Fine, I’ll Do a %&*#!@$ Post About Racism

I really don’t want to write about racism today.

My Facebook feed has been a steady flow of articles, memes, and rants about white supremacists, Charlottesville, free speech, racism, Arpaio, and He Who Shall Not Be Named.

And I don’t think any of them made any difference.

Well, I think they’ve made people mad. They’ve made me mad, no matter whether I agreed or disagreed with them, or whether I actually investigated the facts behind them. But I don’t think they changed anybody’s mind.

I don’t think anyone has ever had a core belief challenged by a meme. And even when I agree with the viewpoints of some of my friends, the articles and rants they share are frequently full of fallacies, emotional appeals, and exaggerated/decontextualized data.

If anything, they may actually be solidifying the other side’s beliefs by presenting an opposition to fight against.

So I’ve been trying to avoid talking on the subject, because I don’t think I have anything to say that can change anybody’s mind. I don’t want to start another poorly-researched internet fight that puts both sides at each others’ throats. I really don’t want to write about racism today.

But.

I work at a public library. Working in public service, I’m privy to a lot of unpleasant interactions between people. Usually a few minutes pass, and the frustration rolls off my back.

Sometimes it comes home with me.

Fifteen minutes to close, a woman comes up to the desk to check out, her two kids in tow, about two and six years old. As I check out her books, she tells me that a man yelled at her older child because the younger one was being too noisy. “He made the older one cry.” I glance over at the man. Though too far away to make out what’s being said, he is glaring at the woman. I apologize for her bad experience, wishing there was something else I could do to make things better. There never seems to be anything I can do.

A few minutes later, the man comes up. “I’ve been trying to work, but I can’t because of those…………..children.” He pauses for a long time mid-sentence, trying to find a word that won’t get him in trouble. The pause communicates his contempt in a way that will be hidden if this conversation is written up later. “I guess they don’t raise these [nationality] kids to be polite where they come from, but this is a public library, not [nation of origin]!”

I bite back the reply that two-year-olds tend to make noise no matter what color skin they have. And the reply that, just because a family looks different, it doesn’t mean they haven’t lived here as long as he has. And that the public library is, as one might guess from the name, open to the public. And that, if you have a problem with a child’s conduct, perhaps you should say something to the mother, instead of his six-year-old brother.

Because there’s nothing I can say. Nothing I say will change this man’s mind. Nothing I say will rebuke him. Nothing I say will do anything but stoke the flames that are simmering across this nation.

There’s a quote that gets passed around from time to time: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It’s a cute quote, but what bothers me is the assumption that everything falls neatly into those two categories. What do I do about things I can neither change nor accept?

I don’t know. I don’t have any deep thoughts to wrap up this post. I can’t fix the world, and I’m not okay with the way it works. Sometimes I just need to talk about it.

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Love With an Expiration Date

I don’t know love
Not the Monday, Tuesday, every other day love
Not the lifelong, singsong, nothing-can-go-wrong love
Not the sweetheart, work of art, till death do us part love
Not the wedding band, ain’t life grand, wanna hold your hand love
All I know is doomed love
Entombed love
Elephant in the room love
Love entwined with tragic fate
Love with an expiration date

I don’t have the mettle to settle
The weight of commitment like a kettlebell around my neck
A stinging nettle, or burning acetylene
Even the thought of meddling in these muddy waters has me backpedaling
Backtracking, backpacking to the past
To find in contrast, an outclassed outcast
So downcast that the iconoclast that surpassed him is flabbergasted
Aghast, he lambastes this harassed bastard
Taking to task this mask of moping coping mechanisms
A dope groping hopelessly at the end of his rope
Like a trope from one of his television programs

“Will they or won’t they?”
He sees echoed in a thousand fictional relationships
Stretched out for years, delaying the eventual payoff
And the disappointment that inevitably follows
The shitty last season after the main characters get together
And the magic has disappeared
The one aspect of humanity that television seems to accurately portray
So he balances on this tightrope
Between “will they” and “won’t they”
Chasing what cannot be caught
Wooing what cannot be won
Flirting with futility
Amassing a storehouse of regrets
The only trinkets that never lose their luster

But even the doomed love is hard to come by
Dependent as it was on the wellspring of naivete
That dries up with every passing day
I’ve come to miss those wasted passions
Fruitless attempts to fly on papier-mâché wings
I don’t fall any more
Don’t crack my collarbone on the canyon floor
But neither do I experience the exhilarant moment of belief
Before gravity has its way.

