With a Little Help From My Friends (Brian, pt 4)

It is theorized that only six degrees of separation exist between any two people connected to the modern world.

It is a truism that every person I know is one degree of separation from me, and thus no more than two degrees from each other.

However, I’ve encountered an unnerving number of people in my life who are, in fact, only one degree of separation from each other (i.e. regardless of me) but who don’t make immediate or obvious sense given my perspective.

Who cares?

Me, I suppose.

And perhaps you, because you are now one degree of separation from me and, to quote myself from above, thus no more than two degrees from each other.

Neat.

Or not.

Anyway, here is the final bits of a conversation we had with Brian.

To begin, though, a bit of Greg…then a bit of Led Zeppelin (“Stairway to Heaven”)…and to conclude a bit of The Beatles, who also give us the title of this podcast, “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

Have fun.

-G

 

Who’s that over there, then?

Hate&Anger < Light&Love

I asked my ideal reader, who also happens to be my life partner, to review and comment on a previous version of what you’re about to read.  She provided wonderful insights, and closed out her communication with the following:

You have to watch Twitter…it can be a mean hateful place and getting sucked into it does you no good. It’s not helpful or productive.  It’s no good for the spirit and soul.  In this current time, shouldn’t we be looking for the light and love instead of perpetuating the hate and anger?

She’s right.

Twitter can be a marvelous venue for community building, independent journalism, education, sharing one’s art, and relatively direct access to people with whom one would otherwise never be able to communicate so immediately.  However, it can also be a festering pit of anonymous hate, button pushing, conspiracy, fake news, chest thumping, masturbatory trolling, and bullying.

In other words, for better AND for worse, right up my alley.

In the aftermath of Trump I shifted considerable attention to Twitter, well before I knew how to interact without absorbing all of the negative energy.  So I absorbed a lot.  Still do, truth be told.  But I’m learning how to limit my time, check my interactions, and avoid people and topics that stoke the fires of my barely dormant misanthropy and pessimism.  I refuse to ever bury my head in the sand again, but I also need to take care of myself as I put my worldview into action.  Shoot, if I’m being completely honest, I need to figure out what my worldview is and from whence it came.

Here is what I wrote last week, modified and mellowed given the sage advice of a person who has to live with me!  (Yes, I know.  God bless her.)

As I sit in a coffee shop in Pittsburgh, PA, there’s a man in Cleveland who murdered a random stranger while on Facebook live and blamed his decisions on an ex-girlfriend.

That’s all the background that really matters at this point.  If you want additional information, a simple Google search will garner you everything from opinions to the actual video of an innocent man dying as a gun emerges from the upper right portion of the screen.  I will not watch the video nor will I provide you with a direct link, but I saw a still taken just moments before the murder.  It looks like a scene from a single-shooter POV game.  It’s horrifying  enough just having that information.

The murderer claims to have slain more and promises additional lives taken should his bruised ego not be healed by the woman he claims is the reason for his atrocities.

I followed various threads on Twitter related to several sub-communities, and what became obvious to me reading through the timelines, retweets, responses, and likes is this: No, we can’t all just get along.

It’s a distinctly pessimistic and misanthropic perspective.

And to be completely honest, these are my default positions.

I’ve spent much of my adult life both fighting and counteracting them with non-mainstream spiritual exploration, meditation, running, writing, mantras, and, most recently, pharmaceutical and other similar contributions.

But this occurrence, and what I’m seeing on Twitter along with the mainstream news coverage, challenges my drive toward optimism and philanthropy.

Why?

In a word: Men.

The world remains so frustratingly misogynistic, patriarchal, and hyper-masculinized that the murderer’s ex-girlfriend was relentlessly trolled on social media, felt compelled to apologize for HIS behavior, and a significant portion of my viewed and experienced sample immediately placed at least some blame on her.

I see this across media, not just the online social variety: blaming women for men’s behaviors.

Rape?  Her fault.
Infidelity? Her fault.
Professional failure?  Her fault.
A man broadcasts the premeditated, self-broadcasted and narrated murder of an innocent bystander.  And?  Her fault.

I’m reading the thoughts of person after person, the comments and the headlines, and there are entirely too many people (…one person is too many, but I’m talking about over 50%…) laying anywhere from 1% to most of the blame on her.

The right answer is:

ZERO PERCENT OF IT IS HER FAULT.

Rape?  Zero.
Infidelity?  Zero.
Professional failure? Zero.

When I do something bad or wrong or illegal or unethical…I did it.  That’s it.

We really have become a culture of limited personal responsibility…from our governments to our economies to our public sectors to our private sectors to our individual behavior.

By “we,” I mean men.

Unchecked, I suspect we’d destroy humanity.  (You might argue we’re already a decent portion of the way there.)

