May 31 2011

The employers go marching in two by two, hurrah, hurrah

I have a tendency to monitor the IP addresses that hit this site. An employer that I’m extremely excited and hopeful to work for has visited this site shortly after two phone interviews I had with them. I’m scheduled to go visit their office and meet their team next Wednesday, and I hope that this blog hasn’t scared them off (Hi guys!).

When I was a teenager, I kept a journal. Nothing huge or dramatic, just a collection of my thoughts. I usually wrote in it once or twice a week–mostly as an outlet for my frustration. Going back now and reading through it, it seems like I was angry and depressed all the time–it was crazy!–but not true at all. Since I was only writing at the times that something or someone had bothered me, a person could easily have come to believe that my entire teenage existence was filled with angst and super-mega-depression.

I’m saying that because, well, this blog is filled with a lot of the same types of things. Angst. Sadness. Childhood stories. Teenage stories. Stories about hitchhiking. Mayhem. Craziness. Anarchy! MORE MAYHEM! But if I sat down and wrote about all the boring stuff I’d done, my life would come across as 99.9999999999999999% boring, and 00.0000000000000001% interesting (and yes, I counted the number of zeros on that–I’m a geek).

Anyway. Just an example of what a little bit of out of context information can do.

So if you do happen to be the employer and you’re reading this, I have fantastic references from my last two jobs. People love me. Seriously. When I worked at Regence, it was like the other employees followed me around like lost puppies. It was tragic when I was laid off. People were flinging themselves from rooftops, setting cars on fire, running through the hallways stunned in grief and sorrow–some were even throwing their silk ties into paper shredders in protest. And you know it’s serious when a neck tie becomes a casualty.

May 3 2010

I’m standing on a pier, smiling from ear to ear, I shout but you don’t hear me at all…

Sunday morning I awoke to find a swelling sadness gnarling and mewling at the corner of my heart. I don’t know where it came from, but I know it has been there for a while now. It’s a beast. A beast that I wrestle and defeat and am defeated by. One that I bruise and batter and scream at and yet, it never seems to shy away for long. It’s stubbornness is comparable to my own, and like two exhausted boxers we pull from our respective corners and fight it out again and again and again; a stalemate with no referee.

The beast is always there. A cold reminder that I’ll never quite be normal or completely happy. I can hear him banging and burning against my brain, trying desperately to wiggle and squirm his way inside and all I can do is resist and hope that one day he’ll give up.

I can feel him. He feels like the frost laden mornings in October. The time of year when the cold hangs just a bit longer in the morning, and settles in just a little earlier in the evening. The beast is the feeling of impending winter, when the sun falls from the sky and we are left in darkness and snow and we are furthest from rescue. He finds me in the places that I go to hide and lick my wounds because he thinks that I welcome his company. He thinks that I need him. I don’t, but again and again, he comes to witness the breakdown.

Him and I are at an impasse. There will be no solution, but I still hope that some day I’ll find one. Sometimes, just sometimes, hope can be enough to see a person through winter.

Nov 17 2009

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper

Death comes for us all. One could say that, in many ways, it’s chasing us our entire lives; an ethereal reminder that our time is limited and that we need to appreciate and seize every moment, hold nothing back, and leave nothing in reserve. Absolutely nothing.

That’s an interesting consideration: Hold nothing back. How often do we refrain from saying something, either because of our perceived effect on someone else, or because we feel it’s unimportant? How often do we miss an opportunity because we think we can get around to it tomorrow or the next day? How many things does an average person put off and never actually get around to? What have you been putting off?

This morning I learned that my great-grandmother had died. It wasn’t entirely unexpected given her age and general health, but I was surprised at how deeply it affected me. I was shocked that I felt sad for someone I’d barely even known; someone who had spent her life manipulating and hurting so many people around her, someone who beat her children and was rude and boorish for so much of her life. I felt sad.I’m still sad.

The last time I saw her was a few years ago. She was an old woman in a wheelchair, barely able to hold her head up and, without a reminder, didn’t recognize me at first glance. And that’s when I realized that, despite the horrible stories I’d heard about my great-grandma, and despite the terrible things she had done to my grandmother and her siblings, it occurred to me that she’d never done a wrong to me.

She’d treated me with kindness (as much as she could fathom, as “hard” as her exterior was) every time I’d seen her, and even sitting in that wheelchair, having not seen me in years, she smiled and patted my knee as I sat next to her. We didn’t say much. There wasn’t much to say, really. It was a quiet and sullen meeting, only because we both knew it would probably be the last time we saw each other. And I’m okay with that.

