I was riding two wheels just on the other side of North Rampart and the French Quarter this afternoon. I noticed the Brandon Funeral Home positioned among some dingy shotguns. While the idea of death seldom seems appropriate, it appears even less so when the funeral home is right next door. After all, Death is the business of dying. Excepting the undertaker, who among us is comfortable when death is so close to home?
“Trash seldom seems appropriate”
When I lie down in the grass, in the springtime especially, I see the dynamic microcosm around me. I see beetles, worms and all manner of admittedly foul creatures spryly caressing the earthen landscape. Each little insect a cultural icon in its own right revolving around and around itself; it’s life path woven into the fabric of the Great System from which all lesser systems arise.
We feel the Great System in our lives every time we are victims, sad people clinging to a sad disciple, or lucky, enlightened, ecstatic, sex having puppy dawgs in Love. One common interface with the Great System is the numeric keypad. The Great System, the one from which all lesser systems arise, is adequately represented by the numeric keypad on your telephone. We push a bunch of buttons and are suddenly in voice communication with our Mother. All we understand is that by memorizing a code representing voice communication with our mother we can experience maternal comfort. That’s all we care about. Who gives a damn how it works, it just does. If we were first required to understand a technology before we could use it, that technology would not succeed. We are living life on a need to know basis. There is mystery and ignorance in the best of faiths. Disposable cameras no longer printing the film speed on the camera or package evidence this. It’s common sense. There is no high mind required. Just aim and shoot. Understanding a technology requires separation of roles, specialization, the knife of science. The Great System, like all great systems may only be changed by a still greater one. “Paper beats rock; scissors cut paper,” is a very Socratic sentiment and a great paradox! God loves a paradox. Is God a Great Paradox? Is God the Great System? It doesn’t matter. Get over it.
Please don’t think you’re off the hook by being an anti-technologist, by getting rid of your phone. The rule of “simple beauty” dictates flint and metal used to make fire are technology. A hoe is technological. Anti-technologists are the next victims of the New Genocidal Maniac – Namer of the Great Satan – coming soon to a history channel near you! They‘re on the Great System’s Personal Shitlist. Anti-technologists are victims of fool’s logic – logic that appears sound until closely scrutinized. It is popular to attribute the decay of society to the increased quantity of low quality technology. Ironically, that focus is on nubile technology, which by its very nature is awkward to touch. We are breeding technology at an astonishing rate; new technology is imminent. Old technology is secure technology. Seeing and mapping the balance between the two is the goal of the Information Visionary.
Information Visionaries (IV’s) merely observe and judge the life they have. They record their judgements and publish them as a media event later on in the product lifecycle. Some visionaries are trash. Some truth is trash. Trashy truth is not recyclable. Avoid producing any if you can, but remember if you can’t beat ‘em, bash ‘em over the head with it. Lie your ass off. Here’s a tip for some expert lying: A little truth and the lie is firmly planted.
The case of a little truth is the irony in Socrates’ executed vision. Socrates was sound, but men that followed his teachings overshot their mark. Truth became righteous, without tolerance of multiple truth systems. The Great System is composed of multiple truths. Every truth is true and Every false is false and everything else is the result of multiple truth systems, of different truth systems intersecting. Some of the truths in the Great System cancel each other. There are many Great Systems. This is another paradox, though one of language not of thought.
The Great System creates and destroys. The nature of this relationship can be tragic. Take the case of Santa Clause, a troll now living under the I-610/Wisner overpass in my adopted homeland of Orleans Parish, Louisiana. ThreeDogs found him while riding between Bayou St. John and the Wisner Overpass by the railroad tracks. No one was around. I heard a low, irregular buzzing as we approached the base of the overpass. It was almost a growl, but I knew doggy throats couldn’t make sounds quite like that. I slowly approached TwoDogs, one of their many Indian names, and the strange sound crept louder. A beady eyed, scruffy, white bearded man was improvising a warning mantra just beyond the brush barrier where the light is shut out and only mud and Santa can live. He looked just like Santa Clause, I thought. I called the dogs to me and announced my pack was friendly, but Santa didn’t stop buzzing until we were out of range.
