Subsisting Off Black Holes: Eliminating ‘Free’

I hereby submit my proposal to eliminate the word ‘free’ from our lexicon. I would suggest that we also do away with the concept behind the word, but I’m afraid that endeavor is beyond my knowledge.

With words, we must clarify. In English, someone somewhere decided that it would be a huge laugh if they gave several meanings to a single word. It’s also known as polysemy, but please don’t tell anyone that at a party as you will come off as a boorish braggart.

I do not propose that we eliminate ‘free’ in the context of being born with the right to determine your own life. I mean it in the context of value.

Everything has value. Not everyone agrees what that value is, but we all agree that value exists. You like mangos. Chet likes guitars. I like a nice cool river to swim in on a hot day. We all might enjoy the things others do as well, but we all place more value on certain things over other things. Some of you may recognize this as a butchering of Mises’s concept of Praxeology, but yet again, do not mention that outside of our safe space here. Nobody is interested in the names you can drop. People want value for the things they like, not pomp and fluff.

Getting something free implies that no effort was put forth to achieve a particular value. So you say, well of course! Hannah gave me a pizza, I ate it and paid nobody. Free!

This is where your mind can explode if you don’t stop and accept gratitude for the universe.

Hannah did buy the pizza which you consumed. She spent hours of her life getting the currency to exchange for the pizza. The pizza maker spent time preparing the ingredients. The truck driver delivered the ingredients. The oven technician had to come in and tune up the machine. A salesman had to sell the technician the truck they drove in to repair the oven. A miner heaved through the day to produce the ore which comprised the lugnuts on that truck.

You just ate pizza though. Hell, let’s even assume that it was brought to you at your house. Ahh, the true essence of American freedom. Not a single bite of that pizza was free. Why did Hannah buy you a pizza and have it delivered to your house? We intuit that it would be strange if a random person just bought you a pizza and delivered it to your house. Aha! So Hannah must have ulterior motives!

Yes, she does. And so do you if you stop to sort them out. This is not nefarious or sinful. This is being a human. This is social capital. It is another currency that many are not trained to see. Like any other currency it has metrics, albeit more intangible. Just don’t take for granted all the withdrawals you make from other people or you will understand moral bankruptcy.

We don’t have to delve into all the potential reasons that Hannah may want you to have pizza on her dime. You understand them. If not, then you will make mistakes until you do. And this is quite alright too. Do not let the imaginary notion of becoming the Supreme Hero of your life story have a rigid timeline. You will make mistakes and people will still love you if you’re earnest.

I understand the hesitancy to jump into the idea that all human exchanges are micro-calculations of perceived exchanges of value. It’s a sort of unpalatable notion that can turn dystopian in the wrong hands. That is fine. Let the wrong hands do what they may, because if you are in control of your own two then you will always persist.

Freedom is a way of living. It is a mindset more powerful than any words you will ever write or imbibe. Free is a tired notion of subsisting from the larders of a black hole. And if you ever want to test these ideas, go down to the curb around the block and pick up that sofa which has been sitting in the rain for three days then set it up in your living room as is. You will sit on those soggy moldy cushions and understand the real essence of the word free.

The Element Of Irreducible Rascality

When you start changing your life you expect fire and damnation. Usually, it is much more anti-climactic. A few people notice and comment but then go back to writing their grocery lists.

Don’t be discouraged by everyone’s lack of faith in you. A few trust you, but mostly they are only concerned with themselves and tomorrow. As much as people will try to legislate and coerce the inevitable human nature of self-interest, it will be here for a while.

I believe Alan Watts calls this the element of irreducible rascality. We are all ‘rascals’ according to Watts, who are interested in our silly and quite serious ego games. It is fine to act as a rascal, but if you wish to further your understanding of yourself and humanity, you must acknowledge it.

So you begin to lose weight, or learn how to sail or speak Portuguese. You get rid of half your belongings. Maybe you quit your job and start sewing gowns all night in your basement. You can’t fully explain your actions to everyone. You are being a rascal. Thing is, so are they. They will nod or shake their heads and return to Netflix. Small talk will acknowledge your decisions to them, but how many friends do you have that will sit down with you for five hours and talk about the reason?

