Free Writing

Long Form (Or How to End a Rant with a Casablanca Quote)

Part 1: Who’s Ashamed of Being Mostly Sad?

Once, over alcohol, I told a girl in that Humphrey Bogart-cynical-wise-man-of-the-world-style that the default sentiment of a person is sadness. She, of course, not getting that I was simply reenacting a character in Casablanca in my own mind–as I am wont to do whenever I am working extra desperately hard to impress someone–didn’t agree with me.

Matter of fact, she had quite a violent reaction to the statement as if she suddenly choked on a rather large cockroach swimming in the mojito she had been daintily sipping; she was so vehemently opposed to my opinion that it almost got too frustrating to illustrate what I was conveying because she kept trying to cut me off. Nevertheless, I still did my best explaining to her that if you really think about it, those quiet times when you’re alone and you’re not talking to anybody or engaged in some form of entertainment or activity (like that sometimes blessed, mostly wretched thing called a job), the lingering feeling there–and you’ll feel this only if you were absolutely honest with yourself–is that of sadness or loneliness.

Now, hold your horses and take a seat if you find yourself experiencing such a violent reaction yourself. Let me clarify. You see, happiness is a conspicuous thing. And I’m not talking about the big, bombastic moments when you’re overjoyed like when you receive a birthday gift you’ve long wanted or when your partner finally acquiesces to your weird, disgusting request during sexy time because you’ve found it convenient to make them feel guilty for not agreeing to do it with you for years; I’m saying happiness is a very noticeable thing, even when it takes the form of the subtlest feelings of contentment or satisfaction that one feels in a normal day.

When you’re happy, you know you’re happy. You take note of it in the back of your head usually without intending to. Try to remember the last time you were glad and you’ll know exactly when that happened and what you were doing or what occurred to bring about that positive emotion to blossom in your chest. That can’t be an accident. There’s a reason happiness stands out in your brain like a pink elephant wearing a blonde wig dancing the ballet.

There’s this notorious nihilistic South African philosopher named David Benatar (and if you’re hopelessly entangled in this nasty business of reading someone else’s moribund brain farts like I am you would’ve heard of this bloke) who saw pain–a function of life–so worthless and unjustifiable that he believes human beings should never even be born into this world in the first place. To clarify, he’s not talking like a misunderstood ’90s teen here who listened to too much goth music and had an overabundance of mom’s mascara;this is not something shallowly emo but instead a metaphysical conclusion drawn after establishing certain solid philosophical propositions. Benatar is not saying death is preferable to living. He’s saying it’s better not to have lived at all.

Now, you might be a generally pain-free person perhaps because you’re healthy and live a comfortable life surrounded by loved ones, and you sometimes sing in the woods with some cute, little bunnies and chirping bluebirds all around you, but that is not the point. Benatar argues that all in all, living in the presence of pain (which everyone would necessarily have to go through at some point) is enough reason to say life shouldn’t be.

Granted that is an extreme way of putting it (or not–what do I know? Maybe you’re hardcore and in fact drink the blood of bats at night); but Benatar points out something I sincerely believe a lot of us normally don’t pay attention to: that pain is everywhere and if you’re not in the midst of it now, then good for you, chum, but you can trust that it’s waiting to ambush you just around the corner. Maybe in the form of a clusterfuck of deadlines in the office, or getting into a fistfight with your boss because he caught you checking out her underage daughter online, or getting bitten by a tarantula which just happened to build a cozy home in your dumpster of a desk drawer, or slipping on someone’s used sanitary napkin, or your girlfriend breaking up with you for an exceptionally hairy and sweaty guy she met at the gym, or finding out you’re harboring the newest, zombie-turning iteration of the bubonic plague. It doesn’t matter. Unjustifiable, metaphysically inexplicable pain–and therefore, sorrow–has all of us in its big, black address book and will surely ring our phone anytime soon. Maybe some 5 minutes from now.

To put it another way: pain, sorrow and sadness make up the canvass of life and the occasional droplets and blobs of paint strewn across it is happiness. Overtime, paint thickens as more and more layers in different colors are brushed on top of each other, but underlying all of it is still that rough, blank base of negative existence that won’t go away because, in a sense, it is the very foundation of experience.

We all know this: happiness is a precious resource, a pricey commodity. You buy it, I buy it, they brand it, your pathetic friend rents it, and some people have made lucrative careers out of literally killing for it. In this state of affairs where happiness or contentment occurs so infrequently, your brain can’t help but mark those bright moments for memory, possibly to create a pool of happy thoughts from which it could draw strength, hope, or positive energies from during times of bleakness. You know, just another built-in survival skill your species’ amazing evolution handily equipped you with?

But coming back to this conversation I was depicting a moment ago wherein once again my impression of Humphrey Bogart failed to impress the opposite sex, this particular lady didn’t agree with me at all. She said something like, “Well, that must be just you because I’m definitely not mostly sad. I’m mostly happy.”

I didn’t believe her one bit. Her eyes told me otherwise.

It got me seriously wondering about why anybody would want to pretend that they’re mostly happy instead of admitting that they’re mostly sad. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being mostly sad, is there? I realize that a good part of the game of life is peppering social media with pictures of our pleasantly smiling faces while in picturesque vacation spots but you’d have to be a pitiful simpleton if you’re convinced that’s the whole point of living. Certainly, Shakespeare’s classic tragedies didn’t come about because he was inspired by everyone who expressed approval of his beach pictures.

So please allow me to say that again: there’s nothing wrong with being mostly sad and admitting you’re more on the dismal rather than on the delighted part of the spectrum. You don’t agree? Then let me throw you a bit of a bone here. Consider this: sadness, at least on the surface, doesn’t say anything at all about the life you live, whether you’re a good or a bad person, or whether you have a productive existence or an existence of so little value that people will only muster to shrug their shoulders and let out a big yawn if you died.

Gloominess doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making all the wrong choices in life although some people do have a tendency to make boneheaded decisions that result in awful situations and, in turn, to the feeling of being down in the dumps. But a host of other factors, such as chemical reactions in our brains, which we don’t have control over, circumstances that we find ourselves trapped in, or just the repulsive music of the decade could be to blame. Despair can sprout anytime, anywhere, and for virtually any reason; it would be unjust to put all the blame on poor you.

And in the afterlife, it’s not like God will open his sacred tome, finger the pages, and read about how cheerful or cheerless you were when you were breathing, and then condemn you to hell if he finds out you were a melancholic, neurotic, people-hating social disease who spent too many days skulking under the table in your room and not enough days taking a shower. “Ah, I see you’ve been a disgustingly unhappy person on earth. Unforgivable! I therefore banish you to… er… more sadness in the form of afterlife’s signature eternal suffering!”

No, that doesn’t sound even remotely possible at all (though frankly all bets are off when it comes to guessing what happens after one passes away and I wouldn’t be too surprised if we die and discover that heaven is nothing like what everyone said it would be, and in fact it’s nothing but an unkempt apartment where somebody left last year’s pizza underneath the couch’s cushion and there’s a stinky pile of clothes on the floor that need washing). Sadness doesn’t say anything about your value here on earth, so therefore it isn’t something to be ashamed of.

Here’s the deal: if you told me you were 98% sad during the course of a day, I wouldn’t think anything of it, though I’d definitely appreciate your honesty. But if you told me you were 98% happy every single day, I would simply smile and think you’re a big bag of bullshit not worth talking to.

