I HAVE ARRIVED!
In less than one week, I have had a major circulation newspaper quote a music review of mine AND I have had my picture taken by Adam P. W. Smith, one of Vancouver’s foremost event photographers. But…
None of this would have happened the way that it has if it were not for the terrible accident suffered by the The Hotel Lobbyists. My picture was taken at a fundraiser held for James Wood (The Hotel Lobbyists’ lead vocalist seriously injured in the crash) and my review of the band was quoted in a Province article about Mike Gurr’s (The Hotel Lobbyists’ drummer killed in the accident) wonderful, albeit short, life.
Very bittersweet though it is, I know Mike would be happy for me that my stuff is starting to catch on. In fact, were it not for James, Mike, Jordie, and Jordan (The Hotel Lobbyists), none of this insanity I called “The Aging Rockstar” would have even happened: the videos, the reviews, the new friends and great music- nothing.
All of us must take the bitter with the sweet. That’s just the way it is.
Legend has it that poet, John Milton, wrote with a human skull on his desk. This skull was to remind him that one day he would shed his mortal coil and ascend to heaven. Images of death are known as memento mori, reminders of death. I never thought of death as something that I needed to be reminded of. Life on the other hand…
What we need more of are memento vita, reminders of life: people and things that give us the strength to move onward in the face of sadness or adversity. I have several memento mori cluttering up my office, but being a perennial pack rat, I have several memento vita as well. And my new favourite is a simple piece of wood, machined with precision, and deftly commanded by a good friend.
Just how smart do you figure we need to be? There are some truly ignorant/backward people out there that I would like to dwindle their numbers through civilized (if possible) means but there is also a large crowd of dumb “smart” people kicking around as well.
I once listened to a discussion about tolerance on CBC Radio. A professor lamented that one of his students had become so liberal minded that he’d refuse to stop the “evacuation” of the Jewish ghettoes because it “would not be his place” to interfere in the internal politics of a sovereign nation. “Only a university student could think that way” was the professor’s final comment on the matter.
The post-graduate world is designed to specialize knowledge so that it is entirely possible for an individual to suffer more and more from tunnel vision as they get “smarter.”
I once heard a college professor tell an Asian student that Chinese emperors never commanded the same power or influence as the European monarchs. I walked out. Not only was her comment wrong, ignorant, and racist, but it was also dutifully copied down in the notes of those students who didn’t know better.
The question then becomes how many European History professors are certifiably expert on matters of dynastical China? If you spent half a lifetime becoming an expert on Luther, where do the Ming fit in?
I read a lot. But I rarely read more than three or four books on the same subject and Hunter S. Thompson is the only author in my collection boasting more than 10 titles. My iPod has over 8000 titles on it and nearly half of those are university lectures on a multitude of subjects. But this, itself, leads to problems.
1984’s The Razor’s Edge, Bill Murray’s much-maligned adaptation of W. Sommerset Maugham’s book, features a scene which involves the lead character (Murray) deciding whether he will keep reading his books and freeze to death on a Himalayan peak, or survive by burning his books for warmth. He can literally live (and die) in his books or live a real life without them.
There is only so much that book learning and university classes can do for us. By the time the average person finishes Remembrance of Things Past, they are 50 years older and Proust’s is the only life they know. Experience without knowledge (context and meaning) is a time consuming waste. The reverse, however, is equally true: knowing the career statistics of every NHL player won’t help you tie your skates, especially if you can’t skate.
For myself, I will continue to walk the wavy line: spend my days packing my brain cells with as much information as I can cram in there and then spend my nights committing genocidal atrocities against those same cells. Something’s got to stick before I start having problems with my short term memory.
In conclusion, something’s got to stick before I start having problems with my short term memory.
Now that we have that out of the way, allow me a moment or two of your time to explain why.
Though many a learned person has dismissed the theories of Dr. Freud as nasally obsessed sexual tomfoolery, the notion of the Id remains an alluring one. Imagine your inner being, driven by the pleasure principle, met at every turn by the arbitrary and domineering Super Ego, ruining all its fun. Whether we can ever silence this subconscious, primal scream remains unseen to all but the individual. More likely, it is either modified (in which case, we grow up to be alien to ourselves) or, it is repressed (in which case, we grow up to be grow up to be Civilization’s Discontents, to use Freud’s terminology).