Not the world.  We’re trying, but the earth will figure out a way forward once the scourge of flaccid penises with too much time, money, and power self-eliminates.

But humanity?  It’s unclear to me right now.

I’m finding most of my optimism resting in those who are NOT white, heteronormative, Christian, men.

And all this testosterone?  Also, unclear to me right now.

We’ve got to begin looking long and hard in the mirror.

And listening to the communities who’ve persevered our supremacy for centuries.

-G

(source)

P.S.        (1 week after first draft, several drafts in.)

As I sit in a different coffee shop in Pittsburgh, PA, the man in Cleveland who murdered a random stranger while on Facebook live and blamed his decisions on an ex-girlfriend…has apparently committed suicide.  As for all of us left wandering the earth, there should be nobody blaming her.  If anything, we might consider taking some responsibility ourselves for perpetuating debilitating, dehumanizing, and clearly dangerous sex and gender stereotypes.

 

P.P.S.    (1 week after P.S., several additional drafts later.)

Admittedly, I’ve endeavored here, and in general over the past 6+ months, toward confirmation bias.  That is, seeking information and examples that bolster the negativity and fatalism coursing through my consciousness.  I’ve selectively ignored examples, perhaps the preponderance of examples, countering my misanthropic narrative.  I’ve largely ceased all of the above-mentioned behaviors meant to counteract my unhealthy clinging to nihilistic melancholy.  I need to turn all of it around.  My wife’s words seem to capture it perfectly: In this current time, shouldn’t we be looking for the light and love instead of perpetuating the hate and anger?

Gunsmoke Adjacent (Brian, pt 3)

The music I’ve chosen to bookmark today’s podcast will bring a subset of listeners back to a time, and a subset of a subset back to a very specific place.

Namely, Camp Gunsmoke.

At the beginning, Pink Floyd, “Comfortably Numb.”

At the end, Peter Frampton, “Do You Feel Like We Do.”

These are two songs made for the dark of night, sitting around a blazing campfire, perhaps other blazing items, maybe four fingers of Canadian whiskey (…likely more…), Orion slowly, steadily coursing across a clear night sky, the sound of the Allegheny river several hundred yards away, and not a goddam care in the world.  Not a one.

That’s the mood here.

So come with me, and my friend Brian…

…we present to you, “Gunsmoke Adjacent (Brian, pt 3).”

I Don’t Know

All art, at the foundation, is movement.

To sing.  To write.  To compose.  To paint.  To sculpt.  To speak. To dance. To play.

All…movement.

Movement used to express the human condition, communicate the individual experience, and contemplate our universal purpose.

It is possible (probable?) that not only humans make art.  But only humans, as far as I know, create art through written, oral, or manual representations of language, which is itself representational.  A word is not reality.  A tree is a tree, insomuch as you understand and interpret the mutually understood letters I used, but “tree” is not a tree, nor is a manual sign for the concept.

But even at that, spoken, signed, and written languages are movements…complex, representational movements.

The spoken word, “art,” for example, can be broken down into component parts (i.e. phonemes), traced to a coordinated effort of various aspects of the speech mechanism, and back through the nervous system.

To a point.

But before the point where we can measure and trace the creation of the word, “art,” is a complete mystery.  What is the spark that causes the first measurable change in the process toward a human saying the word, “art”?  We don’t know.  And this is only targeting the motor-speech elements of the word.  What sparks meaning, memory, and intention?

We don’t know.

This has fascinated me since the first time the question occurred to me, and I recall the precise moment.  It was during a graduate level lecture in a speech-science class.  I worked up the confidence to ask the question, and slowly, nervously articulated it.  The professor immediately responded, “Well, Greg…if you want to go out for a coffee or drink after class, we can discuss it.”  The class laughed, except me.  That response only fossilized the question in my consciousness.

Is the “what” universal?  Or is it individual?  Or am I missing the myriad possibilities between and among those two extremes?  Is there one “what,” or several, or perhaps an infinite amount, which isn’t even an amount!?

I am one human among the estimated 108 billion (as of 2011) who have ever lived.  And consider this, there is a point in human history where there are precisely two humans capable of produce other humans.  And then…travel further back.  What was the very first thing?  And what caused/created/produced that?  There is another concept that has astounded me since the first time it entered my consciousness.

That we can trace ourselves back to zero, and before that?

We. Don’t. Know.

Existential contemplation.

Existential crisis.

Volumes upon volumes of literature across various human disciplines have been dedicated to explaining, “We don’t know,” but the final line of everything should be, “This could be wrong.”

Said otherwise, “I don’t know.”

-G

Reminiscing (Brian, pt. 2)

I fronted a rock band in high school.

We performed at one talent show.

Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and, if memory serves, Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Civil War.”

I wore a Public enemy baseball jersey over a Tribe Called Quest shirt with a backwards Yankees cap, baggy jeans, and a full-on Flavor Flav clock hanging around my neck.