I now have a man on the inside working undercover on my behalf as a homeless person. This particular informer observed “he who has the most time lives under the overpass.”
"He who has the most time lives under the overpass."
"But at what cost?"
“But at what cost,” I asked him. “Santa spends most of his time meeting basic needs. This is why Santa perceives time differently. His pace is geologic compared with the pace of first time parents struggling to raise twins named Luke and Clara. Santa’s pace is so slow we often don’t even see him much in the same way we do not see turtles crossing the road. He relies upon our desensitized state of mind and our fast pace for maintaining his way of life. Though we may not see him, this Santa will exist hereafter in our minds. Others like him will forever roam the land. The curious and willing will join them in every age, though not only the curious and willing. All over the land similar stories unfold if you watch and listen. Any reason will do once a certain level of dissatisfaction is attained. One common view held by ascetics is life now is preferable to the way life was. The amazing strength of the ascetics to meet the challenges of the base of Maslow’s pyramid is paradoxical. By relinquishing the responsibilities of our everyday living: commuting; that freak who just pulled in front of you from forty-five to zero, ascetics attain a different kind of freedom than we may ever know or want to know.
The shadows, cracks and crevices are teeming with aluminum can collectors, half-smoked cigarette butt connoisseurs, gutter punks, couch scavengers, Dumpster divers, sidewalk sitters, beggars, bums, shoe shiners, soothsayers, prophets, street musicians, and tap dancers spinning bicycle wheels on their head for spare change. Buddha’s and Buddhabe’s every one. Ancient ascetics roam the veins and arteries of the Great System. This city has centuries of garbage mavens; thriving roly-poly beetles feed off our byproducts and waste in a perpetual attempt to sustain the Vessel and diminish the Self.
Gogol’s “The Nose”, Philip Roth’s “The Breast” and Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” are presumably about themselves. They tell the tale of the introverted unseen, the selflessly selfish undead, the truly gothic. All the bittersweet “special-ness” of the posers and pansies dressed in black and spiritual disarray cannot lessen the impact. On the contrary, they enhance and reflect it. Kafka’s main character, Gregor Samsa, transmogrifies from an upstanding individual representing righteous society and cultural norms into a dung beetle (slovenly slums of garbage mavens). In time, with low and doubtful regard each of us must face the garbage within. I have lived the spiral decay of normalcy into a festering swarm of maggots champing away at me as they would a rancid piece of meat. I am still a garbage maven. And I always will be. This treatise is trash. Over sensitivity is contradictory. Some will make fun, critique, analyze, ignore, misquote, and even litter with this very treatise. The hour is getting late; do you know where your trash is?
Trash collection is humbling. It is dirty, smelly, and none of it is yours. What few realize is it can be empowering as well. When I finish cleaning a space around me I don’t merely feel cleaner, but capable of beauty. An extension of beauty reaches forth from my intent into the physical world around me. The tendrils of my psyche crackle, grasping at the refuse of man’s excesses and daily effort to give a shit, rather than to be concerned.
I have often observed behavior supporting the hypothesis that Man is living the etymology of his daily existence. When we say I’m going to “take a piss”, I don’t actually take it with me now do I? No, I leave the piss there upon the tree and my shoe. Everyone is daily “taking a dump”. Were this actually the case even the most fundamental social concerns would doubtlessly become extinct. I simply cannot imagine rutting with a lass sporting Parfume Defacea often enough to want to have children with her. Though who knows, I’ve read it takes only ten minutes for the brain to ignore tragically foul smells so as to protect itself. What’s ten minutes of discomfort for a little nooky?
"Irony resides in the most unlikely of places."
"Ultimately, it’s all trash."
Trash being a subjective term, the collection of said trash gives an odd perspective on the pop cultural tendency toward liking one’s work. “If pickin’s good, I like what I do,” said one fellow I asked. Though, what he didn’t say seems important enough to mention. The smellier the trash the harder it is to love.
I have a red-haired neighbor that distinguishes garbage from trash as those things meant for the compost and those not. Garbage is composted and trash is discarded in landfills. This distinction seems practical, sensible, just like the woman who said it.