In the end, I think people end up being disappointed when they realize that life is its own reward. I would cautiously suggest that Bill Gates lives the same life of any man who benefits from his own merits; only the tax bracket is different. If the “poorer” man concentrated more on the life he has, compared to nothing, he would be less likely to hate his life because of what he doesn’t have and more likely to love it through appreciation of what he does.
No man can be happy when his family is starving but not buying into every stupid fad that crosses your line of sight buys a lot of food. Also, the ridiculous fortunes of those he envies are built upon his buying their useless products to service his lifestyle, not his life.
I still defend the Id because the Id is about thought, desire, and action, not “stuff”; primal desire shouldn’t have anything to do with a PSP or the jewelled sneakers some crack whore socialite wears in her latest softcore porn music video.
“More! More! More!” is the new life mantra. Want becomes need and anything with intrinsic value falls by the weigh-side and chokes on its own last breaths in a roadside ditch, sitting shiva with the other animals that couldn’t navigate the new super highway.
My Id screams for freedom from all of this. It desires the simplicity it once knew. The Super Ego grows exponentially. The middle man, my Ego, is content that life is its own reward. I only wish, dream of a time when it is again the life not found in a crack whore socialite’s latest softcore porn music video. I’d like to live in that world.
Every morning I play a game: Whack-a-Snooze.
I set my alarm an hour earlier than the time I need to get up and then for one hour, I play Whack-a-Snooze.
:00 – beep buzz beep buzz WHACK
:09 – beep buzz beep buzz WHACK
Every nine minutes, my awesome reflexes sweep my arm across the bed and bring my hand crashing down on the snooze button- if it’s a good day. Foreshadowing a crappy day are the mornings when listening to the alarm ring just doesn’t seem so bad.
I like to think my morning game of Whack-a-Snooze prepares me for the glorious day when I’ll need my reflexes to kick some ass on Family Feud:
Survey says: X
Well, Family Feud aside, I still find it is a much better way to wake up in the morning. I am willing to sacrifice an hour of real sleep for a game of Whack-a-Snooze in order to wake up gradually. Unlike those who try to steal an extra hour of sleep and burst out of bed, still half asleep, and end up brushing their teeth with Prep H or whatever happens to be in the closest tube their squinty eyes can’t read. I get up after a game of Whack-a-Snooze feeling awake and slightly annoyed which is, to my estimation, the best way to greet the day. Plus, it is a great deal more practical than some of the other “Whack-a” games my brethren are wont to play first thing in the morning.
On a completely unrelated note, I have decided on a new “Best Thing Ever”:
Discovery Channel’s new TV spot. It makes me smile everytime.
Boom De Ah Dah Boom De Ah Dah…
All of us, at one time or another, experience the “Restart”.
By “Restart”, I do not mean going back to the beginning but restarting from a pause your life has taken. Most of us have taken a few minutes too long on lunch and really can’t get back into work again; that is the restart.
For me, this current restart is due to the death of a friend. For others, the restart can be the result of a marriage on the rocks, the loss of a job, moving to a new neighbourhood. I’ve found that the easiest way to successfully restart is to take stock of what you have. Too often, we waste time, energy, and emotion on that which we do not have and live unfulfilled lives because of it.
I spent the past weekend in Pemberton, BC, with good friends, beautiful vistas, and more than a couple beers. I sat in a natural hotspring while the mist and rain caressed the forest around me. I played to with two wonderful children as though I were a child myself. My friends knew I was hurting and they helped me out. There was nothing they could do to bring my friend back to life; nor were they surgeons who could alleviate the problems of another friend. But they did do something very important: they let me know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that life goes on with good friends at your side.
While I was in Pemberton, I shot video and took pictures of everything. My friend’s young daughter wondered why I was doing so. I thought to myself that when you live in a place where it is too loud to hear the crickets, too bright to see the stars, it is good to take pictures. But beyond the pictures, when you return to your regular life, the memories of your exeriences live on with you as you stand and restart from where you left off.
On Sunday, December 9th, 2007, developers and the City of Courtenay tore down the Courtenay Hotel, an iconic old building that had stood in Courtenay since the turn of the 20th century, before there was officially a Courtenay to stand in.
For the past few years, the Courtenay Hotel was home to the Courtenay House, Courtenay’s lone strip club. It was somewhat affectionately known to one and all as the CoHo.