More important, how long have you talked with yourself about the reason?

Money, children, politics are not reasons. They are actions. A reason is an underlying thesis or ethic that powers the actions. Do you have one? Could you summarize what you think is moral in less than thirty seconds? If not, I don’t think you are being genuine.

Take your lengthy philosophical pandering and dialectics and shove ‘em. Tell me your reason in thirty seconds and we can communicate.

If you don’t want to communicate with me that is fine too. I am a rascal.

How To Start

Changing yourself is a horrifying decision. It appears futile initially. This is why you’ve never tried to change. You can always assuage your subconscious by adopting that tired belief assuming no one ever really changes after the age of eight. Child psychology will back you up, historical evidence too, so why should you argue against all the pointy headed intellectuals? Who do you think you are?

I’ll tell you who you are. You are someone who can imagine better things. For yourself, for others, for the future. You may not know what that is, but you have the capability to imagine. It’s like laying in bed at night with one side of you cold and you know there is more blanket to pull up over you. Sometimes there isn’t more blanket though, and you have to get up and find another blanket. This is why changing your life is hard.

It is a cold start and a steep hill admitting that you don’t have everything you desire. The implications are punishing. You and only you can find out what it is you need, how to get it, and if it will satisfy you. Theoretically, it’s so much easier to accept that if you make 50K a year, buy a BMW when you’re forty, you’re doing alright. Theoretically, no one has to worry about you. You’re doing OK. Until any number of things blows down your straw house. Then you’re forty-seven, divorced, hate working in HR,  and remember that you used to be able to summarize every Shakespeare play and had even started writing a few yourself. This is OK too.

It is never too late to redeem your aspirations.

It’s just a matter of getting up into the cold of the unknown and being courageous enough to admit that you don’t have all the answers, you don’t know the route, and you don’t have the technical skills yet. This is all starting requires. That and the first step.  


Last Day of Cop-Out

Alright, this is my last day of cop-out blogging. It has been a time of family herding, gorging, and walking endless miles through urban squalor. We survived the black Friday crowds by escaping to the Oakland foothills and walking directly up them.

Today was a jaunt around the SF Presidio area with a tour of The Walt Disney Museum. Weird thing to exist in a defunct military base. But it’s SF, so whatever. I’m convinced that almost everyone living here is constantly looking out the corner of their eye to make sure everyone else is doing the same.

Status, cocktails, and tall leather boots. That is the new city motto.

Though, I do like the absurd hills. It’s hilarious and invigorating to turn a blind corner and crank your neck back to look up the street you have to walk up.

I have one more day here tomorrow, but everyone has to work, soooo, the city is mine.


Everyone Is A Salad Bar

It’s hard keeping habits when you’re on the road and back around those who know you. Or knew you.
Tomorrow you will be new. They know the ghost of your actions. You can only communicate with their future projections.
Don’t ever be worried of being truly seen or exposed. That is an impossible fear. Everything you are is open like a salad bar. People may pick out the onions and choose to see the extra olives in you, but you’re all there.
Everyone else is just as open a display.

Close Call

Whew, almost didn’t get one in today. Been hectic family crap as thanksgivings go. It’s been nice hanging out with my brothers, hiking, and feeding. I hope you also are living. Thank you Allah.


Walkin Round The Fransco

I have walked over twenty miles across San Francisco the past two days. This was not a goal, merely an outcome.

Considering that this city is seven miles square, you might think I have seen a substantial portion of it. Not so. San Francisco is 49 square miles of hills and valleys. There are bungalows and apartments tucked into some of the most unlikely places. Every street I walked down was the choice not to take fifty other streets.

I used to find that hard to accept. I want to know every big city I stay in but it won’t be through walking down every tired street or looking down from the hilltops.

I probably won’t ever truly get to know San Francisco, but I know it a little better now. And for some reason, that feels nice.

Kelly’s Spectacular Five Minute Facebook Pop-On

Every now and then you’ll see one of them go. A friend or acquaintance relinquishing their presence in the digital wastelands of Facebook. They will sometimes make boastful announcements of a temporary upcoming absence. Some go all the way, finding the tumultuous sea of social commentary and costumed canines completely overwhelming, they leave us for good.

