Such as Life And If So, One Must Imagine Sisyphus Happy.

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I’m no Greek scholar or trained in Stoicism, so I’ll ask in my own colloquial custom. How many times do you reckon this old world gobbled up the many who said, “I’m gonna show the world how tough I am!”? Probably at least a dozen hundred times I’d suspect, and I bet the old world was mean enough to say, “I’m gonna show you how tough you ain’t,” just before the condemned was masticated in those slow-moving jaws that never cease gnawing.

I recall the story of the Greek legend, Sisyphus, who was the king of Ephyra (or Corinth today). We are told that Poor Sisyphus was too high-strung, too self-assured, ambitious, and known for “self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness.”

The Gods punished Sisyphus for his insufferable behavior in life. His sentence was to roll a boulder up an impossible hill, only to have it roll back over him, once he finally reached the top. Helpless, he’d trek down the progress he’d made that day where he’d steady himself behind the boulder again there at the bottom of that hill, look up, eyes stinging from sweat and brightness from a midday sun, that never shone otherwise, sigh, wipe his brow, grip the punishing reminder the Gods set before him, lay his shoulder into it and repeat the monotonous routine that was his hard labor for eternity.

Was Sisyphus that bad of a guy, though? Or did life pluck him from the unfortunate few?

There’s something to be made out of Greek Tragedy. I suggest you look it up but as I understand a version of it, the Gods had a way of leading one along, success after success, only to bring him to personal failure or professional defeat. Think Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg (after thoroughly having his way with the Union Army and its, what, five previous commanders?– only to fail spectacularly in Pennsylvania during that hot July month in 1863– or Napoleon post-exile at Waterloo) or any other example as a sure thing launched only to see it crashing back down to earth.

Such as life is how the philosophers describe it but that’s too flippant here.

We return to Sisyphus, who was condemned by the gods to push a boulder up a hill. Perhaps old Sisyphus viewed life as a bleak joke. What if life to him was nothing more than a pretense, a thing not to be taken too seriously. Moreover wasn’t it Augustus, the man who turned a Roman Empire from clay to marble, that left us with the closing statement for his consequential place in history, “Have I played my part in the farce of life well enough?”

Irony and fitting words from a man who embodied Imperium.

Read how Albert Camus views cruel fate and how he detest the Gods! In fact, I gather from below that maybe the Gods envy us!

Truly, a man cannot be defeated as long as he knows who he is and understands what part he is to play.It’s when he forgets this and gives up that he will be destroyed.

“It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock. . .

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

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Something Truthful about Conspiracy Theories

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A Facebook colleague asked me what I thought about Jade Helm 15. According to conspiracy theorists Jade Helm 15 is the government codename for the coming military takeover of the state of Texas. Why the military would want Texas or what they plan on doing with it after the takeover isn’t elaborated so far as I’ve discerned. Come to think of it, might be Texas would make one helluva of an officer’s club or one of those great big Air Force bases. Plenty of cheap, low skilled labor nearby to make sure the greens are watered and weeded and the nearby dining facilities and NCO clubs are stocked and cleaned.

Funny thing on the way to believing conspiracy theories is there is a certain amount of truth to them. At least the same amount found in any other thing we’ve judged to be truthful.

Conspiracy theories are manifestations of the truth buried deep in our psyche like an imbedded germ deep within our conscious that reminds us every day we are doomed, destined to die, and will at one moment pass into that final midnight.

Time and evolution has granted to humanity an excess of consciousness that has come to weigh it down with knowledge of tragedy and death. It’s this dark knowledge we have about our fates, which causes us to turn this despair into entertainment and self-consciousness into Dark Enlightenment.

H.P. Lovecraft’s Old Ones is a wonderful source to this dark knowledge as it explains that we are utterly contingent and fragile. Put simply, this dark knowledge kills us for sport. All such foreboding and ultimate designs about our fate is a product of the human, rather than the natural, world. They are inventions of human consciousness just as our conceptions of self-awareness and autonomy are.

