The Last Refuge 

It's more fun to do it this way

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I'm curious what this equals in reality. It's more fun to do it this way than to read my user agreement, I admit. If you're reading these words, I'm back to reading the agreement ....

Coming Soon: The Religion of Reality

This is one of those raw moments of thought, one of the blessings and also of the curses of blogging, I think.

The idea of "the religion of reality" has struck me. Now my task will be to identify it within my own paradigm and then to seek its kin in history.

But from extended considerations on the nature of God among humanity, and from my perspective that deities are human creations, not vice-versa, and in watching some of the most rational people I know regaling in the most absurd of ritualistic hopes (e.g. friends who are baseball fans) it has struck me that even upon the death of the Abramic monotheisms under the weight of honest logical examination, one cannot purge religion from humanity. We can, in fact, leave aside considerations of the HIndus and Buddhists, as well as tribal traditions and local customs ever-dying and ever-reborn with each generation, as the latter especially serve the larger point.

But people will always find something to worhsip. It need not be God; there is State, Wealth, Happiness, Liberty, Self--any of these things can be raised to a ritualistic tradition equalling a nontheistic religion.

And so far, this is, technically beside the point.

The larger point has something to do with why people read fiction, and what it is they take away from poetry and stories that feeds the intellect, nourishes the intuitive. It struck me that the death of the Abramic monotheisms would be a boon for the writers, whose pseudo-myths would become one of the primary methods of examining abstractions.

Life is never black-and-white. Politics tempts with illusion; religion tempts with layers of illusion; in either case, redemption is the biggest lie.

And it struck me that it is very difficult to write the stories of my life and times. While many, if not most, writers will tell you to write what you know, this idea is subject to any number of interpretations. Cady's "Singleton" and "The Jonah Watch" know their settings and characters inside-out. Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" knows Hemingway. Diversity of individual character, variation in depth of perception, differences in scope and vision. Yet writers also know confusion and vagary well, and layered deep within introspective genres (horror, science fiction, fantasy, and the short-lived "-punk" (cyber-, splatter-, &c.) at least is a sublimation of myth and moral assertion that weaves its own composite tapestry of ideas.

But what I know right now is minutiae and pure silliness.

Trying to explain the trivial realities spilling over my waders is a little like trying to explain anything in one sentence. The difference between five and fifteen minutes seems useless to many when applied to somebody else lying in bed late in the morning. But how many pages of background would it take to explain how it is that someone constantly saying "five minutes" when they mean fifteen, thirty, or more screws up the flow of reality to the point that one cannot plan anything ....

How is it that I'm thirty and I have to essentially ask permission to piss?

You see, on the one hand, to put that story to words, including all of its human significance, would represent an achievement in literary perspective and expression, but I guarantee you that it would be the most boring story in the world. Like anything, the more complete the information, the less likely anyone is going to pay attention. I could be the Truman Capote of interpersonal failures to communicate. But this sort of realism is just a drag on most people. Who wants to pick up a book or go to a movie and endure painstaking and unnerving exploitation of reality in order to make a minor metaphysical point?

And yet without the abstract, people seem to forget the reasons why we do anything. And so we feed daily on "News McNuggets", cast the world in dualisitic terms according to classic superstition: Good vs. Evil, Right vs. Wrong. Reality is never so simple as that. In our hearts, we all know this.

And so, at the end of the day, this disorganized pile of words comes to justify the simple notion that humans do not respond to reality, but to compressions, simplifications, mythologizations, and eventually deifications of reality.

Thus, COMING SOON: "The Religion of Reality".

Timing Issues (I) - Impeccably bad timing

Some of my friends are aware of this; they've seen it happen.

It is the most thoroughly puzzling phenomenon of human interpersonal dynamics I've ever lived through.

It is a phenomenon, or perhaps phenomena, related to timing.

I'm convinced that in over seven years of various degrees of association, my partner and I have only ever had one fight. It's just never ended. And it's ridiculous. And because it's ridiculous it's neverending. Defeat is one thing, but to be defeated by the ridiculous? Nay, nay. Run my horse smack into a windmill first, let these bones sink into a peat bog. Anything but be defeated by the ridiculous.

What can I say? I'm human.

There's a line by Douglas Adams about how a house almost but not quite exactly failed to please the eye.

And that's about the best I can explain my partner's timing: so impeccably bad that it almost but not quite exactly hates me.

And while I'm not exactly a world traveller, I have, in fact, dealt with a fair enough variety of people--suicidals, people who wanted me dead, addicts, dealers, thugs, thieves, rapists, Christians, ad nauseam--to say that I've never seen anything like this before and expect people to be suitably impressed.

