Saturday, October 25, 2014

Writing Prompt: Out of breath

Got a new writing challenge, which i graciously accepted with all the enthusiasm of a childhood double-dog dare. The challenge is thus: "Write a story less than 300 words: You are running out of oxygen, but you have a phone with you. What is your last text?" 

Here is mine.


I can feel the air growing stale and heavy in my lungs. I close my eyes against the darkness and try to slow my racing heart and accelerated breathing. I can’t have much time. Already my head is swimming. I can feel the smoothness of the phone in my hands, though I’d promised not to bring it with me. But fuck it, rules are meant to be broken, right? What are they going to do, kill me? I smile a bit at the thought and press the power button, watching the screen flash and illuminate everything. 

I stared at the screen, at her face. I’d done this for her, and I’d wanted my last moments to be seeing her face. She’s so beautiful. So worth this. I hope she understands. I felt a vibration in my hands. Signal, here? Well shit. I opened a text to message her, and then… I blanked. Writers’ block now, of all times? I wanted to send her something romantic, or clever. Some message of love she could cling to in case she ever doubted. I felt myself growing dizzy, delirious, as I struggled to breathe. I stared at the screen, picturing her face as I felt myself slip to the floor. I tapped feebly at the screen, my lungs spasming as I gasped in my poisons. In the fading edges of my vision I tapped send, laughing and crying as I slipped away.

Sometime later, her eyes red from crying, her phone would buzz, and she’d look, hope lighting her eyes as she saw the sender and time. The phone would fall to the floor, and her sobs resume. Apparently she didn’t find it as funny. 

The text read only “I love you, baby. You take my breath away.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Here's Looking at you, kid

It all slips away
In bits and pieces
Or all at once
The ending is the same
We're all left with nothing
And the rain comes down in sheets of regret
Reminds me of that first time
I felt my insides get kicked out
And I silently resigned myself
To dying alone

The memories and days that passed mean nothing
Or so I tell myself
Deception kills these smiles
Makes a heart grow cold
And all those years seem wasted
Let's go back
And forget this place
(We can never go back
Or forget how it felt)
In love with you through all your lies

Stepping on that train alone
Killed the man we thought I was
...but Paris always looked so beautiful in the rain
How can you come back
and claim to love me?
As if I forgot how you kissed me
All those times
Like each one was the last

While everything is gray
You always looked so beautiful in blue
Seeing you again
With the need in your eyes
Reminds me of the man I was
Back when I felt alive

So I give myself to you
(I give myself, for you)
And you can live without regret
Go back to the life you've made
We'll always have memories
And I'll have him play that song again and again
So that I never forget
But we can't live with the choice you want to make
And we both know that you can live without me
Love means sacrifice

Here there be Dragons

I don't want to love you
With the love you can only find
In fairytales and songs
This pure
Unbroken lightness
It is a shallow myth
Deluding the young and naïve
With promises it cannot fulfill
Of golden days
And sweet nights
Adrift on peppermint winds
With no cares
I do not want a perfect love
For no such thing exists
And seeking to attain it
Is grasping at shadows
And such a love
Would never feel like home

With you, I want an earned love
A love that sits, exhausted
At the summit
Having conquered a mountain
Through pure ragged effort
A love that pushes forward
Though the map clearly reads 
"Here there be dragons"
A love which conquers every beast
With soft words
And delicate kisses
And the kind of sex
That would make your friends jealous

I want, with you
A love that is greater than my fears
And which labors diligently in the fields and mines
To build a better tomorrow
I wish our love
To be always discontent
And always moving forward, growing
Swearing heartily at detractors
And basking in the glare of those who would dare say
“This is not the way”

A love, not of desperate need
But of choices made, every day
To be together
I want to love you,
Without the innocence of young love
And without the stagnation of resigned affection
A love that chooses to stay
Rather than suffering through dishonest necessity
A love of renewed desires
Instead of one of duty or obligation
A love that feels
Like it belongs in a movie
Where the hero dies

I want to love you
With every withered, broken, scarred piece of me
So that every kiss burns away a little more
Of the pain that hovers over me
I want to love you
With the harsh breath of uncertainty
Fighting desperately
To fulfill every failing moment
Choosing love, and you, every day

