Monthly Archives: May 2013

Boys Should Be Banned

Discovering root causes is of utmost importance to me. As regarding the plethora of school shootings that occur every day in the United States, I have found the reactions to be surface, at best. Do we really care about our children? Or do we simply pretend to care about our children?

Let’s take a look at the primary reaction: schools have adopted no-tolerance policies toward weapons in school. This was obviously a good starting point, but it led to all manner of ambiguities, which often happens in the process of rule-making strategies. Could a non-weapon be used as one? How do we define what is and what is not a weapon? How would we respond to the perception of threat or to the perception of symbolic nature of “weapon?” In one recent example, which created an internet backlash, a seven-year-old boy chewed his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun, thereby rendering the children around him psychologically impaired due to the imminent threat of violence. The child was suspended for his unthinking action, which was entirely appropriate, but his action still left a strew of wreckage behind him.

How could the psychological damage have been prevented in the first place? A group of parents met to come to a consensus. According to Mrs. Sanders, the teacher who organized the meeting, only the children matter in this discussion. She received a standing ovation for that statement alone, and she was forced to call the meeting to order by opening up the conversation to everybody. “Everybody has something to say!” she said.

One mother (who wishes to remain anonymous) timidly suggested that Pop Tarts be banned. After all, they have no nutritional value, and aren’t particularly appetizing or exciting as a childhood snack food, and are likely to cause a bored child with a sugar buzz to “go ballistic,” as she put it. A mother of five boys countered with irritation, claiming it wasn’t her responsibility to make food exciting. “Food is food,” she said, “and a boy is just as likely to chew a peanut butter sandwich into a hand grenade.” In fact, her son had done so just the other day. It was “masterfully done art, very realistic,” and she passed around a photo of the partially-chewed food to the assembled parents, who were stunned at how much the sandwich resembled an actual, military issue hand grenade.

They didn’t come to a consensus that night, as they were distracted by a tray of cookies that one of the moms had brought, but they did come to one important conclusion: The hand grenade sandwich would have added to all of their annual medical fees owing to increased visits to therapists, as well as a likely need for medicating the children who were exposed to the threat. While eating, the parents casually discussed what they had done in their own homes, such as banning all toy weapons so their children weren’t raised to be desensitized to violence. The teacher made a note on her brainstorming board to gather a team of teachers willing to crusade for the ban of all toy weapons, as well as any toy that could be perceived as a toy weapon, which would involve more brainstorming. For example, could a Disney Princess be perceived as a weapon? She thought it very well could be in the wrong hands. In any case, Pop Tarts were not the problem, she wisely reminded everybody. Children should not be punished for society’s failure to train them up as peaceable individuals.

All of these steps, in my opinion, are baby steps. They are steps in the right direction, but they don’t get at the root cause of the problem. As I was wandering through the toy aisles of Wal Mart one day, I had an epiphany, which is how epiphanies generally occur. This one should have been obvious, though. The weapon toys were all housed in the boy aisles, while the peaceful people-oriented toys were housed in the girl aisles. The problem was not in the toys themselves, but in those who played with them: namely, boys. Over the course of my twenty years of research into hormone imbalances, I’ve developed the kind of biologically identical hormone supplements that could rid our society of boys for good. Rather than crusading for an ineffective measure of banning toy weapons, Mrs. Sanders would find more value in campaigning for affordable hormone replacement for all families.

As I usually do with my best ideas, I bounced this one off my good friend Dr. Hausman, author of the peer-reviewed study entitled “The Physical Properties of a Yin-Yang Universe.” At first, his response was simply, “Ow!” But after further musing, he warned that eradicating maleness from society would leave a vacuum for women to fill. “And let me remind you, women are far more devious when it comes to weapon choices. This may create a backlash you weren’t expecting.” Although his response disheartened me, I soon bounced back with a better idea: What if we could create the Yin-Yang balance in each person? What if the instinct must rise against aggressor was countered with wouldn’t you rather trade that Pop Tart for a Ho-Ho?

Since then, I’ve refined a Yin-Yang drug therapy I’ve patented under the brand name Gynatestrogen. It’s still in the testing stages, but I think Mrs. Sanders and the moms will agree that a world without boys would be a better place, especially if girls didn’t exist either. Root causes are very important to me. Think this one through, and if you agree, please contact your congressman today.

