Checklist for Existence

I’ve tried to come up with, implement, and stick to a set of procedures in order to optimize my time and actions to achieve a perfect existence. I’ve looked back on my life and created a narrative. I’ve seen how the pieces fit, how each decision led me to the next decision, and how that single chain has led me to the present moment.

How disgusting are procedures when applied to the living of a life; how laughably insufficient is hindsight to explain even a single journey.

I’ve been searching for answers and hoping I could share them with others, but in this life, brief as autumn grass, no two paths are the same.

Time Marches On / There’s More to Life Than Not Dying

Thank God for the marching on of time. And I’m going to thank God here because you know what I don’t give a damn. Fuck it. I can thank whoever I want.

But let’s try to stay on topic, if you don’t mind.

Yeah man, I’m feeling way better today! Even though a few minutes ago I thought I was going to explode with frustration over this stupid computer error. And even though I’m not feeling like a million bucks. I feel better than yesterday, and what did I really do?


Time heals all wounds. Soon enough we’ll all be dead.

And that’s another thing. I like the quote about “death is not the province of the living” or something like that, but I started thinking a lot about this other thing where I say “there’s more to life than not dying.”

I’m pretty cautious I guess, always expecting some shit to go down. I guess I can keep expecting shit without getting all worried about it. I think that’s what happens when I get scared because I’m in that flow state and time is flying by. I’m scared that I’ll be dead soon, but you know what, fuck it there’s more to life than not dying.

Yep my wife and I are getting along famously. We’re about to go out for drinks right now. Then we’re going to come home and eat risotto. I even bought some beer for later, fuck it! And yesterday I was thinking, damn I shouldn’t drink so much. Mostly because I was feeling super guilty but also because I was embarrassed about how I was fawning over the singers at the concert. They were in the crowd and I was hunting them down being like, Damn! You are the greatest! All crazy like. Clearly drunk, I’m sure.

So I was embarrassed about that as I usually am when I black out. I guess I didn’t use to get embarrassed when I blacked out, back in 2010, but in that year I was blacking out every other night. So I’m drinking less now and sleeping less now and I guess that adds up to I have more time to judge my past actions and feel embarrassment about them. But you know, them singers probably didn’t give a fuck I was wasted, shit that’s what we’re there for. And I didn’t follow them home or anything, like I did that one time with that girl. Now that’s fucking embarrassing. And actually more than embarrassing. But that’s another story.

And so what if they did think I was an asshole? Is that ruining their lives right now? No! Fuck, and even if something I did did ruin their lives, is that really my fault? Aren’t we responsible for our own happiness?

Shit, maybe not! Maybe there are forces outside of our control directing our lives. Like the stars! Or reptiles. Anything to take the responsibility away. Make it stop! It burns!

It burns.

The Winter of 2015

I just finished reading three books (Tess of the d’UrbervillesThe Ghostwriter by Philip Roth, and Better Than Sex by Hunter Thompson). I may have read The Ghostwriter too fast but I’m not in the mood for picking apart a tiny novel loaded with literary allusions and stylistic nuance. I don’t know why my book guy at work decided now was a good time for Philip Roth. Next on the list in that vein is Portnoy’s Complaint. Then Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. I’m still a hundred pages out on Anxious Decades, the book about America from the 20s to the 40s. Tess was good but the ending was necessarily depressing.

I don’t remember a time when I was reading as often as I am now, except maybe elementary school. I think reading has gotten me out of my own head and that is always good for my mental well-being, although, like the famous writer character in The Ghostwriter, I’m loathe to do anything that might compromise my writing potential. What I’m learning is that state of boredom and depression doesn’t produce good writing, it just produces hours of time to think about writing something good.

Today I went to the gym and ran a mile in six minutes fifteen seconds. My best time ever was five minutes thirty eight seconds when I was on the track team in high school. I’m ten years older now, so I figure that’s pretty good. My goal is to go to the gym five times a month every month of this year. I am starting to feel more energetic as of a couple of days ago. People always told me that exercising makes you have more energy, but I would exercise and then go to sleep. I did that today, in fact. Yesterday I was thinking to myself, You know what I don’t do anymore? Fall asleep when I am trying to write. Sweet! and then today I came home and tried to finish reading a book and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. That used to happen to me all the time. I used to think I had narcolepsy or some shit. But anyway, yeah I never noticed an increase in energy after working out, but I think what they didn’t tell me or perhaps what I didn’t hear is that it comes on slowly and seems to be unrelated to when you actually work out. Or maybe these past few days I’ve been feeling more energetic because I am reading more. I don’t know. Today I didn’t feel as energetic as I did yesterday.