I'm homesick for a place
I've never been
Longing to return to your arms
To feel as safe
As any place
I've ever called home
But nothing feels like home now
Except for you

When the Storm Comes

If the first explosion of thunder hadn't woken me, the second surely would have. My eyes snapped open as the rumble filled the air, and I jerked reflexively before I realized what the sound was. The next shock of thunder was cut by a flash of lightning shining through my window, briefly illuminating the room and the deadening of my alarm clock. Great, the power was out, and I’d forgotten to put in a backup battery. I checked my phone to make sure it had enough charge to get me through to the morning. Sighing, I rolled over to resume my slumber, when the next jolt of thunder shook the world, sounding like the splintering of the mast of a ship. 

Delilah, my dog, erupted into protective growls and barks. Even the sound of rain drumming on the roof couldn't drown out her constant growling-yips. I groaned, shouting vaguely for her to be quiet. She obviously listened as well during storms as she did any other time, and the growling and barking continued through the next flash of lightning, and terminated in a yelp which faded to a whimper as the next roll of thunder shook the house and rattled the windows.

Through the pattering rain, obviously pouring in sheets, I waited in silence,  and my eyes slowly began to close. As I lay in the haze of half sleep, I heard Delilah trundling up the steps, where she slammed unceremoniously against my closed door and slumped against it. As the lightning and thunder shuddered chaos through the sky outside, and I struggled to sleep, Delilah began scratching at my door. I lay quietly, trying in vain to just drift to sleep. As she continued to scratch, a rather urgent, dragging sound that made me feel bad for my poor door, I yelled for her to quiet down, and for a moment the sounds stopped... But as I was starting to drift off again, she began scratching in earnest, growling with a low rumble I'd never heard her make before. Poor thing. She'd never done well with storms, and was more or less just a big baby. I sighed, sitting up and rubbing my eyes. I forced myself to my feet and shuffled to the door. 

I absently flicked the light switch before remembering the power was out and sighed as I opened the door. Delilah shot past me as it opened, pushing against the door and brushing her cold, wet body against my legs. I frowned at this sensation, then cursed. The windows downstairs were open in this storm! No wonder she was wet and unhappy. I closed the door, and turned to my own window, which was open against the downpour. I stumbled over on autopilot, slamming the window down and making note to throw a towel down on the wet carpet in the morning. Behind me, I heard the springs of my bed creak, and as I turned to yell at Delilah for jumping on my bed all wet, lightning flashed through the window.

My voice caught in my throat in the instant it took to register that the large, hunched form on my bed, with the large eyes and over-sized mouth filled with large, bloody teeth, was not Delilah, though the dark fur in its claws looked familiar.

In the second after the darkness resumed, I heard my mattress creak again, as if a weight had been moved off of it…

The Darkness

They say that darkness doesn't exist. That it is merely the absence of light, a result of the limits of biology. Darkness is simply an absence of enough photons to activate the photoreceptors in the eyes, and so there is no feedback and no activation. With no light, there can be no vision, and there is nothing for the brain to process. They explain away the lights seen in the darkness, when their eyes are closed tight or it’s too dark for them to see anything, as artifacts from the brain trying to process what isn't there. They say that we shouldn't be frightened; that there's nothing to be afraid of, in the darkness. There aren't any monsters, because monsters aren't real, and the darkness is safe. “Please believe us,” they plead, “the darkness is safe.”

They expect you to believe that the oldest, most primal instincts lead us astray. That your ancestors learned to fear the darkness because they feared the loss of sensation, the vulnerability of their greatest asset being closed off. Perhaps they feared the animals that prowled the darkness with glowing eyes and sharp claws and teeth. Perhaps though, they simply understood the darkness. Now, everyone smiles weakly and laughs, shaming others for their fear of the darkness, until all join in.” How foolish we are, to act so naïve! Only children are afraid of the dark!” Yet, they run just as quickly up the cellar steps once the lights are off. They light every room in their houses, sleeping with their lamps and lights, the faint blue glows of their various screens. They laugh at the darkness, all the while making sure every street in their towns are lit, all to escape a darkness they almost plead with to be harmless. They scoff at the darkness in the daytime, when they are safe, and hide from it at night, when the fear approaches.