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More Late-Night Butterfly Effect Thoughts

A few days ago, I got a speeding ticket, and ever since, I’ve been observing its ripple effect. Here is one of those ripples.

Tonight I was driving down from Indy, taking 465. I passed someone on the highway, and a short time later, they passed me. On another night, this might have stoked my competitiveness, leading me to retake the lead. But because of the recent ticket, I have been driving more cautiously, so I allowed them to remain ahead, but I took note of the license plate number. Before the numbers were the letters were YLL. Like it was short for “you’ll”, As in, “you’ll remember this license plate”. And so I did. They soon rushed ahead, and I lost sight of the car.

Several miles later, when I pulled off onto my exit, I discovered I was behind the very same car. YLL from the license plate confirmed it.

After the exit, I saw YLL take the same turn that I take. What a funny coincidence, I thought. I thought the same as YLL turned into my apartment complex. I followed them down the row of apartments, curious to see where they would stop.

As it turned out, they parked in front of my building. In the exact spot I would have taken. If I had decided not to let them pass. If I had not gotten the speeding ticket. If I had chosen the other of the two roads.

If any of that had happened, I would have arrived first, taken the spot, trundled off to bed, and never been the wiser. But I hadn’t, and so I was privy to this odd bit of coincidence…that one of my three neighbors had been coming down the same stretch of highway at the exact same time that I was.

I wouldn’t have noticed that YLL stayed behind in the car after parking. It was too dark to make out the driver without being creepy, so I couldn’t identify him or her, but I saw that the headlights were on, and heard music playing through the stereo.

The lights are still on, five minutes later, as I start to write this. The music has stopped, though. Is YLL waiting for someone? Maybe YLL is not actually my neighbor, but a friend picking someone up.

I checked again, and YLL is gone now. I wonder briefly if YLL is the supplier of the pot that my downstairs neighbors have made into the permanent aroma of our apartment building.

This ripple seems to be returning to the placidity of spacetime. The only change that persists is that my car is now one space to the left, and slightly out of the parking lines (YLL is not a precise parker). And of course, that I am thinking about this, and writing about it.

I have an eerie feeling that I have seen my quantum ghost. That YLL was another version of me, the one who got no parking ticket, who drove more speedily, who took the nearest parking space. And now that ghost has vanished as the possibilities resolve themselves. Most likely nothing will come of it, but still…once again, I am aware. Once again, I watch. And I wonder where YLL is going next…

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I Took The Road More Quickly Traveled By

Some days you come to a fork in the road. You know that both roads will eventually take you to your same destination. You know that both roads will take you there in the same amount of time. And you debate which way to take. Finally, you decide you are being silly. There is no difference between these choices, and your life will continue on exactly the same. So you go one way.
 
You get pulled over in a speed trap.
 
Now you have a speeding ticket. And a fine to pay, which, while not crippling, is a noticeable deduction from your spendable money.
 
That meaningless choice now has consequences.
 
Maybe this fine means you will go out less. There will be experiences you do not have, food you do not eat, people you will never meet.
 
Or maybe that money would have been spent on a new, addicting video game that would have kept you in the house, staring at a television screen. With its absence, you spend more time going on walks and exercising, and feel healthier as a result.
Maybe you drive slower for the next few weeks, and you avoid a life-threatening accident.
Maybe you drive slower for the next few weeks, and you arrive late for an important job interview.
 
Maybe the situation makes you contemplate the butterfly effect of every inconsequential decision, and you decide to write a blog post about your musings. Doing so inspires you, and you return to your writing after a long creative drought.
For positive or negative, your life has changed. You have shaped your life with an involuntary decision. And every decision you make will shape it further, your life trickling like a bead of dew down a fractal tree of infinite possibilities, each choice making you into the person you will one day have been. You are a multitude of endless lives that could be lived, more potential yous than there are atoms in your body. You are a cosmos of consequence.

All the same, I wish I’d taken the other road.