The question that comes to me as I write this is simple, “Can a person be forgiven for their past, no matter how awful?” and I find myself hoping that the answer is “Yes”. For however awful we sometimes live our lives, I’d like to think that we can all be redeemed. I’d like to think that we can all move on from whatever we’ve done and become different people.

My great-grandmother may not have been a wonderful human being for most of her life. Perhaps she was the same person right up until the moment she died, but I know one thing: we all have the capacity to grow. Between that and seizing every moment, I’d say we have a lot of work to do in our lives; and I’d like to think I haven’t been thought an awful person for who I have been or who I’ve become.

We all have a right to redemption. So long great-grandma.

Here’s a link to her obituary.

Oct 27 2009

A reason to be sinful

I often wonder what kind of religion birds have developed to explain the strange behavior of humans, specifically when we’re driving our vehicles. The next time you’re heading on down the highway, pay attention to the ravens, crows, and other little birds that stay just to the side of the road as they peck and forage for their next meal.

You’ll notice that, without fail, most of them will jump just to the other side of the white line as a car is coming. They won’t go any further because, as far as they’re concerned, the white line is a sacred boundary that the evil cars are unable to cross.

It doesn’t even matter if a car is driving outside the white line and would hit a bird standing just on the other side of it. The birds seem to expect that they’ll be protected by that strip of paint, regardless if it’s true or not.

I’m curious if they have some sort of savior, a bird that once died for them so that they may have that white line. Maybe it’s big bird from Sesame street, or maybe they’ve attached some kind of cosmic significance to hawks and their ability to scope out the scurrying field mice out in the pasture. I don’t know. I don’t speak bird.

But anything that is sufficiently mystifying will be explained by magic by those that don’t have the capacity to understand anything that is beyond superstition. I would assume that birds don’t have an overwhelming intellect rolling around in their tiny little craniums, but they’ve at least figured out cause and effect. That’s a start.

Perhaps some day they will build huge nests in trees and every Monday (when traffic is the worst), they will gather together and squawk and sing praises to the white line in all of its mercy and understanding. And when one of the birds is killed, even after following the rules and jumping across the line toward its promised protection, the other birds will say that the white line works in mysterious ways, and that it has a plan for which bird must stay, and which must go.

Then there will be an entire sect of birds that believe in the yellow line, and not the white. They’ll be yellow separatists and will violently oppose the ones who claim that their white line belief is the one true belief. Each side believes their religion is right, and know that anyone who would believe in anything different is going to die. And they deserve it, of course, since they’re worshiping the wrong line.

Soon, radical birds will start dropping rocks on the nests of other birds. Their only difference will be which line they worship. Every similarity is thrown out the door, and every difference is simply summed up by which line they like to hide behind. Thousands, perhaps millions of eggs, children, will be carelessly murdered for a choice they never even had a chance to make.

All because one bird stood up and said, “Hey, I think I’ve figured this out.”

Oct 22 2009

They go from kindergarten to killing sprees, They go from heartache to inner peace

Some of the most common arrivals to my website come from people who are searching for answers to unanswerable questions. A small cursory view through the statistics for this site, and I can see the hundreds of users who have arrived by loading up google, typing a depressing and equally relevant query such as “Why does god hate me?” or “Why must I take a beating?”, and they send their question our into the ether that is the Internet.

And my site is what comes back.

For those that come seeking greater truths, I’m not entirely sure what to tell you on those ideological and lifelong thoughts. I don’t know why life is so hard and, most importantly, I don’t know why it seems to get even harder when it doesn’t seem possible. It just happens.

Einstein had a wonderful and somewhat charismatic view about God and the universe. He didn’t believe in the idea of an intergalactic super nanny that lived in the sky looking down on us. He saw that the universe was a place of chaos and disorder, and that the only thing that seemingly held it all together were the laws that explained the beautiful and miraculous way in which it all seemed to stay together, as if by magic.

Many people find solace and comfort in knowing that someone, somewhere, is watching over them. I take solace in knowing that there isn’t someone out there that isn’t paying any attention to me. Religion of almost all denomination and belief tell us that we should be kind to one another because we are cosmically significant. I believe that we should learn to hold on to each other, to be kind to each other, not because we’re significant, but precisely because we are the only allies we will ever know. There is no one coming to save us from ourselves.

And for those looking for answers to the meaning of life, to the idea of God, or our purpose, I am sorry to say that I have more questions than answers. All I can tell you is that for now, the people around you are all you will ever have. The beauty in the world, the universe, and the complex dance of every moon and star are simply notes played to a song we cannot hear.

I remain inconsolable and unmoved by texts and superstitions and spells from thousands of years ago. Instead I will remember that life, for all of its imperfections and difficulties, is all I have.

