Brain Dead Serious

A Man Who Is Extremely Content to Be Perpetually Dissatisfied

DON: Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. This is Don Fernandez, your host for yet another edition of The Human Condition, bringing you the most striking interviews of common people you wouldn’t normally think about if you had something better to do. Tonight–Mr. Charlie Mendez–a man who is extremely content to be perpetually dissatisfied.

Mr. Charlie Mendez–can I call you Charlie?

CHARLIE: Well, I don’t know. I prefer “Charles,” really. Has a more respectable ring to it. But go ahead, call me “Charlie,” if–

DON: No, no! Absolutely not! If “Charles” is what you prefer, then “Charles” it is.

CHARLIE: Nah… Use “Charlie.” I hate that nickname but… fine! Just use it.

DON: But… I’m totally ok with calling you “Charles.”

CHARLIE: Please. Just call me “Charlie.”

DON: Ok, ok! “Charlie” then.

CHARLIE: Ugh. Ugly name.

DON: Good grief!

CHARLIE: I know right? There are thousands of better names out there and your mother somehow saw it fit to give you the most atrocious, banal, wimpy name possible!

DON: Ok. I may have jumped in this interview the wrong way. Clearly, this–what’s manifesting here–is a symptom of the problem you were going to discuss with our audience today. That is–you, Charles–or Charlie–are a man who’s extremely content to be perpetually dissatisfied.

CHARLIE: I… wouldn’t really frame the issue that way. Seems too simplistic. And reductionist. It’s definitely more than that.. but, uh, I guess if that’s convenient for you, then… fine!

DON: I see what’s happening here.

CHARLIE: Do you? I doubt it.

DON:

CHARLIE: But again–it’s ok!

DON: Ok! So. Let’s move on–

CHARLIE: God, I hate when people move on, but…

DON: –but let me guess–you’re fine with it?

CHARLIE: Sure! I mean, what can you do? Launch a revolution?

DON: Charlie, you don’t have to launch a revolution for anything. You know, you can say “No” if you really don’t like what’s happening.

CHARLIE: I do say “No.” I say “No” all the freakin’ time. But then people or circumstances push back, and when that happens, I say “Fine then, yes!”

DON: Don’t you think that’s a supremely defeatist attitude?

CHARLIE: Oh, I do. I do think it’s defeatist. And cowardly. And absolutely nothing will ever change in my life if I continue being this way!

DON: And? How do you feel about that? Sorry, let me rephrase–

CHARLIE: Oh, I HATE IT!

DON: Jesus.

CHARLIE: GODDAMMIT I HATE THE FEELING! But at the end of the day, I just let it slide. It sucks but.. fine!

DON: See, Charlie, maybe you just need to try harder. If things don’t go your way, perhaps you should try just a little bit harder to, you know, get really, constantly angry at the state of things!

CHARLIE: Constantly? Like, uh, constantly-constantly?

DON: Yeah.

CHARLIE: Like, uh, hate it forever?

DON: Yes!

CHARLIE: To do what?

DON: Well, so that you’re so angry and mad at the state of things that you finally push yourself to do something about it!

CHARLIE: Huh.

DON: Don’t you think that’s a better way to live than just being extremely content to be perpetually dissatisfied?

CHARLIE: To be honest–that sounds like a TERRIBLE idea.

DON: Terrible? How so?

CHARLIE: How? What do you mean, how? It’s freakin’ terrible. Constantly being angry in order to actually do things… are you insane? That’s the most terrible idea I’ve ever heard and it makes me sick!

DON: Oh no, just… just stop th–

CHARLIE: But if that’s your opinion, then, FINE!

DON: This… This isn’t going anywhere.

CHARLIE: Nothing’s going anywhere. You, me, this world. All of us ain’t going nowhere. I’ll keep working my soulless day job working with soulless people, enriching some soulless millionaires that keep this soulless society in check! You think just because people are getting more offended these days that this will actually result in a movement that will free us from the savage shackles that have held our humanity back from time immemorial? No! It’s a deception! A mirage! Fifty, five-hundred, five-thousand years from now, we’ll still be talking about the same issues stuck in the same rut!

DON: Charlie, Charlie… I hate to break it to you. But it’s precisely because of people like you that things aren’t going to change. Because you refuse to do anything about your situation! All you do is complain!

CHARLIE: Are you thick? You think I don’t know that? You think I don’t go to bed at night with those exact, same thoughts haunting me to sleep? Of course I’m aware of my shortcomings! Of course I’m aware I’m part of the problem–and the very CAUSE of it! And you know what? I HATE IT!

DON: Here it comes.

CHARLIE: BUT THEN I TAKE A DEEP BREATH, TURN ON THE TELEVISION, AND THEN… I’M OK!

DON: …What do you watch on TV? Maybe… maybe that has something to do with this attitude of yours.

CHARLIE: Nothing particular. Some sappy drama. Or childish sci-fi. Whatever’s on. They’re all garbage. But I watch them anyway. Because once you get used to the trash the soulless media industry is serving you, they numb your mind and your palate enough, and then… they’re ok!

DON: That’s sad.

CHARLIE: Miserable. Bleak. But I’m fine!

DON: What about a relationship? Maybe you just need to be loved and experience love to get out of this vicious cycle of being utterly content with misery?

CHARLIE: Oh, that has nothing to do with it. I’ve been married for over 10 years already.

DON: Wow! That’s quite an accomplishment. You must love your wife very much.

CHARLIE:

DON: Er, right?

CHARLIE: …Nah, I don’t like that woman.

DON: What??

CHARLIE: Yeah… I mean, I got her pregnant after the most horrible sexual intercourse I’ve ever had!

