Brain Dead Serious

Thoughts on Matters of Taste and the Dutch Tulip Bubble of the 1600s

The first ever critique of someone’s taste probably went something like, “Man, your taste in rocks is horrendous! What a dumb, lowlife you must be to think such a rough, ugly stone dislodged from a mound of bison dung is worth anything. Why don’t you be like me and collect these shiny, smooth, grey pebbles collected from a river? Look how beautiful they are!”

The shiny, smooth, grey pebbles might have also been presented as suggesting something of the higher intelligence of the stone collector.

You think it’s ridiculous now but once there must have lived a cultured ape.

———

When I think about how people go nuts over matters of taste, I’m reminded of the story of the Dutch tulip bubble that happened in the 17th century. For those of you who haven’t heard this crazy tale before, you read that right–tulips. Apparently, at one point in history, the Dutch deemed tulips so valuable that a single tulip bulb was worth as much as or more than an entire house including the land where it stood. Some of these flowers, which were introduced into Europe just a century before, were worth 10 times more than the annual income of a skilled craftsman.

The priciest of them all were bulbs that had an unusual mix of colors different from the more common single-hued varieties at the time. Many years later, people would discover that these exotic flowers were actually suffering from a virus that messed up how they look, producing the strange streaks of colors that the Dutch so coveted.

In short, these were very sick plants.

———

People lost their heads so much over tulips that they gave the flowers intimidating names like “Admiral Pottenbacker” or “Admiral van der Eyck.” There was even an “Admiral of Admirals.”

Come to think of it, if a garden bulb were to command such a great price that some deluded craftsman could lose his entire estate and end up with nothing but a sickly plant in a pot, you might as well call that piece of vegetation an admiral. Few titles would have been fitting.

———

And then as if the Lord of Sense got so tired of the noisy Dutch taverns trading in futures (this was, in fact, the birth of this questionable financial fuss, as well), he just struck hard one evening in February 1637 to end the farce once and for all. For some reason, people just stopped showing up in one such tavern supposed to hold one of these popular tulip auctions that determined who had the right to own a flower that hadn’t even bloomed yet.

And from there, the bubble burst. Some people felt the economic hammer fall more acutely than others, and there were a lot of folks who lost a fortune. Overall, however, the Dutch economy–already the richest of that era–didn’t really take a dive.

After all, when the dust had settled, no serious, logical person with a conscience would really bereave a family of all their valuables just because their drunk father made the wrong decision to sell everything he owned for a rare purple tulip with yellow specks on its petals the night before the mania melted away.

———

I personally think it’s telling that a mania like that happened to the wealthiest economy in that period of history. When people have so much wealth and so little reason to think why one person deserves much more respect or recognition than the other, then the ground is ripe for something truly idiotic to grow and thrive.

I mean, if I were wealthy, and you were wealthy, our neighbors were wealthy, our friends were wealthy–and if we’re all wealthy, then what would separate me from you?

Surely we can’t test our bravery to see who’s of better stock. We’re not soldiers. Or warriors. I can’t defeat you sword in hand and declare I’ve bested you after a decisive, unquestionable final blow to the head. And we all can read and write, can reason our way around issues using the thinnest of facts to back us up, so intelligence would be such a drag to measure. A contest like that takes so long to judge to determine the winner. Besides, people who love to argue never, ever lose an argument. They just keep on arguing until somebody gets parched.

Admittedly, this is a brazenly simple and theoretical version of what might have transpired, but people must have panicked as they realized they were running out of ways to one up one another.

It was probably a goddamn first-world psychological crisis that punctured holes in the very fabric of society.

And so out of nowhere, some florist raised his hand and said, “Ok–how about who owns the better tulip?”

———

True–taste is a good barometer of a person’s standing in life. One’s Admirael der Admiraelen de Gouda Tulip without a doubt indicated that one had sufficient education and class, as could be expected of someone who had sufficient sacks of money to trade for such a renowned plant.

But what of it?

