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First Person Personal

My personal views on a variety of matters ranging from popular culture to quantum physics to religion to politics to history to bushido to ... well, whatever I feel like, really. Warning: we all have agendas. Trust no one totally, myself most specifically included. Email me at wbrerwolf at gmail.com

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Poem: Shadetree Mechanic Release 1.1

Some don’t go to school.
It’s make do or do without,
Root hog or die.
You learn what you can from others
And from whatever books you find:
“A student of all things with no master”.
Some become jackleg carpenters,
While some are ministers, self-ordained.
Me, I’m a shade-tree mechanic
Of the quantum kind.

Science started out tryin’ to understand God
Through examinin’ Creation.
And some took to explainin’ Creation
By how they understood God.
“As it was in the beginning,
“So shall it be at the end.”
So let’s pop the hood
And see if we can figure out
What makes this fucker go!

Now let’s examine God by his works:
It’s plain to see that pain and sufferin’,
Evil, madness, and plain stupidity
Are not in short supply.

Now is God bad?
Then how to explain a sunlit day
Or the smell of a baby’s hair?
And if He is good,
Then why is there so much bad?

Are we being punished
Or being trained?
Is Satan so strong that God must yield?
Or does God simply not care
About a planet full of sinners?

I reckon not.

A few hundred years ago a Sufi said
“I am God,” meanin’
“I am God, You are God
“That Tree over there is God
“As is the Sun above Us all
“And the Earth beneath Our feet.”
I think he was onto something.
According to the Bible
We are made in His image.
Maybe everything is in His image,
Maybe Everything is God.

The Buddhist calls the world an illusion,
And holds that sensation traps us,
Keeps us from true freedom.
What if he is partly right
And also partly wrong?

What if God made the Universe
Of Himself,
By Himself,
For Himself,
For fun.

What if there is no reward,
No punishment.
What if He just wants to see how good it gets,
And how bad it gets
And He don’t care who gets the bad
And who gets the good
‘Cause Both are Him.

What if all of human experience
Is just God calibrating the Engine?

What if we are God’s test drivers
Takin’ Creation for a spin?

What if the world is not a trap or a snare
But the finest toy that ever was
That ever could be?

Is “Do as ye will” then the whole of the Law?

Maybe, from God’s point of view.
But we’re at best sparks from the Fire.
For us I think the Law is:
“Do as ye will – but be ready to pay for it”.
Jump off a skyscraper if you will
But expect to splatter.
Do unto others as you will
And see what they do unto you.

As best I can follow my Chilton’s
With both shoes on,
One interpretation of the specs
Says that there are many Universes,
Not just one.
What if Everything happens Somewhere?
What if we actually do it all,
Live and die in every possible way?

And what if every person,
Every critter, every thing that ever was
Or ever could have been
Was doin’ the same?

And what if the Laws of Nature
Are only local ordinances.
Suppose that there is a place where pi is 3
Just like the legislature wanted.
Or where there ain’t a light-speed barrier
Holding us to one end of Creation?
Or what if Middle Earth really exists
Along with Krypton
And Atlantis.
Somewhere, Elsewhere.

Now wouldn’t that be a show?

We know we’re just a speck in Eternity.

Suppose Eternity is just a Page,
One of many in a Book,
That is one of many in a Library.
Each Book a continuin’ saga
Written by an infinite horde of monkeys.
No editing required, ‘cause anything goes.
And each Book published and read by God Hisself.

So from God’s point of view
We ain’t lightning,
Jagged lines across the sky,
Finally fadin’ into darkness,
But fireballs,
Sprayin’ sparks every which way.
Some sparks fade as soon as they’re born;
Some go on, branchin’ and dancin’
‘Til the sky is filled with light
Forever and ever, Amen.

Entropy as a joy ride.

A pretty idea for sure,
But being pretty don’t make it right.
Science teaches us to test our ideas,
To see if we can bring something out of them,
Something we can test to prove what’s truth
And what’s just pipedreams.
How can we test this idea?

Beats me.

There may be a Hell of a great universe next door
But you cain’t get there from here
Or even peek through the windows
To see if anyone’s to home.

So this pretty idea
Is just so much pipe smoke.
Still, a pipe can be right comforting
On a cold winter night.


Poem: In The Mall Release 1.1

In the Mall, you can go into the John.
No one in there talks to you,
Nor tells you the truths what kill.
You can walk into a stall, lock the door
And huddle against the cold wall.
You can shut all the bad shit out.
You can be alone in there.
And feel what George and Jimmy felt
Just afore they shot themselves.

