Category Archives: society

The Spark

sparkThe hope for the future lies in our past.  I believe this to be true. 

But, not as a collective.  Not as a society, or as a country, or as a race.  The hope is in our individual past.  It is in, The Spark. 

It’s that moment, or series of moments that we’ve all had.  Perhaps for some it has long been buried by years of apathy and the leavings of a crumbling self.  Perhaps for some it was squelched by an overbearing parent or militant grade-school teacher.  Regardless, I believe we all have had it. 

What is The Spark?  It’s when you discovered you could be Ian Paice using the pots and pans in your mother’s kitchen.  It’s when you figured out how to turn a piece of paper into a soaring jet plane.  It’s when you strummed your first E5 with the gain turned up to 10.  It’s when you blew out your gut onto a piece of lined paper.  It was when you help hope and promise, not for the world, but for YOU.

Youthful exuberance.  Vim and vigor.  As you think about it now you are probably remembering back to fond times of yesteryear.  That’s good.  Because when you become reacquainted with that feeling, you need to drag it back with you.  Reinstall it into your psyche, your personality, your YOU. 

It’s hard to think that The Spark was what landed the Accounts Payable position for the financial institution.  It’s hard to conceive that it was The Spark that lead to the junkie with the needle in his arm.  It’s unimaginable that it was The Spark that has us deep into a conflict in the desert that is seemingly endless.  No, it would seem in these cases, and many, many more, that The Spark was relegated to the back seat while The Retreat was riding shotgun. 

The Retreat is where we went, and where we still go, when we don’t want to cause trouble.  It is where we, well, retreat to when we don’t wish to take on the challenge of choice.  When we fear the choice of becoming a professional Clown, egged on by The Spark, we then decide to pursue the safety of becoming an insurance salesmen presented at the job-fair hosted at The Retreat.  We’ve learned from others that The Retreat is safe and will allow us to live a life of comfort and a resulting joy.  The edges are all smoothed to keep us from harming ourselves. 

The Spark is rough and ragged.  It is possible that it can hurl us off a cliff into a crevice of danger, yet it also can propel us to the pastures of potential.  We could go all in, sell our stuff, hop on a bike with just a guitar and some gusto and maybe make it as a well-known musician.  In the effort, we may have to wait tables to put food on our own table.  We may have to forgo owning IPODS and cellphones while forging ahead.  But, the potential rewards for the soul, I would argue, are much richer than those who languish in the lap of luxury. 

It would seem that far too many have forgotten their Spark while living in their Retreat.  Many are unconscionably ignorant to the lack of fire burning within, while simultaneously feeling the chill coming, unheeded, through the windows of their Retreat.  And so, that’s where we find things.  Those in the cold far outnumbering those still yearning and burning for what tomorrow will hold.  But, it is not lost.  We simply need to form the search parties to explore and excavate that which was left in the dead days’ dust.  Meanwhile, for those who have managed to maintain their fire, we need to keep stoking it and assuring that it is never quashed.  It is this hope from our past that is going to give us the promise for the future…

Tears in the Trail

untitled.bmpIt can be difficult to want to move forward, when all you see are potholes and tears in the trail ahead.  No not tears, tears, rips, chasms, breaks.  There is no crying in abject uncertainty. 

I think many have been feeling this, for the past 7 years or so.  Quite a few give voice to their fears and apprehension about the future.  But even more have swallowed it in the name of ideological loyalty or just not wanting to be labeled a heretic, or worse, a terrorist.  And no, it’s not just The War, it’s more than that.  The happy times of joy and surplus of the 90s seem so far away now.  It’s kind of like we were having this 8 year party, we drank a bit too much, and passed out.  So now, in 2008 many are finally sobering up and realizing what’s been transpiring during this 7 year hangover. 

The regret is starting to sink in.  The  “Oh My God, what the fuck did I do last night?” questions are emerging.  And it isn’t just the mortgage brokers and the over-extended home owners.  It’s pretty much, to a man, everyone.  Those who aren’t questioning are certainly delusional and should be checked into an institution.  They will be the lucky ones, along with, perhaps, the dead.

But will the future really be that bad?  It’s hard to tell for sure.  But at this current juncture, viewing the different paths before us, as a collective of humanity, there certainly doesn’t appear to be any easy road to travel.  There seemingly are choices between physical safety and financial ruin, between global strife and a flourishing currency, between cheap energy and Ocean Front property in Vermont. 

