Friday, May 30, 2014

She Rests With Me

She rests with me
In a small bed
In a small room
Under a spinning ceiling fan
The quintessence of beauty
A dishabille sprawl
Of pale limbs on dark sheets
Curling around me
Soft and comforting
Like smoke from that last cigarette
And like the smoke
She rests within me
I can still taste her on my lips
With a hungry desire to taste her again

I stare at the spinning blades above me
Filling my head and lungs with anxious thoughts
Desperate to form words for you
But my torrid mouth
Parched from fear
Can utter only condolences
For the life you have given me
And the things it could have been
Without me

Your quiet whisper rings through me
A gunshot in the still morning air
Tearing through me
Like the thrill of your kiss
A sleepy smile twisting your coral lips
As your words soothe my wounds
In the droning hum of the ceiling fan
There are no words to offer you
For you have seen my scars
And wiped tears from my eyes
No words could do justice
To your mending of this broken man

Waking beside you
Is waking to a quiet world
Silent, but for the sound of your breathing
And that faint electrical hum
Spinning above us so quickly
That we only catch glimpses of the whirling blades
I want my fears to be the blades of that fan
Glimpsed, by you, for only brief moments
So as to not become too real
For there is more fear in losing you
Than there is in losing myself in the sounds of this world

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Monosyllabic story

There was a challenge posited by my dearest friend Jessy to write a story using only monosyllabic words. Since I am a huge believer in the power of limitation to facilitate art, and because she asked me so nicely, I decided to try my hand at it! Here is my attempt!

For Sunshine, because you reminded me about art

There was a life that grew from the ground. It was a small life. A slight kind of life which had seemed to be there for all the time up to now and which did grow as if it would be there for all time which could come next. This life had seen things pass by it through the length of its life. It had watched the world change. It had seen trees sprouts, grow tall, and then grow weak by the grace of time which had moved past them like a boat in a stream would move past a man on the shores. It had seen hills born to the world like groups of children, to just be worn down by the wind and rain like paint on an old house. This life was known by quite a few names, most of them not known to the minds of the lives which moved by it as streams flow through the rocks. This life grew sad and worn and lost hope as the world sped by, no sense of love or joy bound to it, to our small life. It found no sense of hope; no end in sight. This life was scared of the dark it saw in the types of life near it, the lives which were close by in space and time but lacked the drive and glad core of our small life. These lives were lost, and our life could not see to save them. It hoped that they would find their own way. In the dark tides of this lack of hope, our lone life grew more sad. It felt the need to heed a call from the depth of the self, a call to the end of clear goals. In the dark, the light of our own lone life seemed to fade in and out, a flash of dull pain as hope and truth gave way to the real world which was all ‘round the small life, but which now we could just call lost, in a sea of lack of hope, in the ebb and flow of dark space and lost time.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

You're Not Special

It is the clumsiest of human vanities that we all believe we are in some sense apart from those around us. We are programmed to believe we are smarter, more clever, or what have you. Every single one of us does this. There are times when you see everyone around you and think that in some way they can't measure up to you. This sense of superiority we feel towards are fellow humans is simply the product of clumsy vanity and a poor understanding of statistics. By virtue of genetics, you may be unique, despite sharing a good portion of your DNA with every single living thing, but let's not mince words... uniqueness does not equate to being exceptional. You fall within a bell curve for most of your traits. Now, I understand why it's almost necessary for us to think this way... this level of self-delusion is necessary to prevent us from simply giving up. We need to convince ourselves that we're better than people around us in some way, and a lot of that stems from being unable to know how other people think or feel.

Let me give you a little hint: they're kind of thinking the same things.

Now this is dependent upon perspective and experience and this isn't something I'm interested in addressing here. Instead, I would just like to focus on how we all fall into this stupid mental trap of unfounded self-aggrandizement. We extend this unfounded vanity to things in which we have a vested interest too. An example of this is with children. No parent is ever honest in their appraisal of their own children. Every parent wants to brag about how bright their child is, or sweet, or whatever. They treat things that every other unexceptional-child-turned-unexceptional-adult have done as this kind of wonderful victory. Your child getting good grades is not exceptional.. your child graduating college at 15 is. Your child being an athlete is not exceptional... your child being recruited to a professional team at 16 is. Chances are, your child is not some musical or artistic prodigy. They're a kid, who falls comfortably within the realm of mediocrity. Now, as a parent, you're programmed to not understand this, so we forgive you. This concept even extends to friends and significant others, to much the same result, and it typically ends with those of us who are observing this rolling our eyes while we nod and smile so you'll shut up.