But I’m not one of those what dies of their own accord.
I’m one of those what has to be killed.
It’s in the blood and bone,
There’s no gettin’ shut of it.
My life is nailed to my spine
And I hain’t got a crowbar
To rip that fucker free.

Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going
Is the certainty of dying.
Sometimes, when things are really bad,
I think about cancer, heart attacks and strokes,
Car wrecks, fires, airplane crashes, drive-bys,
Muggings, murder, riots, wars,
Famine, plague, earthquakes, tornadoes,
Poison, wrist-slashing, hanging, belly-slitting,
Nuclear bombs, designer disease and home-grown genocide
Until I start to smile.
I’m only in this shit for life.
It’s not like it was permanent.

Smiley, he’s the Mall manager.
He’s Old Money, New Money, No Money A’tall,
A rich boy, a farm boy, a homeboy,
Corn fed with a silver spoon,
Off the streets in a Rolls,
Came on the Mayflower and was here when it came.
Smiley’s at home wherever he goes.
Smiley keeps the Mall runnin’,
Passin’ out seed money,
Collectin’ the loans
Plus interest and penalties
Then passing everything on
To someone new.
And whatever is bought or sold,
Taken or given, won or lost,
The Mall – and Smiley - gets a cut.
That’s one reason they call him Smiley.
So no matter how much you come in with,
Or how well you do Inside,
Sooner or later, the Mall, Smiley, has it all
And you have to leave – or be throwed out.
Everything else is just detail:
Whether you’re bound for the Taj Mahal
Or a stewpot in Uganda
Your toe-tag reads the same.

Outside the Mall?
Well, opinions differ.
Some say the Mall is everything,
Some say it is nothing at all,
Some say they’ve been Outside
And come back in again.
But if’n you ever want to see an old cop laugh
Ask him about eyewitness testimony.
The only sure thing is that you’re in the Mall now
And that you won’t be here forever.
And when you go, you cain’t take nothing with you
Exceptin’, maybe, memories.

This bein’ so, folks try to leave their mark behind ‘em.
Some spray paint on walls, some start stores,
Some write poems, some pass laws.
You know how it is:
“Look upon my works ye mighty and tremble”.
Other folks submerge themselves in something bigger,
Something that will go on when they’re gone:
Families, governments, businesses, tribes.
Me, I’m in a gang.
The Wise Guys.
We’re the baddest of the bad.
We’ve drove other gangs clean out of the Mall:
The German Valley Guys, the Upright Guys, the Robust Fellows
And ten thousand lesser gangs like the Terrible Wolves and the Saber Teeth.
The surviving gangs pay us tribute
Or work for us outright
Or cower in the furthest corners of the Mall
And hope we won’t come for ‘em.
But what goes around comes around
Or “When the perfect cometh, the imperfect shall pass away”.
The Mall’s just too big to handle
The way the Wise Guys do.
So maybe someone else’ll take us down:
Maybe the Superior Guys,
Maybe the Cyber Cowboys,
Maybe the Silicon Brigade.
Me, my money’s on the Silicon Brigade:
You can only hold so much of the world in one skull,
No matter how big you make it.
And even if you splice hardware to the wetware,
After awhile, it’ll be the tail waggin’ the dog.
So in the long run, the Silicon Brigade is the one to watch,
‘Cause they can build themselves into whatever they want
Iff’n they should ever chance to want anything.
But whoever, whatever the next gang is,
When they make their move, they’d best remember:
He Who made the Lamb made me.
And He didn’t make me to go quiet
Nor yet alone into the Night.

But maybe none of this is ever comin’ down.

Consider the ant.
An ant is stupidity OD’ing on speed.
They don’t think much,
Don’t need to.
Five or ten billion ants runnin’ at top speed
Every wakin’ minute,
Hell, one of ‘em is sure to stumble across something good.
And what one ant finds, the rest can follow him to.
Hyperactivity can be handy.
A hive of ants can act smart
Just by being really dumb
Really fast.
Five or ten billion Wise Guys hustling and scheming
Every wakin’ minute,
Hell, one of us is sure to stumble across something good.
And what one Wise Guy finds
A million Wise Guys can figure how to get more of, easier.
So maybe,
Maybe enough of us, runnin’ as fast as we can,
Might bring in enough to save our asses.
Hell, we might run things forever
Unless’n we stumble across neighbors
What don’t cotton to fire ants.