I believe in myself and those I love, and I have no problem waiting for god to believe in me. It’ll be then that him and I will have something to talk about.

Sep 28 2009

From the swinging of the axe to swaying of the hips

“Sorry man, we’re all just poor musicians.” Sean-Michael said, gesturing to the other band members standing around him.

“Oh, is that right?” The homeless man asked, glancing down at the clothes that we were wearing. He wasn’t upset; he’d just heard excuses a thousand different times from a thousand different people. We were no different, even though I wanted to be.

“Well, have a good night.” He said as he stood there. His skin was blistered from exposure, sunburned and cracked from his forehead all the way down to his neck. On his back was a familiar sight: a duffel bag stuffed with miscellaneous clothes, trinkets, and the tiny little items that most people would have thrown away without a second thought; but not him. To him, these were not trinkets. They were memories of a life long gone, but never forgotten. They were lifelines to sanity.

He gave a last look at the six of us, and wandered aimlessly back in to the heat and shelter of his small camp beneath the freeway overpass.

We continued gathering up photo equipment, all of us wearing suits that easily cost several hundred dollars a piece. In my wallet I had a couple of bucks that I could have handed the man; he said that all he wanted was a meal, but I didn’t believe him. None of us did. And more than likely, nobody else that he would run in to that night was going to believe him either.

If he really was hungry, he was going to stay that way.

We began walking toward the location that we’d chosen for our band photo shoot, but I was no longer trudging along listening to the inane banter between my band mates. I was reliving a moment in time, five years previous, when I was homeless and living beneath a bridge. I remembered the hunger and the pain of sleeping on hard concrete, and the way I gasped in horror each time I looked in the mirror.

There was never a time in my life that prepared me better for human nature, adversity, and the ugliness of the human condition than when I was homeless. I remember the lies people would tell me, or the way they looked down on me as if I wasn’t quite human. People would spit on me, kick me in my sleep, or beat me up for no other reason than nobody would care what happened to a homeless guy.

I glanced back to see that the man had laid back down in the shade of the overpass. I felt for him. I felt guilty for denying him the possibility of a little bit of comfort before lying down for the night. But in the back of my mind, there always lies that suspicion that whatever money I give him will go to something that I had not intended: drugs or alcohol.

But something that’s easy to forget is that part of being human, part of giving, and part of helping out your fellow man, is giving him the benefit of the doubt regardless of what the outcome is. If I were to hand that gentleman $5, it is not my responsibility if he buys a bottle of vodka with it. My intentions, regardless of the outcome, were good. My intentions were to help, and that should be what’s most important.

Or if I put it in a different way, what if a homeless person wandered by and I refused to give him money. Because of that, he’s unable to buy a $5 bottle of vodka and he suffers horribly from hallucinations and DT’s because of his ongoing alcohol addiction. In the midst of his crash, he becomes violently delusional and ends up killing a 12 year old child.

It could be just as equally argued that he will go buy his vodka, become violently drunk, and hurt someone as well. But no matter how you spin it, the better outcome, the better chances, the more possibilities for a happy ending all come from doing good and giving.

What’s sad is, for the most part, any person that has ever said, “No” to a homeless person has never been told “No” in the same situation. I have been on both sides of that coin. It’s difficult regardless of which side you’re on.

Sep 14 2009

He’s bolting doors and getting stoned, locked and loaded and losing hope

In response to the blog entry that I wrote below, I wanted to share my absolute favorite piece of writing ever done by Carl Sagan. It’s pretty well known, but this video does it a decent amount of justice.

Here’s the transcript, minus a part of the introduction:

That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Sep 14 2009

And I’ve been made a pet, chain one mile long, bleed me every hour, keep me from growing strong

Growing up, I had two heroes that helped to shape who I was and who I wanted to be when I got older: Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan.

Geeks, to the highest order of magnitude to be sure, but they were also philosophers and poets and writers and men of peace and constructive thought.

My step-dad bought me a book about Albert Einstein when I turned twelve, and on the inside cover of the six hundred page book (that I read several times within a few months), he wrote, “Einstein was not only smart, he was a man of principles and a man that searched for balance in all things. Don’t forget to strive for that, Andrew.”

When I was twelve, the idea of balance in all things was mildly lost on me. I knew what he was trying to tell me, but at twelve, there was no need for balance. That’s what parents were for: to help me find my own equilibrium and eventually stand on my own. Or so I thought.

I poured myself in to intellectual endeavors when I was young. I spent my spare time wandering through hospitals talking to doctors and nurses, lab technicians, and visiting technicians in energy departments, nuclear physics labs, and just about any other place I could get in to. Legally or not.