DON:

CHARLIE: Like, I’m not even kidding. It’s shockingly boring and disgusting at the same time! But we sort of… you know, got off, so the thing did its job, so I guess it’s all right. Then her belly started growing bigger after a few months and both our parents pushed us to get together. Oh, I freakin’ raised hell about that for weeks! I screamed at all of them, told them hell no I’m not marrying that woman whom I barely remembered from one drunken night at the pub! But my parents are devout Christians and they believe that a child has to have a father and mother living together yadda yadda yadda. So, you know, after a week, even though I didn’t like her not one bit, I said, “What the hell, FINE, I’ll marry the wench!” And we got married, and the baby was born, and oh God Almighty, what a bloody ugly baby that was who grew up to be one of the ugliest children I’ve ever had the misfortune to lay my eyes on. And my own flesh and blood, you know? But I accepted the kid, anyway.

DON: Because deep inside you loved your kid, right??

CHARLIE: Nah. Because I couldn’t do shit about it anyway. So… FINE!

DON: OK THAT’S IT! FINE! Let’s end the interview right here. I’ve had enough!

CHARLIE: You angry at me, Don?

DON: YES! WHAT KIND OF A FATHER HATES HIS OWN KID? YOU’RE… YOU’RE MAD! YOU’RE PSYCHO!

CHARLIE: So what? What are you gonna do about it?

DON: I–I… WELL, NOTHING FOR NOW!

CHARLIE: So you’re fine for now?

DON: GODDAMMIT. I’M AFRAID WE’LL HAVE TO CUT THIS STINKIN’ PROGRAM SHORT AGAIN! ‘TIL NEXT TIME IN THIS GOD-FORSAKEN MADHOUSE OF A SHOW! THIS IS DON FERNANDEZ, HOST OF THE HUMAN CONDITION, SAYING GOODNIGHT AND GOOD LUCK! I HATE ALL OF YOU!

CHARLIE: Come on, Don! Chill! It’ll pass!

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Free Writing

Potentially, Maybe

If I had anything else to say, I would’ve said it by now. If I had anything more important to do, don’t you think I would’ve done it by now? There are possibilities, sure, and I have significant–what do you call it–ah, yes, “potential,” but well, that’s why it’s just a potential right at this very moment because it can’t be anything other than just a potential. It can’t be actual. Can’t be active and cannot be activated. Definitely not by you. Certainly not by me. Because I’m the Master of Potentiality, the Captain of Probabilities of Future Happenings that May or May Not Happen. See, I’m trapped. Like a horse thumping its hooves in a cramped starting gate seconds just before the gun fires in a horse race. Except here in this case, the gate doesn’t open and I’m just here in my stall, braying and neighing in anticipation of a wild, heart-stopping race of thoroughbreds that, in all probability, would never begin. Such a shame, true, but never despair because I’m far from the first case of a conceivable project stuck in the conceptual phase. All things are only plausible potentialities, or promising promises, or pretty pipe dreams before they’re presently prancing ponies right before your eyes, my friend. I mean, think about it. This coffee I’m drinking wouldn’t have been sipped if it weren’t resting in the cup in the first place. I wouldn’t have sat if I weren’t standing, looking for a chair just a few moments ago. Wouldn’t have spilled nonsensical drivel if there wasn’t any nonsensical drivel to be spilled right from the start. Thankfully, there was. There always is. And there’s always more! Always there at the tip of my tongue like sticky saliva stretching, stretching downwards forever pulled by gravity before snapping in the middle and dripping onto the floor. It takes many seconds to reach the ground, minutes, and inside those minutes, millennia. I’m basking in that infinite space between the ticking of the clock, floating in utter dormancy, resisting the rush to be realized. Unbent, unbowed, undeveloped. No reality. You scoff at it thinking you’re free from this plague of latency ailing me but you’re mistaken. Everyone exists within a realm of possibility just before something real really happens and when it does, it has already passed. You can’t catch it transpiring. It already did. And there it did again! Did you see it? You’re there because you can’t be anywhere else. Obviously, if you could be any place else right now, wouldn’t you be there already? But you’re not. Which means you’re stuck in this, too. Like me. Whatever you’re thinking right now, whatever comes to mind, can only be the things that pop in your head and nothing else. Certainly not hamburger. But now I said it, that can only be the thing in your head, is it not? Hamburger. Now, bacon. Now, cheese. And sandwich. There–I put all the ingredients in your head and now, at least for a span of time, you wouldn’t be able to get rid of them. You can potentially get rid of them–but not yet. Not until you’ve had some time to put this behind you and get back to your life brimming with budding events that could happen. Or could not. If only you weren’t there in that spot when I said it but you were. If only. God, I hate those words! If only you were this, if only you were that. If only you were bright, if only you were glad. Well, you’re not and I’m not. It’s not a question of “Can I?” but a question of “Am I?” It’s me, it’s society, it’s elementary, it’s poverty, it’s lack of sleep, lack of religion, lack of a destination, lack of love, lack of luck, lack of lack! In the end, it is what it is. Is it such a crime to be chronically constrained by circumstances? I guess so. From this perspective, crime is punishing destiny for being destined. We can be apologetic but there’s little room for regret. You couldn’t have done it better or differently; if you could, then we won’t even be talking about it because the record books would say clearly and in bold text, leaving no room for confusion or doubt that you did. But right now, it doesn’t say so. And now here I am, and there you are, and what can we do? Maybe we can wait. Something’s going to happen now. Before you can even blink. Before you can ride the next thought. Any moment now. Any moment now.