One’s first thoughts usually turns inwards (we really are self absorbed fun little monkeys), we think that’s crazy, I could never leave Facebook. That person is probably weaker than us or doesn’t get the level of satisfaction from Facebook that we know how to extract. Here’s the thing: Facebook is mostly dumb and seductive.

We all know this intuitively. How many times have you logged in to respond to a message from a friend then get whisked away into the continual stream of pandering nonsense and attention seeking lonely people begging for a few likes. We’re safe here, we can admit it to ourselves honestly. Sometimes, after entering the FB temple to make a meeting date or wish someone a happy birthday, I startle awake after thirty minutes with a cold sweat on my brow, a crick in my neck, and a sore spot on my scrolling finger. It’s like shrinking down back to Bruce Banner from being The Hulk. I know I absorbed pictures of other people’s vacations and more than a few pleading cries for attention, but the exact content blurs. I don’t feel good after these binges. And I have a sneaking suspicion that imbibing mostly pointless content from FB makes us more likely to espouse such nonsense throughout our lives.

I can understand why the leavers do their thing. It is perhaps a mature move on their part that reveals a solid level of self understanding. Though I don’t think that such an extreme move is required for most of us. There is a way to get the utility out of FB without the inanity and bad habits.

Enter Kelly’s spectacular five minute Facebook pop-on. It is exactly what it sounds like.

I get it. We all like the tingly primordial feeling from watching 200 people through a magic screen. It is pretty cool. But hardly necessary and often a big time sink or avoidance mechanism. Time yourself at first if need be, but limit your time on FB to a five minute window. Hit your notifications, see which ones really apply to you and follow those to their conclusion. Ignore all the other ones of people commenting after you on a someone’s photo from their beach trip. Why did you even comment on that photo in the first place? Do you like that person and were hoping they’d notice if you complimented their tan? Maybe you should just call that person in real life instead of playing school yard games ands leaving little bread crumb compliments. Anyways, try it out. And don’t be a sniveling little cheater stringing together endless five minute pop ons, squeezing 60 of them into a day.

The fact is, no one really cares that much about you, and if we’re being completely honest, you don’t really care that much about other people. They are outside of your sphere of concern and influence. Also, with the level of fake news and unsightly opinions being flashed about currently, your brain will feel as though it is being washed in a gentle tropical mist.

But what should you do if your eyeballs aren’t getting salty staring at the fake pictures of other people’s lives? I firmly believe in replacing addictions with better habits. Go stare at a tree or take a walk. Have you heard of books? They’re pretty good at occupying eyeballs. Also, you might learn a real opinion from them instead of a carefully constructed picture that someone wants you to believe their life is like.

I believe in Facebook, as dumb as that sounds. I know immeasurable amounts of good and value are created by connecting billions of people. The probability that spending hours a day on the site will better your life is extremely slim. Sending a message or posting a status takes 3 minutes, after that you are salivating or steaming about other people’s choices. Get them out of your head and take back the power you have given them over your emotions.

Try out the pop on method. Maybe limit yourself to three, five minute pop ons a day. I guarantee you that you will be missing nothing, and you might even notice a lot of things in the world around you.

Fiddly Airport People And Guilt

We are fiddly sorts of creatures, us humans. Take a look around an airport sometime and you’re sure to see a lot of headphone twirling and scurrying monkies double fisting coffee. The ones with kids often seem too tired to be fiddly anymore and seem to have turned squirrely. It’s a fine distinction.

What’s troubling you today? Nothing is an acceptable answer. But if you’re a human, there is probably one or more things that feel as though they are dancing around your periphery. One time I couldn’t remember the word ‘nostalgia’ for three weeks. Worse still, I couldn’t figure out how to elicit any aid towards the absence. When I remembered the word I was helping my Dad move out of his house and I literally shouted “Nostalgia!” It’s a really great word to shout.

That’s a peculiar example. Sometimes what’s eluding you is a bit more esoteric and fluffy. Fluff can be a real problem. What we all aspire to do is to create. Creation is concrete. It is the condensation of all those clouds into rain drops which nourish your mental landscape and bear fruit for the world.