The truth is, darkness is very real. It is very much worth being afraid of. Author Terry Pratchett once wrote “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.” And it’s true. The darkness is always there, waiting. And it waits for you. But darkness is patient, and abiding. You all know the blurred shapes at the edge of your vision as night falls. You all see the colors and shapes swirling just within your perception when you can’t truly see. You've all felt the ache of some otherness, there with you, in the dark, merely biding time. These are not mere artifacts of vision and perception. These are a deeper reality, bleeding in, past the fragile walls that are raised to protect their fragile psyches. You know, in the back of your mind, that when the lights go out, you’re allowing the darkness to approach. You’re inviting it in, letting it swirl around you, caress you, ease into your mind. The darkness settles over you, and you are within it, a part of this new world. 

They say that there is nothing in the darkness that isn't there in the light. They're wrong.

I'm here, in the darkness, always. We are here, watching, patiently; waiting for you to fool yourself into feeling safe, to laugh off the juvenile fear of the dark unknown. And when you ease your mind, and finally gain the courage to turn off the light, you'll be here too. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Right to Die with Dignity, an open response to the opposition

It isn't really my typical blog idea, to respond directly to an article or specific personage, but with the Brittany Maynard story being in the news, I find this topic has come up quite a bit, and I find the backlash against this woman and her choice to be infuriatingly insipid. I fully support this woman and her right to choose to die with dignity, without suffering and needlessly prolonged pain.

My favorite 'counterpoint' so far, of course is this article, which I recommend you read with extreme reservation... mostly that this empty-headed fuckwit doesn't deserve traffic, but does deserve to be ridiculed and mocked and called out for his completely intellectually bankrupt douchebaggery. Read this moronic nonsense here:

The author of this article (Matt Walsh) is an idiot. I tried to think of a pleasant way to describe this level of ignorance, but at the end of the day, this is pure, vile stupidity on so many levels it is hard to explain them all. I can't begin to count the logical fallacies and blatant dishonesty housed in this article. He tries to defend himself against reasonable, compassionate people who disagree with his dismissive attitude towards personal choice by being willfully misleading about the subject at hand. He should be ashamed at both his lack of compassion, his intellectual dishonesty, and just general poor humanity. If you want a "culture of Death" you empty-headed shit-heel, look at the religious deathcults which glorify death as leading to the ultimate gift, not some woman struggling with a terminal diagnosis choosing to prevent her own unnecessary, undignified suffering. However, despite Mr.Walsh's unabashed ignorance, he only highlights the empty nature of any 'valid' counterpoint to dying with dignity, and that is what I would like to tackle.

1) The counterpoint often is guilty of utterly, contemptuously misrepresenting the topic. There is a vast difference between choosing to prevent further physical suffering after a terminal diagnosis and choosing to end your life as a result of a mental health issue, which is treatable and essentially preventable. Missing this simply highlights the incompetence because they doesn't even understand the topic at hand. To a mental health professional, a medical professional, or anyone who has struggled with either suicidality OR terminal illness, the suicide 'stereotype' is not the same as choosing to die with dignity. Nobody is describing mental health-related suicides as brave or noble. They are decried as tragedies because often, they are in response to a treatable condition. Mental health is, very fortunately, manageable to a degree, and self-inflicted death arising from something preventable is a human tragedy.

A human being choosing to not allow themselves to lapse into a pained pseudo-life while they wait for a terminal diagnosis to essentially take away all aspects of living is a choice to be respect. "I do not want to suffer from an untreatable condition which will physically cripple me and be mentally and emotionally draining" is far different from someone with a mental health issue, such as myself, who finds themselves in a place where they wish to die. 