Part 2: People Worth Talking To

In another discussion borne of another confluence of social necessities, over another set of food and drinks, one person told me that there was this guy in their office who was remarkably brilliant but hated people. This jolly person I was talking to recounted how he invited this remarkably brilliant but people-hating guy to lunch one day but this guy said he couldn’t come–the reason being that if he went to lunch with them, then he’d have to talk to people and at some point, he would get really bored, and he would have to stop talking to them. The guy I was talking to replied, “You know, you could’ve just refused!” And we laughed heartily about it.

We laughed like perfectly normal people disbelieving the antics of what could be a crazy, cold-blooded sociopath-in-the-making but the truth is, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was laughing about–the fact that this remarkably brilliant, people-hating guy was such a gigantic jerk who’s clearly dead inside or that, secretly, I shared his assessment of the situation and his sentiment regarding the discomfort of having to endure conversations with some people–even those who are pleasantly friendly, and not the least bit obnoxious.

But isn’t that the reason why we find ourselves laughing most of the time? Because we are actually laughing at ourselves? Because we are secretly amused with the imagined shadow of ourselves doing the stupid thing that another person ended up doing? And the opposite is equally true: we oftentimes cry because we see our image superimposed on another suffering soul’s face.

Now, please don’t crucify me for the banality of this proposition but, ultimately, everything’s all about ourselves. The person you most know about is not your brother or your sister or your significant other, but that bloke hoisting your brain in their skull, wearing your clothes. We are the massive black hole that gave birth to and in the center of our own universe (or our own multiverse if you’re mildly schizophrenic).

From the moment the world starts to make sense to us, we form concepts only in relation to ourselves, weighing, measuring, ascertaining them through a natural compass of pain and pleasure. In this way, one man’s favorite snack becomes another man’s poison, and one person’s pretty face becomes another one’s phantom. You’re conscious of anything only in its relation to your experiences (your favorite stinky doll or mattress is probably associated with comforting memories). You know me only in my relation to you.

I know one guy who hated chicken so much, it literally makes him vomit his guts out every single time–and he doesn’t even know the reason why. But the reason for that strange logic is in his mind all right–encoded into the folds of his brain though the key to it may be lost to him forever. To this chicken-hating, otherwise normal guy, it won’t matter how much you describe to him that spicy buffalo wings dripping with sauce taste like heaven; to him, it would taste and smell like a steaming bowl of poop soup.

And you know what the totally weird thing is about humanity? There’s bound to be somebody out there who thinks a steaming bowl of poop soup is a 3-Michelin star delicacy.

So going back: me and this jolly fellow had a good laugh at this person’s anti-social oddity over lunch but, in reality, I mostly laughed because I didn’t want to embarrass the storyteller, considering he graciously made the effort to entertain us as we killed time before our orders arrived (and I couldn’t emphasize more how much people who help us kill time during awkward waiting situations should be thanked; in my book, they are nothing less than heroes and saints). In truth, I simply thought that the remarkably brilliant, people-hating guy was in love with himself that much more, which, looking at the big picture, is not that big of a deal.

Thanks, Whitney Houston, for drilling the greatest love of all into our heads.

Why would he want to hear somebody gossip about who Ms. Jackie at the HR is dating or pay attention to three-minutes’ worth of badly misinformed, sadly misinterpreted, overall cringe-worthy political opinion, when he could listen to the fascinating voice in his own head? Think about it. If Albert Einstein were living now, would he find much interest in Netflix when he could tune in anytime to the show in his head for free and witness the secrets of the universe unfold in spectacular 8k ultra HD? Granted this guy we’ve been examining is certainly no Einstein but I’m sure he still found more reasons why being alone was a vastly more exciting prospect than being with other folks.

But aside from that endlessly entertaining voice in your head, who are those other people worth talking to? It’s tempting to say they’re those who have the most quantifiable utility to us–“quantifiable” because if we were such a douchebag to actually sit and ponder how much each person in our life could help us achieve or impede our goals and wants, we’d be successful in doing so. We could segregate the winners from the losers and throw the rotten basket away. It’s not something someone with a clear conscience and who was brought up by their parents with genuine love and care would do, but it’s definitely a viable option.

However, the truth is far more complicated than that, thankfully! People are an undecipherable lot in that sometimes, it’s the most dreadfully useless persons they like or fall in love with; men and women who are the equivalent of the human appendix–a vestigial organ that you could usually surgically remove without causing any problems to the other organs of the body. And yet, these useless, worthless people are, for some, the most indispensable in their lives though they couldn’t readily pinpoint why. They wouldn’t be the best conversationalists and may not even speak as much as grunt like ogres would, and, all in all, they could be what amounts to a good-for-nothing, bloodsucking scoundrel. But such qualities wouldn’t matter if love got involved since this powerful force would steamroll over all those ugly bumps and cracks on the surface, smoothly paving that loathsome, questionable character into nothing less than Humphrey fucking Bogart.

You could probably then say that the people who are worth talking to are, more often than not, those superfluous to one’s existence. Maybe due to the fact that excessiveness is an unmistakable characteristic of life.

Part 3: Please Distract Me From the Fact That I’m a Big, Breathing Bag of Meat

Which brings us to the third part of this drunken rumination: forwarding this theory that life is all about excessiveness because the more excessive a thing is, the stronger is its power to distract you from the fact that you’re nothing but a delicate breathing bag of meat.

Have you ever stopped yourself in the middle of chewing a sizable chunk of hamburger, looked intently at where you bit off the bread and patty, and just marvelled at the fact that you’re eating basically the same material as yourself? I know I have. This “food”–supposedly so different from the one who devours it–is organic tissue, muscles and fat singed to a crispy, juicy brown ball of goodness that essentially has no difference to the mouth that’s eating it: meat eating meat.

Our biological simplicity can be pretty scary if you put down your hamburger and just think about this for a second. I have oftentimes rattled myself at the thought of just how literally fragile we all are (I’m not talking about your fragile emotions if you’re a sentimental crybaby, but that also supports this concept that we’re all feeble creatures). One would think the apex predator and the primary driving force of change in the expanse of a planet would be something more beastly and durable (I’m thinking fanged, metallic beings that process inorganic matter and nuclear waste for energy, or maybe like Goku’s race, the Saiyans), but no–it’s just these whole lot of awkward, two-legged barrels of meat who are suffering from all sorts of diseases, including hilariously petty things like “heartaches.” “Oh, mother, I can’t go to work today–my heart is aching!”

Knock on wood, but ending the life of the average member of this apex predator species is quite easy (and you know, that’s why hit men are overall kinda cheap, especially in a Third World country like the Philippines). We’re basically lumbering giant water balloons terrorizing towns and the townspeople, forgetting the fact that a well-placed ballpoint pen pointed upwards can puncture and deflate us anytime. And I think we are deeply aware of this tremendous vulnerability, so, as a species, we’ve made it our critical mission to hide that fact and practically forget all about it. And how do we do this? Through culture. Flashy, garish, mostly pointless, shockingly pretentious culture.

And lest you think I’m just hating on beautiful things and beautiful people, let me develop that idea further. I don’t hate beautiful people–well, not all of them. Beautiful people and beautiful things in general give us relief from the general misery and ugliness of life (and nowhere is that more apparent than on PornHub–where you can access the ultimate benefits of unbridled beauty for free). It seems to me that culture is all about trying to construct the ultimate image of beauty no matter how it eludes us because beauty hides those pathetic, pulsating pieces of meat or those lumbering giant water balloons that can be punctured anytime.