How does one go about turning brain ether into the good stuff?

First, get rid of that guilt. I can smell it on you. You can feel it lingering behind your left shoulder. Why are you so guilty? What built up the shame? I know, you’re not ashamed or guilty. I’m wrong. I get it. But maybe admit it to yourself. It’ll be your secret. Just crack the hinge on your vault of shame and take a peek. Maybe prod it a bit and see how you react. The more comfortable you get assessing your deep down insecurities objectively the better the ride gets. You know this, but forget it every night.

You have done nothing wrong in this sweet beautiful moment. The past was you. Now, you’re you. It’s rare that we have clean getaways in life so take this one and roll with it. Nobody else knows who you are right now. They only know who you’ve been, so tell them. Tell yourself. The actions of others don’t define you. They can’t tell me who you are.

It’s a squirmy feeling one can get when you accept this. Don’t be afraid. Make the squirm part of you. After all, you are feeling it. Examine it. Try to put it in a box, then take it out. Kick it if you want until you are tired of it.

Let your emotional state inform you. Your work is to interpret. Too much of creation seems daunting because it feels like it breaks the law of conservation of matter.

Let’s be clear: you are making nothing. You are only imbibing and regurgitating sensory input. Even your liver is telling you what to do right now. You just can’t speak its tongue. Put it down in your medium. Attempt to define what a nerve actually feels like.

Tingly, horrid, clammy, tight, warm, numb, severed. All of this stuff is inside of you and me. We’re all trained to believe the universe has a message, but somewhere along this timeline, numbers, cars, and shoes take over. Don’t let the setting or characters confuse you from the story.

Clear away whatever you think the problem is and tell me your story.

A Few Ingredients

I don’t personally know too many writers, but I have met plenty of people who claim that they would like to be writers. That’s not a snarky jab. I believe them. I was and still am them. There seem to be a good amount of us out there, but I could just be showing my bias. Perhaps there are a disproportionate amount of people who want to be engineers and mathematicians. I gloss over those types because the appeal of a drawn out calculus thesis seems a bit like chewing sand to me.

The way I see it, I am a human. The things other humans do inform me on what I consist of. Not that they determine how I should act. In a sense, they do. A writer is synonymous with being an observer. The act and synthesis of writing is deeply personally and self-guided, but let’s not pretend that the material originates the same way.

Anyone who wants to be a writer has read. It is an unavoidable precept. A necessary condition for the other molecules to coalesce. They savored the spaces between the words. Then the spaces between the lines. They stopped with their eyes closed after a particularly savory sentence. The bitter cherries in the pie, the astringent tannins in the bottle of wine, the dripping humidity of the leaves in the rainy season. These are the sorts of things that a writing type of reader picks up on and internalizes.

Also, high school English departments. Not all of them. But I have a suspicion and anecdotal experience that these departments filled with a few malcontents and hippies are a breeding ground for aspiring writers. I don’t think it’s because they are fountains of inspiration and wisdom inherently, but relative to their surroundings they are lush breeding grounds for discontent. Nothing makes a better writer than discontentment.

The rest of my high school was void of independent thinking. It was full of bitterness and professionals that made sure every pupil could feel the level of regret that life was capable of reaching. When I walked into the English department, it smelled of books and the lights were just a few watts warmer. The ceilings a bit lower and the voices seeping from the rooms were hushed with intent.

Mr. Contorno was the chief malcontent of the department. I managed to make sure he was my teacher for the three years I served in that prison. Literally, my high school was designed by a prison architect. This was Texas. Walking into Mr. Contorno’s classroom was like leaving campus. The walls were painted in student murals and hand-painted quotes were scrawled from ceiling to tile. The desks were always shifting position. When we read “Lord of The Flies” he really shone through, creating a simulacrum of a jungle. I remember carrying a large oak stump up the three flights of stairs to his room and made it my seat for a while.

The rule was to have respect but show it to your creativity first.

I suspect many people with literary aspirations had a similar thing happen to them. It’s not that high school English departments are exceeding expectations, but compared to the automatonic sludge that forms a moat around them, they are in bloom.