And so we are in this time of confounding confusion and uncertainty.  What steps do we take next?  Who do we appoint to lead the way?  How much do we surrender to our leaders to lead?  And perhaps the most important, what can and will we do to master our own individual destinies?  Because, in my estimation, how that last question is answered in the years to come, will be the actual determination of where we end up. 

What a Card.

I was at a conference the other day that focused on problem gambling in kids and old folks.  I was struck when the instructor laid out the definition of gambling for us:

 Gambling:  The Idea of Being Able to Determine the Outcome of Random Events.

As he went on to talk about some thoroughly uninteresting material, that sentence became lodged in my noggin.  And kind of brought home how really all of this is a Gamble.  It seems that human kind is on this endless strive to be able to harness unpredictability.  Many of our kind are so scared to death of not being able to know what is going to happen next.  We place such high esteem in those we think have the ability to peer into the winds of the unknown and pull out the future occurrences.  Weathermen, economists, and others of their ilk. 

 What would happen if mankind could stop looking for what’s next?  Do you think we would finally be able to come to some sort of peace?  Or would the nagging notion of not knowing come back to haunt? 

I guess maybe we’re just stuck in this never-ending crap shoot. 

John Gray kicks up a storm at Comment is Free

While some of you may remember that I was not totally impressed with the conclusion to John Gray’s book, Black Mass, I nevertheless found it a good and enjoyable read, which tied up the links between utopianism, religion, the Enlightenment and secular extremist movements rather well. Gray’s got a lot of perspective in his worldview, which I like. He instinctively understands both the historical context of the movements and how that applies when considered in the current context of events.

Which is why I am enjoying his book review/Comment is Free article. Gray committed the hideous crime of knocking down a few New Atheist sacred cows, and so the usual suspects have come running, howling and moaning with their usual strawmen about atheist inspired terrorism, totally ignoring the context of the argument or addressing any of the issues.

I have yet to see a commenter actually address his point about repressed religion being much like repressed sexuality, or the origins of secular liberalism being tied into the history of Christianity, and Nietzsche’s critical attacks on this. I have yet to see someone either deny that belief in such secular follies as free markets, global revolution or the global spread of democracy and progress are any less ridiculous than belief in a god, or try to claim they are in some way different.

Sure, the comments page may be filled with 300+ screaming monkeys trying to make Gray look like an idiot, but if they think they succeeded in this task, they’re only fooling themselves.

Even a committed agnostic such as myself can take pleasure in such a spectacle.

1 in 4 Women has HPV. Usually the second one from the left.

So according to a recent study…

1 in 4 women have the human papilloma virus, or HPV. As a dude, this is very troubling. How can I keep myself protected from this epidemic? If I catch HPV, does that make me a girl? If you’re as terrified as I am, you will be relieved that I have published this extremely brief and failproof guide.

Whenever four women are next to each other, the one with HPV is the second one from the left. This is completely reliable and always accurate. Don’t believe me? Confirm the evidence, below:

OBVIOUSLY.

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Yeah, you can tell she’s been around the viral block.

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Not only does she have HPV, she loves HPV.

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You can tell by the crossed legs. And her position in the line, of course.

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Not even these Elven children are safe. Elves age differnetly than humans, of course. Believe it or not, these are 19-year old co-ed nymphomaniacs.

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Obvious HPV is Obvious.

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Did you know you can get STDs from the 1980s?

If you said yes, you’re wrong.

But you can get STDs from hair metal so USE PROTECTION.

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Well, that about wraps up this week’s Field Guide to Jesus.  Next time, be more careful and we won’t need to have these talks.

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Good night, and good thrusting.

23 Things to Amuse Yourself While You Wait

Here is a PDF which can be printed as a tri-fold pamphlet. It contains subversive thought about robots, cabbages, and Discordians.

23 Things to Amuse Yourself While You Wait

(also available in .doc so you can edit it for your own purposes)

This pamphlet is designed to be left in places where people will read it while bored. Leave them on trains, busses, the stops associated with both, waiting rooms, or anywhere where people have a little bit of time and are bored.

If you’re feeling evangelical, you can even hand them to strangers. Personally, I like to carry around some to trade with other people who are handing out propaganda.

Goals for One Line Meme Bombs

I’ve been plastering White Plains NY with memetic masterpieces on and off for almost a year now. A wguke ago, I made The Meme Bomb Collection, Volume Aleph, and it got me thinking about the meme bombs we’ve been generating.