For most of the years that I lived in Courtenay, I was the CoHo’s unofficial Writer-in-Residence. I held court in the smoking room, watching not the young women on stage, but watching and conversing with those who had come to watch the exotic entertainment.
It was during a single afternoon in the smoking room with a handful of beers that the following was written.
I have half-jokingly dubbed what follows as “The Courtenay House Manifesto.”
It is important to note that physical, mental, and emotional “differences” often referred to in the piece that follows, exist only within the first premise that there is only one race: the Human Race. Any attempt to use the following treatise as ammunition to further the cause of racial supremacy is misguided and not in any way they intention for which they were first put to paper.
At first glance, this treatise may seem to be an invitation to elitism, and perhaps nihilism. But I would suggest that it is instead a plea for realism.
Acceptance has become a dirty word (for instance, the acceptance of Darwin’s theories is only a refutation of Creationism. In this case, as with many, acceptance is not the adoption of one set of ideas but the denial of another. No positive life outlook can be based on a negative). Acceptance must be a step forward towards a greater understanding. Too many of us believe that acceptance is on par with settling for. Acceptance is an act of realism and thereby, freedom. With the loss of superfluous desires, true freedom, mental freedom can exist. When we cease to covet and desire that which we absolutely cannot have, we are free to enjoy that which we do.
Inane maxims, such as “The truth hurts,” circulate unabated with all of us refusing to admit the deeper “truth” it speaks. Neither believing a lie, nor disbelieving a fact, amount to anything but a regrettable waste of mental energy.
For us to continue as a species, we must accept, against all influences to do otherwise, that Life is not fair and owes us nothing. Life, as we live it, is an arbitrary existence. As long as “Life” exists, it will exist without our personal input and never acknowledge that we are here beyond the original “gift” of our existence.
These theses are not the sum total of my knowledge or feelings on the subject of human existence. They also represent the ideas of others before me. This is only my work insofar as I have taken the time to compile these opinions and thoughts on their ideas.
Should this diatribe ever reach a set of eyes other than my own, I shall be assailed for its unmitigated pessimism. I am not a pessimist. I am a non-practicing, lapsed optimist.
These are general statements based on my current disgust at the state of the Human Race. All I will say in my defence is that the document can speak on its own behalf. I do not speak to the exception; I speak to the rule. A lucky few have survived a fall from great heights but most do not.
The body of this first draft was composed chain smoking in a bar, surrounded by men and women watching young women remove their clothes while pandering to the original drive to make money for others.
September 9th, 2006
The Courtenay House Manifesto
Somewhere along the line, human beings got it in their heads that they were special. We began with our assumed domination over the animals and the rest of nature. It can be said that Adam’s naming of the animals gave him power over them. By defining what something is, we assume the power and jurisdiction to do so.
Now humankind has taken on a new target: its own existence. The right to claim individual freedom, so long fought for, now threatens to destroy the fabric of our society. The right to choose and/or act does not inherently hold the right to deserve or possess that which is not yours by either necessity or ability.
Human beings, though unlimited in thought and desire, are strictly limited on other levels. Thus, the mere fact that one desires something is no guarantee that one could or should attain it. Such humans can only see life and existence as it applies only to them: they demand through solipsistic deeds that the statement above is untrue. This is the beginning of our fall.
The human beings’ fallacious belief in their dominion over existence merely perpetuates an atmosphere of falsity on one side and disappointment on the other, fostering a prevailing mood of anger and unrest. We are becoming a society of malcontents.
The wealthy seek more wealth through exploitation and corrupt means. They are fooled into believing that their relative comfort is evidence that they have a good life. No life can be good that rests on the shoulders of destruction and slavery. The unknown or, more likely, ignored cost of this “good life” those whose believe they are living the “good life” are either ignorant or uncaring, neither of which is a trait of “good life.”
We are all animals fooled into believing that we are better than we are. Our ability to reason, though rarely used, sets us apart, in our terms, from the other animal species. It does not set us above. A human being would lose a physical contest with almost any animal that matched it for weight. In terms of survival, we are poor animals indeed. Our reliance on gadgetry over common sense only exacerbates this situation.
Try as we might to control our natural surroundings, we are perennial losers to the value neutral, natural event: the earthquake, the tidal wave, the tornado, etc.
How are we as a society to survive in this world unless it is together as a unified society? The obvious and undeniable answer is that we cannot; we will not.