Your McDonald’s tray scrapings seldom become a meal for even one of the starving tens of thousands of transient or homeless. In fact, McDonald’s is a particularly poor place to dumpster dive. Just like days, there are good dumpsters and there are bad ones. Grocery store dumpsters yield limited dairy, fresh fruit, vegetables, bread and behind the occasional Deli one may find a twenty-five pound slab of mild cheddar cheese that might make countless grilled cheese sandwiches. Bakery’s provide many different breads and the willing may look behind any donut shop for some tasty treats.
A little known codicil in Kernel Sanders’ Will instructed that Kentucky Fried Chicken was not to turn away a request for food if the requester offered to work for the food. Some of the kindest people are those who have lived through adversity and maintained a big, open heart.
They have remained capable of compassion. Most victims of circumstance become bitter. To have lost all heart is to become one of the undead, gothic, black. You must pick up your own trash to know happiness. We cannot pick it up for you any more than you can pick up ours. In fact, picking up other people’s trash is strictly a job for professionals, people trained to deal with waste, excess trash. Dumping it on just anyone is immoral and rude. The people you love must not be victims of your trash. It is Einerson’s Axiom that irony resides in the most unlikely of places. Here it resides in odious metaphor directed inward by my narrative conscience. Spread before the vengeful god of Guilt, free yourself from the tresses of fear and self-loathing – for Christ’s sake man, pick up after yourself and occasionally when you can, pick up a little after someone else. Leave every area cleaner than when you came. It’s a good rule to live by. It works in any situation. Substitute any other noun for “area” and it’s still crunchy.
“Us and them” syndrome
The boldness of this treatise stems from my own homeless days of Dumpster diving and the surreal feeling I now get when I walk by one knowing full well I could find something of value within. It once gave me a sense of belonging to the ecosystem and being fundamentally in favour of diversity I gradually fostered an “Us and them” syndrome with my own species. Odd that as I became one with trash I lost touch with civilization, a by-product of civilization. Note the vast differences in lifestyle between the Hollywood film mogul or fat Senator and even one detailed history of a shoeless man begging the question: How can anyone walk a mile in the shoes of the man with none?
A significant essence of homelessness is that it will never “go away”, or be “solved” as though it were a problem. To view homelessness as a problem is callous and naïve. It is a state of being with many similarities with other walks of life. In reality, there are very few stressors between the lifestyle of the cubicle cabal and the age’d homeless woman sleeping on the stoop of a brick and granite Catholic Church located near the grave of my religion. On any rainy day, or cold night I imagine the brick and granite of Catholicism could open its doors to this woman, but it does not. Apathy must be a gas; it disperses like a gas exponentially in every freakin’ direction away from the source like a fart. Apathy stems from quantity. Too much of anything will be ignored - until it becomes too much to be ignored. And that is all that’s happening here in my treatise. The apathy was too much to ignore.
The story that’s not told is that the woman on the stoop would likely reject any organized help from the church. Why? Because existing organizations fall short? The church doesn’t open its doors any more because other institutions are now in place to help the woman on the stoop. Mayhap the kind of help she’d receive would result in being locked up? She has most likely been that route before and anyone who’s been there knows what a bad trip that is.
Could it be that all the help she needs from the church is the use of their stoop? On a subsequent ride by that very same church it occurred to me that at various times in history individuals have opened their doors only to shut them again when help was rejected or the helper taken advantage of. The thing to remember is trash is like that, people. Know your boundaries before dealing with those who have too few. Don’t let that stop you from picking up after yourself though. Somebody has to pick up the trash.
How great is the rift between the digerati and your average anti-technologist? One might as well ask how great is the rift between your soul and the soul of the fish you consumed for dinner? It is an infinite and faint signal indeed. Even if you believe you have consumed the soul of the fish along with the fish, you couldn’t be much closer, nor much farther away than at whatever moment you whiz by me in your car at a mere thirty miles an hour. Plenty fast enough for me to see your expression, to gauge your worth, to judge you. I’ve heard the Rapture will take longer.