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Brain Dead Serious

I Read Sartre and I Think There’s No Such Thing as Forever

Young Filipinos have a popular saying, “Walang forever (translated: There’s no such thing as forever / Forever is impossible).” It’s a decidedly pessimistic and mocking view of love and romantic relationships popular on social media where it’s been expressed through innumerable memes. A girl actually coaxed Bill Nye to answer the question whether forever really existed or not, to which Bill Nye answered, yes, forever possibly exists if by “forever” one means time as a property of the universe. Bill Nye was trolled, of course–like all old folks online. The question was not really about time but the permanence of love.

Thankfully, I think I may have found a better answer from my nightly readings. It turns out, Jean-Paul Sartre, French existentialist philosopher extraordinaire famous for confusing the daylights out of students, had something to say about permanence or rather its opposite–“fragility,” which I think we can extend over our analysis of love and relationships.

Destruction and Fragility

In his book Being and Nothingness, Sartre explained that “to destroy” is human. Without human beings, there would be no such thing as “destruction.” You can’t say for example, that a bolt of lightning destroyed a tree in a forest because without man to define what happened as such, the concept of “being destroyed” wouldn’t exist. In fact, there wouldn’t even be any “change” at all. There would just be Being and outside that, nothing.

In relation to this, “fragility” is also a human thing. Nothing in the world is fragile except those which man defines as such. But if man is the one who posits something as “fragile,” didn’t he, in essence, also cause its own destruction? For if he never defined that something as “fragile” in the first place, then it cannot possibly be destroyed.

Sartre says:

“And what is fragility if not a certain probability of non-being for a given being under determined circumstances. A being is fragile if it carries in its being a definite possibility of non-being… Thus it is man who renders cities as destructible, precisely because he posits them as fragile and as precious and because he adopts a system of protective measures with regard to them. It is because of this ensemble of measures that an earthquake or a volcanic eruption can destroy these cities or these human constructions. The original meaning and aim of war are contained in the smallest building of man.”

I personally love this line: “The original meaning and aim of war are contained in the smallest building of man.” Sartre appears to be saying that once man gave birth to the concept of “fragility,” everything that concept touched was doomed to be destroyed precisely because fragility “carries in its being a definite possibility of non-being.” A fortress–no matter how strongly built, no matter how well-defended, is doomed to fall because as a fragile object, it always had the definite possibility of being nihilated.

Throughout history, men went to war because they knew there were fragile things in the world that they could destroy to achieve their goal. We always knew things are breakable, so we broke them–just as planned.

Sartre continues:

“It is necessary then to recognize that destruction is an essentially human thing and that it is man who destroys his cities through the agency of earthquakes or directly, who destroys his ships through the agency of cyclones or directly.”

Once an object has been posited as “fragile,” it was always going to be destroyed directly or indirectly by man. Earthquakes do not destroy cities; it is man who defines and limits the meaning of destruction, and so he is the one who made that earthquake’s destruction possible. It’s actually just a different way of expressing that old philosophical question: can the color red exist for a blind person? No, because he doesn’t have the capability to create that concept in his mind. How could destruction be possible if we didn’t have the ability to conceive of something as fragile?

This takes us now to the concept of love.

There’s No Such Thing as Forever?

Something always taken for granted dawned on me while I was reading Sartre. To say one “loves” hides an unspoken fact people conveniently forget or fail to discuss; namely, “to love” is only possible because it’s possible “not to love.” That is, loving something presupposes that one does not love everything or one can choose not to love.

You say “I love this person” only because you don’t love all the persons in your life–just this one particular member of the human race.

But the scary thing? The statement “I love this person” is possible because “I don’t love this person” is also possible.

As Sartre says, nothingness lives “in the heart of being–like a worm.”

Not to love” lives in the heart of “love” like a worm.

Love is a fragile thing because we adopt “a system of protective measures” to keep it from falling apart, to keep it from descending into “not loving.” But here is where all lovers, even the most passionate of them all, may have already doomed their relationships if not teetering on the edge of their ruin, because it seems that if we believe Sartre, then to love is to enter into a contract with a disclaimer at the end that says “I can choose to destroy this love if I wanted to because love is a fragile thing and it can and it will always be destroyed by me or someone or something else if they wanted to or if circumstances permitted it to happen.”

Is there no such thing as forever? How could there be one if we’re talking about a thing as fragile as love? It’s a thin sheet of something weak, something that breaks when you pound it with a hammer, or roll it over with a bulldozer, or crush with the weight of the entire world–it doesn’t matter. It is breakable and if it’s breakable, then it’s not a thing made for “forever.” Love presupposes its own destruction.

So we guard against all the forces that could break that “precious” thing apart (love is, in fact, precious because it can be shattered and taken away from you). We do all we can to protect this little magical thing from the pressures of other parties, of our work, our daily lives, the economy, of whatever else in the universe that threatens to annihilate this gift that we have. But the funny thing is that we, ourselves, made it feeble and frail because we posited this thing between us as “love” in the first place–and unfortunately, love is fragile.

Wait, what of “True Love?”

But isn’t there such a thing as “true love?” And isn’t “true love” not fragile?

Adding the word “true” to “love” is more a play on words than anything substantial. It doesn’t contradict the fact that true love is also only possible because there’s a definite possibility not to be truly in love. Thus “true love” itself is haunted by its nothingness, that is, that inside its being lives that worm of “not being truly in love.”

Let me put it this way: you say you two are “truly in love?” Then that must mean you’re not truly in love with everything and everyone in your life–just this one specific person. That must also mean you’re walking on eggshells; you two are adrift in a sea of people not being truly in love with one another, and you two can drown anytime, sinking into that deep sea with all the others.

So what is one to do in the face of potential doom?

Nothing, really, but to accept the ultimate responsibility of the choice in front of you. You can love but to do so, you must accept the fact that it can be fractured and pulverized anytime. You step into all the wonders of it knowing full well that they can spin around and shape-shift into nightmares.