Nowhere is this obsession with excessive beauty more blatant and overwhelming than in a modern art museum. Virtually none of the artworks in this place need be here–existing, inviting people to gawk at them and whisper ludicrous interpretations but, nevertheless, they are. I’m specifically thinking about those kinds of art that look like 3-year-old children could have produced them if you gave them three buckets of paint and enough space to do whatever they wanted to do. Five years ago, a painting by artist Barnett Newman, featuring a single white line across a blue canvass–a piece that looked almost exactly like a ping-pong table and would probably do fine as a ping-pong table–sold for $43.8 million at Sotheby’s; while I admit I don’t have the slightest training in discerning abstract expressionist art from something that could have been painted by some bloke taking his Monday morning crap, I just can’t see even now how such a thing could be valued at $43.8 million. If you wanted evidence of worthless excessiveness worth more than the lives of millions of people, you’ve got it right there.

Let me illustrate this further. If we’re being very strict about the requirements of life, all we need really are just some leaves and bugs to put in our mouths and water to drink and we’d survive just fine (yes, I know I’m throwing hyperbole like ninja throwing stars here but please bear with me). This bare minimum of survival, however, isn’t really living, is it? “Living” is piling up unnecessary things on top of one another–knowledge, spirituality, sentimentality, romanticism, artistry… until we’ve pretty much forgotten that we could actually drop all of these any second and get back to eating bugs and we’d be all right. In short–the gaudiness in a modern art museum reminds us that life is all about this astonishing excess, which is a requirement to say that one really “lives.”

And that’s why I don’t agree that the poorest people in this world “lives.” They’re definitely existing, but I’ve seen a lot of dead people lying more comfortable in their coffins.

The pursuit of excesiveness happens not just in art though but in everyday life. To give an example: your day is spent looking for those sought-after “distractions.” How to kill time? How do I push myself to be productive today? How to have fun? We’re recklessly driven by this persuasive force to continuously, sometimes maniacally, look for things and activities that could cover these long hours.

What your distracting yourself from isn’t really the stagnant state of your love life or the tight deadlines waiting for you at your workplace but the fact that you’re a bag of meat slowly but surely spoiling and decaying under the heat of the sun. You’re scared that the piece of meat that is you will go bad before anything in your life starts to get good. To point out the tritest thought, “living life to the fullest” is merely maximizing the pleasures this world has to offer because in the back of our minds, we know we’ll perish soon (and we are perishing now as you read this fucking long-ass article) as meat necessarily does the moment it leaves the vagina–that lovely pink piece of meat from which all other pieces of meat come from.

Living ostentatiously is somehow a protest to the way the universe conspired to give us such weak bodies. So we have to be as extravagant and as unreasonable as possible because every time we do so, we raise a big, fat finger to the irony of existence and we exclaim that we are more than what we seem to be–that we’re not just organic matter temporarily passing by due to the complete randomness of events in the cosmos, but rather, we are dazzling beings destined for greatness, glory, and some lasting legacy we’re not entirely sure about.

But don’t ask me what that legacy is. I’m probably just someone you stumbled upon on the internet while you were searching for porn.

Part 4: But Why Should You Believe Something You Just Came Across on the Internet While Searching for Porn?

Responsibility–our mothers and fathers never tired of hammering this into our heads and spanking this onto our butts but still it never seemed to stick that permanently, did it? You may think that you’re responsible but, bad news, you’re really not.

If you were responsible, you wouldn’t have let your precious time be consumed reading this rant that someone who may just be a legit lunatic typed in a cell in some dark, twisted mental facility hidden underground where scientists are conducting experiments to develop a drug that could induce people to give opinions on subjects they have no expertise about.

If you were responsible you wouldn’t have read past Humphrey Bogart’s name in the first paragraph because it’s obviously a splashy shit of an article that thought too much of itself, and is an absolute disservice and slight to the grand manliness of Humphrey Bogart who didn’t have to do too much and say too much to be of significance.

But you didn’t. You’re still here, perhaps waiting for some punchline that won’t come. Maybe I’ll make a note to deliver it later.

If you were responsible enough, you would’ve spent your time reading other articles by more authoritative sites out there; sites where serious investigative journalism dig up irrefutable facts that are so cut and dried all you need to do is just put them in your mouth and proceed to digest. This world is awash with facts. It’s a testament to how irresponsible people are that there’s even such a thing as “fake news”–that there are even so many arguments and disagreements going on when the cold science is out there for everyone’s perusal. Why are we even debating climate change and why are we even talking about whether we should try to do something about it or not? We’re so dumb we deliberately choose to be idiots in the face of so much verifiable, unquestionable knowledge. In a similar vein, why are we even discussing whether people of the same sex should marry or not? Is it so hard to imagine that 50 years from now, the hopeless ignoramuses who are against this would look like even bigger hopeless ignoramuses when kids in the future read and snigger about this pointless problem in their textbooks?

A thoroughly responsible individual would’ve definitely chosen to consume something with actual citations, APA, MLA, and Chicago. A singularly responsible person would’ve dived into a piece of writing that took its time to respect the past by mentioning those intelligent people before who have already spouted its old, hackneyed ideas (you don’t seriously think I was the first one who thought we are nothing but vulnerable water balloons, did you?). In fact, an exceptionally responsible human being would make absolutely sure that all that their brain absorbs is measurable, unassailable, ironclad truths like “a triangle has three sides.”

Congratulations! Your parents clearly didn’t rear you the scientific way. There are obvious lapses in your judgment and your reasoning flows like a grimy sink clogged with someone’s armpit hair. Your logic is not so much a logic but a bunch of three-syllable kindergarten words repeatedly screamed over and over again until the listener surrenders at the threat of you dealing them serious physical harm. You are a caveman. An unshaven, grubby neanderthal who worships bears and mates with creatures that are not even of the same species as yours, grotesque little fuckers called homo sapiens.

If given good advice, you would listen to it beaming then discard it away faster than vomit gushes out the throat of a drunken man. If you were told you act like a booger-eating halfwit in love you would keep on dining on your plate of booger anyway because you’re a booger-eating halfwit in love. And if it were pointed out that you are, in fact, in love with an earwax-gobbling blockhead, you wouldn’t have the slightest clue how to leave that earwax-gobbling blockhead of a lover and you two will end up binging on boogers and earwax forever and ever until you die surrounded by your mutant children.

You refuse to believe. You refuse to believe that a triangle has three sides. You would try to find a hole in seamless logic to serve your own purposes and self-interests, usually to make you feel better. You just can’t accept that you’re wrong and that you have glaring flaws in your beliefs and in your personal hygiene–because you’d rather eat a steaming bowl of poop soup than admit someone’s better than you. You are the proudest heap of bullshit to ever come out of the plains of Africa. An insecure, insufficient, inflexible, incongruent, incontinent amoeba of incompetencies and influencer of inconsequential things that’s not going to help move things in the right direction for this world one bit.

I wish I could say that’s ok but it’s not. I guess the only shred of solace I can give you is that everyone’s in the same boat, even the wisest ones. Heck the smartest fellow humankind has ever produced, our guy Einstein, was more or less responsible for the atomic bomb that killed hundreds of thousands of people, and it sounded like he regretted it plenty, too.

Now that’s irresponsible.