2) Creating a false dichotomy based on an intellectually dishonest false equivalency. As seen above, these issues are NOT equivalent. We would not chastise someone with beginning stage dementia or Alzheimer's for making an informed choice to prevent their own future suffering. Where is the "cowardice" is choosing to not extend your suffering, especially in any case that would leave you bedridden and essentially crippled as your state deteriorates? Simply, it takes courage to say "I would rather die on my terms, before my life becomes a gross caricature, than to suffer needlessly just waiting to die in pain." Simply put, if you can't understand that the difference exists between these things, talk to someone who knows the topic. 

3) Ignoring the right to choose to not suffer with an untreatable condition. That is the crux of this, and where this contemptibly vapid mooncalf misses the mark... she isn't destroying herself, she's choosing instead to not allow herself to suffer the indignity of prolonged, unavoidable suffering. This isn't someone with mental health problems not seeking treatment. This is a capable, informed adult who has made a choice given available information and current treatment, about her own future. This attempt to call Maynard intellectually incompetent (and a coward) is so absolutely vile that this filth should be utterly ashamed for having tried to use it as an excuse to pull her down. Why do we allow this type of stigma to be so prevalent?

4) Trying to pass this off as "glorifying suicide." Are you serious, you vacuous shit-brained gutter trolls? If you think this glorifies suicide, you need to educate yourself on the nuances and distinctions of the topic. Obviously these twatblossoms have no experience with either mental health or the medical community (or bioethics) and are about as informed on this topic as an old male senator commenting on women's reproductive rights. Which is to say, they aren't informed at all and are trying to mislead the reader by confusing the language and making false equivalencies. If the responses to this were glorifying suicide, I would be absolutely opposed. There is nothing noble or beautiful or romantic about the notion of a healthy, capable, potentially treatable human being ending their life. Luckily, that isn't the topic when we discuss the right to die as an issue of medical ethics. She has a right to choose, was given as much information as was available, and made a very difficult decision. To characterize what she did as in any way selfish is to assign to her either utter disregard for other people or complete ignorance of the subject. If you think this decision was made lightly, you are an idiot. You are using the type of negative social pressure which will undermine people for whom this is a valid option, simply because... why, really? Oh right, you think they are "cowards" or some other vague emotional response that prevents you from examining the actual issue at hand and serves only to demean an individual who is already making hard choices.

5) The complete and utter lack of compassion or respect is deplorable. These fuckwits somehow manages to insult the terminally ill and those with mental health problems in the same stupid, uninformed arguments. Implying that those who commit suicide are cowards is the epitome of mental health stigma, and shouldn't be tolerated by anyone. We don't allow our pets to suffer when they are terminally ill. Why do we not extend that courtesy to our fellow humans? Are these people so afraid of his own mortality that the simple idea of someone choosing to not suffer terrifies him to the point of decrying their actions as shameful? That is what this seems to be. Pathetic, scared children, terrified of the notion of death to the point where they can't accept that someone would choose it over suffering and pain to which there is no treatment, to the point of wishing only that these people would suffer.

6) The slippery slope that gets bandied about, suggesting that a right to die is just one step away from okaying all forms of suicide as "choice" or even demanding death from the critically ill, old, and infirm. The fact that it is a logical fallacy should give you all the background you need here, really. 

So what we see is that these idiots are ignorant of the nuances of this topic, or simply pushing some form of slightly bigoted ideology. They manage to not only stigmatize a right to die/dignity in dying, but also to stigmatize mental health, AND make themselves look like a socially oblivious assclowns. They also are really good at making horrendous logical fallacies. There really is no argument against the choice to die, or even Brittny Maynard's publicly lauded choice. The 'arguments' are mostly filled with vile asshats calling this woman a coward, or chastising her for not choosing to live out her life suffering and slowly losing her ability to function. Kudos to every one of them for being terrible human beings. I've also seen so many people bringing religion into this that it almost warrants a second rant on that alone, but let me try to sum up:

Choosing to not suffer needlessly with no hope of recovery is not the same as abortion, since most abortions kill a collection of unfeeling tissues which are not a human being. Once again, you're denying someone bodily autonomy you ignorant shitbags. Also, if you bring your stupid religion into this and claim suffering brings her closer to God/Allah/Jesus/Yahweh, you can take your backwards-thinking, ignorant death cult and shove it up your ass, because you are a piece of hateful trash. She is not being selfish, she is not sinning against your imaginary friend. She is making a choice that does not impact your ideology in any way, unless you're trying to force it upon others. In which case, fuck you, you hypocrite. 