Loss is the emotion you have to feel to know humility. Something disadvantaged this way comes. People that move slower than you or I are in a different time zone, a different dimension where perception is enhanced by one’s more gradual pace of life. The New Orleans summer heat dims reality. Walking in it positively boils my brain. Thoughtless negation of my existence pads your cell in Hell every time you pass by. Or so I sometimes think. Other times, I am at the mercy of my own wretched cycle of life and actually enjoy who I am and how I live. You cannot begin to know the depth of freedom from self, television commercials, taxes, the census, debt, Olean and Coach class seats. Danger, Will Robinson, danger! You remember what your sponsor said: don’t bite the hand that feeds you. All things are not equal.
No, lick its forehead, learn to like the way it tastes like salty wit, relish it. Remember that pee on your shoes while you untie them this evening. Curse the UNKNOWN NAME on your Caller-ID and tell your bus seat neighbor the magistrates of your soul suggest a daily ritual of exercise and meditation. Wake up 21 minutes before your alarm is set and start your day over when you find scoundrels have stolen your car. Walk to work for a change. Tell those who’ll listen your sad story and humble yourself before yourself and another. Cry for the desecration of hope and glory. It does the body good. Rejoice in that ensuing farewell to things that inevitably follows any heartfelt embrace by almighty loss, bringer of chaos and ruination. Bury thine hope in desperate measures and meanness. There’s fear and self-loathing in here. Can you smell it?
Live well, pick up some trash. A few pieces at first, then later you can adapt and bring bags and a friend, or your dog - dogs love trash.
Ken Hakuta: "Lack of money is no obstacle. Lack of an idea is an obstacle."
The original trappings of man confine
Delusional laughter rings in my ears
There is never so tranquil a place on earth
There is never so gentle a place on earth
My brother has recently taken to littering conspicuously when I am around. I find it daring, provocative foreshadowing for the kinds of reactions I will receive from releasing this newsletter to the public. He is laughing at me. How can I convince anyone of the importance of picking up after us if I cannot convince my own brother? No small doubt.
I think the bonds of brotherhood are like a sieve in philosophy; or they are super glued to your ass forever and ever as they are in marriage.
If I am doing this for anyone but myself, the possibility exists for failure. If I am doing this for myself there can exist nobility. If I am doing it for myself and another then success is imminent.
The bonds of brotherhood are super glued to your ass when retributive justice is used to help us kick a bad habit like smoking, dating married women, eating too much, buying too many knick-knacks, trinkets, mental jewelry.
Slow mental and psychological warfare has been waged to rid me of my myriad malaise. One by one self-pity, apathy, and smoking have all been defeated only to rise up again to be defeated again and again like “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.”
I am exposing my humanity when I reveal that some days I am the Buddha and others I am a Buddhabe.
Splashing passers of By
Small ties bind us into one
Are we here as per the divine
Sailing to different lands
Silent and maniacal
Dedicated to a Passer.
Q: I would like to improve the quality of my life. Can that be done?
A: Yes. To change the quality of your life, select it and double click its borders to open the View Life dialog box. Click the Show Refuse and Trash tab and then choose to pick up ten pieces of trash. The new color in your cheeks will show on your first effort.
Q: How can we clean up New Orleans?
A: We could round up everyone wearing the color black in a Gothic manner and force them into eight hours of hard labor picking up the trash of New Orleans every Sunday. I believe other cities will heed our wisdom and send their Gothic youth to help us make New Orleans a cleaner if darker place. Think about it, soon the Goth would catch on – no one thinks they’re dumb – they’d be wearing anything but black on Sundays. Killing two birds with one stone is still a good policy right? Rid the world of apathy for one day? It is my firm if off the wall belief that if we as a people could somehow arrange to wear brighter color clothes, hair, or anything brighter, shinier and more colorful on Sunday we could better serve humanity. Think of it like a vision tithe.
Q: Where can I get the latest issue of Writhing in the Clay?
A: You can’t. To seek is well and good. To find is better, unless seeking is the point. This newsletter is my point. Where seeking is concerned, remember these words by Andre Gide: "Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it." It is about trust of self and taking oneself too seriously. It is about trust – the wonder and folly of it.
Foster's Law: "The only people who find what they are looking for in life are the fault finders."
"His least renowned work of fiction in a decade!"
"It’s not about doing something big that’ll change your life forever, it’s about doing something small, right now – like smiling."