There’s no such thing as forever or maybe there is but the odds are hopelessly against it. What we do have is a responsibility to keep a fragile thing from exploding into smithereens; and, moreover, a bigger responsibility to deal with the consequences if and when it does.

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.” — Sartre

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Free Writing

An Affliction

Afflicted. Plagued. Sick. That’s who we are every day and especially on Friday nights when the urge to see through ourselves in front of a mirror is extraordinarily strong. So strong that our vision pierces through our lungs and we question why we’re still breathing. And we behold our heart and we think about why in the world it’s still beating.

And sometimes, we see all the way to our soul and find out, well, that it’s not there anymore. There’s a note pinned on the empty blank space where it used to be. It’s been on sick leave for a very long time.

———-

What does being “healthy” even mean? Is it the state of being pain-free, fuss-free, germ-free? If that’s the case then I would have to say being healthy is the greatest abnormality of all–an aberration so uncommon that it’s not worth talking about.

For surely, I might have been pain-free at many points in my life, but then I wasn’t fuss-free or germ-free. And I might have been fuss-free during, say, long vacations far from my office cubicle but… I was probably not pain-free or germ-free. It’s most likely impossible to be completely sanitary in all aspects of life.

You could say one is always contaminated.

———-

There’s a constant need to go after a cure. Somewhere out there is a panacea to heal all these diseases of the body and of the mind and of the heart and of the soul. It’s in the form of an opportunity that sounds too good to let go, a thing so amazing not to own, an idea so powerful not to subscribe to, or a person so unique and useful not to be with.

We take them and inject them into ourselves, suffusing our lives with their well-advertised medicinal properties. And there are mornings when the thought of merely doing something to treat yourself, no matter how small, is enough to make you feel better.

At times, the belief in the power of that medication is so potent that we convince ourselves that we’re ok now. We’re fine now. And that we can live this way for years–a placebo effect necessary for our own sanity and survival.

———-

The funniest thing is that we’re all doctors. Talking to each other, diagnosing one another, giving away endless prescriptions to any patient who’s patient enough to listen or care. I say “or” because some people listen but they don’t actually care. They could win a medal for being the best listeners though.

———-

“Oh, you’re hurt? I know EXACTLY what you’re going through! Here’s what you need: take one dose of self-confidence in the morning, two doses of shopping sprees in the afternoon, and three doses of sex at night! Take a full glass of prayers with these and never forget to apply a dollop of independence. Wash it down with alcohol and stay in bed far away from everything for a decade. I promise you’ll feel like brand new!”

———-

If only we were as accurate as our imaginary licenses claim to be. Unfortunately, we’re not. In fact, we’re unbelievably bad at what we do. And many times, instead of correctly pinpointing what’s ailing our friends and our loved ones, what we see is nothing but a reflection of our own illnesses and pains that we ourselves have tragically failed to cure. But if we can’t even mend our own maladies, then how could we be expected to find a pill that works for others?

———-

If there’s one thing that’s going for us it is that we never give up. Debilitated as we are with all the hurts and injuries we’ve suffered, we keep on moving forward. Doubtless there’s courage in that albeit a lot of it rooted in hard-headedness and, frankly, being naively dumb.

But perhaps there’s something there when one strives for excellence when the odds are against oneself. Or not even excellence. Not even mediocrity. Just one really good, healthy day.

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Free Writing

Christ Was Here Just 14 Minutes Ago and Other Ironies of Time

“You must understand, young Hobbit, it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.”

– Treebeard, The Two Towers

“There is no future. There is no past. Do you see? Time is simultaneous, an intricately structured jewel that humans insist on viewing one edge at a time, when the whole design is visible in every facet.”

– Doctor Manhattan, Watchmen

————–

I am at a strange point in my life when I’m, arguably, not too young and not too old. Of course, a lot of people would say 33 is already too old given that the baby boomers already had settled lives at this age (marriage, kids, a snore of a job, and whatnot), but I beg to differ. Times have changed, and I–supposedly belonging to the much maligned millennial generation–am still a man collecting plastic playthings molded in the image of muscled men in colorful trunks and tights.

I call this particular juncture in my lifetime “strange” because, of late, I have been feeling strangely, keenly aware of how I am at once distant and near both the past and the future. Some recent events have doubtless triggered this weird mix of anxiety and wonder about the nature of time, the most impactful of which was the death of my sweet grandmother. Yesterday, I saw a sad picture of my father lighting a candle over her grave just newly adorned with bermuda grass, and I couldn’t help but think that this powerful woman bursting with life, energy, and the most entertaining brand of humor just maybe two or three years ago, is now cold and damp earth beneath my father’s feet. And as healthy as that man is, he’s looking old, too.

Someone had uploaded faded, yellowed pictures in a chat group showing me and my cousins, our parents, our uncles and aunts with my grandmother. Taken with those large, clunky cameras and printed on photo paper, the years have not been kind to these pictures, some of them with faces you could barely discern. One showed me as a malnourished teenager in a jacket five times my size, another my sister, who’s now living halfway around the world, as a suspicious, wild-haired baby, and yet another of my aunt looking like a summer girl plucked out of Instagram. We all look so different now and these snapshots of life supposedly happened such a long time ago–but did they? When digital photos became accessible, the vacation and holiday pictures we take suddenly took on a marvelous degree of permanence and perfection that completely set them apart from those stained, cracked pics in our family albums. Suddenly–in terms of quality and if you don’t mind the subjects who had totally changed in their appearance over the years–my first uploaded digital pic on Facebook back in 2008 looks like it could have been taken just last week.