Part 5: Hope Blossoms in the Valley of the Dumb

Is it really cynical to admit that the odds are against us? Last year, Oxfam, a nonprofit working to end injustices in the world that cause poverty, released a study that estimated there were a total of eight men–eight men who may as well be gods for they could poop anything into existence if they wanted to–who were as rich as the poorest 3.6 billion people combined. Nine countries hold nuclear weapons and and a good number of their heads of state are men who could be clinically diagnosed as dunderheads. In the Philippines, the people voted for a man of the people only to discover later on that he was a man built for ending the people. I know because I voted for him, too. In a large swath of the world, the Marxist dream has ended because, apparently, all the masses wanted for comfort so as not to revolt was for their vacation pictures to be sufficiently Liked on social media. People have succeeded in turning racism and bigotry into everyday jokes that we have more or less assured ourselves that the more light we shed on these issues, the jokes are just going to get better and better. Your boss has dropped all pretense of being benevolent and has figured out you’d lick his hiney for peanuts, anyway, if they assured you your job was secure. Love, in all its forms, is still as scarce as it’s ever been and the few moments it suddenly appears like an unexpected Pokemon, you realize it’s a selfish, store-bought, rehashed tragedy waiting to happen. You’re still aching in about twenty-four different places because you’re growing old faster than the latest meme, and above all this–above all this–when you take the time to sit back and think about it, life still doesn’t have plans to make its meaning clear to you. Is it really cynical to believe we are riding a flaming chariot to hell?

Despite all these hardships, we stupidly carry on and persevere in attempting to make something for ourselves. You still work your day job and your night job and your midnight job and your self-handjob until you sleep dreaming of another bout of jobs for tomorrow. Hey, maybe you’ll get promoted. After 10 years. Enveloped by a stifling cloud of loneliness, you still feebly reach for your mobile phone to make a pathetic attempt at connecting with someone out there, anyone, who may have the luxury of a few seconds to talk to you. Maybe tell you your hair looks soft. And when they type in on that little screen that your hair does indeed look soft, you clasp on that memory so desperately it could mean the difference between a good day and a bad day, a good year and a bad year.

Because we are impervious to facts and hungry for tales. We love stories about people who overcome adversity as if one rags-to-riches story nullifies a thousand stories of people who didn’t so much as fail as got stepped on by an AT-AT. They didn’t even have time to say “Youch!” They simply disappeared without a trace, unremembered by graves, completely alien to history books.

Imagine that there were a machine delivered from the future to the present by a special Amazon service and this machine spat out an itemized inventory of the failures, torments, and sorrows you’ll have to endure for the rest of your life, would you still go on? Of course you would. You’re built to believe. In fact, said inventory could probably anger you so much you’d demand a refund from future Amazon for offering such a shitty service. Your very consciousness is forged to believe in unknowables while conveniently disregarding the fact that 99% of the most important things are already known. This is the reason why religion is possible and romantics exist.

From this fatal allergy to truth, amidst the confusion of not knowing enough, basically due to the condition of being apallingly dumb, a sort of magic materializes out of thin air. This magic hypnotizes us into believing that it’s possible to turn the tide against the cruelty of the circumstances; that if we fought hard like mad dogs snarling and drooling in an arena of death, we could emerge victorious. Get a raise or a match on Tinder. Make daddy proud for once.

This is hope and it blossoms in the valley of the dumb. If another asteroid were again to smash the face of the planet, we’d have hope to thank for the many tales we’ll leave behind. For if nothing else, even if narratives, autobiographies, histories, and romance novels were imperfect and mostly false, life would still have been about telling a trillion stories and the earth would remember us as great storytellers–flamboyant and bewildered.

**********

From Casablanca:

Rick: Don’t you sometimes wonder if it’s worth all this? I mean what you’re fighting for.

Laszlo: You might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we’ll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.

Rick: Well, what of it? It’ll be out of its misery.

Laszlo: You know how you sound, Mr. Blaine? Like a man who’s trying to convince himself of something he doesn’t believe in his heart. Each of us has a destiny – for good or for evil.

Rick: I get the point.

Laszlo: I wonder if you do. I wonder if you know that you’re trying to escape from yourself, and that you’ll never succeed.

Rick: You seem to know all about my destiny.

Laszlo: I know a good deal more about you than you suspect. I know, for instance, that you’re in love with a woman. It is perhaps a strange circumstance that we both should be in love with the same woman. The first evening I came to this café, I knew there was something between you and Ilsa. Since no one is to blame, I – I demand no explanation. I ask only one thing. You won’t give me the letters of transit: all right, but I want my wife to be safe. I ask you as a favor, to use the letters to take her away from Casablanca.

Rick: You love her that much?

Laszlo: Apparently you think of me only as the leader of a cause. Well, I’m also a human being. Yes, I love her that much.

**********

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Free Writing

I Completely Understand Where You’re Coming From, So Therefore, Let’s Kill Each Other

Oh, is that it? Yes, I see your point now. I completely do. Drastically different though we may be in terms of our vantage points in this matter, you’ll be glad to know that I am able to easily step into your shoes and see this state of affairs clearly through your eyes. You may be surprised to know that I even understand the validity of your argument from your perspective, and I wholeheartedly accept that from this angle, it appears that you are definitely in the right and I am in the wrong.

Having said that, I still vehemently propose war. A war to end all wars. A war that will see me poke your eyeballs with my stiff, clawed fingers and pull your bloody brains out from your eye sockets. A war where I’ll tear the skin off your chest with my bare hands, so I can dig a hole through your heart, which I shall grasp and squeeze like a sponge ’til you’re puking a river of blood mixed with bits of guts onto the battlefield where heaps of dead men pile onto each other high — high up to the burning red sky!

But again, I see your point. It can’t be helped that you hold such an opinion of the matter at hand given your upbringing, your level and type of education, and the general circle of individuals you surround yourself with. Our unique economic situations obviously also factor into this as our financial capacities directly inform our ideas and motivations. I am even aware of how your religion or lack thereof figures into this thinking of yours, and I respectfully welcome how you’ve included that aspect of your being into this viewpoint. We are all victims of our location in society and in space and time, and so we are both looking at this from the inherent limitations and biases of our own lives.

In spite of that, I’d still like to proceed with trying to blow our respective heads off with a bazooka as soon as possible, please. I insist that I would very much like to shoot your legs off with a machine gun, so that splinters of your humerus and femur come flying into the air and chunks of your cartilage fall to the ground for the dogs of hell to make dinner of. You’ll be glad to know that I welcome you attempting to do the same to me for I expect no less barbarity in this coliseum of death as the hungry crowd drooling with froth on their lips cheer us on to battle. Please join me in this murderous endeavor wherein we will aim to paint the ground teeming with maggots and flies with our blood, piss, and diarrhea.

Because I am a man who, not for one second, believes that it is impossible for two minds of major differences to come together and understand each other’s strengths, as well as shortcomings. I am a man who reaches out to you through this thick fog of disagreements and misunderstandings to hold your hand, so that you’d feel that we are both part of the same humanity. We are equally engaged in trying to solve the same problem, so that ourselves and our loved ones could wake up to a brighter morning, a better world. Despite your prejudices and mine, no matter how painful your hatred of the things that I love, I have opened up my heart and mind to firmly picture the world as you witness it, and I am unafraid to nod my head in acknowledgement of your beliefs.