Was that the point? To declare beyond a shadow of a doubt that one was filthy rich and on the cutting edge of culture? Versed in the finest, most secret knowledge of the floral market?

You could say it’s all just a game. People were trying to outsmart each other and make themselves wealthy like they do all the time, and so they put, what is called in fiction, a “MacGuffin” in the center of it, allowing them to play this game of who gets rich and who gets wretched. It could have been anything–a tulip, a sunflower, acorns, a ball of rubberbands, bitcoin… It doesn’t matter. The point was to get a game of big winners and sore losers going.

Things of ghostly value haunting the real world of men.

Isn’t that where taste comes from? Just utter confusion over what something is really worth?

———

Going back to our story, in the end, it seemed like the bubonic plague played a major role in reversing people’s minds about those tulips. Imagine how uninspiring it was to debate whose flower was better as your neighbors perished by the thousands.

Nothing like the prospect of painful death to remind us of what truly matters.

And that a fleet of admiral tulips wouldn’t make a pile of dead bodies any less stinky.

 

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Brain Dead Serious

Layton’s Operation Somewhere in Orion

The strange purple, part-mechanical beings from Cosmos Redshift 7 had tilted heads as they looked down on what appeared to be Layton lying on a cold operating table.

Bleep. Whirr. Granzik, I think the specimen looks better this way, don’t you think? Whirr. Bleep.

Bloop. Click-clack. True, Krik’ok. It is my personal opinion that you have outdone yourself. This piece is a work of functional art. Click-clack. Bloop.

Bleep. Buzz. Indeed. The highly illogical trajectory of this species’ evolution has resulted in an overabundance of inefficiencies, which I believe I, with your help, Granzik, have corrected. Buzz. Bleep.

Bloop. Clank. Look, Krik’ok. The specimen’s globular section is moving. It appears it’s attempting to communicate. Clank. Bloop.

Bleep. Whirr. Excellent observation, Granzik. Let us temporarily detach the five-limbed appendage affixed to its oral cavity. Whirr. Bleep.

Granzik proceeded to slice away at Layton’s head using a shiny red laser scalpel, which did the job proficiently.

“Ahem, thank you, good sirs. I was really having trouble speaking there with my hand attached to my mouth.”

Bleep. Whirr. Fascinating, Granzik. The specimen is convinced it has need for a means of expression. Whirr. Bleep.

Bloop. Click-clack. Indeed. Why would it need to convey its primitive, illogical thoughts? Click-clack. Bloop.

Uh, well, you know, how could I say ‘no’ to all of this, er, experimentation if I can’t articulate–

Bleep. Whirr. It seems to be under the delusion that it can affect the state of things if it speaks? Whirr. Bleep.

Bloop. Clank. Oh, come now, Krik’ok. Surely, it can’t be THAT deluded? We have already plotted its species’ future and it would not even be capable of reversing its planet’s current climatic course to a biotic crisis. Clank. Bloop.

Uh, excuse me. Wh-what did you mean by that? B-biotic cri… Are you referring to climate change? Are we going to die from cli–

Bleep. Buzz. I wish we could make it understand that affixing its five-limbed appendage to its oral cavity is a more efficient way to expend its biochemical energy, Granzik. Buzz. Bleep.

Bloop. Click-clack. Agreed. Instead of straining itself trying to talk, it could use its appendage to harness resources for us. Click-clack. Bloop.

Ahem, EXCUSE ME again, k-kind sirs, but what do you mean by that? Harnessing resources? Like, am I g-going to work for you now?

Bleep. Whirr. Granzik, did you just hear it say “now?” It seems the specimen is unaware it has been working for us all this time. Whirr. Bleep.

Bloop. Click-clack. Quite amusing, don’t you think? What does it think it has been doing all this time? Something productive? Click-clack. Bloop.

Bleep. Buzz. Quite amusing! Buzz. Bleep.