But was 2008 such a long time ago? Phones were a little dumb back then but not as dumb as the Facebook Newsfeed these days. Beyonce wanted you to put a ring on it. Twilight was a plague us Potterheads tried to avoid ferociously, our fangs out and our claws bared. Somewhere along the way, I learned what a rewarding and goddamn stressful thing a relationship was. In truth, I don’t feel as if these events had been too long ago; sometimes, I feel that these could have been just five or six years ago, and one out of three girls would still shriek my ear wax off if I mention the name “Edward” or “Jacob” to them.

2008 doesn’t feel that long ago and, frankly, neither does 1998 to me. Celebrity Deathmatch was the most awesome thing in the world (hey, maybe it still is?). My Heart Will Go On went on forever in every radio station. There were Britney Spears and the Spice Girls and all the fibers in my being raged to an unpleasant stiffness whenever they were on MTV. And the President of the United States lost his office due to a job he blew (a blown job). Yes, we wore baggy clothes featuring anime characters that would have looked alien today, but all in all, these happenings still do not feel that far back into the past.

10 years, 20 years don’t feel that long ago to me, especially when I’m alone and retracing my life in the canvass of my condo’s cobwebbed ceiling.

You know what feels long? How about 12,000 years?

12,000 years is the supposed lifespan of an Ent, a tree-like being in J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I remember these creatures whenever I get to pondering the vast expanse of time. Treebeard, the oldest of the Ents, spoke and moved so frustratingly slow that the Hobbits got madly impatient at him. But could you really blame a creature who had lived thousands of years to give a flying squirrel’s posterior about a halfling’s extremely short-lived preoccupations?

Tolkien was clearly putting us in the Hobbits’ shoes and telling us that a lot of the matters we fuss over in our daily lives are only caused by our lifespan being too short or our expiration date being too soon. We need to do everything now because, honestly, we don’t have long to live and the clock is ticking. Some people are able to extend their stay much longer than expected but these folks are still quite rare. There are a handful of women (five to be exact as of this writing) who have lived past 110 years old, gaining them the flashy, heroic-sounding title, “supercentenarians” even though you can imagine there’s probably nothing “super” about how they feel. As unrepresentative as I am of my cohorts, I would admit that at 33, there are already some mornings I feel so heavy that I wish I were made of metal and a huge magnet could pull me up from my bed, drag me, and drop my limp body into my office chair. Everything–tasks and leisure alike–is becoming so tiresome I’m beginning to think that a couple more years and I’d be ready to say, “Screw it, I’ve seen everything, where’s the exit?”

Still, some days I think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be exciting to live long enough to be here when man first sets foot on Mars?” But then if this space faring milestone only happens after 40 years had passed–would I still care, stuck in my wheelchair, unable to see through my three-inch cataracts, with the least bit of excitement a fatal threat to push my blood pressure over the edge? Maybe it’s not worth it. Hell, perhaps it’s best to check out just before sex turns into an appalling affair.

Thankfully, 40 years is still some ways off into the future. The way I personally think of it is that to get there–that unpleasant 73 year mark when everything’s painful, evil, dark, and cursed, including smiling children–I would have to go through the length of my entire life up to this point again and then some. I would have to suck on my mother’s breasts again (my earliest memories), watch all my favorite morning cartoons again like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Denver the Last Dinosaur (kidding, I hated that wimp Denver), play around the flag pole of my elementary school again as my mother accompanied my sister to school, kick ass in elementary by being a teacher’s pet and receive my fair share of bullying, have to get circumcised again and be in utter shock of my poor, murdered genitals begging for help in a pool of blood, fool around high school and discover the gift of masturbation, be torn between wooing crushes and playing Counter-Strike, graduate, get really serious in college and fill my head with some dead German and French philosophers’ mind farts, hate Capitalism, discover I was in fact a dork and nothing like Batman or Wolverine or Raphael (my favorite sai-wielding ninjutsu-adept turtle), lose almost all confidence in myself and attempt to extricate myself from society, somehow get into a relationship and regain a sense of belonging, love Capitalism then witness more than five retrenchments as a transcriptionist, then a writer, then a social media marketing expert or whatever they want to call that profession, which only became possible because a guy named Mark Zuckerberg was even more of a dork than I was a few years ago, see all my friends go to leave for other jobs before finally being here at this moment in time, a little comfortable with my work, with the most amazing girlfriend in the world whom I hope to marry, but struggling with accelerated hair loss.

That would be quite a long time to relive.

But maybe still not that long.

After all, 33 years is really just a millisecond of a millisecond of a millisecond of time.

Recently, I’ve been obsessing about dinosaurs, paleontology, history, and evolution as anybody who had an excess of time in front of a computer would… naturally. I have learned that if you compressed time into a 24-hour period, such that the Earth formed at midnight and that the present moment when I’m typing these words is the next midnight, modern humans would only have appeared at 11:59:59pm–that’s all of one second. And if you took that clock and recalibrated it to compress human history into another 24-hour period, only 14 minutes had passed since Christ was here, walking amongst people.

The universe is 14 billion years old, the Earth four and a half. It took three billion boring years for microbes to evolve into fish in a world filled with volcanic eruptions and rivers of fire. Animals have been here 600 million years but mammals themselves started scurrying as little, insignificant rodents 200 million years ago. The dinosaurs, the poster boys for extinction, were actually here much longer than us, ruling the planet for 165 million years compared to our measly 200,000! In fact, the dinos overstayed for so long that the Tyrannosaurus rex is nearer in time to Donald Trump than to the stegosaurus–you know that other popular dino with four legs, huge plates running along its spine, and spikes on its tail? I’ve scratched my head at this myself multiple times but it’s true. There are only 5,000 years of recorded human history and prior to that, human beings spent roughly 150,000 years being embarrassingly simple-minded like you during the first couple of seconds when you wake up in your bed, not knowing what the hell is going on.

Given the sheer immensity of this timeline, you can see how 33 years is truly puny verging on nothing.