Since death isn’t real until it happens and the only way to experience it is to die, there stands a void in between. Conspiracy theories stand in for this void for the ultimate realization: “Horror is more real than we are” as Thomas Ligotti wrote in The Conspiracy Against the Human Race.

No better example comes to mind then the frenzy and hysteria over global warming/climate change. Talk about the ultimate horror! And despite the fact we were supposed to have died a dozen times over the past 50 years, it’s still gripping entertainment for many who thrive off of existential miserablism.

So, beyond all illusion and distraction we are faced with the horror of our certain, imminent, and permanent annihilation. Conspiracy theories are a dark confirmation of all that you had feared, but stand in for good entertainment in the meantime.

The Jaws of the Bocca della Verità

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This dreadful looking pagan visage is said to bite off the hands of liars.

I am hot on the trail of a conceptual demon – the obscurant, lie that appeals to cognitive bias through suggestion.

I caught an article over at The American Scholar about lying and liars, why we do it, and why we bask in the glory of having caught one in a lie.

Obviously we all lie and have lied, but that doesn’t make us liars. Children lie often. Why? I think it’s fueled from imagination (innocence) and defense (lying to an elder is their only defense against punishment).

The article itself discussed the well publicized Brian Williams fiasco where he was time and again shown to have lied. However, the author spared Williams scorn by suggesting there’s a “much more interesting phenomenon: unintentionally misrepresenting the truth.” What the author means by this can be explained using his own words: “If retrieving memory is a process—and recounting it a performance—then there are numerous ways its accuracy can derail.”

Firstly, one would have to be in the mind of Williams to know if he “unintentionally” misrepresented the truth. How did he determine there was no motive or profit for Williams to lie? He is after all a high-profile personality in the media, which is nothing more than a sensationalism-churning industry for an audience whose memories are no longer than a news cycle. He’s a product of his own environment, a creation by his own design and a willing accomplice in an enterprise of half-truths, bold face lies, and narratives. So I tend to throw “unintentional” out the window.

Secondly, Williams’ tall-tales had nothing to do with memory and everything to do with purpose, a purposeful lie to transport himself from viewer or reporter to subject in order to receive the same sympathy as the victim and the same admiration as the hero. Simply, he lied for personal gain. One does not create entire stories in vivid detail out of thin air unintentionally.

As for liars, people don’t hate liars. On the contrary, people grudgingly accept a good liar in a sly-like-a-fox kind of way. They do, however, despise a bad liar. And a bad liar is one who gets caught.

Political season will soon be up on us and I can promise you this. All will lie except when they are talking about the other politician.

 

40 Years and 40 More

You’re born and 40 years later you stumble out of a bar into a damp dark night and every ache and pain reminds you of all the past lives you lived. But you keep moving because movement is the destination and a new start begins again after the next last thing lost. So you spark up a Camel and the taste is better than ever before and you tell yourself you got 40 more.

Notes

  1. I’m not 40 but I can see it from here.
  2. Some of this was plagiarized from a novel I read “Galveston” and I changed it because I liked it.

What The Cabin Means

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The old man (I’m not old, but in my mind’s cabin I am) liked to chop firewood for exercise and peace. The rhythm of the axe rose and fell seemingly at its own pace, with little effort but lots of joy. The moist, rich smell of oak and hickory filled the air. The sound of work did not bother the wildlife. Birds chirped and sang and squirrels chattered. He admonished his hounds for giving them chase–his lions he called them: Caesar, Cleopatra and Patton.

His aging profile is noticed in the lines on his forehead. His hairline is receded now but the admixture of Celtic and Saxon blood is undeniable in his features despite the passage of time–A regular Child of God, he reminded himself. He’s thin, still broad, but slightly hunched forward at the shoulders.