Or things could be different yet.
The Mall has little ponds here and there,
Stocked with Koi and Frogs and whatnot.
Sometimes the Frogs have little lily-pad orgies
Leavin’ frog-scum floatin’ on top of the water.
Most times, the frog scum gets et.
But sometimes it lasts long enough for tadpoles
To grow, to wriggle free, to hide
To maybe grow into Frogs.
You can feel right superior, lookin’ at frog scum,
Bein’ as we invented romantic love
And rape.
Some folks get so full of themselves
That they start spoutin’ off stuff like:
“We are as Gods so we might as well be good at it”.
As Gods? Maybe so.
But gods of the old timey Greek sort:
Who’d screw anything that stood still for it
And blast anything that didn’t.
We’ve got power, all right.
But we’re sorely lackin’ in wisdom.
Me, I reckon we’re just upgraded chimps:
A mite bigger memory, a bit more RAM,
Higher speed, better speakers
‘N’ more sophisticated programs.
Just jumped-up apes with good posture
Bad attitudes
And access to nukes.
Who know how to punch buttons
But have only a glimmer of why.
Human folk are limited
And might just have outlived their usefulness.

Or maybe not.

Maybe we don’t know what we’re good for.

I used to think that we were baby Gods,
That in the fullness of time
We would become more than we are:
Wiser, kinder, smarter.
You know: better.
But as I get older, I see our limitations:
We don’t live long enough to learn;
Nor do we have the wit
Were we to seize the time.
But I still have faith and hope
That one day two or more of us will gather together
And Something Wonderful will happen.
Something we can no more imagine
Than sperm imagines babies.
In the meantime, we remain as we are:
Frog scum floatin’ on top of a pond
Waitin’ for Genesis.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

For All The Girls I've Loved Before - In Retrospect

“Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” – Frederick Nietchze

This is a very classic Germanic viewpoint and also inaccurate. Some things don’t kill you outright but damage you so badly that you are non-functional. Still, there is a certain rhetorical truth to it: things that threaten you very badly cause you to attempt to grow in an attempt to deal with the threat or prevent its recurrence.

This phrase comes to mind a lot when I think about my experiences with women.

Every relationship I have had with a woman has damaged me in one way or another, but has also caused me to grow and develop in an attempt to deal with the problem of the Other. I think that this is true to a greater or lesser extent with every human being. I am reminded that pearls are how an oyster attempts to deal with an intrusion into itself – covering the original damage with layer after layer of increasing beauty.

In each one of my relationships, I have brought away valuable and useful things. From L I learned that it was necessary to get off of my butt in a relationship. From M I learned that sometimes a relationship isn’t worth continuing. From C I learned that I was better than I thought I was. From E I learned that I could lose everything that I loved without warning and that I should love and cherish what I had while I had it.

And from S I learned how much better a person I could be. As Jack Nicholson’s character says in As Good As It Gets, she makes me want to be a better man.

S is the mirror in which I view myself and constantly find myself to need serious improvement. I am admirably suited for living in a cave two thirds of the way up a mountain and pronouncing cryptic utterances to my students.

I am extremely poorly suited for any closer relationship with humanity than this.

I am so bad at social situations that I did not realize until recently just how non-functional I am as a social creature. With rare exceptions, my personal relationships are superficial, my social skills are vestigial and I do not really care most of the time that this is so. My impulse is to live inside of my head with ideas instead of in the world with people. While some of my actions may be interpreted as altruistic, the fact of the matter is that I do “good” things as a matter of general maintenance: if the people around me are happy, then my environment is more comfortable. Thus it is to my benefit to make sure that the people around me are happy insofar as I can do this with minimal effort.

S, E and C all seemed to want to do good to those around them for its own sake, not for any benefit to them. In addition, each of them put in a Hell of a lot more effort into good works that I do. I have assisted each of these ladies in various ways, but doing good for the sake of doing good is not a thought that comes naturally to me.

In short, I learn about what I should be by examining examples of what I am not.

And, given my shortcomings, this is extremely painful for me at times. While I do not care about good manners or networking very much, I want, as all humans do, to be appreciated and valued. And I have spent almost fifty years doing this in almost exactly the wrong way. I have concentrated on knowledge rather than social skills only to discover that nobody wants a person who only has knowledge but they are willing to work with someone who fits in and can develop the knowledge skills they desire.

Five years ago I thought of myself as a fairly decent human being who has had some bad breaks. Now I think of myself as a failed social animal and believe that the vast bulk of my failures are due to this flaw. On the social level, I tend not to carry my own weight in any relationship.