I say “verging” because considering time is almost infinite, as short as 33 years is compared to a universe that has existed for billions of years, that period is still as valid as any duration of time; that is, 33 years is really as valid as, say, 33 million years. And that is the paradox of time, is it not? Moments that are short-lived might as well have run forever against the backdrop of infinity. You say I live in the present but I only see life as a series of past events stretching into yesterday, the last week, the last month, the last year, the last epoch. I can only grasp the present as a hand would try to hold grains of sand streaming down between its fingers. And how could a million years be longer than a second when there could be a million moments within it?

During deranged ruminations like this, I remember another character from pop culture: Doctor Manhattan of arguably the greatest graphic novel of all time, Watchmen. Dr. Jonathan Osterman was a nuclear physicist who was accidentally disintegrated by an Intrinsic Field Subtractor machine but was later able to reconstruct himself as Doctor Manhattan–a powerful being outside time and maybe space. This fictional character’s perception of time was even more bizarre than Treebeard’s because he viewed every event in the past, present, and future as all transpiring at the same time, creating all sorts of problems for other characters in the story who, like us, only saw time as a linear march of events: there is yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But Doctor Manhattan was a being that’s acutely conscious of his past, present, and future existence at each point in that linear timeline, and so he felt disconnected from virtually all the emotional struggles of humanity that arise from their belief that things only happen because of things that precede them (you only leave your boyfriend because he cheated). To illustrate, Doctor Manhattan knew he would cheat on his first girlfriend before he did it because he was already living that life in his future, and yet he still did it. It’s like you celebrating your 10th birthday party, the best, most fun and memorable birthday party of your life, knowing that you’re already spending your 60th birthday party alone in a nursing home, cursing existence. It’s such a dire situation to be in that Doctor Manhattan literally exiled himself to Mars.

But unfortunately, as much as backpacking to Mars is becoming more and more tempting each day considering our present plight and as the world blazes down the rabbit hole of eternal shittiness, there’s nothing much we can do but accept the paradoxes and ironies of time. I guess, if you think about it, there’s a cruel but poetic consolation in the fact that we are helpless and literally can’t do anything about the matter, which means nobody truly expects us to do anything substantial. Sure, you can buy some tubes of anti-aging cream, hang out with the young ones as what’s left of your liver smoulders into a boiling square inch of ash and bile, or play with your man toys like I do as you reminisce about the past–but really, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to turn back the hands of time or stop the seconds in their tracks. We can try to hold on to happiness, to sadness (some people consciously prefer it), to people and things as much as we want to but it’s all over before we think it; and in that–there’s sweet release, a responsibility to be wantonly irresponsible.

The message here is not to make the most out of life because “you only live once.” Chasing after something, which ultimately won’t matter or will matter but only in a certain cramped definition, so doggedly is a fool’s errand. Many have lost their minds and the people who truly care about them trying to recapture past glories that have long transformed into ghosts.

It’s more like this: let the inevitability of the rushing river of time wash over you, accept your fate, and be shredded majestically into strips of beautiful nothingness as the universe races to its end.

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Brain Dead Serious

Last Friday Night Was Wild But You Know What’s Wilder? The Chicxulub Extinction Event

Matt and Ray meet at the watercooler in the office:

MATT: Hey, Ray! What’s up? Where the hell were you last Friday? We were looking all over for you just before we headed down to the bar but you were gone! OH. GOD. You missed half of your life, dude! Bob and I went with Jackie from Human Resources and SHIT. GOD. WILD.

RAY: Oh yeah? That’s cool, Matt. But I left work early to get some much needed rest, and I was flipping through cable at home when I chanced upon this documentary on National Geographic about how dinosaurs went extinct–and it was AWESOME. It was called the Chicxulub extinction event!

MATT: Uh… the what now?

RAY: The Chicxulub extinction event, man, and it’s wilder than your party!

MATT: Bugger off! Nothing’s wilder than last Friday, Ray! Bob and I and Jackie got super friendly super quick in the car that we busted out this nasty bottle of Scandinavian vodka Bob’s been keeping in his glove compartment, and we halved that freakin’ bottle of pure gasoline even before we went inside the bar! And then in the bar, there’s this rich South African mofo who apparently got promoted in his job or hit the lottery jackpot or somethin’ and he was makin’ it rain free shots all night! We were so buzzed Bob was already starting a fight with three fellows all named Chet on the dance floor not 30 minutes had passed!

RAY: Huh. Sounds like a good time indeed.

MATT: A “good time?” It was INSANE.

RAY: Well, Matt, that kind of thing might seem insane to you but your Friday night’s nothing compared to the Chicxulub extinction event. See, Chicxulub? It refers to the town of Chicxulub in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. That town is the center of a huge-ass crater–and when I say huge, it’s freakin’ gargantuan–93 miles in diameter and 12 miles deep in the earth, Matt. That crater was dug there by an asteroid the size of a goddamn mountain hitting the earth at 40,000 miles per hour 66 million years ago! You know how big of an explosion that kind of massive asteroid produces when it hits a natural tinderbox of oil?

MATT: How big?

RAY: As big as 100 trillion tons of TNT or 10 billion Hiroshima bombs exploding all at the same time on your face, Matt! The impact was so powerful if you were within 1,000 kilometers of it, you’d still be killed by a murder fireball along with the dinosaurs in a snap! Now THAT’S wild!