The gentle sounds of nature around the cabin were like Beethoven for the destitute. It was nature that played maestro to his all his thoughts and every activity. He rose early each day to review the day’s schedule over cups of steaming coffee. The matters mostly involved fighting back the weeds and vines and birch that threatened to invade his peaceful oasis in the woods. The task was unending but in them he found for each day of his life reason, calmness, and progress. Fighting for civilization, he mused, by undoing nature’s painstaking labor.

In the afternoon, after lunch and a midday nap or a book, he tended to his vegetable garden and five fruit trees. If the heat was not too much, he sat and marveled at what he created in the midst of wilderness. He would walk down to the bank of the creek and sit in the shade. He’d count the wood ducks and the bass and catfish or playfully throw acorns at the soft-shell turtles as they emerged from beneath the surface for air.

The water passed by at the same pace of his life. He was deeply and utterly and completely content. Even free he’d boast, if he were in an arrogant mood.

Winter days were equally rustic and simple. He would carry in carefully cut firewood to the fireplace and escape the cold with a book and a glass of scotch. The light from the crackling heat provided warmth and light to soothe and assist his reading while reclined in his easy chair. He wrote once during one of these nights, “Here I have not only silence but complete peace. Sometimes it is so quiet I can overhear my mind and heart. The wisdom these two share.”

Inside his cabin was a sanctuary. Before entering, he left his boots at the doorstep. He expected those who visited to do the same. His home was a modest, two story, two bedroom affair. He hired laborers from nearby and helped build it, too. On the ground floor was an open layout: living room, guest bedroom, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom and off to the side near the staircase was his reading area and library, which was closest to the fireplace.

Reading was a passion and he had finally developed a taste and discipline for the classics. In the place of large meals were simple hearty stews, salads and the vegetables from his garden and the fruit from his fruit trees.

Ascending the staircase, one passed his book-lined study. On the upper floor were the master bedroom and a fully furnished loft that opened to a balcony facing east. There in the early morning, he would talk to God, created to creator—the details of which are forever unknown.

The cabin stood in surrounded woods hugging the nearby creek. It was remote from the nearest road and invisible from the nearest highway. Although he kept to himself most of his days, he was friendly, agreeable, and never turned down strangers.

He told his son one evening, now a young lawyer, who stressed to him about the lack of time and opportunity that, “One does not have time, son. One makes time. The same goes with opportunity.” (The son forgot this nugget of wisdom. Years later when he realized it for himself but was too old to do anything with it and forgot that it was ever told to him to start with, could do nothing but share it with his son and hope for a different outcome).

His son would help him from time to time with the sawing, clearing and piling. Each claimed for themselves something basic from the land and something basic from each other. At night around a fire or on the balcony looking up at the stars, they would smoke cigars and sip scotch. He asked his son to share with him about his aspirations, about life in general. They called this council the “God and the Stars Discussions.”

The man told his son that satisfaction would take him further than any good favor in life. He explained, “Consider morality, ethics, economics, politics, each passing year and compare it to your own level of satisfaction. Then you are forced to compare your own happiness against the world and decide for yourself who’s doing better. However, one must be willing to retreat, tactically, of course, within his own interior lines and be willing to leave behind dead weight that just yesterday was precious and invaluable.”

His son tried, underneath those stars, to follow along in his father’s wisdom but admitted that with his whole life in front of him, the thought of retreat and living in a cabin was obnoxious. The father calmly and reassuringly said that it’s good to grow old because it allows a person to change gradually, “It’s easier to smile, it’s easier to cry and forget the things that once set our minds on fire. The more one relaxes and sees life in all its simplicities, as opposed to its impossibilities, the more things that seemed important recede. Yet, one does not retire in this simplicity because there is always something to do! Physically and mentally one finds tasks that can be measured and their completion noticed.”

The son pressed for more clarification. Finally the father revealed all that he had learned in life was abundantly within and around the cabin. In which was thus, “Find so much satisfaction in your life and days and works that all of them are more a pleasure than a chore.”

And How Would You Know?

