Exorcising the Animal: Why Hate Crimes, Racism, and Tribalism might actually be signs of progress

commentary

OK, stay with me, people: hate crimes, racsim, and tribalism are all some of the most disappointing and deplorable aspects of human nature. I think most people would agree with that. Because our human nature encompasses the entire spectrum of beautiful expressions of art, the power of compassion, and a tremendous intellectual capacity, it shouldn’t be hard to see that running people over with cars or marching around, yelling hateful things with swazticas and tiki torches in no way represents the pinnacle of human achievement (to say the least). Most of us are watching this all unfold with great consternation, indignation, and anger, and humanity deserves a little credit for this indignant reaction; it means that a significant portion of our species have made a conscious effort to resist our most base and primal behaviors. A significant portion of humanity actually chooses love over hate—in order to understand exactly how big a deal that is, we need some perspective on what humanity has been.
For FIVE MILLION YEARS, “humans” were just learning how not to be monkeys. That is approximately when the earliest hominid species appeared. And before that, it was only 50-55 MILLION YEARS ago that monkeys finally got their shit together and became monkeys… that is, only after a few BILLION years of, you know, being nascent primordial life and other scary things. We’re talking single-cell organisms. Fuckin’ amoebas. Fuckin’ fish and lizard things. HOW can any of us actually conceive of a million years, no less, a BILLION?! We can’t. Modern humans emerged about 200,000 years ago, but most modern civilizations have only been keeping count for a little over 2,000 years; that’s nothing in the grand scheme of things. For MILLIONS of years, humanity couldn’t really even conceive of its own existence. We were busy eating shit off the ground and spearing mammoths or whatever—living only to survive.  I was watching a flock of pidgeons downtown the other day, and I watched them all peck aimlessly at the pebbles and cigarette butts, only narrowly avoiding getting hit by a bus. In their aimless pecking, I saw what must have been the human condition for millenia (minus buses and cigarettes, but same idea). We roamed the earth with no other awareness than the emptiness in our bellies and the fire in our loins.
And NOW, in the year two-thousand and seventeen anno domini, we expect everybody to be civil, compassionate, high-minded lizard-monkey-people. We expect that ONE war or ONE president or ONE political movement will exorcise us of the inherent animal nature within us all. The human species has made amazing progress, and they’ve done it really, really fast. We’ve found ourselves at the nexus of animalism and greater consciousness—and we’ve been here for thousands of years, and it might take hundred, or thousands of years to exorcise that viscious, fearful animal nature in all of us. The fact that we, too, are animals is a repressed trauma that we all push out of our minds… but it is still a fact. Hate crimes, racism, and tribalism come from our animal selves, and the fact that it’s even an issue how we treat one another in society is sign of progress. After studying ancient Greek history and Roman history, I’ve realized there’s really nothing new under the sun. We wonder why history seems to repeat itself ad nauseum, and that is because evolution takes a long fucking time. Let us continue to strive for more Love and compassion in this world, while also coming to terms with the reality of our animal nature. It’s the hand we’ve been dealt as a species, but that’s why humans are so amazing… we have been striving to overcome what we are. That’s kind of insane, if you think about it. The struggle of being human ultimately comes down to rejecting what we are, and what we have been, which means we’ve all felt—at some point—that there is something fundamentally wrong in our very nature. Humans are the species rebelling against nature. It’s hard. And it feels strange and uncomfortable, but we are making progress. And we will continue making progress for as long as we reach after something better than our animal nature; not everyone is going to be on board all at once, but collectively the rising tide lifts all boats. The horrible, tragic things that we’ve been seeing are part of the struggle for progress… and it could take a while to become the species we want to be.

Summer Rains

poetry

Summer rains are so easy to forgive

Not a hindrance, but worn as an accessory for the evening.

A soothing pitter-patter on the windshield

A slightly inconvenient sprinkling that only adds more character to the night.

Or a welcome gift to our lawns and gardens:

The hallelujah afternoon downpour:

All watered and cooled–

the air fresh with verdure and petrichor;

A passing spell,

The whisper of Nature’s mercy,

A moment of weakness in the heavens,

A minor fracture in the sky,

A brief, cathartic sob 

We receive with tempered joy–

Summer rains are so easily forgiven. 

It wasn’t supposed to end like this

poetry

It wasn’t supposed to end like this—
It was supposed to be a civil nod of the head
A conciliatory, halfhearted hug
And promises that we won’t forget—
because we won’t—
and that, in the end, it would all be OK.

Well-wishes for the next leg of the journey
with wistful smiles
and mutual respect—
Acting like the good people we both are.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this,
what sorrow.

Stories of Stability

life, poetry

When you woke up fifteen minutes early and sat down to a bowl of oatmeal and the morning paper,
noticed a chip in your favorite mug, and realized you liked it better that way
When traffic was slightly less horrible yesterday afternoon
and you saw a robin perched on the power line
When you got into bed with freshly-washed sheets,
and slept noiselessly, never getting too hot or too cold.When you laughed at the increasingly ridiculous tactics of telemarketers, and you told them how broke you were:

“Hello, is Robert there?”
“No, I think you have the wrong number”
“Oh, well maybe you can help me out; I’m calling from the fill-in-the-blank research foundation and we’re starting our annual drive…”
“I have zero monies”
End call.



