Thursday, January 25, 2007

Channeling David Letterman

This is a somewhat unusual post for this blog, but I think it's pertinent, given the subject matter and concept here. This is a list of 10 books that I consider among my favorites for reasons of preference and due to their effects on my life. Following is the unordered list with a short blurb of reasoning. There're no links because if you're reading this, you can probably figure it out and truthfully you've probably already heard of or read them by now.

Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu - improved my balancing act.

Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - introduced me to satire and influenced my writing style tremendously.

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut- darkened my doorstep.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran - taught myself about myself.

Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams - solidified my doubts.

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien - introduced proper fantasy and storytelling myth.

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett - dramatized important and funny philosophy.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche - rewrote common ideology and morality.

Sandman by Neil Gaiman, et. al. - illustrated the dark places of the mind.

You may also notice a certain peculiarity to my Top 10 list. I'm a big fan of irony, no matter how slight.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Coincidence Theory

Last night I dreamt about something that has been happening frequently to me recently. The USB drive that I have is connected through a key ring to a carabiner that I use to fasten to a belt loop. I then drop the USB drive into my pocket. Lately, the piece of the USB drive that attaches to the key ring has been loosening and detaching from the casing of the drive. Well, in my dream, I was placing the drive in my pocket when it came loose, fell to the floor, and then into an air register on the floor. It fell between the slats and down into the vent. I tried to reach in to retrieve it, but it slipped again, further out of my grasp. I was a bit distraught in my dream, thinking I would need to replace it and hoping that nothing happened to my main data store with my backups now down a vent. But then things changed and I thought nothing more of it, occupied instead by further dreams of suicide and whore houses.

Today, I was in my car getting ready to head out. I grabbed a piece of gum, needing a chew. I dropped the gum, it slid down my pant leg and fell between the engaged emergency brake and the guard placed there to keep gunk out, far out of reach in the works of my car. That's not terribly exciting on its own merit, yet after the dream with a similar theme, it seemed a bit bizarre.

Now, I'd like to describe what I call coincidence theory. This is a simple and silly example, but some people might take the event in my dream as some sort of premonition as to the event of the day. Had the suicide I dreamt of actually taken place, it might have been harder to dismiss the event as coincidence. However, I believe when people see two related ideas manifest themselves in their lives, they will often attribute this to some kind of divine purpose or karmic imperative, rather than the more likely of candidates: coincidence.

Sometime coincidences seem to compound leading to further complication. To explain this sort of preponderance of coincidence, I submit to you that among that myriad events taking place in you, at you, and around you; sometimes you're going to get a collision and concepts or ideas are going to mesh. If you think, however, of how many things you see in a day that do not correlate in any way with anything in any significant manner, it makes these other occurrences seem less special.

I was contemplating posting about this concept last week, but could not think of any good example from my life other than a song that sang the words I was writing shortly after scribing them down. I couldn't remember the words or the song, so I felt the example lost some of its power. In truth, I probably subconsciously knew the words coming up and used this to supply my conscious mind the words to write, which coincidentally fit what I was writing. But the real meta-coincidence here is that I was just thinking about posting the idea when an example hit me fairly hard. Yet, if you're thinking about coincidence and looking for coincidence, what are the odds that something somewhere is going to relate?

Yet for all this, there is one important event in my life that could be and should be ascribed to coincidence, but I cannot help but feel that something else may have manifested itself in my life other than random chance. It was probably the Tao.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Pursuit Parable of Happiness

William was a hard-working and caring man. He tried to help others when he could and had led a full life until this very day. Through the window of his small house, one can see the life of a man in need of something. He woke up this morning with a weight bearing down on his heart. Confused, he headed out of his house, barely dressed and headed the wrong way to work.

He stumbled into town mumbling to himself, "It's lost. It's lost. I can't find it. Did I have it?" He approached a woman dressed immaculately on her way to work and asked, "Excuse me, but I can't find what I'm looking for."

"I can't help you," she said, mistaking him for an indigent, and moving along her way.

He continued on the streets and down an alleyway where he met a like-hearted stranger wearing a garbage bag. "Pardon me, but I need to find something yet I can't even remember what it is. Can you tell me what I'm looking for?"

"It's probably money. That's what I need," the hobo answered.

"Oh, maybe that's it. Money," he repeated to himself as if the word was new to his ears and tongue. "Thanks."

"Don't mention."