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It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

It’s all over. Leave the preacher with his stuffed head. Leave him to pipe alone, in his vaunted, windowless chamber. Mincing steps and words together play a tune of figurative rhetoric that’s best left to poets. And who is he, but a man whose eyes are stained glass, with splits that break through Mary’s skull? He knows nothing.

And yet he’s broken me with his ideas. The effects of ideas from powerful men are flies on corpses. Bury the dead, and bury the ideas with them. Set the living free.

I traveled to the river to be done with him. I stepped in the water, and its muddy eddies caught me, overwhelmed me. But this is what baptism is about. This is it. The river swallowed me and spit me out, and, in an instant, I was a fair distance from the dock where I’d stepped down. A man–a black spot, a black crow–stood on the dock with head craned to watch me. I knew him; he was a homeless man who’d been homeless since childhood when it was cool to wash his greasy hair in Skidmore fountain and smoke cigarettes stolen from strangers–when it was cool to smoke, to hold slender cylinders between two fingers and wave the hand around as though life’s meaning could be discovered in mimicry.

It couldn’t. I fought my way back to the dock and pulled myself up. The black crow was disgusted with my show, but he was too stooped to hurl abandoned shopping carts at me as he had done in this very place twenty-five years ago. It wasn’t a show, though. I hadn’t meant to drown, or drift away, or fight for my life. And when I stood, dripping with water, the mud clinging to my old shirt–as if the shivering wasn’t enough–the pain hit me hard. I had picked up a hitchhiker in the water.

She was a water creature, as ugly as any other blood-sucking leach. Her body was miserably deformed, her face awry with a twisted nose, crooked teeth, and sagging lips from too much clinging with her mouth. I tried to brush her off, which was wasted effort. And so I carried her with me, away from the homeless man, who followed me up the waterfront for a while, shouting at me all the insults I’d been telling myself for the last twenty-five years: Who are you, stupid bitch? You’re nobody. You’re a lowlife like me, only worse because you’re an old lady now, and age doesn’t suit you. Too bad there was no need for him to add to the din already present. Aside from that, I had more important problems, such as the hitchhiker attached to my side with her disgusting teeth. I could feel her venom filling my veins.

Back at the pastor’s house, the world was ordered with people who made sense. Here–a group of ladies who smiled at me and talked behind my back. There–a group of men who avoided my eyes. God, I hated the women’s dresses, full skirts and cut with roses. I hated the men in their tough jeans. I hated all of them, but the hate wouldn’t last. The venom of it ran out of the bloodsucker’s mouth, emptying itself.

Who did she think she was? I yanked on her body, but she wouldn’t budge. I panicked. I stumbled outside; I swooned on the top step. I covered my face with my hands in order to avoid the ugly eyes staring back at me. But I could feel her. I could feel her teeth digging into my flesh. I winced, and then I peeled my salty, mud-encrusted hands from my face. I was stronger than she was. I was three times her size, and my strong fingers were capable of inflicting damage.

I wrapped my hands around her neck and pressed down on her larynx, crushing it. She didn’t let go. Her face turned blue, and I hated her for her blue face, and I hated her because she was ugly, and for the way her body convulsed with the pain of death. Things of feminine nature were supposed to be beautiful and enchanting, especially those who rose from waterways. They were supposed to captivate. Yet, she was as ugly as sin. She was as ugly as I was. Finally, her disgusting leach body–her disgusting blob of crude femininity–limped to my side. She was dead.

I entered the house, shaking. Her teeth still punctured my skin. In fact, an early onset of rigor mortis had set in, and I knew I wouldn’t remove her from my side very easily. With a smile set from one cheek to another, I strolled in the house. I attempted to pull her from my side, but my efforts were frail. The women with their cut-rose dresses surely would understand why I had a stinking river maid attached to my side. It wasn’t my fault. But it was my fault, and they would inform me, because I’d tried to baptize myself in the river and wash myself clean. Consequently, I had a leach attached to my side. I pulled my baggy shirt over her figure. I was a murderer, and the men and women didn’t need to know.