When you finished all your reports and left work ten minutes early
When you listened to the silence of your still, unoccupied living room
and you found a popcorn kernel between the cushions.
When you decided that matching socks might be a good idea, and you matched them all.
When you smelled the potent, artificial meadow breeze of the fabric softener before you started that load.
When you sang along to classic disco hits on the way to your doctor’s appointment.
When you met your friend for coffee and struggled to find anything to talk about, so you both analyzed the complex body of your respective lattes.
When you took a walk around the block and waved hello to exactly three strangers.
When you watched a forty-minute eighth inning, accompanied by a cold coke.
When the ice on your windshield glinted in the morning light, and you remembered your gloves to scrape it all off.

When you finally called your sister and you took out the trash

When your parrot asked you earnestly, “Where Bu?”

And you watched her take a nap, before snoozing yourself.

Written for a Friend on the Eve of his Birthday

life

The body.

It decays, yet:

These houses of meat are but temporary things for our soul to reside in while we experience this world.

This version of reality and consciousness.

All of our souls chose this plane of existence for some reason.

It’s a class we’ve all enrolled in.

To learn things.

Soul things.

Like how to Love and have Compassion and to learn Acceptance—

this reality is an ultimate test in Acceptance.

This world has infinite ways to humble us again.

And again.

Whenever we think we know.

To show us what we must accept about others and ourselves.

We learn to yield our great capacity for knowledge and noise to our destiny of peace.

Of sweetest silence

and quietude.

The state from which we arise and to which we return.

And every moment our bodies persist is another moment to learn.

And wonder.

Every moment

is another opportunity for awe

And gratitude.

Dearest Friend,

you’ve persisted

and continue to persist—

these moments

this life

is a chance to find

new horizons of possibility for our souls

knowing that whatever we find

is what we’ve always been meant to see.

The weight of conclusions

and decisions

dissipates once we realize that the only way to live

is to live.

So,

as long as you’re alive

—knowing every moment is a reward that we’ve somehow earned—

—that has been mysteriously given—

please feel

blessed.

Please feel amazed

and unafraid.

There is nothing to fear,

these things,

they happen.

The body, it decays.

That is the world.

But you are a soul,

Dearest friend.

To Live Like This

life

If you’re going to live like this, there are some things you should know:

You are going to fuck up. Often. People are going to question you. Often.
You are going to take their advice with a grain of salt.
You are going to prove them right. Often.
And then
You are going to prove them wrong.
And all you need to do is prove them wrong once
to emerge a hero, with a tale, a lesson, an experience that they will covet.
That they will exalt. They will tell the tale far and wide,
even though they were on the sidelines, giving their warnings  and crying foul,
because you fuckin’ did it.
You will be remembered.

You will have to fight against instinct.
You will refuse to acknowledge fear.
There will be fear.
And it means nothing.

You will not live to be scared.
You will not live to be proper.
You will not live to be OK.
You will live for the journey.
You will live for the tragedy and the suspense and the miraculous and the uncomfortable and the astounding and the unanticipated and the glorious.
You will live for the best.
And you won’t be left wondering.

You might not live without regrets,
but you won’t regret regretting
because, damn,
it will be amazing.

The Life of a Siren

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The Life of a Siren

The siren is born with a song in her heart; it is as fundamental to her being as the very water she breathes. She is not a predator, but she is doomed to enchant. She sings her song because that is her purpose, her very existence. She is doomed to drown the enchanted. She may be the most splendid monster, but we should not judge her murderous enticements. After all, we do not judge the black widow for entangling and consuming her unfortunate partner… her actions are in-built and inevitable. And, like the black widow, the siren is doomed to loneliness.

Every sailor she’s captured should have known that oceans are vast and unforgiving. The sailor is advised not to listen to siren song, but he is helpless to hear. Every sailor, being human, has been endowed with sensory capacities: humans are born punctured with orifices, utterly susceptible to the penetration of loveliness. It is unavoidable that they will be victims of flavorful aroma, tuneful fragrance, and melodies both soft and delicious. Like the siren, humans are souls divided, and when they meet only one will survive. Survive on until the next tragic inevitability.

Memoirs of the Brain-Damaged

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I almost died.

Some people ask if I saw the light; if there was a tunnel?
No, not entirely. There were cracks through which the light shone and then became refracted in a dazzling confusion of color and pain-killers.
Probably purple. Possibly green.

I felt my childhood rupture along an artery… every summertime sprinkler cold on your skin. Every snow day that never ends. When letters were hieroglyphics and you wondered what they meant…

My ancestors were there to greet me. They waited patiently for two hours, ready to receive me in their myriad European tongues.
They dispersed when a surgical drill broke through my cranium.
Consciousness lost comprehension; rushed out of me in blood-cloudy spinal fluid. I can only recall the sun-warm sensation of the peachy pink twilights that you hope to remember.

Memory repeated until it unclotted itself.
My quiet repose was nearly absolute upon sterile sheets, undreaming a short lifetime of misunderstandings, when a cacophony of beeping machinery hearkened my immanent departure.

I was a precarious hovering, a mist threatening dispersion.
Verging on vanish, riding the faint vapor of a final breath, I briefly dissolved only to re-enter myself.
And I can’t tell you why or the hour of my assemblage, just that I know the color of nondescription.

I opened my eyes: light.