William headed back out of the alley and into a crowded entryway to a local business. A vendor selling breakfast burritos was earning his living when William advanced and spoke, "Sir, I can't seem to find what I'm looking for. I think it's money that I need; that my soul desires."

"Can't help ya' pal. If you want money you should get a job. You get a job then you can help support me and mine and buy a burrito here. That's what you need," the vendor came back.

"A burrito? That's what I need? Is that what I've been searching for? Is that what my heart desires?"

"Well, maybe it ain't true love, but it fills the belly. If it's the heart that desires, you must be lookin' for love."

"Love? Maybe that's what I need," William said resolutely. Now he was sure he had it. Love was what he needed. He turned into the crowd and headed into the building of business. A young attractive receptionist sat behind the desk in the main lobby. "Ma'am, I need your help."

"What can I do for you?" she asked skeptically after appraising his appearance.

"I need to find love," he began. She pressed a button on her phone to alert security. "I've been told that's what I need."

"I think you'll need to look elsewhere for that sir," a large man in blue answered from behind William, as he was escorted off the premises. "I just need love!" William protested, now back in the streets.

"You'll not find love in a corporate rat maze like that friend," came a friendly voice from a bearded gentleman handing out fliers. "What you need is peace. Peace, love, and understanding."

"Peace, love and understanding?" William asked, now utterly perplexed.

"Yeah, man. You can find them everywhere. You can find love and understanding in your friends but peace has to come from within."

"Within? That's where I kept it! I'm missing something of mine that I kept within me, but I can't find it."

"Rough, man. Losing your peace is harsh. I hope you find it again."

William wandered off down the road in search of peace. He made his way to the center of town where he met a nice elderly lady offering to help him on his way. "If you want peace, then you have to find happiness in this life. I've been up and I've been down, but happiness is what really matters. If you have that, then peace rides along as a companion."

"Happiness? Is that what I lost? My happiness? Where could it have gone?"

"I don't know, young man, but if it is gone then you'd better find it and not waste any time. Life is short; find your happiness."

So William strode on into the city park looking for his happiness, soulmate to peace, cousin to contentment. In the center of the park was a large statue of some famous figure of historical note at the top of a pedestal at the top of a set of wide shallow stairs.

William climbed the stairs looking for his happiness. At the top and the stairs, sitting by the feet of the statue was an old young man quietly contemplating his lap as if there were some arcane book lying upon it.

"Excuse me? Can you help me find happiness? I can't seem to find it."

"Young old man," he began, "Happiness isn't something that you wander about looking for. Why search without for something that resides within? Verily, if you cannot find happiness of your own substance, then you will not find it in the world. The mother, she is cruel, casting her children into the fires of trial. Many are forged stronger, while other are broken, but regardless we may all find happiness if we wish it. Even in sadness, can happiness be found. And when you find that you cannot find happiness within, you must realize this truth: Happiness isn't something you find; it's something you make."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Don't Jump

It had been a long and tiring day, as Jonathan Dover made his way to the bridge that spanned the Feague River. It was over a two hundred foot drop and a distance like that meant it was likely that he would not be able to survive a fall from the bridge. That made it perfect.

Jonathan had had enough. Life had been great; well, not that great, he thought. Well, it had been. Enough of that. What's next? If it's nothing, then that would be a treat.

Jonathan began tying a rope tethered to a large stone to his leg just for good measure. You could never be too careful. A fellow could hurt himself if he wasn't careful. He picked up the stone, took a deep breath, and looked downward into the raging waters below. He took another deep breath and heard a voice ask, "Excuse me?"

He turned around and saw a young woman approach with a bit of a flustered look in her eyes. "Yes?" he replied still holding the rock, "can I help you?"

"I was wondering if you had a cell phone. My battery went dead and my car broke down in the middle of the bridge. I was heading for the nearest..." she trailed off as she saw the stone tied to Jonathan's ankle.

"The nearest..." he began, "what?"

"Why do you have a rock tied to your ankle like that?"

"Like what?"

"And why are you standing outside the guard rail?" It should be noted at this point that people, in general, don't take the time to notice the little things like grown men preparing to jump off bridges in suicide attempts when much more pressing matters are concerned. Matters such as having indigestion, getting shortchanged at the register, and owning cars prone to breaking down - particularly in inconvenient places like the middles of bridges. Any matter, of course, was infinitely more important than anything else, provided that it was happening to you.

So, after being pulled briefly out her own universe, she realized that she had interrupted this man trying to end his life. Always being one to speak her mind, she quickly spoke up, "What the hell are you doing?"

