mist will settle and more controlled citizens will realize the abduction of their freedom that seems to be the case. Maybe some will revolt by painting peace signs on police cars or by sticking Kafka novels in police mufflers. Others may take to writing blogs and standing in front of police stations with protest signs. Who knows when this non-violent revolution will arise. In the mean time I will continue to ask one simple question to my invisible dog- Democracy, “say, are we living in a police state?”