I hid in the bathroom. Nobody would break in on me there, and I could extricate her teeth from my fat. I shut the door and scraped the hanging lock into its loop with shaking fingers. I pulled off my shirt, saw her figure hanging there, dead. Her eyelids jolted open. I fell on the edge of the tub. Her mouth twisted into a smile against my skin, her teeth still clinging hard.

What was I thinking? This was the outcome of water. I was she. She was I. I couldn’t kill her, not even in a last fit of suicide in the river because I would find her there. She would wait for me in the silt, deep below where nobody dares drift.

She wouldn’t let go. I wouldn’t let go. And the pastors with the stuffed heads could sleep in their windowless chambers, their stained glass cracked through Mary’s head. They could pipe for their own, who would follow like mesmerized sheep.

I wasn’t a sheep. I was an ugly river maid, and I would never let go.

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Confronting Emptiness

Do you mind if I quote from my book? Is that pathetic? Before I do, allow me to explain that I’ve been in the process of depriving my blog of oxygen for some time now. I hoped I could reignite it by writing short stories. God knows, I have hundreds of conceits rattling around in my skull. Sometimes these ideas aren’t satisfied by the writing of stories, however. And so I’ve continued down the path of a dying blog that gasps out a few words every once in a while. When I have to force myself into new areas of interest/study, I would just as soon enter into a land of emptiness where nothing at all exists but emptiness itself, which is a soothing focus.

And that’s the place I’ve gravitated toward in the last few weeks. If I tried to write or read, or otherwise force myself into productivity, I would either fall apart or asleep. Then, last night, I stumbled across a blog written by a man named Dyske Suematsu that renewed my razón de ser for blogging. I read a number of his posts, but this one in particular struck me: Smile Upon Emptiness. In it, he discusses his fear of emptiness, and his willingness to confront his fear in order to cope with it.

His embracing emptiness out of fear led him back to himself and his own thoughts, which was ultimately more exhausting than a life filled with things: “I eventually drove myself crazy. I was at war with emptiness, and it was thoroughly exhausting. When everything around you is empty and silent, all you hear is a relentless flood of your own thoughts. There is nothing to block or divert that flood. You feel beaten down like a boxer laying flat on a boxing ring. And, your thoughts become louder and louder as your surroundings become emptier and quieter. Your thoughts trigger physiological reactions, so your body too becomes tense and fatigued.”

At the conclusion of Suematsu’s article, he relates how he was rescued from this exhaustion by one thing he decided to keep in his otherwise empty apartment—a book with an author photo on the back of it. This photo of another human brought him out of himself, and he was able to reenter the world at-large of things and activities.

I find the fear of emptiness curious, and I’m grateful to him for the glimpse at what can happen if humans exist in this state for too long. I’m grateful because I don’t believe (key word believe) I fear emptiness, but its opposite. I fear being overwhelmed by things and people, a fear I attempted to express through my character Anna in this scene from my book:

Anna wandered down the aisles while she waited, gazing at Mary’s inefficient handiwork strewn over the cluttered shelves. A sense of disorder pervaded the space, and Anna wasn’t certain if she was in a health food store or not. If health food consisted of canned rutabagas, then she supposed the claim was justified. Dusty canned foods in disarray backed up against fresh breads and cereal boxes and bulk bins filled with mysterious substances of nut and legume and granulated textures.

Near the deli, an array of hand-painted silk scarves swayed and eddied in the drafty building. Anna recognized her friend’s handiwork in the scarves, and she followed the trail of ebullient wind catchers to the shelves on the far side of the store. There, she discovered rows of bottles with strange signs and names, which made her shudder.

The world was fraught with things. And Anna could track down and research and discover all those things and, therefore, own them, except that they overwhelmed her. The vast array of ideas, alone, threatened to swallow her whole in its black, gaping maw. That was the universe to Anna—a black gaping mouth that might devour her if she edged too close.

Since I married a man who views himself as an integral part of the universe, rather than a person at odds with it as I am, he’s forced me numerous times to confront my fear of being subsumed by the complexity I see around me. As you can see from my initial thoughts, I still gravitate toward emptiness because it gives me a sense of comfort rather than of fear. But I’m growing more at peace with a world of people and things as the years go by. At some point, I hope to be at complete peace with my surroundings. I’m not sure, however, if an image on the back of a book, or elsewhere, will be enough to force me into acknowledging that I’m an integral part of the universe.