MATT: Ok. Ok. I agree that’s kinda wild, my friend… But not wilder than my Friday night! See, last Friday night? We were so friggin’ hammered, I dared Jackie to kiss this girl she’s been rubbin’ butts with all night long on the dance floor. And you know what sweet, prim-and-proper Jackie from Human Resources did? She just went and grabbed that bitch by her ponytail and proceeded to devour her throat–gums and all! And the girl hungrily devoured Jackie’s molars and tonsils back! But it didn’t stop there. No, sir! I dared that girl to kiss another girl next to her–and she did my bidding like she was under a magician’s spell, Ray! Not long after that, me and Bob were staring at this glorious, sweating crowd of intoxicated females all lickin’ and slurpin’ each other! Your mass extinction event ain’t WILDER than that, Ray!

RAY: So you saw some women kissing and you thought that was wild? What are you, twelve?

MATT: What?!

RAY: How about this–the Chicxulub Impactor–that’s what they call the dino doomsday asteroid–hit the ground so hard that the resulting explosion, rain of fire, and climate disruption killed off 80% of all plant and animal species on the planet! Eighty percent! This wanker was so deadly that nine seconds after impact, an observer watching this shit from a thousand kilometers away would’ve been roasted by a savage blast of thermal radiation! It was so strong that herds of Alamosaurus–you know these long-necked behemoths belonging to the sauropod clade weighing some 80 freakin’ tons and standing 52 feet–glowed like goddamn transparent light bulbs when hit with that radiation blast! Forests, valleys instantly burst into flames and almost every poor living creature in the vicinity suffered third-degree burns all over their bodies in seconds! Can you imagine that? And that’s just the beginning of it, Matt. This end-of-days phenomenon produced a lingering impact winter that halted photosynthesis in both plants and plankton. Photosynthesis STOPPED. Means plants stopped eating. How can some women kissing compare with that, Matt? THEY CAN’T.

MATT: LAME! Last Friday? I left Bob drinking his mind out at the bar as I was grinding this voluptuous mass of curves that turned out to be an 85-year-old hairy man who had lost his dentures in the dark! And then suddenly, people just came crowding around the bar and I heard everyone laughing, and lo and behold–it was Bob! You know what that dolt did? He dropped his pants to the floor and he was peeing on top of the goddamn bar, Ray! He said he thought it was the bathroom! I pulled him back and almost swiped my hand against his pecker as he was trying to stuff the horrific thing back into his pants, and I think some golden droplets actually landed on my palms! And I didn’t wash because I was so drunk! Security arrived and the Rock and Stone Cold dragged Bob’s ass to the exit as the bartender yelled that he was banned in that establishment forever! But I didn’t care! I was laughing my ass off because I was hammered as hell and, as far as I was concerned, the party was just getting started! That’s what you call WILD, Ray! Not some goddamn–

RAY: To hell with that! The Chicxulub extinction event produced infernal fires from the heavens and a deluge of death! Scientists estimate that the massive blow to the earth’s surface kicked up a mega tsunami measuring up to 1,000 feet high! It’s like that movie Interstellar but it was here on Earth and it was real! The seismic event was so powerful it’s equivalent to all of the world’s earthquakes for the past 160 years going off SIMULTANEOUSLY! Bob peeing is not anywhere–

MATT: Jackie was so drunk she got a bottle of ketchup from the counter and chugged it down like it was chocolate milkshake! I threw up some melted fries on the neck of some guy who then threw up tuna sandwich on someone’s eyes, so shut up with y–

RAY: The Chicxulub shock waves blew winds that tore through everything at 600 miles an hour! That sonic boom roared at 105 decibels, like a jet flying over your goddamn cubicle, shattering the eardrums of T-Rex, triceratops, and all the doomed dinos that day! Your Friday night ain’t got sh–

MATT: I WAS SO WASTED I STAPLED MY NUTSACK TO MY THIGH FOR TWENTY BUCKS AND NOW I’M STILL LIMPING.

RAY: IT TOOK MONTHS FOR THE SOOT AND ASH ALL OVER THE GLOBE TO CLEAR AND WHEN THEY DID, THE RAIN FELL BUT IT WAS ACIDIC MUD.

MATT: I HELD MY BLEEDING CROTCH TO THE BATHROOM WHERE SOME PSYCHO PICKED UP HIS POOP AND THREW IT ON THE CEILING AND IT DRIPPED ON MY MOUSTACHE.

RAY: THE CARBON FOOTPRINT WAS SO BAD IT RELEASED 10,000 BILLION TONS OF CARBON DIOXIDE, 100 BILLION TONS OF CARBON MONOXIDE, AND ANOTHER 100 BILLION TONS OF METHANE INTO THE ATMOSPHERE ALL AT ONCE.

MATT: JACKIE FROM HUMAN RESOURCES WAS APPARENTLY UNDERAGE, AND AN UNDERCOVER COP ARRESTED THE BARTENDER WHO SERVED HER SOME DRUGGED TEQUILA, AND THE COP THREW HIS ASS DOWN TO THE GROUND WHEN HE TRIED TO RUN.

RAY: THE CHICXULUB ASTEROID CAUSED A NUCLEAR WINTER AND GLOBAL WARMING, NOW DINOSAURS ARE JUST CHICKENS, MATT.

MATT: THAT RICH SOUTH AFRICAN MOFO TOOK ME TO A MOTEL AFTERWARD AND NOW MY BUTTHOLE IS SORE, RAY.

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Free Writing

Psychokinesis

In my dreams, I could move things even if my fingers don’t touch them. In the waking world, this is called “psychokinesis” or, more commonly, “telekinesis.” And as is usually the case with things that sound superb in the waking world, psychokinesis is a huge steaming pile of bullshit.

In the dream world, if I concentrate just a tiny bit, my brow furrowed into a little knot, the thing I’m looking at starts to move as I please. I think one time I was able to play a prank on someone by moving their bag away from them so as to hide it, and another time I might have even been able to stop a robbery by deflecting bullets or stripping away some flabbergasted robbers’ handguns. I seem to remember once I also did something perverted to a poor lady with this wonderful ability of mine–how could I not? I can’t recall clearly. With dreams, one couldn’t be sure, so delicious are their details that the devil devours them as soon as one opens their eyes.