Human beings’ greatest failure is our inability to either recognize or accept that we are nature. Our existence began on and with this planet. We are part of the machine.
Despite our grandiose assumptions, we too are value neutral. Our necessity of existence is grossly estimated, again by assumptions of rank. There is absolutely nothing on this planet not of our creation or design that requires our existence upon it. The human being, unlike a vast majority of other animals, survives as a parasite.
Most of our energies are spent trying to rationalize our need to exist. We fail to acknowledge that we exist through happenstance, not through necessity.
I have too often heard it said that “it is better for a thousand guilty men to go free than to have one innocent man go to jail.” This is asinine thinking. It could be foolish hope that an innocent man will always find his vindication, but to believe that it is better for a thousand guilty men to walk the streets is indicative of the individual’s selfish belief that society exists solely to serve them and no other. When an individual believes that society must give only, thereby implying that society serves them and thus they are better than society, the observer must ask: how long could said individual exist without society’s gifts?
Communities exist on mutual co-operation. No one person can demand or expect to receive more than they are willing to give.
Abuse of the system is rampant and many benefit more from the same society that neglects others. For this to stop, we must construct a societal system based on the juxtaposition of true merit and necessity.
A truly meritorious system will only be realized when we are ready to admit that divisions in society must exist. Differences in relative strength, intellect, and ability, by nature, do exist. These differences must be acknowledged and, more importantly, accepted. Until this acceptance occurs, society will be plagued by malcontents whose unattainable dreams continue to be unfulfilled. Life can be “what you make it” but only after realizing that every finished product is, and can only be, the sum of its material parts. This being the case, however, a being that cannot change itself or its lot in life should never be exploited because of it.
No building is ever built exactly as it was originally designed. The construction process is rife with unforeseen circumstances and events, consisting of both positive and negative outcomes, differing from the original blueprint. There is far less control over a human’s life construction than that of a building. We build what we can, given the resources we have. But it must be realized that these are resources of the self. They are not external resources we believe to have dominion over and claim to due some self delusional assumptions of rank. When builders create from ill-suited material, the soundness is, and will always be, suspect and flawed.
Failure to acknowledge the divisions in society results in untold amounts of wasted energy. There is no waste in self-improvement. In fact, I’d argue the success of a society relies on it. For this self-improvement to have any real value at all it must be done with an eye to improving society as a whole, not merely one’s place in it.
Many claims are made by the wealthy that they are improving society. These claims almost invariably involved perceived financial benefits, the bottom line. There is more to a good existence than money. This is an alien idea to those who have and live for money. To steal a phrase: to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Though the sums are obscene, philanthropy is rare. Despite the lip service often given to alleviating the suffering, torment, and exploitation of the poor, the attempts made never risk the ridiculously high standard of living enjoyed by those making the offer.
Though the intent of charity can be genuine, the nature of charity is now perverted. Countless people have a picture of a horribly distressed child from a “Third World” nation posted with pride on their refrigerator. They feel a sense of pride, an alleviation of guilt, for the dollar a day they spend sending the child the necessities of life over and over again. What this false sense of accomplishment obfuscates is the horribly obvious fact that this child is not supplied the necessities of life by those whose duty it is to do so. The child, no doubt, resides in a country impoverished by corrupt leadership, a corrupt leadership financed by greed driven corporate interests. It is ironically this greed that supplies the liquid cash that allow those “better off’ to help better the life of said child. They pat themselves on the back for pitifully trying to alleviate a situation they are to blame for. We must save our “dollars” and actually change his world rather than satisfying the need to feel good about our blood money.
Religious charity is a cruel hoax. Churches, all churches, spread their faith and charity merely as a means to maintain their power, real or assumed. God is not “dead”; God never existed. Religion is merely the tool of simple men, used to subjugate the weak, ignorant, and superstitious. No progress can be achieved until we condemn and eradicate the “teachings” of those whose knowledge never surpassed the practical, who sought only dominion over their surroundings and consolidation of their power.
Religion manifests in a multitude of guises. The latest is consumer materialism. The superfluous has become a commodity. Our lives are consumed by the desire to acquire meaningless trinkets. This has created a self-perpetrating maelstrom. As we descend further into self-gratification through material objects, human relations degrade. Lamenting degraded human relations, we find more and more comfort in these ridiculous and, ultimately, pointless pursuits.