"Oh, just standing here on this bridge with a rock tied to my leg. It's a good workout for the heart. You know, keeps you young. Helps you live longer."

Her eyes narrowed as she caught the hint of an acerbic wit.

"My name's Jonathan, by the way. And I don't have my cell phone with me. I didn't want it to get wet."

Her eyes narrowed even further.

"And your name is..."


"Beth. How nice. So, Beth, have you ever thought about getting married?"

"What? I don't think we know each other well enough to talk about such things."

"Well, I don't mind. In fact, I was just thinking about it myself."

"While getting ready to jump off a bridge?"

"Well, not then, just after you walked up. You know, life might not be so bad if I had a good woman. Someone to love. Someone to talk to."

"Are you trying to pick me up? Because if you are, I think I should tell you that I'm not keen on dating men that I meet on bridges trying to kill themselves. I've dated some real losers, but I think I can do better than this." The truth, of course, was in contradiction to her verbal sentiments. She had dated men much worse.

"Oh, well, bon voyage, then" he said as he lifted the rock, preparing for the plunge.

"Wait!" Beth screamed. She may not have wanted to date the man, but she hardly wanted to be the catalyst of death. "What is this, some sort of suicide blackmail?"

"Oh no. I just thought that maybe God was giving me an out. You know, trying to tell me that life was worth living after all. That sort of thing. Turns out I was wrong, so, so long. Heh-heh." Often the unexpected poet, Jonathan was taken to laughing at himself whenever he accidentally rhymed during prosaic moments.

"Wait!" she screamed again. "Why don't you walk me to the end of the bridge so I can call a tow truck. We can talk about things on the way."

"What sort of things?" he replied.

"I don't know. You tell me. You're the one who said you wanted to talk."

"All right then."

So Beth and Jonathan headed for the civilized end of the bridge and started talking along the way. Jonathan quickly untied the rope from his ankle and hopped over the guardrail. He extended his arm, offering an escort to the lady in distress.

"No thanks. I can manage," she responded to the arm. She couldn't decide which one of them was really in distress. She guessed that it might be both, or perhaps neither.

As they approached the end of the bridge, a Starbucks crested on the horizon. Rather than walking all the way to the horizon, they instead went to the Starbucks located at the end of the bridge. Beth made a call on an ancient derelict pay phone while Jonathan ordered them two espressos and a marble loaf and found a table. Always the gentleman, Jonathan paid for the exorbitant morsels with all the money he had as Beth made her way to the table.

"The tow truck is on its way," she said.

"That's nice," he replied.

They both took a sip of their drinks and then there was an awkward silence. Jonathan looked at Beth. Beth looked at Jonathan. Jonathan looked away at the walls and the decorations colored with a local flair. They were quite nice actually, he thought. Something you could really look at for some time.

"Uh-hum" he said with his throat. He took a bite of the marble loaf. "Well, here we are."

"Yes," she admitted. "So what was it you wanted to talk about?"

"Well..." he paused delicately.

"Does it have anything to do with jumping off a bridge, or reasons thereof?"

"Sort of. It's hard to explain"

"Try." she said calmly and smoothly. It sounded more like a statement of fact than a request.

"Well, I lost my job a coupl'a months ago. Then my girlfriend dumped me and kicked me out of the apartment - which was hers. For a while I crashed with friends, until they realized that we weren't really friends. I managed to borrow some money from my folks, but I can't make rent anywhere anymore and I'm in debt so far above my eyeballs I can't even see it anymore, kinda like the way you can't see the galaxy for being in it," he gushed. "The whole last year of my life has just been a great big clique, worthy of a bad novel."

"Excuse me?"

"You know, a clique, like when something's done to death. Those stories or sayings that everyone's heard a million times. That's me."

"I think you mean 'cliché'."

"Why? What does that mean?"

Beth sealed her eyes closed tightly. Ouch, she thought. Beth was a junior majoring in English at Lucas University. She positively detested it when people used words incorrectly like that. It wasn't an acquired trait or any sort of natural hatefulness, but simply an inborn feeling that cut against the grain of her soul. It was just wrong. If someone didn't know how to use a word or what a word meant, then that was fine, but please, she thought, just use it correctly or don't use it at all. As one might imagine, Beth was very popular.

Obviously, Jonathan wasn't dumb, only misinformed. This time she let it drop, considering that a pedantic lesson in vocabulary maybe wasn't appropriate for the suicidal. She wanted to pull him from the edge, not ram him over it. "Never mind," she said at last.