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I came across this site [https://www.futureme.org] which allows you to compose an email and have it delivered to your future self at a date you determine. Being a natural risk taker, I bit.

Before I did, I poked around and read some of the public emails members shared to their futureselves. I wasn’t too impressed.

Turns out most people think they know what’s best for themselves years down the road despite not having one piece of information on the claim and knowing next to nothing about their futureself they lecture. I mean the nerve of some folks.
I found it all arrogant and disrespectful to an elder and rude behavior toward strangers, which is what our futureselves are. It’s best to stay out of peoples business you know nothing about. Then, I’m funny like that.

Wish they had one where the futureself could email the presentself. Now that’d be useful.

At any rate, I fired off an email to my futureself to be delivered in a couple of years. I didn’t lecture my futureself, the last thing my futureself wants is some snot nose kid telling him what’s what in the world.

Motivation and Confidence

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Both come from familiarity with the self. When you know your limits and weaknesses therein lies your strength. Eliminating one less enemy to hold off from your flank and one less enemy is as good as a defeated one, so says Mr. Tzu. With your flank free and clear of threats, you can throw your reserves up front with the rest of the soldiers and archers and calvary and occupy new ground in front of you. Your kingdom now immensely larger allows you to focus only on what is achievable and possible according to your own clear judgment. Don’t forget your flank.

Dreaming is fine; pondering, even better. Practicality is a heartier investment in the longterm. Dreamers attempt to construct castles without knowledge of physical dimensions and rock hewing. Pragmatists build sturdy homes relative to the physical material accessible to them.

Patience is a virtue; procrastination is its evil twin. They look alike, even seem similar at first glance but the other one will rob you.

Repay your debts. That’s all.

Accept change; there’s no great evil in it but don’t tolerate the things that stay the same in consequence of change.

Defend the defensible. If there was no tradition, all new things would have been smothered in the crib.

Our spacetime, our now, is no more important than any time before and will be no less than any time after. Everything that happens, has happened, will happen is already familiar and a well recorded fact regardless of the race in whatever dimension of time, past, present, future, it occurred.

Think continually how many physicians are dead after often contracting their eyebrows over the sick; and how many astrologers after predicting with great pretensions the deaths of others; and how many philosophers after endless discourses on death or immortality; how many heroes after killing thousands; and how many tyrants who have used their power over men’s lives with terrible insolence as if they were immortal; and how many cities are entirely dead, so to speak, Helice and Pompeii and Herculaneum, and others innumerable. Add to the reckoning all whom thou hast known, one after another. One man after burying another has been laid out dead, and another buries him: and all this in a short time. To conclude, always observe how ephemeral and worthless human things are, and what was yesterday a little mucus to-morrow will be a mummy or ashes. Pass then through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end thy journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree on which it grew.

Be like the promontory against which the waves continually break, but it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it.

Always run to the short way; and the short way is the natural: accordingly say and do everything in conformity with the soundest reason. For such a purpose frees a man from trouble, and warfare, and all artifice and ostentatious display (The Meditations, Marcus Aurelius).

The Reports of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated

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It’s been a while. I’d like to say proudly that I’m still alive. How long has it been since I’ve poked my head up here; I can’t exactly say. I’d guess more than two years. Lot’s has changed in that time. I’m going through a divorce, now. Yep, after 9 years it’s over. She filed last week, I think.

She moved back to Texas, back during the summer. That means my kids live several states away. I fly home to see them every six weeks or so. That won’t change. I love them too much. Miss them, too. I’ll do and spend what I have to see them.

I guess my wife and I faced the music, as they say. Wasn’t much love there. Commitment, habit, obligation, sure; love, not so much. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Except they forget to tell you how bad it hurts when she takes your kids. My little girl asked the other night if I was coming home for Valentine’s Day.

I’m not.

I can’t.