Yes.  That bad.

Thank the universe that smart phones, wifi, and unnervingly easy ways to record video and share it with the world were NOT available at that point.

No, I don’t have video of it.

There is, however, video of some of the other stuff discussed in this lovely episode of the D2D podcast, “Reminiscing (Brian, pt. 2).”

So you should listen.

And maybe, just maybe, if all parties involved are comfortable, we’ll convert the VHS to digital and allow you access to the evidence.

But for now, I give you The Little River Band (Reminiscing) and Van Morrison (Brown Eyed Girl) and of course the conversation.

Have fun.

Indiana Jones, Billy Mays, Capt. Jack Sparrow, Dead Duca

I Would Write Five Hundred Words…

…and I would write five hundred more, just to be the man who writes one thousand words because my hands are sore.

==========

I’ve recently focused my expressive energy on Twitter and Facebook, both of which have impacted my ability to write 1000+ words in posts.

Twitter, even when threading ideas, requires brevity, consolidation, and incredible conciseness…particularly if one desires public engagement (i.e. likes, retweets, comments, and follows).

Facebook allows for paragraphing, but still…the output must be fairly compact.

I’ve honed both of those writing skill sets, and now I find myself writing posts that read more like a social media engagement than a cohesive essay.

It’s almost as if I’m writing little plays.

I’m on my sixth paragraph now and just passed 100 words, and I’m a guy known among my friends, colleagues, and family as a man of many commas, ellipses, and semi-colons. It’s as if I’ve gone from Watts, Falkner, and Morrison; right past Hemingway and King; toward Dr. Seuss and perhaps E.E. Cummings…but with laughably inferior talent compared to those professional authors, among others, who I admire. (Ahh, there’s the Greg we all remember.)

I want my voice to shine through as you read. If you know my voice, all the better. (Please let me know, can you hear me as you read?) And even if you don’t know my voice, I want my unique style of structuring consecutive words to read as such. I want you to think, “Hey, yeah. That’s Greg.” Truth be told, I also want you to say, “Hey, yeah. I like that.” And if I dug a little deeper, I’m still going for, “You are a good and necessary person.” I need your affirmation for my self-worth…more than I prefer and considerably more than is mentally healthy. But then, fuck you if you don’t affirm…because you are wrong and bad. It’s exhausting sometimes. Other times, debilitating.

But whatever…language. Communication.

That’s why you’re here now. Why I am, at least.

And choice.

Since my dive into social media writing, it seems my ability to choose to write longer and comprehensively has suffered. Also, I often see no reason for all the explanation. I’ve embraced “preaching to the choir” for a moment here. Repeating oneself, offering extensive resources and citations, consolidating disparate ideas toward a cohesive discourse framework…feel almost useless in today’s media climate. We’re all preachers now. And we’re all choirs.

I can tell you, for example, how non-standard dialects of a national language are equally valid and expressive to the accepted standard. I can communicate research, philosophy, and wit to convince you that I am right. (And I believe myself to be right. The preacher, as it were.) But if you believe that your dialect is superior to another person’s dialect, and if that belief is rooted in a lifetime of exposure to and experience with the superiority/inferiority relationships…I’m honestly not sure what I can do to convince you differently. It’s true, you’ll not convince me that a non-standard dialect is inferior to a wider-used dialect…from neurological, linguistic, or epidemiological perspectives. But in a society and culture, certain dialects will be promoted, pro-legislated, and lauded while others are demoted, anti-legislated, and jeered. Thus, in functional socio-economic reality, indeed certain dialects ARE better than others. If all of my tests are in dialect A, if job applications require dialect A, if academic success and promotion depend upon fluency with dialect A…then indeed yes, dialect A becomes the key to a “better” life. But…that doesn’t make dialect B inferior to dialect A in any real way.

But, the stories become reality, don’t they?  That’s really all “reality” is, an accumulation of individual fictions.

Dialect A is superior to dialect B in the only ways that matter in a capitalistic, globally-connected, factionalized world.

Wow, that got away from me, didn’t it?

I also worry, at times, that I’ve been sapped of just enough of my previously sleepy, blissful ignorance of the world that humor is now more of a pearl found rather than an oyster served.

“It’s getting to the point where I’m no fun anymore…I am sorry.”

And

“Sometimes it hurts so badly I must cry out loud…I am lonely.”

I’m not sure if I’ve taken the Trump phenomenon too personally, too seriously; or neither enough. Honestly, I’m not…doing…anything. I just felt what I felt when he was elected, read what I read in response, engaged with whom I engaged, and ultimately arrived where I am today with only the energy necessary to keep myself moderately healthy and happy. There’s no agenda. Really. This is just me.

