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Monthly Archives: August 2008

Five years ago this week, give or take a few days, I married a girl named Mary. It was a rush, a whirlwind, the biggest mistake I ever made. She is a good person–loving, in her way–but we both made a mistake. 

For me, taking the plunge was the most romantic thing I could ever do. I took a chance, and it failed spectacularly. We were separated by October, divorced by December. I haven’t seen her since.
Our separation was the beginning of the darkest period of my life. I started drinking a lot. A lot. I had my very first blackout during this period, but sadly not my last. During those months, I also began doing things that I frankly never thought I would ever do in a million years. 
I had just turned 35 that November, and I remember one cool night after my birthday walking out of Barnes & Noble to my car when the thought occurred to me, “I won’t live to see 36.” At the time, it seemed a premonition, but it was one I was determined to make true.
As you can tell from the fact that it is 2008 and I am writing this, I made it past that birthday. A little banged up, but serviceable. I am happy. I don’t like my job, I have no money, I am in debt, I can’t drive, but fuck all that! I am HAPPY!
What brings my darkest times back to mind is not the anniversary of that marriage. Oddly enough, it’s after watching a rather disturbing video of a man who killed himself essentially over the singer Björk. This odd fat man who was clearly deranged–deranged enough certainly to eat a bullet on camera with his head shaved and his face painted like Darth Maul–was upset that Björk had started dating a black man and so sent her a package loaded with an acid propellant to try and hurt her. He’d also decided he would kill himself at the same time.
Watching this video, I was transfixed by this man’s sincere need to die. In 2003 and 2004, I wanted very badly to end my life. I was trapped in a situation where I felt so humiliated at my life and what I’d done and been doing that death was the logical choice. Eminently logical.
I am going to stop my rambling right now to once again point out that I no longer feel this way. My life is different now than it was five years ago. Worse in some ways (I am no longer making $50,000 a year solving problems and playing on the computer all day), but so much better in other ways.
You have no idea how good things are. This world is paradise if you let it be so. And the only one who can choose whether you are in heaven or hell is you. It doesn’t take money, it doesn’t take love or sex or drugs, it takes you making the decision to be happy or to not be happy. And if things are particularly shitty, you can choose to dwell upon that or to find something to make you stop pondering the shit you’re in. Something to distract you–preferably something that doesn’t involve chemical assistance. Trust me, that is not going to help.
The Björk-crazed nut decided to die on camera–to make a splash for his ego and his obsession over some singer. He picked the time and place and the means to die and did it. I watched the video and said to myself, “I wanted so badly to do just that a long time ago, and I couldn’t.” When push came to shove, I didn’t see the point in doing it. I begged myself, I begged God to let me, but the voice said “no.”
Religious types take note: The voice was mine. Perhaps there was assistance from the great beyond, I am not going to discount anything. But I made the choice and chose to live.
In any case, there was an epiphany during that period, and the beginning of a lot of work, more than a few setbacks, but I was born again a year later.
Christians take note: You have co-opted the term born again for so long you perhaps don’t realize Christ isn’t necessary to the process. One is born again every second of the day. When you choose to cast off what holds you down, you are born again.
I certainly was. 
As I said, there were many setbacks, and lots of work, and I am still working even to this day on not dwelling on things. I am working on detachment–on letting go. It’s hard. I couldn’t let go of my relationship with Tammy and let that drag on for way too long. (By the way Tammy, we both did.) I couldn’t let go of nasty habits without some kind of official kick in the ass to assist me, but right now I am sober. I’ll take that assist, even if it is expensive and inconvenient. 
Whatever it takes for me to let go of the me that needs so much positive and negative reinforcement to feel validated, I will do that.

I read a blog entry at  which asked the question, “Why are we always the same age inside?” I had some time recently  to observe things about how my brain worked in the midst of intense boredom to consider my answer. I also suggest reading Krishnamurti to help consider where my answer to this question comes from, and the larger question it led to for me.

This timeless essence we’re pondering here is the product of all the impulses and processes that the brain has fashioned together since birth. 

It’s like a computer that writes files to itself throughout its lifespan. These would perhaps include files that allow it to interpret the data from its sensory inputs better and better over time and through those interpretations, discriminate things better and even put various data together in new and unanticipated ways. 

As it does all this, it is also constantly assessing, reassessing, interpreting and reinterpreting its position and relation to its environment. It doesn’t realize it is doing all of this though. It just does it as part of its base nature. Part of its base programming, if you will.