A lot of the meme bombs we’ve come up with are effective in that they are self-contained information packages which in themselves suggest an attitude or position.

My favorite meme bombs are the ones which…

Give the reader pause. It’s really easy to get lost in the “zombie lurch”, the “9-5 crawl”, the “pedestrian trance”, or whatever you want to call it. I like meme bombs which jar the reader out of that and make them suddenly focus on the present moment rather than where they’re going. Some meme bombs which accomplish this are ones which successfully address the reader. “Hey! You, in the Khakis!” (if you’re actually wearing khakis, it might be startling).

Suggest something bigger going on. Such as “Congratulations! You’ve just found clue #3! The man in the green jacket will tell you what to do next.” These meme bombs make reality seem a little bit weirder than the pedestrian might expect. Is there some crazy game going on? When and where is it happening?

Provoke critical thought. Such as “miscarriage is manslaughter“. When taken at face value their meaning seems clear – but they actually suggest something else entirely.

Add some levity or humor to the reader’s day. I really wish people would stop taking their day-to-day shit so seriously. Sometimes hearing a joke or seeing a funny graphic right in the middle of your walk back from lunch is exactly what you need. The BIP refers to this as rearranging the machine’s local components to (hopefully, eventually) provoke a change in the whole system.

The Absurd and the Surreal. The Principia calls these Mondos. like “If the telephone rings today, water it!” At first they seem to make sense, but the more you think about them the less sense they make. Personally, I get these phrases stuck in my head all day. “The womb is a prison – FETUS LIBERATION FRONT!”

I like meme bombs which appear friendly or light. Some of the meme bombs developed by the PD Community are hostile and bitter, or preachy and cerebral. Frankly, far left propaganda tastes just as bad to me as far right propaganda, so I dislike political meme bombs. I also dislike the ones which specifically seek to make people feel worse without provoking action. (such as: “Your wife is cheating on you.“)

I also feel that graphics and icons are essential to getting the reader’s attention. An attractive visual packaging makes the memebomb more likely to be remembered.

An ideal memebomb is something which the reader will repeat to others. Little kernels of wisdom are good for this, but I feel that most of them are a bit too dense or “heavy” to pierce the pedestrian trance.

a discussion from PD about memes and graffiti follows…

Continue reading Goals for One Line Meme Bombs

Open and Shut

Enlightenment can be a tough road.
Having an open mind does not mean an open highway bereft of tribulation and conflict.  Indeed, so it would seem, it can increase both of those.

The knowledge and understanding of how limitations can choke.  But yet, when others do not share or recognize this, one’s societal world, one’s social circles, can quickly become very limited.  Or at the very least, strained.

This has become apparent to me as a parent.  Watching my little girl, eager and wide-eyed with the world.  A thirst to experience all that she can experience.  No shame in sillyness.  No inhibitions for idiosyncracies.  Yet, when amidst others of her age, who have already begun to develop their blinders, it can be painful to watch.  Because I remember what it was like, to be just a little different then all of the other straight and narrows.  I remember the giggles.  I remember the pointing.  Being comfortable with myself, yet lonely as others decide that they are not.

And so I see it beginning with my little one, before she has even entered the public school system.  To be sure, kids still like her, and play with her.  To be sure, she still enjoys that which is deemed normal and traditional for a kid her age, and of her gender.  And to be sure, I can see in her playmates the happy anarchy of childhood innocence is still there, and viable.  But I can also see where they are being introduced and indoctrinated to the typical paths that so many others unquestioningly navigate.  The hard and fast rules of what boys do and what girls do.  The mantras of how to properly experience the universe we are in. 

And so the tricky part comes.  How to maintain integration without fostering isolation.  How to cherish and champion individuality, and at the same time, teach companionship and comradery.  To impart that though others may not jive with parts of the personality that their friendship is still valuable and vital. 

It’s an odd thing.  We are invariably social creatures.  It is undeniable that at some level we all want to belong to something.  To be a part of a collective of characters.  At the same time, there are parts of our identity that will cause clashes, and sometimes, with those we most want to be friends with, or partners with, or lovers with.  As an adult this is easy to understand and rationalize, and so too with time will it become obvious to my little one and others like her who are growing up now. 

In the meantime, I make it my duty to keep that which may dull to not lessen her shine.