There is courage in making a decision to face the most universal and profound human fear: death. There is courage in accepting some inevitability without flinching, and being willing to encourage the dialogue rather than saying "No, you deserve only to suffer."

I sympathize with Brittany Maynard, and all others faced with these hard choices, and I respect their willingness to face the reality of life, and death. All my love and support to her, and her family, and all those like them.

And to idiots like Mr.Walsh, please grow up, and stop projecting your stupidity, fear, and insecurities on others. It's childish, demeaning, and insulting to people who respect humanity. If you refuse to be informed and aware, you can fuck right off. Adults are talking.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Harm of Religious Moderates, part 2

"I think what you're doing is wrong, but I think the thing that justifies what you're doing is 100% right."

This is every religious person in response to the violent fundamentalists within their religion. The problem is not with the people who combine secular reasoning, with humanist understanding and scriptural ignorance. The problem is the fact that the doctrine itself is actually quite okay with violence. The holy texts of the major Abrahamic religions are rife with references to violence being okay, especially against outsiders or non-believers. Sure, you can argue that there are taken out of context, or written in another era, but you can't deny that they exist. If you acknowledge these as flawed and counter to current thoughts, you are acknowledging the failure of your chosen scripture to be divinely inspired. This is why extremists are also called fundamentalists: they accept that their text is an inerrant truth divinely given to them by some unfathomable, all powerful, invisible being. The justification for every act of religious violence or intolerance can be found within the principle texts of the religion, or within the most honored interpretations of these texts.

As a person with even moderate levels of empathy and compassion, I am against people hurting people, and whatever those who would hurt others would use to justify hurting those around them. I object to the rabidly anti-intellectual nature of religion, but I'm more offended by how religion dehumanizes and hurts others. It forces an “us versus them” mentality rivaled only by nationalism.

By no means is it the majorities that are causing religious harms. But the ideologies come from the same source. If you're a happy, harmless, illogical mess... that's a choice. An ignorant one, sure, but I prefer harmless ignorance to deadly dogma. Except both choices come from the same place. You can't ignore that fundamentalists and extremists are rooted in the same dogma as their less aggressive counterparts. It is their justification for abuse of children, minorities, and non-believers, denial of rights to those same groups, murder, genocide, genital mutilation, bigotry, denying education, etc.

Yeah, fundamentalist violence and bigotry is stupid. It's just as stupid as saying "In this book the tells us about Santa, Santa tells me to kill the non-believers" and if Santa belief does that, we should end it. Unfortunately, there are a ton of people out there who say “Well, my Santa belief doesn’t include the violence which is outlined in the VERY TEXT YOU USE, WHICH IS THE ONE I USE, WHICH IS MY SOLE JUSTIFICATION FOR BELIEVING IN SANTA.”

Do you see what I’m getting at here? Overwhelmingly, a harmless majority supporting the text gives the minority justification, because you’re telling them that the very thing they are using to control, demean, abuse, and kill others is totally okay. If you understand that your religious texts are flawed and human, just get the courage to admit to being an agnostic atheist who finds comfort in mass cultural delusions and human ceremony. That’s entirely cool. If you tell me that the Abrahamic religions are inherently good, I know you've never read any of the texts. All of the Abrahamic holy texts have verses devoted to the acceptable nature of slaughter and violence, especially against non-believers. We understand that you want think your religion is safe, but religion isn't a safe ideology. Every group has extreme-type subgroups, but only in religion do these groups have perfectly spelled out divine justification for their levels of harm. There really is no "proper context" for calling for the death of anyone, least of someone whose 'harmful' act was thinking differently, or behaving in a way in which you don’t agree but is harmless to you.