That base programming is the mystery here. Everything else is the result of the stuff the computer piles on top of that programming, all the stuff in this computer’s memory. Beneath that mass of data, you have an operating system that runs the hardware that keeps the computer going, and collects sensory data, analyzes it, pieces it together like Tetris pieces and re-assesses and reassembles interpretations according to new data.

At least that’s how it should work. A simple logical program, only in the case of the human computer there seems to be something about this brain (the actual computer we’re dealing with here) which overcomplicates things. The frontal lobe perhaps?

What happens in the human computer is, like a child who draws a picture and keeps it because it’s pretty, this computer holds on to some of its interpretations even in the face of data that could change or even obsolete those interpretations. 

Also, given the sheer enormity of the data we’re talking about–I’m almost 40 and my brain has been working every single day of that time, my seventh-grade Math scores notwithstanding, on all the data coming in from all sensory inputs that whole time–it’s easy to simply *forget* this fact. Forget you are constantly analyzing and re-assessing things, even down to feeling the temperature in the room and deciding to turn the AC on or off, or contemplating this thing called God. It’s easy to simply forget this constant process and just consider this collection of data and pretty pictures you created as something called YOU. Your Self, and consider it as something immutable, unchanging, even eternal, and separate from the world around it.

What is it that makes us human computers adopt this concept of self as Self? Probably it’s the combination of all the data I mentioned with the same animal awareness of body, again coming from sensory inputs of hardware, combining to make this metadata called Self as a defense mechanism to ultimately preserve the body from harm. That is what the Self really is. That’s how it was supposed to work.

That self-centered sort of thinking–self-centered because we are working from this nexus, this center-point, we perceive as the logical interpretation of all the data collected since birth–is really all we have to work with.

No soul, no God, no afterlife. These are all pretty pictures that people come up with to answer the question whose real answer is, like evolution, simple but made complex by scale.

This is all there is. There is nothing more. And for this reason, all life is precious and all people are unique. Given the sheer amount of data that it took for you to come up with YOU, you are unique. We are each unique. We won’t ever be reassembled quite the same way ever again in the entire history of the universe.

I hope you understood what I wrote. If you didn’t, if this doesn’t make sense or if it doesn’t bring you to the same conclusions to which I came, I am afraid that the imperfection of my ability to properly render this thought (one of the tragedies of the human condition) is the reason for this barrier. Now how long I keep this pretty picture depends on how the rest of my life goes.

I woke up this morning stinking of my own sweat in the top bunk of a cell in a pod in the county jail. I had to serve a day and served my day and now I am home. It was not merely hot, it was numbingly hot. Locked into a closet with some other guy who got bottom bunk because, well, he’d been there two days already.

I did a lot of sleeping and a lot of wishing I was not there. The air was dead and the sweat was shvitzing out of my head. The bunk was metal and between me and the bunk was a three-inch-thick piece of foam rubber. I didn’t sleep so much as observe my mind grabbing various thoughts and piecing them together one after the other like Tetris pieces if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Outside, the guards were shouting at the inmates at one point for not running to their cells fast enough. “If one of us, fucken, tells you to move your fuckin’ asses, you fuckin’ do it with a sense of emergency. I fuckin’ mean it.” Yes, he did pronounce it “fucken.” And let’s not talk about the “sense of emergency” line. Did it bug me? Yes, for a while, mainly because it was something to occupy my mind. I really didn’t give a shit either way. I just wanted out.
I’d grabbed a miraculous copy of Heinlein’s The Door Into Summer from the bookshelf before they locked us down. I’d first read it when I was 13, and barely remembered the plot. I polished it off in maybe two hours, then was back to the Tetris pieces in my head.
The guy in the bottom bunk had pulled his foam rubber mattress out of the bunk and onto the floor, and laid on the pad so his head was near the door, and maybe two feet from the metal toilet/sink in the corner. What’s interesting now that I think about it is that I could piss that near his head, but shitting near him was out of the question. Perhaps because pissing is quick and doesn’t require dropping trou and staring at the wall next to his head while trying to push one out. I mean, he was an OK guy, and we got along as well as two people in a fucking closet that stank of sweat could get along, but I needed to shit, and couldn’t with him there.
Consequently once I was able to drop that deuce it was wonderful, first of all, and second of all it set the stage for what happened a few hours later after I ate the most wonderful hamburger and shake in existence. Let’s just say the poor toilet here got taught a real lesson and leave it at that. Thank Christ the shower was right there.
This was my day, and I needed to write it out. And if any of this sounds cliche or trite or boring to you, I understand, and ask that you go fuck yourself with all due haste, and I mean that in the nicest fashion.
And tell your Mom I said Hi.