Nevertheless, let us end this futile talk and just kill each other along with our kin. I humbly offer the option of winner takes all, so either of us, depending on who emerges victorious, will get to enjoy the many spoils of war while burning the other’s sacred temples to the ground as their dear friends die at the stake. May I remind you, too, that this cruel conflict wouldn’t be complete without a scorched-earth policy because we wouldn’t want our loved ones to have the means to continue their existence, would we? Of course not. After all, if they were to keep on living, then it is highly likely that they will ultimately develop the same convictions as yours–if they don’t believe them already–and that would necessarily lead to another fruitful discussion and debate between our peoples, wouldn’t it?

So, begging your pardon, please allow me to reiterate my proposition one last time. I completely understand where you’re coming from; so therefore, let’s kill each other.

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Free Writing

Getting Old is a Train Station and You Know You’re There Because You’re There

These thoughts on old age

are dedicated to my grandmother, Lola Adoracion Sanchez.

We love you.

. . .

As I’m writing this, my good and brave and loving grandmother of 87 years old is at an intensive care unit of a hospital, battling pneumonia as her sons and daughters and her grandchildren grapple with the thought of a future that while everyone has already imagined at some point, is no less forlorn.

The news of her getting hospitalized reached me while I was on vacation in Baguio, a faraway city in the mountains in the northern part of the Philippines. I was with my girlfriend of over two years and her family–and her extended family: uncles, aunts, cousins, and nephews, some of whom I only got to talk to for the first time. I’m 32 years old; my girlfriend is 27. This was undoubtedly one of those trips that take you one big step toward that next stage in life, a stage for which I’ve honestly been ready for a long time even if my finances aren’t completely there yet.

The truth is I’m completely at peace with the fact that I’m already at that stage of life even though there’s no shortage of reports that say millennials have been putting off marriage more than any other generation before them. I am done with being single. Frick–I am done with a lot of things. I am done with drinking, horrible attempts at flirting, playing the guitar, writing haikus, screaming at authority–you name it. If I win the lottery today, I’d book the nearest church, retire, and start tending a garden.

But the news that my grandmother was in a very delicate medical situation back in Manila hit me like a ten-ton truck. Nobody’s ready for news like that, even if the possibility of losing people has been lurking in your mind for quite some time. I was launched into a pensive mood and one of the first things that popped in my head was that I really wanted my grandmother to be there when I get married, and it was painful realizing how that prospect had begun to grow colder every second, even colder than Baguio’s incredibly cold weather.

Getting Old is a Weird Thing

Getting old is a weird thing. Throughout your life, you think you’re old but you’re not. Perhaps because I’ve been an arrogant schmuck most of my life, I’ve always thought that I was old and wise for my age. In fact, way back in college in the university, I looked at everyone around me as little, fumbling children who did not know half the things I knew. Every laughably tiny academic achievement I got just furthered my belief that I had everything figured out, like life was a test and I was passing my paper before everyone else. And when I started working, I still felt like I was ahead of others in wisdom, versed in some underlying philosophical truths that most of my colleagues’ infantile brains couldn’t possibly comprehend. I basically believed that I was an old man in a young man’s body.

I was a fool. And like I said, an arrogant schmuck.

Looking back at it now, nothing was old about me then. And absolutely nothing was wise. On the contrary, I know now that everything about my way of thinking in those days screamed the rage and insecurity of youth. I wasn’t old. I was just emo as fuck.

Now it’s different and I know it. Because old age is not a thought or a self-declaration. It’s a train station and you know you’re there because… you’re there. The big sign overhead the platform says so.

My grandmother is old. And she didn’t reach that train stop one or two or five years ago like me. She’s been old for decades. I can’t even imagine waking up each morning knowing, feeling that deep-seated certainty in your very being that you’re definitely as old as the sun is hot. That there’s no denying the truth anymore. And you’re just growing older every single breath you take.

She was already around 10 or 11 years old when the Japanese army invaded and occupied the Philippines in 1941, leaving death, destruction, and despair in their wake. When I mentioned this to my mother, she told me that my grandmother actually told many stories about them having to hide from the murdering and raping Japanese soldiers in the rice fields back in those days. I immediately pictured my grandmother as a little girl in a dirty dress hiding with her family behind thick rows of rice crops under a sullen sky somewhere in the province of Bulacan, everything silent and in a stereotypical sepia filter like in the movies.

I don’t know why I never actually heard any of those stories even if we lived with my grandmother in the same compound for many, many years. Now I wish I could listen to her tell those tales herself just so I could get a glimpse of how life was back then, and maybe ask her how it feels to witness the country change so much (and change so little) before her eyes over all those long decades. There was a lot I missed and I regret it.

Getting Old is a Task

I’m writing this in the middle of the holidays, which is why it probably struck me that getting old is a lot like last-minute Christmas shopping. You’ve got a list of things to buy and things to do and you cross them out one by one, mostly because tradition says you have to and you don’t want to be a scrooge to people. Getting old is crossing out items like marriage, buying a car, having kids, moving upward in your career, settling into a nice, cozy, lazy hobby such as gardening, growing your retirement fund, etc. These are basically tasks in a long task list and you have to perform them before you can show your completed form to the one in charge and you’re given the go signal to finally check out.

But it’s not all tradition though I maintain that a lot of it is. A huge part of it is also that ticking sound in your ear that tells you the buzzer is going to ring any second now, so you have to stop horsing around and just haul your ass to your destination as soon as possible.

To illustrate, in the last 2 or 3 years, I’ve been the most active in my art (the little comicbook-style drawings I call “art”) than at any other point in my life. That’s not just something that happened out of the blue or due to a sudden massive inspiration from the magical muses of lore. It’s because–after reading about the old comicbook artists I idolize (like Brian Bolland and George Perez) growing so old that they couldn’t draw interior pages and detailed drawings anymore–I calculated that I only had barely two decades of healthy hand muscles and joints left before my skill started deteriorating physically and I couldn’t progress as an artist anymore.

The thought horrified me. I ordered a massive, unbelievably expensive book of art from abroad and worked harder than ever at trying to master anatomy, shading, lighting, and everything else that I disregarded before because I used to have all the time in the world. I began scratching the paper with my pen furiously–maniacally.

It was simple: I was running out of time. I need to produce as much art now as possible because soon I’ll never be able to do this again.

My girlfriend was laughing as she reminded me somewhat of the same thing a few days ago. Somehow it just dawned on her that I was so old (at 32) that I’d already be around 50 by the time my son or daughter goes to college. It is something quite strange for the generation of our fathers who still enjoyed some span of youth alongside their children because they married and had kids earlier.

That’s even stranger to the generation of our grandparents who made churning out babies something of an economic strategy to achieve some security for the future. In fact, my grandmother and grandfather had a total of 9 children, my dad, who’s now at 63, being the eldest. Grandma started making fine children for the world to get its hands on starting at just 24 years of age. Grandpa was just 22.

It was a different time, and you could say the earth was greener. Maybe they didn’t fuss about having children as much as we do now.

After my girlfriend pointed out how old I was to start being a father, there were a few seconds of panic when I thought maybe we should start making that baby now? Like, right now even though I was sick with flu?

I shook my head and snapped out of it.

Getting Old is Marvelling at How Childhood Went on Forever

All this is almost too much for one to ponder. More and more, it feels like every second not spent crossing out that task list of old age–not adulthood but old age–is wasted time. If something doesn’t get you nearer to marrying, getting a car, having children, getting a promotion, or building your retirement fund then it’s senseless buffoonery. Sitting here is a waste of time. Writing this is a waste of time.