I wanted to change the world. I wanted to be intelligent and discover something about the reality around us that nobody else had ever known.

I had a reputation for a lot of years in middle school and high school as one of “the smartest dumb kids” in class. By that, it was meant that I had awful scores in just about every class, but I could provide a meaningful response on just about any question that was given to me about any number of subjects.

I never did well in school. I couldn’t handle the structure, the meaningless exercises, and the slow speed at which class was always paced. I hated it. The only classes I tended to do well in was Math and Science, and only when I had teachers that allowed me to move ahead of the class.

By the time I was a Freshmen in high school, I was taking calculus at the community college and an additional class for statistics and probabilities.

I had two other classes that year that I did extremely well in: Programming and Electronics, and again, it was because both teachers allowed me to move ahead of the class and work on more advanced concepts. By the end of that year, I was programming servos and robots to perform complicated tasks and, eventually, to battle.

I failed every other class. Every. Single. One.

It could be argued that, because I spent 90% of my time completely stoned or drugged out of my mind, that I could have done better in other ways. I guess I will never know, but I doubt it. The thing is, I never failed a test in any of my classes. None. I just couldn’t stand to do the work and plod along at a snails pace. So I never did.

And really, that’s the way I’ve been ever since then. I hate waiting. I hate taking the slow and tried course, and I’ve always been the one in the car pointing off the paved road and saying, “Hey, what if we take that one instead?”

Sure, it’s bumpier, it’s crazier, and we might lose a few passengers along the way, but damn it, it’ll be more efficient once a few people go along and smooth it out.

And the thing is, it could be said that I was relatively smart back then, but now I’m little more than a hack that tries to scrape by with what I’ve got. I was never smart enought to go to college, and if I did, I doubt I would be very successful.

This morning I was thinking about what my step-dad had written in that book, and I realized all the things that he was trying to tell me, and I realized all the ways that I’ve failed.

I’m not a very balanced person. Having concentrated so strictly on the intellectual pursuits when I was young, I neglected to expand any other part of me.

Now I’m so wedged in to this little slice of life, I seriously doubt there’s any way to change who I am or who I’ve become.

I’m a parody of myself. It’s disheartening, but at the same time, it’s a relief to know that I’ll never really be much more than I am now. This is it. I’m not sure if it’s okay, but some day, it will have to be.

Sep 11 2009

If you throw it all away, you’ll spend tomorrow in bed all day. What I’d give to feel so young…

Sometimes it’s good to speak, to say the things that we’ve held close to our hearts, to the things that we’ve never shared or would never dare share even in our most inebriated or vulnerable states.

And just as equally, there are times when those same secrets, those same bits of information, those things that have helped define us or helped to hurt us, are damaging when they finally come spilling forward in an avalanche of last minute confessions.

I don’t have much else to say. It seems the more I speak these days, the more I feel like becoming a mute.

The problem with loving someone, whether it’s a spouse, significant other, family member, sibling, or parent; they’re really the only people that can inflict harm. And harm comes in incidental, unintentional ways.

Not everyone is graced with the eloquence to know exactly what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. We all stumble along blindly, we do the best that we can, and we try to cling to the good things we perceive, even though they eventually fall in to the background.

And what remains but the slings and arrows we’ve managed to accumulate, collect, and display in our heart of hearts. That’s where they remain, and will almost always remain in some form or another.

It is human nature to discard the good and endear the bad. We all do it. I just wish I knew why.

Sep 10 2009

Breaking in to private places, blacking out so time erases

Notable philosophers over the centuries have believed that the soul was not something that you were born with– it was something you earned, something tangible that was gifted to you through trials and tribulations and suffering.

I told a friend of mine that I don’t believe in the soul, and that if there is a hell, that I’m okay with going there for my disbelief. I’ve already been to hell, or very near it. It’s livable, manageable, so long as you realize that you don’t have any choice in whether you live in the dark or in the light.

And really, it doesn’t matter which.

A great poet once told me that there is very little difference between falling in the light and falling in the dark. Everything that is there in the light, will still hurt you in the dark.

The only difference is the fear.

And that’s how I’m feeling today. I feel like I’m groping around in the dark, waiting for another great fall. I’ve hit rock bottom in the center of my soul somewhere, and I’m scratching and clawing my way back up, just so I can fall down again.

I only wish I knew where it all came from, or how it finally got to me. It seems these days I’m picking up the pieces more than putting them back together.

I’ve talked to those who are nice enough to lend an ear, or a hand, and I’ve written my soul out in poetry and prose or worse. I’ve tried everything besides voodoo and witchcraft, and I still feel like I’m just barely hanging on like the red and yellow leaves.

So it goes.