It strikes me now, looking down at the lower left corner (…I really should get back to putting pen to paper rather than finger to keyboard with backlit screen…) as I pass through 750 words, that I might simply be driving this post toward 1000 words simply to make myself do it. And you…shall enjoy or suffer the consequences of this decision.

Actually, I’d like to close with several paragraphs from Mumia Abu-Jamal’s astounding book, “Death Blossoms,” written from a rural Pennsylvania prison. (“Live from Death Row,” was his first clandestine publication, and is also worth your time.)

And yes, I realize it’s technically cheating to hit my self-imposed word count through the use of another man’s words. But these are powerful words, and hell…it’s my blog, my rules.

For more information on Mumia, I’ll link the Wikipedia page here…and of course a simple Google search will turn up all manner of related media. But for now:

Is this not strange, the prisoner muses, given the spiritual adherence they claim to the teachings of a crucified God? Is it not remarkable, coming from believers of a Man-God who gave his life as divine ransom for the souls of sinners? Why is it, he asks himself, that so many Christians want to rust into a grave, those they want to save? (p. 42)

Violence violates the self.
Yes that’s exactly what the system believes in, what the system preaches, what the system practices: violence. Certainly I believe in the necessity of fighting the system, but one thing I’m not going to do is emply the same tactics and methods they system uses every day. We replace the system with the same thing?

We need a new system, one where people are free of all violence of the system. I would hope for a day when there are no bombs, no guns – no weapons whatsoever – no war, poverty, or other injustices; no social and class hatreds; no crime and no prisons. (p.100)

Impact, or Affliction (Brian, pt 1)

Anyone remember how weird and creepy the video for REO Speedwagon’s, “Keep On Lovin’ You,” was?

No?

Here it is…watch it.

Really, and in particular the little theatrical elements at the very beginning and very end.  Got that?  Good.

Now watch the video and contemplate the lyrics from the perspective of this skinny white man with a righteous afro and obvious extreme mental health contributions…but because he’s the lead singer of a popular band there exists a platform for said dysfunction.  And, you’re watching it.

I don’t wanna sleep.

Oh, so hey…Driven2Drink here with you again, this time with an old, old friend.  Brian.

We begin the conversation with intros and history building.  Very fun.  In the room are three adult humans, one adult Springer Spaniel with ADHD and OCD, and two rando puppies.  (I feel like I got the levels and audio output, noise, and whatnot under control this week.)

So…have fun!  (Also, Rush with “Tom Sawyer” at the end.)

We present to you, “Impact, or Affliction (Brian, pt 1).”

 

Practice Contrition

Well over half of the times I’ve communicated, “I’m sorry,” across my life were, in reality, not apologies.

What I’ve usually done is say, “I’m sorry,” but communicate, “How dare you call me out on my bullshit.  I’m sad and angry and embarrassed.  Also, I require external acceptance to define my self-worth…so you need to give me that.  Otherwise, you really are the asshole here.  I said the thing one is supposed to say when one violates a relationship.  Now I need you to accept it, suck it up, act like everything is great, and continue to love me unconditionally…even though I can’t give it to you, and particularly because I can’t give it to myself.”

I know, it’s all very heavy.

But an apology is an acknowledgement of a violation, a genuine concern for the violated person(s), and a commitment to not commit the same violation again.

If your, “I’m sorry” is not an apology, then it’s best to leave it unsaid.

If your, “I’m sorry” is a gaslight, extinguish it.

If your, “I’m sorry” is a deflection of responsibility, swallow it.

If your, “I’m sorry” is a defense mechanism, dismantle it.

If your, “I’m sorry” ends with some version of, “…that you feel that way,” stfu, tbh.

An honest to universe apology requires sacrifice and vulnerability, an act of self-love and self-awareness, and a commitment to improve.

I encourage anyone to practice apologizing.  Write it out.   Reread it.  See if there is any deflection, counter-blaming, insecurity, or ingenuineness.  Then edit all of that out, and revise.  Once the thing looks and feels like an apology, try and deliver it authentically when the context presents itself.

And the context will present itself, because we are imperfect creatures wandering through a largely unpredictable, unstructured, improvised, and messy social world.

Practice contrition.

-G

(source)

 

An example of a thing I wrote out for myself, which I now share with you, after I sorry-not-sorried someone:

I’m sorry.

I (brief explanation of specific thing for which I’m sorry), and for that I sincerely apologize.

I will make an effort to not do that thing for which I’m sorry again.

I hope you can forgive me and trust that I’ll commit to not do that thing for which I’m sorry again.

And, knowing myself fairly well, I might do that thing again in the future.

But I will honestly try to change that.

I have no expectations of you right now.  You don’t need to respond.  It’s not essential that you forgive me, because I am apologizing for that thing I did.  I don’t want to place any burden on you, or deflect what I did by expecting you to absolve me.  I blame you for nothing.

Simply, I’m sorry.