But procrastination–which always feels good regardless of your age–gets you during those tiny breaks in the hysteria, and you start daydreaming. And remembering your youth.

Youth is the complete opposite of all this boring rush.

In a weird way, life feels like a minivan–wide at the back and snub-nosed at the front. My childhood days feel like they went on forever, even faint memories like playing tag with my cousins in my grandmother’s front yard felt like they went on and on–as if it took millennia for us to grow up and learn we weren’t into wounding our knees every time we fell down on the ground anymore. A day took years to give way to the night. And every morning opened up another choose-your-own-adventure chapter that you didn’t really know when it’s supposed to end or if it would end at all.

I remember my grandmother as a persistent, smiling figure in the background telling us rowdy runts not to run too fast. An older woman who reminded our mother to check if a cloth has been tucked underneath our shirt at the back to keep us from getting sick. My grandmother even took the role of mother to some of my cousins who spent so much time in her house they more or less lived there, and they were basically her children. She fed them every day and made sure they were fine and healthy. But as a kid, you didn’t appreciate those little things. You couldn’t. You’re selfish and immersed in your own colorful world of swordfights and action figures. I’d be lying if I said those weren’t the best days of my life.

Childhood is a haze of wonderful memories that get more rosy the more details you forget. My fondest memories of my grandmother place her at the center of happy family gatherings where all my many cousins and I had our rare opportunity to get together and play until the sky turned gray. She and the other faceless adults sat at a table talking about something important and we would sprint around it or hide underneath as if their world was a separate, barely recognizable one that didn’t exist for us.

I can’t help but let out a sigh when I think that we are now those faceless adults talking about something important around a table.

It’s totally unfair. Especially after discovering that the topics around that table weren’t that important after all. Jobs? Fuck off with that.

Then at some point in life, time sort of looks down at its own watch and says “Time to go now!” and everything starts moving like, well… clockwork. Days become shorter and shorter until you get numb at their passing. Years start to feel like minutes–and I guess for people at the tail end of this journey–seconds. It’s the snub-nosed part of that minivan and everything is just crushed into a hurried frenzy within that small space of opportunity that’s left.

Getting Old is Slowing Down Enough to Realize That One Thing You Need

One day I was watching basketball and the announcer was talking about how rookies differed from veterans. She said “the game hasn’t slowed enough for them yet.” It stuck with me because I thought it was the perfect description of how it feels to grow old.

Discussing the biological underpinnings of why your legs start feeling like logs and your speech starts to slow down into a tired purr as you age is not at all interesting. Everything has a biological or biochemical underpinning, anyway, even supposedly mysterious forces such as love and spirituality. What is interesting to consider is how it’s so true that–along with yourself–the world slows down as your gray hair proliferates.

Events unfold in slow motion, so much so that you have plenty of time to sip a cup of coffee before another wave hits you. It gets hard to be surprised at anything. Oh, some stupid teen ran away from their home and was found in the middle of nowhere? Ok. Oh, that girl got pregnant by some dude who isn’t worth scrap? Got it. Oh, the government is screwing the masses in a new, creative way that nobody has anticipated? Noted.

99% of it zips past your ear. Ultimately, things don’t matter if they’re not on your getting-old-task-list.

You’re not jumpy anymore. When you get in a bit of trouble, you don’t think “I’m screwed.” You think “I’ll be screwed for a couple of days. After that I’ll be fine.” Everything is now situated in a chronological context. You begin to see that every issue, every object, every concept, maybe even every feeling has an expiration date, and solving problems could simply be a matter of letting it all play out until their energy is exhausted. Sit in a chair and wait. Everything’s going to be ok.

But all that time to think comes at a cost. The long pauses in between situations and decisions act like black holes that drag you into morose philosophizing. What’s happening to my grandmother has pulled me back into futile questions that I haven’t asked since I was in college, sitting in the library, reading a book about metaphysics that I didn’t completely understand. What is the purpose of suffering? Why is their pain? Is there an afterlife?

In another fleeting phase of youth, I was a self-proclaimed atheist. I found no reason to believe that there’s heaven or there’s anything that could happen after people pass away. The arrogant schmuck that I was, I found religion to be a terrible hindrance to the goal of mankind to be a more scientific lot. I thought to myself–how could we make real progress here on earth, help real people living here and now, if most of us continue to believe that the real rewards–the real life–happens only after our last breath anyway?

It’s the kind of fiery conviction a young person who hasn’t yet experienced anything of significance can be so quick to adopt.

Eventually, it was my favorite professor who taught me one of the legitimately grown-up ideas I’ve heard all my life. It was an idea, an argument so solid that years later when I sat and pondered it, it brought me back to believing in heaven. In God. And I haven’t found myself swaying since. My professor lost his mother fairly recently back then and that event shook up his beliefs and flushed out any trace of atheism or agnosticism in his system.

The idea was this: ultimately, it doesn’t matter if there’s an afterlife or not. We can’t really know that, anyway. What matters is we need there to be an afterlife. We need heaven to exist. Because it can’t all end here. Our love for all the people we lost and all the people we’re going to lose demands that this world not be the end of it all. Our love demands that we must see them again–everyone and everything we care about–after all this is over.

Our love demands heaven.

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Free Writing

There’s Probably Not a Lot of Meaning Left in the World Now But at Least I’m Not Single

There’s probably not a lot of meaning left in the world now but at least I’m not single.

Growing older, causes may die, races may be run, and the thirst for high adventure may be quenched, leaving just a musty old room filled with empty space where youthful dreams once thrived–it’s admittedly depressing and picture-perfect suicidal at times–but at least I’ve got a girlfriend.

And not to brag about it but just to illustrate my point: I have a totally magnificently bonkers girlfriend who cures all the existential ailments plaguing my being.

Case in point: I would sometimes find myself looking into the distance, pondering what the point of living is but then out of nowhere, she intentionally steps in my line of sight and ruins every deep, dark feeling of mine with her lovely smile and her awesome legs, and suddenly I forget everything about what I was being sad for in the first place. Works every time and it’s great!

I know that might sound like objectification and there’s a chance it is to a large degree but it’s the plain truth, sir, madame.

We may be victims of this oversexualized society but we are not incapable of speaking the truth in our hearts though it might be dehumanizing at times.

But I digress.

I’d honestly hate to be that guy who looks into the abyss without a girlfriend pestering him for a selfie.

Selfies with the girlfriend plug the massive black hole in one’s chest sucking the joy out of the universe (and if you don’t acknowledge you have such a black hole right between your nipples, you are nothing but a sad, lying, booger-digesting gorilla). These selfies may be distractions from the all-too-important internal conversations you have with yourself when you’re alone in your bed in the darkness but at least they’re honest-to-goodness happy distractions. If you’re happy, it can’t be all that bad.

A lot of people would say being happy is the only point of living, in fact. Precisely why some people could survive on porn, video games, and weed–those tried-and-tested packs of happiness that are more or less accessible for every man and woman. And child.

Needless to say, a real relationship is much harder to get, let alone maintain and grow. And that’s why in the grander scheme of the hedonistic scales, a girlfriend is much more valuable by far.