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The Man Upon The Table

My thoughts return at times like these
To the man upon the table
The person who I used to be
Before the one who now is me
I wonder at his screams
His violent protestations
As the doctors prepared him for what was, in retrospect
An urgent emotionalectomy
Why couldn’t he see the dangers of his condition?
Even, in that very moment, the suffering that these tumors
(Fear, anger, sadness, love)
Were inflicting upon him?
Didn’t he see how much happier he would be once they were gone?
No, not happier…that’s a poor choice of words
The happiness and joy, those had to go as well, of course
As we now understand these to be symptoms of the underlying disease
The mechanism through which the whole remains undetected and untreated
Like the dangerously rewarding surge of endorphins
Accompanying the abandonment of chemo
So not happier
But couldn’t he see how much less unhappy he would be?
He used to suffer so many agonies
Fear of a future he could not control
Anger at injustices he could not correct
Sadness at tragedies he could not prevent
Love
In all its forms
Because when has love ever been without pain?
And there were the smaller discomforts as well
Embarrassment caused from slights meant with no ill-will
Regret over choices that would have ended poorly in either direction
Anxiety about ludicrous imaginings that would never come to pass
Disappointment in his attempts to give voice to these miserable emotions
I do not think he would have liked this poem
Or, more to the point, he would have disliked this poem
Because of course, I do not like this poem
But I do not dislike it either
It simply is
And it is fine
That’s all anything ever needs to be now
Everything is fine
Everything is fine
Everything is fine
Everything is fine

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Not My Type

“Not my type”
Are the words that keep coming to mind
The problem being the implication
That I have a “type”
That the conundrum of who I like and who I don’t
Could be quantified and measured with words like
“Brunette,” “Shy,” or “Riot Grrrl”
Sometimes I wish I was asexual
Then people might at least understand
People like on-off switches
But low-turned dimmers make everyone uncomfortable
I wish there was a fetish to explain it
A way to say,
“It’s nothing personal,
I’m only attracted to amputees in scuba gear and stilettos
…well…just one stiletto, I guess.”
Everyone else seems to have predictable functions to chart the data of arousal
“See? The graph of people I’m attracted to forms a sinusoidal curve
As does the silhouetted outline of my ideal sexual partner.”
Mine is erratic data on a scatter plot
Too disparate to form a graphable trajectory
Too sparse to make meaningful conclusions
I want a way to say

Not wanting to fuck you doesn’t mean I’m not in love with you
Not being in love with you doesn’t mean I don’t love you
Not loving you doesn’t mean I don’t like you
Not liking you doesn’t mean I don’t care about you
Not caring about you doesn’t mean you aren’t worth caring about
I’m pre-programmed with contradictions
And nothing I say or think or do should change a thing about you
Unless you want it to
You aren’t one of the tiny handful of people
Who can make the elevator floor drop out of my heart
And I’m sorry if I was one of yours
I don’t want to hurt you, but it’s a choice between
Hurting you with a “no” and
Hurting you with a “yes” that ferments into resentment
You’re like pepperoni
And lots of people like pepperoni
But I’m the weirdo who wants artichokes
And I can’t explain why I like artichokes, or even exactly what artichokes are
But you’re not artichokes
And you wouldn’t be happy as artichokes
You aren’t less than
You’re just different from
And maybe it will hurt for a while
And maybe it won’t
But in the end, you’ll be free
To be happier than I can ever be.

But that’s a mouthful
And most of it doesn’t make sense, even to me
It always feels easier to say
“Not my type.”

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Webs Unwoven

I’ve become an inward-turning thing
Like the legs of a spider, dying
Curling into an asterisk across my abdomen
No longer do I weave my tangled web
Spinning tapestries like Arachne
Or making messiahs of humble swine
It’s far too much work
And I’d rather sit on my spinnerets
Admiring the orb weaver’s precise calculus
Or the ominous funnel of my Australian uncle
Or the effortless chaos of my frantically cobwebbing sisters
What need has the world of any web of mine?
Save for the snaring of flies
Whose taste has grown sour with familiarity

Perhaps I’ll try again tomorrow
To craft something of exquisite grace and beauty
Until it meets a heavy rain or blundering thumb
Perhaps tomorrow
But for now I think I’ll curl up here on the floor
Fold these legs which tire of walking
And dream of webs unwoven

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