My marriage and children have drawn me out of empty spaces, little by little. Marriage and children will do that. It’s odd. In a way, I understand exactly what Suematsu means by emptiness causing the thoughts to clamor too loudly, which causes more fear on top of old ones. It’s an endless, repeating cycle of perpetual motion. Even though blogging and writing are the necessary outputs to thoughts that spring from empty spaces, these activities are part of the perpetual motion machine. Sometimes, it’s good to step off, and not into emptiness which may be part of the same mechanism, but to the fullness of life culled from chaos.

After all is said and done, the ultimate fear is a far messier conceit, and I don’t want to ponder it. Is it chaos that frightens me? Or is it actually emptiness? What if my true fear is of chaos masking emptiness? What if believing oneself to be at peace with the universe is fear avoidance? What if all human fears come back to emptiness, no matter what we believe them to be about, and Suematsu is simply more self-aware than most of us?

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This Is Way More Exciting…

…than my fantasies of quantum food leaps and melding into walls from earlier today. Katherine Coble has reviewed my book and is conducting a contest to give away a free e-copy. I had NO idea she was going to do this. It was one of those extra special treats that came about on a silent, sullen Sunday. Here’s the link to her review (w/ contest details) of Anna and the Dragon.

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On Perfection and Paredes

Life would be perfect if food were broken down into its molecular parts and could enter the body through vibratory action–a kind of quantum leaping of nutrients, which would trigger the appropriate brain chemicals. Cooking, eating, and cleaning up the detritus of the first two activities consumes far too much precious time, and doesn’t leave enough for sleeping and staring at the wall. If the act of eating consumes my time, then who is doing the consuming? I’ve never quite understood those who enjoy being consumed by food so that they might enjoy a few mouthfuls of something that’s supposed to be delightful.

In the early days of my adulthood, I wondered if it would be possible to be fed intravenously in a continuous fashion–a portable set-up, sort of like a urinary catheter, only moving in the opposite direction. But after years of wondering how this IV could be made less intrusive, with less risk of damaging veins, or of the IV becoming dislodged and leaking fluid into tissues, I’ve discarded the idea entirely. I must step back and ask myself if perfection will ever happen in this world. Yes, I suppose quantum-leaping food could be an option at some point, and I’m sure I could work off the theory of quantum smelling in order to get there, but I’m afraid that I will just have to put up with the traditional digesting process for the time being.

Another ideal of perfection would involve relegating all human interaction to the facebook method, in which flat faces trapped in an epoch of time type out words without inflection, and then they disappear when the conversation grows old. This would allow more time for my two favorite activities as listed above: sleeping and staring at the wall. When I consider a world where a lack of real interaction exists–my dream!–my mind tends to conjure up images of Ents. I’m not sure why this is. I’m guessing I would like to be an Ent because Ents are large and strong and neutral. They go with the course of nature. They don’t enjoy making snap decisions. They could go on for years mulling over the same kind of decisions that others make in days.

Yet, I’m a little stymied by their ability, as herders, to become the ones herded. Not being much of a pack animal, I can’t imagine how this process occurs. How does the herder become the herded? Perhaps this is a question that all in our society should be asking ourselves. That, however, is far too deep a question for this post. Returning to a world lacking interaction, I’ve recently pondered the notion of becoming the wall rather than the existing as the being who stares at it. This is a strange twist on the image of Enthood. Walls, traditionally, are made of the material the Ents herded, and then became. It’s an ironic twist on my essential neutrality.

I would enjoy this reality. I would enjoy being an immovable object that simply observes the world of humans without taking part in it. And, then, when the wide-awake ones notice the writing on me, the wall, I could not only be an observer but a truth-teller. As a writer/observer, transforming into a wall would be a dream come true–no longer any need for food, by quantum action or otherwise. Solid. Immovable. Able to be knocked on. Able to be painted on in outlandish colors. An artist’s dream.

If the walls had ears and eyes and lacked a mouth, the walls would be me. And maybe they are. But don’t be frightened. I’m not watching you.

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