If a group of atheists committed terrible crimes, they'd have no dogma or deity to hide behind. It would be obvious they were bad people. The same with feminists, vegans, and almost any other ideological group that is based off of human philosophy without divine intervention and theological overtones.  We should oppose the people, yes, because we must treat the symptoms of the disease until we can cure it, in the same way that we battle the lethal misinformation of anti-vaccination and anti-GMO supporters until we can create a more well-informed, well-educated, reasonable society that eliminates the need to have to defend facts against lies and myths and prejudices.

This is why I won't defend the non-extreme majorities: because their texts are clear on their comfort with violence, and bigotry, and harm, yet they continue to support them with intellectually bankrupt arguments for context, or changing times, or whatever mental gymnastics prevents extreme cognitive dissonance. I don’t want to get too far into how absolutely bullshit all of that is, since saying “the text which is the sole reason I believe this way is grandly, demonstrably wrong, but I choose to believe anyway” is intellectually reprehensible, because that’s a whole other issue entirely. But these pseudo-believers, they give the text a false appearance of acceptability when saying "yes, this is god’s work, and yes this is inerrant and correct and I agree with the principles is espouses." The message you send is “Yeah, you’re totally right to believe all of this, I’m just too “chicken shit” (reasonable, empathetic, etc.) to follow through on what god really wants done.” The more progressive the religious individual, the less they are bound by scripture and the more they acknowledge secular ideas.

This should be a huge fucking red flag: the best members of your religion are the ones who ignore the most of it.

Standing against extremists alone isn't enough to stem the tide, because you're not targeting their reason, their justification. If you don't want violent fundamentalists, don't introduce kids to a xenophobic, violent, controlling ideology which is totally fucking okay with violence, because it fucking says so. But you’re taking these impressionable kids, and saying “there is this being, who is perfect and infallible, and he told us everything in this book, so it is all true and okay.” And then you turn around and say “Well, everything except these bits, which are obviously wrong. But our god I still perfect and always right” Fuck no, that kind of cherry picking doesn’t work, and you can’t very well explain to a child why the Quran calls for violence, or why God drowned everyone (especially since he’s all loving) and then still expect them to believe you when you say “God is perfect, but got this stuff wrong.” If God is perfect, and it is in the fucking book, it is a foothold for a fundamentalist upbringing. It’s also a decent portion of your disgusting fairy tales. You can’t deny it, you shouldn’t deny it, and if you want to be better than it, you damn well need to look someplace else.

I think that adults have every right to choose ignorance, but no right to force it upon their children. That is child abuse, pure and simple. Anything and anyone who willingly supports a culture of ignorance or supports a culture that can easily justify violence as divine will, I stand against, and you should too. You can be as ignorant as you want, so long as it is harmless, and I really could not care less. I object the growing trend of ignorance I see, but that's another topic. We shouldn’t aim to simply criticize the extremists, but we should target the reasons WHY they exist, and the reason they exist is abundantly clear: they exist because their ideas have not progressed in the last millennia. They have stagnated, and grown incestuous. These people have not outgrown a single iota of their fantasy world, unlike the majority who allow their combination of secular ideals and scriptural ignorance to ignore the nature of their texts. Instead, these people are basically very good at their religion, stoning apostates and heretics, and abusing victims as their holy texts have given them justification for. It is sad that this bears repeating: it is clear that you can either be a good person, or good at your religion, but not both. The majority have chosen humanity over dogma, but they need to take the final step and cast off the shackles of ignorance and guilt that bind them to a religion which has no usefulness in a modern, progressive era. Otherwise, their lip service adherence to the dogmas that give rise to fanaticism will always be the breeding ground for more fanatics. With a world full of people already willing to do terrible things for the sake of ideas, do we really need ideas which would give them a divine justification?

No. We need more people willing to take a stand against the injustice of these ideas, and not just religious ones. We have to take a stand, not just the people, but the foundations of their bigotry and violence and ignorance, They need to be exposed as flawed and corrupt, and those people who adhere to them should be ashamed. The people who support their fucked up justifications should be ashamed. We can’t do that by nominally agreeing with their core beliefs but telling them that using those beliefs are wrong. We do it by removing the harmful ideology so that it can't be used as a justification. If we remove the ignorance, the indoctrination, the rest will (maybe) follow.