Something of an approximate sequence of manifest symptoms:

- Initially, she would watch the commercials vacantly and then begin showing me pictures of people I had never meant and telling stories that, like those of John Candy's character in "Planes, Trains & Automobiles", went nowhere. I had a few Martinesque blow-ups early in our relationship. Eventually this progressed into our first fight; I asked her to stop doing that--several times--and eventually she lamented that I never wanted to look at her pictures and thus must not care about her or who she is or where she comes from. We've never gotten over that.

- Eventually I stopped caring when she asked about my favorite this or that. In any movie, song, or television show, at the defining moment, she turns her attention from what is taking palce in front of her to tell a story about how cool she was at work. Again, I asked her to find a more appropriate time. Again, I apparently didn't care.

- You know that little breath a person takes right before they start speaking? It's like she listens for that. If she hears it, she vomits words. Anything. How cool she is. How stupid someone else is. Never anything wise about life. Lately she's exhausted because she's devoting so much energy to thinking about fixing up the house. I've already been told I have no say in the process, yet why does she interrupt me when we're talking about our daughter to tell me her latest color scheme for the kitchen? Nothing important ever gets discussed.

- So ... she calls me into the room. It's important. Stop what you're doing and come here. And maybe ten per cent of the time it's anything important. And then she waits until I leave the room and, usually, if I'm lucky, I get to sit down or pick up my book or unzip my fly before she asks, "What are you doing? Can you do me a favor?" Fuck. Was there some reason you couldn't ask while I was ... oh ... say ... standing right there?

And it dominates all aspects of life. Renders two people at least nearly completely immobile. The ridiculous is upon me; this goes beyond Camus' absurd. This is unneccesary absurdity.

People wonder why I don't sleep at night.

Because it's quiet. It's the only quiet one can get in this house. Don't ask me about the fucking television.

A wellwater conspiracy ....

Swimmer finishes Columbia River Swim (Seattle Times)

One Christopher Swain of Portland, Oregon, has completed a year-long, 1,200+ mile swim down the length of the Columbia River, apparently to protest water pollution.

And while I congratulate the man on a titanic effort, I have to wonder, "Why?"

Certes, he has touched the lives of most, if not all of the 13,000 or so people he met along the way, including the "thousands of schoolchildren". But I vaguely remember hearing a story that some nut case was going to swim the length of the Columbia, and this is the first I've heard of it since.

But he could have touched 13,000 people serving his karaoke favorites over a website: Swain Sings The Seeds, or something like that.

I do not wish to object to any internal sense of accomplishment--no doubt this was a mammoth effort fraught with danger and unpleasntries, but it would have served his needs better, I think, if there was more media exposure. Of course, one guy swimming nearly 1,250 miles isn't nearly as exciting as war, missing WMD, sexed-up dossiers, or Biblically-derived rebels running sex slaves in Uganda. But ... seriously ... the article I found at the Seattle Times webiste is the first time I've come across the story since I heard that first vague mention of it.

As I write this, wondering if Mr. Swain bothered to get a website for his journey (I haven't found it yet), I did find an article from before he began:

For the Love of a River (

At any rate, congratulations Mr. Swain. I hope I'm underestimating the impact of your efforts. I hope you've actually made a big splash and I just missed it.

Bathroom politics

A simple question for a friend of mine who is studying to become a foodservice health "expert".

Here at home, my partner insists on using Lysol All-Purpose Cleaner with Bleach. The stuff is amazingly effective, I'll give it that. I sprayed some in the bathroom sink, where my partner has an awful habit of conserving water to the point that I find caked-up post-consumer toothpaste foam, some odd species of growth I don't recognize for its color, and what I would swear are ashes or flakes of automotive grease. See, I hate cleaning certain things. Ugly bathrooms and hideous kitchens are among my nightmares. So I went outside, because I hate the cleaning solution, let it sit, and came back to clean up the sink.

The basin sparkled. The cleaner had eaten away all of the muck and put it somewhere. Where? I don't know. But there was no cloud of smoke or steam, there was no buildup in the drain; the basin simply gleamed. So I tried some in the shower, where the first hints of curious pink growth began to colonize. Gone. You could watch the little buggers die and dissolve.

Now, this is all amazing, but the simple fact is that I hate this cleaner, which is recommended by my friend studying foodservice health. Bleach in general kills more germs, and this is a particularly effective one.

Except, I hate bleach fumes. I can tolerate Comet and other scouring agents because the bleach is almost as faint as an outdoor swimming pool's chlorine smell. But this ... the cleaner sprays, but if you collect it, it's thick. And it reeks of a perfume-bleach smell that seems hyperconcentrated to me. Instant headache; instant skewed frame of perspective; instant dysfunction. Hell will smell like this, all the time.