On the other hand, while I am not everything I thought I was, I am also not as bad as I feared I was and I am getting better. Producing this blog is one of my steps towards sanity. I am of the opinion that the more accurately I model reality in my mind, the better I will be able to live in reality. That is to say that the more honest I am about what is going on with me and the world, the better off I will be. I find that honesty requires an audience, preferably a skeptical one. In this blog, I attempt to be honest with the serial numbers filed off, that is to say that I am minimizing the risk involved in honesty by making it difficult for the average reader to find out who I am. I think that the honesty is more important than making my identity public, but this could be just another example of my moral cowardice. Time will tell.

Time will also tell how my relationship with S progresses and concludes. While both of us believe in the “Until Death do us part” portion of the oath, S occasionally fears that she will get to the point where she can no longer deal with my shortcomings. “If I had wanted a five-year old, I would have had one,” is probably a fair paraphrase of how she feels about me on a bad day.

If she ever gets to that point, I will leave as completely as possible. Without her, there is no really good reason to remain in this state or even in the nation itself. There would also be no particularly good reason to be deeply concerned about my life expectancy, so I could take a fairly high-risk gig in Iraq and rebuild my finances quickly.

I don’t think that it will come to this, for S knows that I am trying very, very hard and we both love each other deeply.

Still, S is mortal.

C. S. Lewis wrote A Grief Observed after his wife died. In it, he makes the point that couples are particularly uncomfortable around a widow or a widower because on some level everyone knows that one partner is likely to outlive the other and the closer the relationship, the more one fears the reminder that it must end.

One of the trials that S has faced and overcome in our time together is cancer. She was diagnosed with “Stage 4 non-Hodgkins small B-cell lymphoma”. Stage 4 is as bad as it gets; the next stage is the funeral. Dr H, the doctor in charge of S’s treatment, later told us that he had not expected S to live through the first round of treatments. Her particular type of cancer has a 5% survival rate.

Sometimes I just know things without having any verifiable proof.

I knew that this cancer would not kill S. However, I did not realize how painful staying alive would prove to be for her. The basic concept of chemotherapy is that the cancer is killing you anyway, so the doctors might as well poison both you and the cancer and hope that you are a bit tougher than the cancer. S went through a very, very bad time of it, but the cancer died first. Still, she did not just walk away from chemo and start her life again. Her energy levels are far lower than previously and she has bouts of insomnia. Also, S has frequent leg cramps, she has some problems with walking due to the death of some of the nerves in her legs, her “female organs” have been excised and she has to take a handful of pills every day in order to function. S has sometimes debated with herself, and with me, what she should do if the cancer comes back.

I cannot ask her to go through that Hell again just to keep me happy.

S is regularly monitored. One thing they have been watching very closely is a spot on her lung.

It is growing.

After talking it over with me, S decided to try to continue to live.

Fortunately, chemotherapy is only one of the current options. S has elected to start with radiation therapy and the results are pretty much “so far, so good”. I have a certain guarded optimism about this and VERY STRONGLY hope that chemo will not become the only real alternative to death.

However, I know that I will outlive S. This is backed up by S’s medical history: she has already taken very serious damage from the chemotherapy and another major illness could easily prove fatal.

On the bright side, I do not know by how much I will outlive S. It could be that both of us will die in the same accident and that I would only survive her by a matter of seconds, if that. Given my nature, I find this to be an extremely cheering thought. I have no real fear of death per se, possibly due to the fact that I have only a very abbreviated experience of living. I do fear very much the loss of the life I have with S and strongly prefer actual death to that loss.

Should we divorce or should she die, I don’t know what my emotional state would be. Probably worse than after E died, for our relationship existed more in potential than in reality while S and I have lived together for over fifteen years. Further, I think that once S is gone, I would have not have the moral courage to seek out another mate; sometimes, life is too painful to face.

However, I do not believe that I would kill myself over this. I do believe that I would do as I did after E died, which is to say that I would not really be too concerned about the prospect of death.

I don’t think that I will outlive S by any great period of time unless I find some other reason to continue.

One of the things that I am working on is this blog. In fact, it is the only thing that I really have hope for at the moment. I cannot seem to get the education that I would need to change careers. It is very likely that I am too old to get the retraining that I need in order to compete with recent grads for a programming gig. All of the other things that I might try are currently just not doable due to my poor finances, my bad work record and my basically abnormal personality.

As pathetic as it might seem, writing to even an imaginary audience gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

And I will need a reason to keep going. S is deeply concerned about what will happen to me when she dies. She fears that I will go back to inertia and sloth and spend whatever time I have left doing nothing at all.

She fears that for me, it will be as though she never lived.

I have failed in so many other things in my life that I cannot afford to fail in this. I must keep going, I must accomplish something with what remains of my life, even if it is only in my mind.

I owe S one Hell of a lot more than this, but this seems to be the best that I can do.