So let's start at the beginning of how we're not special, both as individuals and as a species. As I've touched on before, nothing cares about us, except us. Even human interactions are fundamentally selfish. The universe and natural world don't give a single fuck about our existence. We are temporary and have no special considerations from anything but our own inflated self-importance. We are exceptionally weak mammals, with few natural defenses. We have high cognitive functions, sure, but we're not the only organisms that do. We have self-awareness too, but even in this we're not alone. From a sensory perspective we had pretty good eyesight, but the rest of our senses are actually kind of crap. We're not the only animals that use tools or have complex social arrangements, though I will say we're the only animals that have thus advanced to this level on our little speck of cosmic dust. Still, we are barely removed from our primitive ancestors in a time scale of any reasonable length. Likely, we'll end up self-destructing as a species long before then, or we'll have another huge extinction period. We are at the mercy of forces well beyond our control, and worse, these forces are uncaring, unthinking physical forces... literal forces of nature, if we extend nature to include fundamental laws of reality. Things in space can wipe us out. Things here on earth can wipe us out. Other organisms and basic compounds can kill us. In fact, we all die. There is nothing special about us in that respect either. We are not eternal (eventually the universe will die too, so don't bother talking about your atoms scattering to other matter) and our conscience dies with us. Taking it a step further, even our memory dies eventually, likely within a couple generations. The few of us who will live on past this have a better chance of being remembered for being murderers than for changing the world. The numbers are not in your favor, and most of us will not be in textbooks or have our names on a fundamental scientific principle or school or library or building. The most any of us can hope for is to have our names carved in some weather-worn slab of stone that nobody will remember exists 100 years after our mortal coil has been shuffled off like a coat in a hot room.

As individuals, you share a lot of DNA with basically every other organism coming from our LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor... likely a type of proto-bacteria/ archaea). Even plants share a ton of DNA with us. As far as DNA is concerned, human beings don't even have one of the largest genomes (this honor currently belongs to Paris japonica,  a rare plant species from Japan, whose genome is ~50x larger than the human genome). We share fundamental biological processes with most life that exists, and sequence homology for major proteins and enzymes shows that we're just exceptionally large biochemical reactors compared to the majority of life. Extending this concept out, we're all pretty physically unremarkable. There is a reason people pay to watch the genetic freakshows we know as professional athletes: they are actually exceptional specimens, physically, as a result of some awesome genetic variability and a metric shit-tonne of dedicated training. They are outside the normal standard deviation, and maybe even 2 deviations, from the norm. There is a very real reason we find people who are 6'8" and hyper-athletic impressive: it's rare and we can't do it. Unfortunately, unless you're one of these, chances are, you're still well within a single deviation. There are plenty of people out there who are just as fit (or unfit) and coordinated (or uncoordinated) as you are. We can extend this concept mentally too... there is a reason we recognize geniuses from their intellect: they're well outside the norm. There is a reason we recognize exceptional talents in art and music. There is a reason we're not all professional athlete-rockstar-scientist-painter-poets. But we all fall into this trap of assuming there is something special and worthwhile about us that sets us apart from everyone around us. We want to feel as i we've got something they don't, to justify why we keep going. We examine only our side of the evidence and situation, and forget that basically every single person is thinking the same thing about us. And they are. We all want to believe that we are smarter, more clever, have a better memory, are kinder, more compassionate, more aloof, more manipulative, better bullshitters, etc. We all like to think we're too smart to be duped, and that everyone else is too stupid to catch us trying to dupe them. This is pure vanity... narcissistic delusion disguised behind our inability to understand that it's a huge load of crap. Granted, it's a load of crap we need to tell ourselves to keep from falling into a dark depression and jumping off a bridge, but still...

Now, of course, I have this nasty habit of trying to finish things on a positive note, and so here it is: just because you're not as exceptional as you think you are, it doesn't mean you don't matter. At the very least, nothing in your life is more important than you are. It seems kind of obvious to say it like that, but I think everyone can benefit from being told that they are the only thing in their life which truly matters. You also can't ignore your ability to influence the lives of others, and help them... you can still make a difference, and it doesn't take anything exceptional to do that, just a desire to be part of the change. Gandhi and MLK were great men, to be sure, but they couldn't have accomplished anything without the willingness of nameless, faceless masses of regular people. This can be both good and bad, sure... the trick is to know which side you're on. You don't need to be "special" in order to understand that we all share humanity. THAT is important. You ARE unique and you get a rather rare chance to actually live life, in this frame of time. You can perceive, and interact with the world around you... you can interact with the universe. You can watch life, as it works. You can potentially give rise to the next generation... and future generations which, though they may forget you, will have parts of you (at east until the sun goes red giant and swallows the earth, and the eventual heat death of the universe). It is difficult, but it must be understood that being exceptional is unnecessary, because you're already remarkably alive, and human, and you can still make a difference, whether it be to a single life, or many. Those small accumulations of progress are the only things that make change. Exceptional people are merely the catalysts for bigger things: without them, the reactions may occur slowly, or may be more difficult, but there is substrate, and there is an enzyme, and it will get there through those common interactions. That is our power, as unexceptional people... the power to make an exceptional change through the accumulation of the differences which are within our power to make.