But strangely, I can tolerate ammonia. Straight ammonia like you can buy for household cleaning. My old cleaning method in a bathroom was to simply throw Parsons' ammonia all over the place, turn on the fan, vacate for fifteen minutes, and then go in and start mopping up. This worked well for linoleum floors, the toilet, and the bathtub.

Of course, as my partner points out, our foodservice friend doesn't use ammonia at work because ammonia isn't strong enough. So if there's a mess in our house, we use this strangely alien bleach solution.

But as I cleaned the bathroom counter this morning with isopropyl alcohol (it really takes up some of the strange stuff we get all over the formica) it occurred to me that I was actually cleaning the bathroom more often if I wasn't using that bleach.

And so a simple question:

- Sure, the bleach works better, but if I'm cleaning more often with other chemicals, well, what about the cumulative exposure to germs in the environment?

Anyway ... you see what years of shock- and scare-advertising have done? For all the years humanity evolved without soap, and for all the years we've had soap, how is it that I've come to dislike bars of hand soap in a dish because of the muck? I can tell you directly that it's because of the antibacterial pump-soap commercials combined with the paranoia of working a couple years in crummy foodservice after high school.

But cleaning with bleach ... I only do heavy cleaning when I have to. With chemicals I'm more used to, I tend to clean something when it irritates me, a scary difference in terms of time and appearance.

But what is the difference between the genocidal power of one chemical and the next? And does that difference really compensate for the varying frequencies of cleaning adventures?

I don't think so.

But a household strike to expel the bleach cleaner and mushy bars of soap in ugly dishes just seems tacky.

Nonetheless, fight the power.

Emmacratic Party of the United States of America

I'm switching to become an Emmacrat.

It's one of those things where I swear I heard someone use the word, but she denies it outright. Strange, that. I was trying to tell her how she inspired me, yet I'm somehow being accusatory ...?

(Sorry ... digression.)

At any rate, the rules of being an Emmacrat are simple.

- Obtain a picture of a child. Any child. If you have children, that helps. But it's also good to keep a back-up photo from somewhere in the third world. One need not be a parent to be an Emmacrat. Just get some pictures of children. Tasteful ones, for heaven's sake.

- Get a pen, a crayon, nail polish, whatever, and scrawl across the picture the following words: "VOTE FOR ME"

- Read your local voter's guide; consider issues carefully and rationally.

- Take the picture with you to the voting booth; it is your on-site voter's guide. Vote according to the guide.

Now, I'm aware that this whole idea can be subject to certain abuses; *here the Democratic Party *ent under Bill Clinton and in his merry *ake is a mystery to those out on the left *ing *ho find themselves *ithout any significant political voice thanks to The *affle. So just as the left thought it could be more effectively leftist by moving right, I'm aware that doing the right thing for children, especially one's own, can lead to some seriously perverse results.

Remember, a child with an education and food to eat is less likely to steal your car or bomb a cafe. Especially if you give children other things to do with their educations than build bombs or devise schemes for stealing cars.


If I could tell you how exactly I go from Aleister Crowley to Tanita Tikaram ... well, I wouldn't be writing for free. But sometimes I think that's the point; if it isn't obscure or stabbing after the ineffable, well, what value has the mundane? Certes there are practical matters, but ....

You see? It's always about the ineffable. Remember that some days, when you're sure someone doesn't know what they're talking about, you would be more worried if they actually did.

Something about Obi Wan Kenobi comes to mind, but I'm not sure it's worth it.

Morals in action

From the BBC: US exports anti-abortion policy

According to BBC's Nadine Ghouri, half of all female deaths occurring at an Addis Ababa hospital resulted from botched abortions. Apparently there exists an issue related to American foreign aid and a gag rule on the subject of abortion. One quote from the BBC article worth noting: "Under the gag rule, I can treat a woman who comes bleeding after an illegal abortion but I am not allowed to warn her of the dangers before she goes," said an Ethiopian family planner who refused American assistance because of the gag rule.

Another stated, of the gag rule: "It hasn't worked to cut abortion. All it has done is deprive women of condoms."

Somebody ... I'm not sure who, sums up a frightening perspective: "It's not that I know what is right for other women .... It's that I know what is right."

I'll have to find out who Wendy Wright actually is, and then take up a collection to buy her a ticket to Ethiopia.

Morals in Action: Complicating life since civilization began.

Sisyphus, stay!

It always comes back to some nihilistic sense that, while there is but reality and nothing more, even reality is superficial. An associate remarked the other day that in order to achieve one's principles one must sacrifice those principles.

This is to some degree true, but perhaps only for a certain limited set of paradigms. In a time when I believed in causes such as Liberal or Democrat or Leftist or even Anarchist, I could be heard to lament that understanding was difficult in the practical sense. My childhood battle was heavy metal and creepy horror. In the age of the Antichrist Superstar when imitation-of-life violence in the wake of Tarantino has become so stale that we must suffer imaginary matrices to justify gratuitous violence one can only marvel that the censors don't wish for the good ol' days when Ozzy made himself a target, King Diamond fed the frenzy, and antipersonnel art spat rhetorical shrapnel to obliterate Private Ryan.