Hey! Yes! Of course I’ve been doing something productive with my life! I have a fiancée. We’re going to get married. We’ve been saving up, s-so we could afford a.. a decent wedding! And we-we’re going to buy a house, and-and..

Bloop. Clank. Krik’ok, I believe this species is describing its primitive courtship ritual. Clank. Bloop.

Bleep. Whirr. And a means to prolong its biological existence with its mate. Whirr. Bleep.

Bloop. Click-clack. Indeed, a juvenile fantasy! Click-clack. Bloop.

Bleep. Buzz. Its species doesn’t deserve to thrive, Granzik. Buzz. Bleep.

Bloop. Clank. Agreed. Good thing we replaced its reproductive organ with its limb originally designated for locomotion. Clank. Bloop.

WHAT? SO THAT’S WHY I CAN’T FEEL ANYTHING BELOW THERE BECAUSE MY FOOT IS IN MY DI–

Bleep. Whirr. That was an inspired medical suggestion by you, Granzik. I applaud your efforts. Now the specimen can use its libidinal drive to transport itself wherever we please it to be. Whirr. Bleep.

Bloop. Click-clack. Affirmative, Krik’ok. I recommend we place it in Nognon-9, so we can further study its behavior in isolation. Click-clack. Bloop.

Bleep. Buzz. Granzik, isn’t organic matter absent in Nognon-9? How can the specimen sustain itself in that bare wasteland? Buzz. Bleep.

Bloop. Click-clack. Oh, forgive me, Krik’ok. I forgot to tell you that when you went to the bathroom, I replaced the specimen’s stomach with an ancient radio device from its planet. Therefore, it cannot experience hunger anymore. Click-clack. Bloop.

Bleep. Buzz. Brilliant! Instead, it can listen to sad music from its planet. Buzz. Bleep.

Bloop. Clank. Exactly! Clank. Bloop.

WHY YOU DIRTY, LITTLE–

Bleep. Whirr. I would also like to take this opportunity, Granzik, to disclose that when you went to the spaceship’s deck to smoke, I replaced the specimen’s outer covering with polyester. I mean it doesn’t really need a tactile sense, right? Whirr. Bleep.

Bloop. Click-clack. Why, of course, Krik’ok. Why should it? It’s not like it needs comfort. Click-clack. Bloop.

Bleep. Buzz. Definitely. Buzz. Bleep.

Bloop. Clank. Also, when you took a drink in the pantry I put the specimen’s nose in the vicinity of its buttocks. Clank. Bloop.

Bleep. Whirr. Granzik, pray tell what’s the purpose of that adjustment? Whirr. Bleep.

Bloop. Click-clack. Absolutely nothing. It was done purely for the heck of it. Click-clack. Bloop.

Bleep. Buzz. Granzik, I love the way you optimize subjects! Buzz. Bleep.

Bloop. Clank. Thank you, Krik’ok. Bloop. Clank.

SO THAT’S WHY IT SMELLS SO BAD IN HERE I’LL KI–

Bleep. Whirr. So Granzik, shall we continue with the final touch? Whirr. Bleep.

THE FINAL TOUCH? WHAT FINAL TOUCH?

Bloop. Click-clack. Certainly. You may proceed with replacing its heart with a cracked mug, Krik’ok. Click-clack. Bloop.

A-A CRACKED M-MUG? A CRACKED MUG?!

Bleep. Buzz. That should effectively kill all its hopes and dreams. I wonder if it will survive, Granzik? Buzz. Bleep.

Bloop. Clank. I highly doubt it, Krik’ok, but the tests should confirm. Clank. Bloop.

NO! NO! NOOOOOOOOO!

And Krik’ok went on to use the shiny red laser scalpel on Layton’s chest as Granzik held the cracked mug ready.

 

 

 

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Brain Dead Serious

Social Media is Trying to Define Me, So I Have Chosen to be Defined by a Taco Bell Burrito

The social media industrial complex has been telling us how to define ourselves, shaping our minds and our beliefs, fashioning us into foot soldiers of one brand or another, the coolest cause or the latest mass-produced celebrity–and that’s why as an act of resistance to all of this existential violence, I have chosen to be defined by a Taco Bell burrito.

