So I heard some bad news today and I always love to hear bad news. This bad news involves a couple people I know. One of them tried to kill himself, the other found herself diagnosed with Lou Gerig's Disease.
Part of being a Stoic, as I'm learning as I'm doing, is to recognize as the old saying goes, what you can change and what you cannot. But I think the most important part, or I suppose the part that appeals to me, is that it forces you to deal with bad news. I find it interesting that my father is getting on with the business of dying, and there's a kind of hectic aspect to it and simultaneously he is becoming liberated. But there's one thing I know about my father is that he does what he wants to do. He's in control of his time and he spends it for his own pleasure. Today, he let the dogs into the office. I think he shooed them off for my sake, but he did let them in, along with the innumerable flies that seem to occupy his neighborhood.
I'm going to be writing more about my father in the coming months, primarily because if I wait until after he dies to start composing a eulogy, I will never finish before the funeral, and then if I do, I'll be pissed that I have to keep it to 750 words and a few minutes. That man deserves much more. But this is yet another tangent.
As he gave me the bad news about these people I know, I remained stoic, and about the latter individual I made note that I think Steven Hawking has been living with the disease for practically as long as we can remember. I don't think he has even bothered getting an upgrade for that annoying voice. My father says that I make jokes now, but then it happens to you...
I just read the following quote from some dude named Terrence McKenna:
We have to create culture, don't watch TV, don't read magazines, don't even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you're worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you're giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told 'no', we're unimportant, we're peripheral. 'Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.' And then you're a player, you don't want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that's being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.
This is the kind of quote you have to parcel out to peasants because if you don't tell them, they won't figure it out. And thus McKenna becomes a sort of guru for peasants, which binds him to them rather than to the source of the truth of this wisdom and its implications. It should be obvious because it was a person who quoted this quote as if it were the Sacrament of Confirmation. Or perhaps it is - I don't know how old that person is.
My point is that I'm at war again with conventional wisdom which is the gobbledigook that goobers gobble and must regurgitate to get into fighting trim. And although it is necessary for their progress, all that vomit is still disgusting. How is it that people fail to learn that people go crazy or die of crazy diseases? It doesn't have to make sense, it just happens, and it happens all the time. Every day it happens. And when it happens to me, I'm not going to freak out and disavow or lose my sense of humor. I'll probably lose my patience when I get brain cancer (That's my prediction - I'll get brain cancer and slowly go insane and become one of those freaks as described by Oliver Sachs - I'll put peanut butter in my shoes to kill the space monkeys). I'll lose my patience like my father has lost his patience.
My father actually has more patience and less. More patience for his family and pretty much none for the world. Since the first day that I ever heard him utter the word 'shit' and we recrowned him Mister B, at my brother's first wedding, he has been in the process of mellowing out. He is now completely mellowed out and the only traces of his monumental psychological cruelty that remains is the way in which he corrals us in front of his camera whenever two or three of us gather together. And sometimes when he says grace. But other than that, he is mellow and we are off the hook, but he still, with New England reserve, tends to spare us the bad news, because when it happens to you, you can't handle it.
But I can. I was raised to handle it. And then I asked for more. And then I taught myself to handle even more. And now I go looking for challenges. I go looking for trouble. I go out to fix things, and give people confidence when shit breaks. And it makes me a big scary man who would carry a gun if the permit process were more reasonable, not that I ever expect to need one because I'm a big scary man and people sense that, I think.
Taleb has sworn off motorcycles and cigarettes. He's smart to play the odds. But even he knows how stupid it is to forsake life just to add a few years to your miserable life. I understand the attraction of an exquisite corpse, but I want to be all used up. But I'm internal, which is why I've been up since 4:30 this morning writing book reviews.
I haven't written one of Cobb's Rules of love. But I've told men the following thing about marriage. Think about the worst thing you believe she's capable of, that thing you know will break your heart. Now visualize yourself married to her and she's doing that thing. Do you still want to marry her? If the answer is yes, then marry her, because it *is* going to happen to you. And then you die. But in the meantime, life is great and worth spending lots of time making jokes about awful things.