Because if you think about it, a girlfriend is a handy answer to that question that’s always burning in the back of your mind: that question of why the hell you’re even here? Why are you not your dad’s wasted seminal fluid dripping down the bathroom drain? Well, I guess if you’re able to make someone like your girlfriend happy (provided she’s a completely rational individual who makes choices and not in fact just a code you wrote to laugh at your every ill-delivered pun or otherwise a pot of cactus or a piece of scab you named Janet), you must have earned your stay here to some degree, have you not? You’ve got a purpose. You’re not merely your dad’s seminal fluid dripping down the bathroom drain though you might still feel that way sometimes.

Living is much easier with that question quelled. Tragic accidents, such as getting hit by a speeding car while crossing the road, can easily happen when you succumb to existential questions like that in the middle of existing. And the worst thing about such a horrific turn of events is that the newspapers would never say you were actually being philosophical in a mobile manner in that moment; they would only say you got hit by a speeding car because you’re an idiot. Which of course would be a total shame.

Not to say that a lot of mobile philosophers are not idiots because in all likelihood, they are to a large degree.

So the truth is, I’m really sad for all those people who just couldn’t get a girl or a guy or just a sentient humanoid being to care for them back in a completely non-platonic way. And by “non-platonic” I mean you have unholy sex once in a while and your mothers should be ashamed of ever conceiving you. It truthfully is just a total waste of time and resources to be walking this earth without such terrific company.

I know some people say being happy doesn’t require another person, and some would even post those pretty quotes on Facebook, but I call bullshit on that giant tower of stinkin’ dung heap.

Porn, video games, and weed–as good as they are–can only get you so far. Any decent, self-respecting human being would not be content to snort those basest of modern pleasures for the rest of their lives, though admittedly a lot of lives in the history of mankind have been wasted in a lot of dumber and pointless ways. But that’s no excuse.

Not even the healthy options like climbing mountains or painting in water color pastel hues are that much of a difference. The additional health benefits and skills you develop with such hobbies will definitely be appreciated but they can never guarantee peace of mind. Just between you and me, you might be better off with just the porn, but to each his own, I guess.

But seriously, from a guy who’s been through the withering deserts of singlehood for years, please believe me when I say getting a girlfriend as good as mine is absolutely worth it in every way.

Bonus if she also loves you.

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Free Writing

By the End of this Article, You Will Have Learned the Importance of Pancakes

Pancakes

All it takes is one shocking first sentence saying something like men are a waste of precious genetic material to launch everyone’s mind into a routine frenzy. I’m referring to the gender “man” by the way and not the primary species that currently populates the earth. But come to think of it, wouldn’t it be better if we were dogs because dogs are much friendlier to each other, and they’re more diverse so that some dogs don’t look like dogs at all but bears or wolves or rats, and they have much better spontaneous intercourse at the end of which they find it extremely painful to separate–unlike humans who just want to sprint toward the door the moment the deed is done? Considering everything, maybe the world is better run over by dogs.

But how about cats? Cats have the most stupid videos on the Web and they’re able to sell those videos so easily because they’re natural, straight-faced, cold-blooded mofos who are in the middle of a history-long master plan to kill their human owners and take over the earth. At some point, every thought just comes to that: how to rule everything and everyone around you. It’s like it’s hardwired into our brains to plant our flags and leave our babies on every square inch of the universe that would take them. Or even if they won’t take them, we’ll find a way to shove them down their throats because we’re extremely good at forcing our way in and surreptitiously making our way out. But we’re not all bad. We invented hot pancakes smothered in butter and maple syrup, after all.

Pancakes show the good in people. No, you don’t have to watch Schindler’s List to know we’re not too ripe for the culling; pancakes which took thousands of years to perfect illustrate why we should keep on living here without an asteroid the size of Texas bothering us out of our sleepy daydreams and early erections. But don’t worry because the whole point of progress anyway is minimizing risks: including reducing the risk of annihilation-by-asteroid to virtually null. Think about it. Calendars were devised long ago to predict the seasons, so that crops can be grown without nasty floods destroying all of that tribe-nourishing food, and computers were built to avoid costly errors by alcoholic accountants whom their loved ones left because they only loved math and alcohol, which may be the same thing at the core. Every bit of development we have achieved and aim to achieve has one ultimate goal: reduce the risk of living.

Which is why I firmly believe the very concept of chance is getting destroyed every day. You don’t have to wait for a serendipitous moment nowadays to find the love of your life; there’s an app that will help you narrow down your goals to that one perfect person who was fertilized by their parents to forge your future fetuses with you. Or basically, fuck. Oh there you go, I’ve successfully avoided mentioning that word for three full paragraphs but now I just said it and there’s no turning back. But I found that if you start saying “fuck,” you should certainly make the most out of it because grading sins or unethical behavior is probably done by brackets and saying fuck once is just as good or just as bad as saying it ten or so times but not twenty or thirty times. So fuck it. Fuck my office pantry. Fuck my neighbors’ nightly fight. Fuck Mars, there’s absolutely not a single fucker to be found on it. And fuck the moon, too, we’re not going the fuck back to that fucking natural satellite filled with fucking rocks. Fuck Bin Laden. I can somehow trace all this recent fuckery to his fucked up existence. Fuck the police. And of course, fuck the government for good measure.

All right, now that we’re done with all that cursing and we feel just a little bit more unsalvageable than before, we think of beautiful things. Like love. It’s always best to end something random with love because it’s a force that unifies by glossing over the ugliness of whatever heterogeneous mixture we’re talking about (think about your past relationships and see that I’m right). It’s the one discovery that really matters and the one legacy that our civilization would leave behind that will totally confuse the aliens that will land here on a spaceship in the year 8149. Of course, I’m assuming aliens don’t and won’t have any concept of love because if they do, then that would make them essentially no different from humans; in fact, that would absolutely make them human because love is a uniquely human emotion.

Or that’s what I’d like to believe. Must be the pancakes I ate this morning.

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Free Writing

Yesterday, I Farted About Five-hundred and Forty Times

Please forgive me as I’m about to foray into a vapory territory but rest assured this is not just an extended fart joke. Yesterday, I farted about five-hundred and forty times. I realize this is not a particularly fabulous subject for discussion except the sheer amount of farts I farted, to me, makes it worthy of a fair amount of consideration. Especially since I suspect you’ve been in the same dreadful situation before.

I was with a woman whom I fervently fancy, talking to her about things of small and great consequence, and I enjoyed all our moments together except for the fact that I was farting like a methane factory all the time. She was telling me stories about her friends, fashion, and famous folks on Facebook but all the while, I was letting out flatulence in controlled little pauses so as not to produce a single perceptible whistle…

Fetid gas with unfriendly intent made their flight to freedom from the fissure in my buttocks in freakish frequency.

Needless to say, the task of keeping the fascinating conversation going while producing something unfragrant and maintaining a smiling facade was extremely difficult. I could imagine my little rectal muscles flexing its fibers to keep the floodgates of feces from forcefully erupting in a frightful flash of fustiness.

It was farcical how much effluvium I fielded. A whole farm of cows firing a symphony of fumes into the sky would have faired no better against me. I fought off the formidable foe in my belly with the ferociousness of a feral feline or a frenzied ferret but it was for the most part, fruitless. I farted as she spoke. I farted as I replied. I farted as she joked. I farted as I laughed. And laughed I did several times for she was a truly funny person with a flawless sense of humor, and as I laughed, I farted even more. I farted while we ate cup noodles and watched videos of people making fools of themselves. I farted fast and furtively, trying to forestall the inevitable. For to fail in front of her was frankly unfathomable.