Still not dreading, which is good but weird and almost weird enough to make me start dreading the day when I will dread things again. It reminds me of this post by The Babe about not trusting a good mood. However, I’m out of the reach of those thoughts right now, somehow, so as I type this I don’t actually have those feelings of paranoia, but I do remember them enough to question why I don’t have them. It’s as if I’m living on a higher plane. Throughout this post I have tried to throw in a fuck or god damn but they haven’t been fitting in. Too emotional for the rarefied air here.

I haven’t been writing any fiction, but I have had some insights into a method that might work for me. I like to type fast and I don’t like to look at what I’ve written unless it’s a completed thing. I like editing, but then I usually don’t like what’s left after I cut up what I wrote. It’s like a tortured building. It was a drawing of a building, but then I built it and realized it wasn’t a good building, so I hammered on parts and added other parts on, and the added parts are all glittering and out of place, and then I gild that shit somehow and then sand the whole thing down. If I liked editing, I would go back and delete that whole weird metaphor. So anyway, I think a lot of my writing is thinking. Not the idle kind of thinking I do constantly, but focused thinking. Like sitting the fuck down and forcing myself to think of the same thing for me than five minutes. There, I got a fuck in at least.

The emotion is coming back now that I’ve had a beer, or half of one, which is as good as a whole one I guess since I haven’t had one since Sunday and even then it was only one. However I refuse to entertain the thought that my increase in energy and my decrease in dread is because I’m drinking less. No, it must be something more complicated.

Anyway, I’m going to Vermont for a week soon, and I intend to bring nothing to do there, save perhaps one good, long ass book, but I’m debating even that. I must have learned nothing if I think that I can go there and just write for the whole week. If I don’t bring a book I’ll just sit drooling on myself in an armchair until I decide to go to a movie. Oh I forgot to mention that my wife will be away at class for almost the whole time, so that’s why I will have plenty of time to drool on myself.

Someday these last few months will coalesce into one memory of a time when I woke up and made coffee and my wife was always worried about her school and I read a hundred books and I bided my time at work until I could ask for the good shifts. I hope I will remember this time fondly, but I hope I won’t remember it like I do the winter of 2013: fondly, but looking with pity at a young man on a course towards his own (temporary) ruin. Just so I’m not being annoyingly cryptic, I’m referencing here that time I quit my job, went back to it, and then drank enough to get fired.

Maybe I’ll look back on these days as the time when I wrestled emotions, doubts, depression, paranoia, narcissism and nihilism to the ground, shackled and chained them to a ramshackle sled made of raw will and rode that bitch to glory.

Better Than Happiness

I remember when I used to dread and now those days seem as far from me as tomorrow, both receding in directions that would be opposite if opposites had any meaning in the midst of infinity. I don’t feel happy or sad or cold or hot; I’m not in the mood to write or to do things or to leave things undone. Moods and feelings seem far away, too, and I just thought that maybe the black hole of narcissism that a lot of us talk about isn’t what I am, but rather where I am. Maybe I was outside all along, writing that it seemed like a black hole of narcissism on some days, some days like a black hole of despair, dread, meaninglessness and other times like other black holes of other emotional materials, while in fact what it is, is a black hole, and all those things were my own projections. Now I have passed the event horizon and whatever that increasingly foreign version of myself believed it to be, it is not, because it…is nothing at all.

Humanism…Could It Work? What the Hell Is It? No Answers Here.

Yesterday I thought of my work as a meaningful way to survive in the world as we know it, instead of some kind of sick, twisted way to maintain the flow of consumable trash through my little container, itself one of many containers inside of a larger container for disaffected young humans, and it worked pretty good.

This morning I woke up and read this piece in the New York Times by Leon Wieseltier, a man of whom I had never heard. By the time I got done with the article I was like, this man is a god damned genius. I printed that shit out on a piece of paper.

I haven’t had time to really think about it yet because I spent most of the day going to doctors. I haven’t been to the doctors, any of them, in years, not since I was a kid, and that was some weird shit going on in them “offices.” And then I got home and went out to the grocery store. And now I have to work on this old man’s book. But I’m going to read that shit again later.