You may ask why, if I’m being serious in challenging the status quo, did I nevertheless select the best-selling product of an American chain of fastfood restaurants to define my very being. But see, that’s the crux of this willful act of defiance in the face of this monstrous labelling machine. By consciously choosing a delicious item in the menu of a massive capitalist business as an anchor for the definition of my Self, I am strongly subverting the meanings being handed to me without my consent.

Taco Bell thinks that I’m merely a statistic in their usual conversion metrics but little do they know that I’m secretly a dangerous guerrilla of post-modern revolution.

I’m eating their burritos while battling in the trenches of definitions. Every mouthful of saturated fat and sodium takes the fight to this behemoth of colonial capitalism, and every bite of the soft, tender wrap oozing with melted cheese and juicy beef a shedding of imposed needs I have imbibed through constant exposure to advertisements calculated to induce brainwashing in their audiences.

This is my own way of saying “NO” to the repressive forces that have been unleashed on my individuality since I was a child. This is me taking back my life from those who want me standardized like the rest of the poor misguided souls on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and everywhere people are judged, measured, and monetized every day. I eat this Taco Bell burrito and wash it down with Pepsi to assert our humanity and that which is rightfully ours.

I see the underemployed workers, the unhealthy eating habits, the starving farmers, and questionable assembly-line methods that sustain this system of consumerist servitude. And I think of them all, waving the flag for them, as I let out a loud burp smelling of diced onions and sour cream.

I could, of course, subscribe to more conventional advocacies, such as feminism or advancing the rights of LGBTQ, or saving the environment, but after thinking my options through, I have decided to leave these battles to other people in the community while I wage furious war on culture industries, starting with aligning my selfhood with a half-pounder burrito. Not a quesadilla or a Mexican pizza. Not even a taco–but a burrito.

This is only the beginning of my activism. After my thirst for change has been quenched, and the Taco Bell burrito and me are one and the same existence, I’m moving on to the McDonald’s Big Mac.

 

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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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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

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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Brain Dead Serious

A Man Who Doesn’t Have Enough Space in His House for All His Existential Shit

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. Theodore Gonzalez–a man who doesn’t have enough space in his home for all his existential shit.

Mr. Theodore Gonzalez–can I call you Ted?

TED: Yeah. You can call me Ted.

DON: Ok Ted. You called us for this interview bec–

TED: You can call me whatever you want. I could be Ted or Theodore or Mike or Richard. In the end, who am I?

DON: Uh-huh… Yes, I see that this is part of the personal problem you’d like to discuss with our audiences today?

TED: Audiences? Oh, you mean those presumed subjects watching me through their TV sets? I wish I could be sure there were really existences behind those eyes fixed on the screen because frankly I highly doubt it.

DON: Oh… kay…

TED: Yeah, I mean, I’m not even sure you’re here. Are you here?

DON: Well, I think I’m definitely here. You’re looking at me, Ted.

TED: Am I? Or are you just part of a simulation run by highly advanced beings in the 31st century and I’m nothing but a character in their sick version of a video game?

DON: Ok, ok. Wait a minute. Let’s stop for a second here, Ted. We’re already getting ahead of ourselves. Can you please give our audiences a proper introduction to your issue? You said there’s not enough room in your house for all your existential shit.

TED: Yes, there’s none.

DON: Obviously.

TED: Yesterday, I tried to fit all my existential shit in a box but it wouldn’t fit.

DON: How so?

TED: Well, I was about to put all my existential shit into the box, which I found under my bed, but then while I was doing it, I realized… I couldn’t find the box.

DON: So… so the box disappeared?

TED: That’s the funny thing. When I thought about it… it dawned on me that the box wasn’t even there in the first place.

DON:

TED: You see, I placed the box on the floor. And when I did that, the box was clearly on our wooden tiled floor. But when I opened the box and gestured to dump all my existential shit in it… it… “Poof!”