And it made me wonder how people came to set such lofty expectations on themselves. Forcing out flatus is as natural a physical phenomenon as speaking and breathing yet we have come to regard it with infinite contempt. Wouldn’t it be freeing and far more functional if we’d simply let folks fart as often as they fancied without getting all furious about it? So that instead of me trying to hide the complex digestive processes forming and flowing along my intestines from this female I truly find fetching, I could just let out a fart bomb whenever I felt like it?

But all it is is fable and fiction because the sad and sometimes frightening fact is that public farts are forbidden. As frowned upon as nitpicking your nose, excavating your ear, and poking your nipples in full view of people. Yet I bet all these gestures are hardwired into our brains and have been passed down in the form of firm instincts from an early age when we were all honest apes.

And so as the sun flickered and fell in the sky, I spent the day with her and felt real fine. Frustrated as I was for the frenetic fabrication of fermented fumes in my tummy, and fatigued from fighting off the unfiltered, the truth was that I was grateful that she was there with me. We watched a fairly gratifying flick in the cinema, and there I had the freedom to flat out fill the room with funky air in the cover of thunderous sounds. There was definitely something fortuitous about the whole set up, but what really made me feel fortunate was that she was there beside me having a freakin’ fantastic time.

In those fleeting moments where she guffawed at the buffoonery on screen rather loudly and charming, I found few problems with life. I felt my fat face smile as my heartstrings were fiddled by a force frivolous and flowery–a formless, fragile fairy in a fugly world. So I decided that though my fanny was feverish, I had something fundamentally special that I must hold on to in the irony of a day filled with letting go.

Who cares about the future? I’ll go ahead and have fun in the present. Foul gas in my gut. Her in my mind.

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Free Writing

The Problem is I Don’t Have a Problem–Not Anymore.

Oftentimes I would find myself on the brink of correcting someone on Facebook when they’ve made a particularly idiotic comment, but then just before I hit the Enter button, my hand would stop in mid-air, I’d press backspace, delete the entire thing, and say to myself, “Fuck it. Forget it.”

Something’s definitely amiss. The feeling’s strongest on Sunday mornings when I just want to sit in a chair and stare at garden plants with a retarded smile on my face.

I think the problem is that I don’t have a problem–not anymore. I used to have a collection–a library of problems! When I was younger, I would make a problem of just about everything: my coffee (“It’s too expensive, farmers died for this!”), the watch I wore (“It’s not working but I’ll still wear it because time is an illusion.”), the train (always been a problem that one), somebody’s boyfriend (“He’ll clearly not make her happy!”), rat carcasses on the road (“The perfect symbol for this rotten system!”), my spinster professor (“Projecting our arid sex life and general wish to die on our students, aren’t we?”), and stuff that everybody made a problem of–government and religion.

Those were the days! I could commute to school or to the office without listening to the radio or an “MP3 player” because I would be endlessly entertained by the hubbub of problems in my head. I’d be riding a jeepney and thinking, “Look at all these dead-eyed passengers just wasting away their lives going to and fro their cold cubicles when they could actually make a difference by saying ‘We’ve had enough! We’re crashing this pathetic jeepney into our pathetic buildings and torching our pathetic desks and stealing all the free coffee from the pantry!'”

Used to be I thought of things like that all the time.

I literally had stacks of journals all filled with my problems; they were written in volumes and could have served as an exhaustive catalog of humanity’s issues. The sheer size of the collection indicating the inordinate amount of time spent on such a dark, fruitless, lonesome activity would creep anybody out. My problems on love alone probably filled around three full notebooks. They discussed everything from the difference between love and lust to a theory about love as a disease that needed to be treated, sort of like the flu. They were absolutely fascinating! Because problems are fascinating things when written down or printed on paper, almost like old-school porn magazines. As an aside, it was always better to jerk off on those tattered pages than these gleaming cell phone screens.

But as I said, I don’t have those problems anymore. I wake up and the first thing I think about is not “Am I waking up to the real world or am I just a simulation like in The Matrix?” I wake up these days and I think, “Have I emailed that guy from the sales team yet?” And it’s terribly sad because that is not a problem at all. That’s a minor inconvenience or a daily task that may be bothersome to do but will nonetheless be accomplished that day or at some point in the future.

It’s not a problem.

Or it’s a problem but not a “real” one. It’s fake as hell.

‘Cause to me, real problems don’t necessarily seek answers; most of them have answers that are glaringly evident. Take for example the classic problem of: “Why do people keep on stealing others’ belongings when the world is already going to shit as it is?” That’s a legitimate problem right there and one worth thinking about leisurely while the very life is getting squeezed out of you in the jam-packed train. It can serve as a full-body anesthesia. You could spend an hour and a half looking at the different angles of that problem and trying to beat that voice in your head in a furious schizophrenic debate. That even though the answer is fucking obvious: “People steal because they’re poor as rats and even those who are rich still rob because they want more in this state of things where having more means having a greater fucking life. Having a big house is different from having a mansion is different from having your own freaking building and a private jet is different from controlling the entire country from your bathroom while you’re taking a shit.”

That’s a straight answer but nobody really wants that. It takes the fun away from nitpicking things that gnaw in our brains and our conscience. Straight answers are boring. The real problems are fun because they are never meant to be answered, only repeatedly considered in a semi-unconscious manner, like speaking a calming mantra, or squeezing a stress ball… or caressing your pet cat’s fur.

Something happened along the way–most probably aging–that made me lose all my precious problems. I think the overall lack of elasticity in the skin that produces wrinkles as one gets older extends to the brain, so that your once taut and springy mind progressively becomes soggy. And the physical sogginess of your brain matter is projected on your every view and every emotion such that your default face eventually starts to look like cold, overcooked pasta.

Of course, it could also be that thanks to your hard work and just the macroeconomics of it all (which you really don’t want to think about because you now have the attention span of a teaspoon), resulted in a pay at a level where the act of spending became more satisfying than questioning the ultimate purpose of spending. I mean, goddamn I can spend my wallet empty on Batman action figures without giving a shred of a thought! Who cares what you think of my hobby? Or what Marx would say about Batman? It’s the goddamn Batman for Christ’s sake! The Dark Knight that I deserve and need right now.

Sometimes, I also think it has to do with just being generally battered in love. I have a deep suspicion that love is the costly fuel that drives all goals and motivations in life. You don’t have love, sucks for you, because you won’t be launching any kind of revolution any time soon; instead, you’ll be sitting in a chair looking at garden plants with a retarded smile on your face. It’s not as fun to ponder love anymore and frame it philosophically or in some form of romantic literature when the plain fact is you’re just miserably failing at asking women out. Or outright getting seenzoned on Facebook. Or worse, unseenzoned (girl already posted three times that day about her cute, little puppies but still hasn’t opted to open your message).

And few men would admit it, but I sincerely think that every time a man fails at love or in romantic relationships, the damage is never confined to that space only. Rather, the ripple effects of that text message that was sent to you to tell you you’re a piece of shit that she would never date again touch on all the facets of your life: your work, leisure, morality, spirituality, in the very way your brain serves you the first thought of the morning. So that instead of feeling freshly intellectual when your eyes open, you just feel like you need another shot of Game of Thrones fan theory and a soggy McDonald’s cheeseburger.

I would like to craft a proper ending to this one but you know what? Fuck it. Forget it.

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