And yet amid it all it was easy enough, being raised in a holiday-Lutheran setting, to imagine the difficulties some people had with Twisted Sister, Judas Priest, and others. But in allowing space for understanding one might find their opponent stepping up, rabidly gobbling every inch given. By the time it was over and "Luke Skywalker" inherited the PMRC mess, the mudslingers had advanced; arrests were made, lies were published, and hysterical censorship advocates staged a fake war for children's minds.

There really was no point to trying to understand the opposition then. But in order to be inclusive, tolerant, and accepting ... how did I find myself intolerant of the ideas that breed censors?

In the extreme, we might look to the recent Bush Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and while the former is more understandable than the latter, we might look to the "peace" movement (as opposed to an anti-war movement) and say, "What are you going to do?" What, as a pacifist must I resort to violence? Come now: the people won't revolt until they're starving, perhaps, but did anyone ever bother to ask why exactly they're starving?

And what makes the whole schmoo difficult to balance is the wobbly factor introduced by the simple observation that none of it really matters. In the end, bin Laden gets part of what he wants as American troops move out of Saudi Arabia, but it doesn't really matter.

I might get someone's attention by smashing them in the back of the head with a two-by-four, or, as some would have it, flying a couple of jets into the World Trade Center, but in the end, what of it really matters at all? At best, I've pissed somebody off, and what's more they can point to the revocation of principle.

And in the end, this is what I get from a conversation that seems a thousand miles away. A friend was lamenting the failure of another friend; when you really need him, it's always about himself.


As I sat and listened it struck me that for my friend, too, it was all about himself. I might agree in principle as regards the specific situation, a seeming matter of common decency, but beyond that let's just leave the broader splatter of crap out of it. It's always about the self; even communalism is about the self; cooperation is about the self.

There is nothing that is not about the self.

But why do we waste so many words, so many dollars, and so many hours of life teaching children otherwise?

It's not to condemn the Lutheran pastor who taught me, "God first, others second, self last." I may disagree with most (including atheists) about God, but from sharing to cooperation to the godforsaken buddy system, many Americans of my generation were taught the benefits of cooperative, and to some degree communal, thinking.

And, just like, "Liberty and Justice for all," some of us bought that crap. And we're stuck with it. At thirty I've come to see life according to a high-minded notion of species and cooperation; sometimes I think it's just politics to justify the things I think are cool: legalized marijuana, literate and daresay educated masses, space travel, artistic freedom, longevity, orgasms ....

But instead of disgust I admit to feeling a small measure of pity. My friend is trying; really, he is. He just wants to get on with his work so he can get about making other people's lives better. But in order to do that he has to stand up and make certain demands of others on his own behalf, and on a certain level I share his disappointment at the response. More importantly, though, I mourn the simple fact that, at present, I am simply out of magic tools to make the guilt of selfishness go away. I am not a priest; he does not believe in God. I have no Frinkabater. I have no hocus-pocus.

Of course, who says it's my hocus-pocus to give? Who says its mine to give a damn at all?

Wanted: "You know, that guy ... in that movie ... the one with the dark hair ..

"We watched the tragedy unfold
We did as we were told
We bought and sold
It was the greatest show on earth
But then it was over
We ohhed and aahed
We drove our racing cars
We ate our last few jars of caviar
And somewhere out there in the stars
A keen-eyed look-out
Spied a flickering light
Our last hurrah
Our last hurrah

And when they found our shadows
Grouped 'round the TV sets
They ran down every lead
They repeated every test
They checked out all the data on their lists
And then, the alien anthropologists
Admitted they were still perplexed
But on eliminating every other reason
For our sad demise
They logged the only explanation left
This species has amused itself to death." (Roger Waters)


What will the alien anthropologists say? Actually a book occurs to me, only I don't know the author or title. My memory tells me it's a children's book, with vibrantly contrasted illustrations. The plot is essentially that the aliens have landed at a motel outside of Reno or something after humanity has departed. I'm quite sure the book isn't as funny as it was presented to be. Perhaps it is, but there seems to be a certain gravity to such futuristic speculations as this book undertakes.

Why are visions of the future often grim? I tend to think it's because we often build such visions by taking an idea we deplore and applying it theoretically in the future to its maximum potntial harm. This is perhaps somewhat simplistic, but it really does seem, especially in the days of Hollywood apocalypses, that the message is always that the future is grim but it doesn't have to be. A minor irony occurs to me in lieu of the new Terminator flick, but I'll leave it be.

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