I been thinking over that shit I wrote a couple of days ago some more and I think it’s still true. But here I am already relying on the feeling of it to decide whether it’s true. And again, some of the shit I wrote was brilliantly contradicted in this Wieseltier essay, so I will have to consider that shit.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been reading a lot of fiction or what, but I am feeling pretty insightful. I am off tomorrow, too, so I will have time to write a post and try to figure out what the fuck.

In case you don’t feel like clicking that link and maybe changing your life, I’ll just give you a little summary of that paper, as far as I remember, which isn’t very far. Wieseltier was basically defending humanism, which is especially interesting to me because I haven’t really heard much about humanism since I read Man Without a Country, Vonnegut’s memoir-ish essays (which also profoundly changed the way I thought for at least a week after I read it). But anyway humanism is…well I don’t know what it is but it’s something to do with believing humans can lead a meaningful life through being nice to people and improving themselves through critical thinking and education. That’s at least sort of like a part of it, or something.

And anyway he was saying that now we are pursuing information like we used to pursue profits, or rather we are doing both at the same time. Whether or not things are considered good is directly related to whether or not they are deemed useful by the marketplace, or whether or not they achieve some positive result quickly. We are kind of flattening the human experience by quantifying shit. He quips that economists are the people telling us how to be happy. This many people found this one thing that made them happy on this day, and since we’re all the same, we will do that same shit. A bunch of other stuff but I have to get to work. If none of that shit interests you, don’t read the essay. If it does, get on that shit. Here’s the link again, you lazy ass.

It was really mind blowing for me to read because I often think in terms of materialism, or rather what I call materialism, which to me means that emotions are just chemicals and humans are just another kind of machine the behavior of which we could accurately predict if we know all of the variables. I also often think in terms of results, like ok cut the bullshit let’s get down to brass tacks, you did A B C and you got D, I will do that shit, too, considering of course that D is desirable. Hm well I am having trouble expressing what I mean by results-oriented thinking and how it could be a bad thing, but I will try to figure it out tomorrow. The upshot, to use a word I’ve never used, is that I am re-thinking dehumanization, or vulcanization, which I was talking about a couple days ago.

He also accuses journalists of needing to have words and not having time to wait for thoughts. I do that shit a lot on this blog. Just write the same old shit sometimes because I like typing shit.

How to Be Optimistic About the Future

I was watching Cosmos last night (the one with Neil Degrasse Tyson).

I still haven’t made it through the first season even though my wife and I were really into it when it came out last year. I think it was last year. We would watch it at the end of the day as the episodes came out, but eventually we got too busy with the wedding. Either that or the wedding happened and then we left the country. I can’t remember which came first.

It was Episode 11, The Immortals. It dealt with how life could have began on Earth and how it could have survived a lot of cosmic collisions by escaping on rocks, circling the sun, and then crashing back into water and regenerating. Tyson also talked about the first recorded poetry and the epic of Gilgamesh. At the end, he wonders about the future of humanity.

He said that in the next forty thousand years or so, if humanity survived, we would evolve to have more of the good stuff about us and less of the bad stuff. As a species we would be both smarter and wiser. It makes me think of the beginning of the first Transformers movie when the narrator says something about the people of Earth being young and dumb. I guess I haven’t thought too much about that lately.

I was having a conversation with my good friend about how in a few generations we might be able to travel through space and do cool stuff so really the point of life was just for us as a species to stay alive long enough until we could do that. But while I was saying that I started to think that really that’s a pretty lame point of life. It’s pretty much the same as being a virus, like Hugo Weaving says in The Matrix. But at least it was something to do. And then my friend said that anyway we would never be able to do that, intergalactic space travel takes too much energy, more energy than is in the universe, or something like that. I think he was full of shit, but at the same time he was a physics major and knows about that kind of stuff. But he also hates talking with people about the big things of physics because he says people have wild ideas about the possibilities and big questions that physicists like Richard Feynamn raise, but really we have just enough reason to believe any of them as we do any other random thought so it’s really not worth talking about. Which I get on a certain level, the level being that everything is pointless so of course a conversation about something no one knows or can know is even more pointless than everything else, but at the same time I was like mother fucker what do you know about this shit? But still I was depressed that populating the cosmos was the best idea I could come up with for the point of life anyway, plus it couldn’t happen because my friend said so, so I was sad.