Regardless, how does a fiver-year-old girl know what the meaning of Valentine’s Day is? Moreover, how on earth did she associate her far-away father with that date? It was enough to make me cry. It did, actually. I cry a lot these days. Not boohooing here and there like an emotional wreck or anything. I mean, just now and then my emotions catch up to me. So I cry. Which is fine, I guess. Should have cried before over several things. I just never did. So now, I guess like water, tears too follow the path of least resistance.

[I want to say here: I miss my people who used to come to this site and I to theirs]. 

Needless to say, I’ve had some long nights. Missed some work too because of them. Insomnia nearly ruined me last year. Taking up the guitar was the best thing I could have done for myself. I’ve explored every brand of Scotch sold in the US. I can give a very informed opinion on what is good and what isn’t (in case anybody cares to know).

I bought a new car, too. I’d say I spent more than I should have. None of it did me a bit good. Oh wait. There is some good, I suppose. I bought 2.5 acres of land down in Louisiana. I bought it sight unseen. Well that’s a little white lie. I flew in to look at it after I’d already agreed to buy it. So call it what you want. It’s mine now. I reckon I’ll sell it in lots or put a couple of houses on it and sell it for a profit.

One more thing, I finished grad school back in June.

But back to my marriage. I guess in the end it was all my fault. Isn’t it always the man’s fault? I could have been better. A better man and a better husband. I had a lovely wife. A sweet wife and a very caring mother. I’ll never speak ill of her. She’s the mother of my two beautiful children (contrary to some, I really do have beautiful children) and I respect her immensely. Why shouldn’t I?

Listen to this: She allowed me to stay at her parents during Christmas so my babies could have their daddy there for Christmas morning. After all the crap and the things worth keeping on the surface, she’s better than that. I’d die for this woman–even if I can’t stay married to her. I tell you hindsight is more than twenty-twenty; it’s an everyday kick in the ass. At any rate, I guess what I’ve listed has covered the past year. They say time has a way of scabbing over all the things that hurt. Why pick at it ?

Got some literature for you, something I drummed up while I was playing my hand at Southern Gothic. I’ll share more later. I’ve gotten quite a lot written down.

You know his first wife spent every penny he made. When he couldn’t make it fast enough she left him. Well that’s not all. She left him in debt, too. He says won’t let no other women do that to him again. I can believe it. I been asking for a car just so I can run errands during the day. I can’t even get him to talk about it long enough for me to convince him. I guess he thinks I’ll up and run off too. Men are strange. Spend their whole life looking for a woman like their mamma then spend the rest of it treating her like his little sister. I tell you real life ain’t nothing like soap operas. Men can be mean.

A Dang Shame

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Last summer I was driving home from the gym. A few miles before my house, I saw this white car on the side of the road with its hazards flashing. Nothing out of the ordinary – a car on the side of the road, broke down. As I got closer, I saw a young mom holding her two year old across her body in her arms. Her daughter looked to be about four. Well, I immediately pulled over and backed up to them. I got out, drenched, with my ankle brace still on my leg. She probably wondered what I wanted.

The little two year old boy was sleeping, without a shirt, in her arms, spread across her chest, and his little head was soaked with sweat. All of them were flush from the heat. I said, “ma’am is there anything I can do to help?”

“No thank you, we are fine.” That’s all she said.

That was hardly an answer. It was more to the tone, “please leave.” I didn’t want to make her feel uneasy. I didn’t get within twenty feet of her, but it was the babies that concerned me. I asked her how long she had been out there.

“About two hours, but someone is coming to pick us up.”

“Two hours! Has anyone stopped to help you?”

“No, but my husband is off work now and he is coming.”

I said, “Well the store is just a few miles up the road, I can go and get y’all something to drink at least.”

“No, it’s okay. Someone is coming and will be here soon.”

“Okay” I say, “well take care.” And I left.

The young mother didn’t know what to expect from a stranger. She didn’t trust me and I can’t say that I blame her with all that goes on in the world. She was doing the right thing, which is a dang shame.