"So anyway, I just got up one morning and decided that I couldn't take anymore."

"This morning?" she asked nonplussed at possibility of the suddenness of his decision to end his life.

"No, it was a week or two ago." he replied. "I just hurt all the time. Not physically. I'm just so restless and I don't want to do anything, yet I can't do nothing. I'm going crazy and I have so much stress over all my pricking problems that I just want out. The easiest way looks like death."

"I don't think I could ever kill myself," Beth said, suddenly steering the conversation away from Jonathan. Beth was the sort of person who always saw the glass all the way full, even when it was completely empty. Even now, she thought it was fate or God putting her in this situation to help Jonathan. She supposed that a car breakdown might not be all bad if it saved someone's life.

"What keeps you going? How do you get up every morning an go on?"

"There's nothing else to do. I won't quit. I have to see what happens. As I watch, I figure I'll enjoy myself."

"That's easy for you to say. You don't have the problems I do," Jonathan muttered selfishly.

"Excuse me?" Beth challenged indignantly. "I have a crummy job at a book store where the manager and the customers treat me like dirt. I go to school during the time when I'm not working, eating, or sleeping. Even though I could think of no other major, I'm still not doing all that well in English. To round all that out, I have a lousy apartment which I can't really even afford, despite its said lousiness. Also, I tend to run all the men I love, or even like, out of my life. So, please save your selfish pleas for someone without problems. You know, that doesn't leave anyone!"

Beth had lost her cool. She had problems. How dare he, she thought. He may be suicidal, but that doesn't give him the right. He may do well to hear the truth. Or maybe he'll kill himself. Either way, she reckoned, it wasn't on hear conscious anymore. If it hadn't been for her, he'd already be dead. She tried and now she was done.

Beth was satisfied to simply walk back to her car to wait, but was simply too curious about Jonathan's possible response. Surely he couldn't rally from such a defeat.

Jonathan sat quietly for several unreckonable minutes. Beth waited.

"That doesn't sound so bad," he said finally and weakly. "But if it is so bad, then I don't understand why you want to hang around so much. I can't figure out why some people want to live forever when they waste the lives they have now just trying to occupy time. They want to live forever, but they really don't even live the time they do have. I don't feel like there's anything left for me to do, so what's the point? My life's not worth a damn any more, and I'm really tired. I'd like it to be over."

Beth didn't know what to say to this. In the shrine of her mind she too felt that her life was being involuntarily and inexorably wasted. She always thought that there was so much that she was capable of, yet here she was just struggling to get by in college and failing to convince a suicidal man to live. The conviction was almost working in reverse. Any doubts she had towards his seriousness about ending his own life were now vanished.

"I'm sorry," she recanted after recovering. "I do have problems, but it was wrong of me to judge you and your problems simply because other's have problems too. If it matters to you, then it matters."

"It's okay." Jonathan said sadly, but forgivingly.

They sat in silence again for a moment, both of them feeling the depression.

"The truck's probably here by now," she said after a time.


"Walk me back?"


They walked back to Beth's car where the tow truck hauled both the car and them to the service station. Beth's car was fixed and Jonathan waited with her patiently. They didn't say much to each other in all this time, but just kept company together. After getting her car back, in some fashion resembling working order, and paying the mechanic, Beth offered to take Jonathan back to wherever.

"Well, I suppose I still have the apartment for a few more days. I guess I can go back for tonight," he said.


She drove him there and let him out.

"Listen, do you wanna..." he began tentatively.

"No." she rejected. "But if you want to call me, you have my number. Don't jump. I'll have my batteries charged."

Jonathan gazed at her longingly before turning to go inside. "Good night," he said in farewell without turning back.

"Night," Beth bid.

And so Jonathan Dover headed back to his apartment and promptly went to sleep. He sincerely hoped that he would meet Beth tomorrow on the bridge.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Truth

I was told something today. I was told something that was hard to hear. As you might imagine, things that are hard to hear are not easy to hear. It was something about myself. You might say that it hurt. But, you know, that's okay, because things hurt. Life hurts, for instance. Slamming your hand in a car door hurts. Things like that. But as I was sitting there cogitating on the hurt and the predicament I had found myself in, I thought, not all hurt is bad. Maybe even all hurt is good, or at least not bad. If it didn't hurt when I slammed my hand in a car door, I might not know not to do that. You know?