But last night when he was saying that we would evolve into better people if we stayed alive long enough, I thought, well shit that makes good sense. Because as I get older, I become better even though I don’t try. So if humans as a whole are like humans as individuals, even though we’re not trying very hard, we could eventually get better.

It’s like I always say, Time is our best friend and our worst enemy. Time heals all wounds. Getting anything done is effort over time. I always say all those things, which is why people don’t usually enjoy having conversations with me.

It’s easy to get depressed if you think of the current human race getting the technology to populate the cosmos because then we’d have whole planets with the words “Made You Look! Your Ad Here” written across them. However, if you think about humans a thousand years older, well they might be less obsessed with profits. It’s at least possible, which is sometimes enough.

After I thought about all that, I thought, well, what should I be doing? The obvious thing for me to do is to teach a kid how not to be a huge dick to the whole world all the time. And then I could teach the kid that it’s important to teach other people the same thing, or we’re all fucked. And then if the kid taught the same thing to the next generation of kids and so on, maybe that would have been something useful to do. But I hate children, so maybe that’s not going to work.

No I don’t really hate children I hate parents. And children are annoying most of the time because their parents are bringing them around when you are not in the mood to deal with some stupid fucking animal with no manners but that the parents want you to treat like a human. And then you can imagine the child growing up to be a huge dick all the time anyway. And their loud and I don’t like noisy things.

But no I’m not really opposed to that plan of action. Teaching kids something useful in the hope that eventually humans as a species will grow up is probably a good idea. What else though? I was just starting to think I should just write a dumb ass book already and try to make some money off of it again. Now I’m back to thinking I should do something that matters, like be a scientist or something. Well it’s hard to know what to do.

What I did think about today though is that it’s no wonder I don’t know what to do, and that most people are unhappy. It has something to do with the fact that our brains have evolved very quickly, our technology has evolved even quicker, and our bodies are still full of animal chemicals like adrenaline and stuff. Should we all evolve into Vulcans with no emotions? Maybe it would be better for everyone. But that’s not what I mean.

What I mean is that maybe I am wrong about the way I am looking at modern life.

I have been thinking of my future as going into the woods and living a self-sustaining life in New England, chopping down trees and doing things that are directly connected to surviving in cold, heartless nature. I’ve been thinking of doing this because the way that I live now is so disconnected from the true functions of a normal earthbound being (finding shelter, finding food) that it’s no wonder I can’t be happy. Maybe the truth is that my body still thinks it should be scrambling around for food and shelter, so it is not happy with me being employed and buying my food from the store and paying rent to secure shelter, but I shouldn’t be listening to my body. Maybe I should be listening to the more evolved part of my self which is my brain, which could work together with other brains to create a better future for my species, which is the highest aim of evolution.

Or is it the highest aim of evolution? Is life about providing the best future for your offspring or just about having offspring that survive? And what defines “best future.” Well, I guess all things being equal it would be fine for humans to revert to chopping their own firewood and building their own houses or whatever, basically being as sustainable as the tribes of the Americas before they were destroyed by European pathogens. That would be a “best future.” Except if you’re thinking really long term. In the real long term, Earth is only a temporary living situation. So the species will need to evolve to move around space if it’s going to survive forever. My good friend says he’s sure that no humans will be around in ten thousand years. That’s not depression, though, that’s stupidity, I think. I think anyone who thinks they know something they can’t know is being stupid. When I think there will be no one around in ten thousand years, I’m thinking that because I think there probably shouldn’t be any of us around in ten thousand years, being stupid and pointless as we are. But when he thinks that, he thinks that because he thinks he knows that. I don’t know if you can see the distinction.

But anyway, I thought while I was feeling weird at the subway station today that I should stop trusting my feelings. The body and the mind are one and the same, but feelings are just chemicals after all. Just because I feel like I am wasting my life by going to work at a restaurant, it doesn’t mean I am. Just because I feel like I should be out chopping wood by myself, doesn’t mean that that does anyone any good at all, either.

Hm, don’t trust your feelings. Don’t feel, just do. Well, I don’t know exactly what to take from these new thoughts especially since I was just about to get back into the Tao Te Ching, but if I do figure something out, you’ll be the first to know.