DON: Poof?

TED: Poof!

DON: C-could you please clarify? It’s a little vague what you’re trying to say…

TED: The box melded into the floor. The floor melded into the box. I couldn’t see where the floor ended and the box started. See–what do you call a box, anyway, and what do you call a floor? You’re going to tell me a box has eight corners. It’s a three-dimensional object made up of two-dimensional squares. And the floor is something you step on and it’s sometimes wooden, sometimes ceramic, sometimes plastic. But what if I don’t agree with you? What if I told you the thing you call a floor is a rooster and the thing you call a box is a pig?

DON: What??

TED: They’re a rooster and a pig. I couldn’t fit all my existential shit in a pig.

DON: I am… I am completely lost.

TED: People have agreed on calling a floor a floor and a box a box but what if I don’t agree with them? I mean, there’s no real universal rule that limits me to that strict definition. If I wanted to call your floor a rooster and your box a pig, what would you do?

DON: I-I guess nothing?

TED: You are a really good actor, you know, for a simulation.

DON: I’m sorry? Like I told you, Ted, I am NOT a simulation. I am not fake. I am here. I am interviewing you about your existential shit that you can’t find room for in your home.

TED: Yes… Because my home is overrun with roosters and pigs.

DON: Ok… Let’s run with this… Maybe we could get somewhere here… If you really believe that your floor and your box is a rooster and a pig, then why not just scare them away to make room for all your existential shit?

TED: Because they didn’t share my language.

DON: You don’t need language to scare away a bunch of animals, Ted. Just wave your hands and make scary noises and they’ll go away.

TED: No, these roosters and pigs are speaking a fourth-dimensional language that my three-dimensional ears couldn’t possibly hear. These things-in-themselves are forever out of my grasp, clucking and oinking behind a veil of reality that I couldn’t pierce… There’s a whole farm of there out there, Don. An invisible farm.

DON: Please… please stop.

TED: It’s not for lack of trying on my part, too. This morning I tried to store all my existential shit in a spare room in the basement. It’s pretty expansive. Even my old motorcycle is in there, so…

DON: So that must be enough space for your obviously huge existential shit, right?

TED: Nah.

DON: Dare I ask why?

TED: Because my motorcycle has turned into a blue whale.

DON: Goddammit.

TED: I couldn’t even step into the freakin’ room. This monstrous blue whale was squirming and spewing water all over the floor–I mean this floor made of pigs–and all the boxes–I mean roosters holding all my other junk–were really wet.

So in the end, it wouldn’t fit even there. Nasty business. I actually just sold the house this morning.

DON: Please don’t tell me why.

TED: Because when I tried to just leave all my existential shit there on the living room pig-floor, the walls became a troop of baboons, the carpet turned into Albert Einstein’s poop, and the sofa revealed itself to be none other than Michael Jackson.

DON: *Breathes heavily*

TED: So as much as I loved that property, having spent so many lovely days there with my ex-wife, I just had to sell that shit to the first man I met on the street. For chump change, mind you. I mean, shit, what would he do with all that racket at night? Pigs, roosters, baboons, and Michael Jackson trying to wake up the neighbors. Not to mention he’ll definitely step on Albert Einstein’s poop the next morning, slip, and maybe even injure himself. Hah. Poor guy.

DON:

TED: And to your audiences, I say screw you, you pieces of 31st century codes and pixels! You ain’t fooling me! Can you hear me out there in the real world, you 31st century alien bastards?! Screw you and your mothers or wherever the hell Big Bang conspiracy bullshit you came from! I never bought into this spacetime propaganda you’ve been trying to drill in my head! Science ain’t true knowledge! Wormholes and strings and multiverse my ass, you sons of big bang bitches! I think therefore, I am!

DON: I’m afraid we have to cut our program short again for tonight. ‘Til next time. This is Don Fernandez, host of The Human Condition, saying goodnight and good luck.

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