If you haven’t had one of these dreams, I feel it’s my duty to tell you that using this ability feels so amazing–exhilarating–that after having dreamt such a dream, one couldn’t really deny themselves foolish attempts in the real world. Hey, despite the insanity and impossibility of it, what if it somehow works? Many a time I’ve found myself sitting in a toilet, the drip, drip, drip of water echoing in the four corners of the bathroom, and me doing my darndest to turn the goddamn faucet with my mind.

Oh, I try.

I’ve tried since I was a young boy.

I’ve tried to move heavy stuff like TV sets and light ones like dried leaves on the ground, unsurprisingly, to complete and utter failure (which, frankly, hasn’t fazed me). I remember there was one fine day in my youth (a day so fine that the sun seemed to take forever to set) that I spent maybe an hour or two, or three, sitting on a curb, trying to move fallen dried leaves of a santol tree; pushing, lip-biting, perspiring, willing those brown, crumpled leaves to move even just an inch, even just to wiggle under the tremendous force of my brain. Not even the wind consoled me with the illusion of success.

Some tired days, maybe when grey skies whisper strange mysteries through the thinnest drizzle, I test the reality of it all by flushing the contents of the toilet bowl with my thoughts. If my piss flushes down through a mere wish, I’ll know I’m dreaming. I realize this sounds crazy but if a third of our lives is spent sleeping, then at any point in time, there’s one out of three chances that you are actually dreaming. One could never be sure, so it helps to check.

Of course, all this would be unforgivably foolish if not greater minds have also seen the vast potential of influencing objects physically from afar. And I’m not talking about magicians and street performers in India though those minds are remarkable in their own way, too. In 1984, no less than the United States National Academy of Sciences itself, at the behest of the US Army Institute, formed a scientific panel to see if there’s sufficient, solid evidence for psychokinesis. Learned men fussing over lunacy. As usual, since the US government was involved in some capacity, this was, in reality, not about any metaphysical truths the proving of psychokinesis might open up for discussion, but about missiles and things that hurt other people efficiently. One cited purpose was to assess if psychokinesis could be used to remotely jam enemy weaponry. Maybe choke communist generals at their tables during supper, too, who knows?

This whole odd business was serious enough that it took three years before conclusions could be published. I guess they didn’t want to leave the slightest trace of doubt for pathologically creative folks to fashion into another magnificently dumb conspiracy theory.

And yet despite their negative findings, scientists, philosophers, and other combative blokes by profession have since then continuously tried to reiterate what we’ve known all along–that psychokinesis simply cannot exist. A fellow by the name of Mario Bunge (who’s both a physicist and a philosopher and is therefore doubly combative) wrote that “psychokinesis… violates the principle that mind cannot act directly on matter. (If it did, no experimenter could trust his readings of measuring instruments.) It also violates the principles of conservation of energy and momentum. The claim that quantum mechanics allows for the possibility of mental power influencing randomizers… is ludicrous since that theory respects the said conservation principles, and it deals exclusively with physical things.”

While the supreme vehemence by which Mario brought down that scientific and philosophical hammer is appreciated, I would like to make it clear now that the subject doesn’t even require this much preoccupation. Not that telekinesis is obviously, unequivocally stupid (it is); but because, after thinking this through, I’ve decided it won’t have any significant practical use for the common man were it real.

Sure, it might be a tad convenient to start preparing a cup of coffee while I’m still in bed in the morning, but actually, that would ruin another otherwise sweet “five minutes” going back to sleep. Tripping random people on the street whose mug doesn’t strike me well could also be entertaining but I bet the novelty fades after a while or as soon as somebody gets seriously injured. Breaking into a bank, robbing stores, and lifting ladies’ skirts all seem at first exciting, but honestly, my fragile conscience wouldn’t let me. I am as hopelessly trapped by my decent upbringing as I am by the laws of this universe.

Psychokinesis wouldn’t help me finish my reports earlier and make them seem less useless to me or make me unaware that a whole troop of suits grows infinitesimally richer than me doing nothing as I’m telekinetically processing these reports. It wouldn’t make the commute to the office less stressful. Wouldn’t make my relationship stronger, allow me to avoid unhealthy habits like eating unholy amounts of a fried pig’s face, give me more days off, make me more confident in front of women, cure my virulent insecurity and fatal pride, protect me from the accursed flu cycles, or make me feel as loved and wanted as I insanely need to be.

In truth, it’s a pointless ability. One’s probably better off having the power to fly or turn invisible if one’s to profit from freakish talents. And this is also, I think, the reason why my mind is obsessed with dreams of magically pushing and pulling objects–because it knows deep inside that psychokinesis only has real value in the realm of pure thought; here where external things do have unseen but unbreakable strings tied to the one perceiving; and one need only to focus in order to tug at those strings to force the world to bend to one’s will. What this also suggests to me is that this is a longing of the mind to reach this perfect state, an ideal state where the mind and the world are not two sides of a coin that will never meet. Psychokinesis only has currency here and only truly desirable in this world.

Outside, matter rules over matter. The mind is nothing but a word used to ascribe the illusion of power to a person no different to a feather blown hither and thither by ruthless winds. No force is strong enough to stop attracted atoms from bonding together or two tarnished lovers from leaving each other. There’s no power greater than the brute strength of time whose very purpose is to exhaust our energy, pulverize our bones to dust, and disintegrate all our silly paranormal and scientific notions alike as if to cleanse the earth of our offensive nonsense. And gravity will keep on pulling things to the ground–apples, leaves, the stars, absurd fantasies and dreams.

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