All of us, thrown into the slaughterhouse of history, thrown into a world of assassinated Caesars and crucified Christs, into a woeful world of bombs and mayhem, a world one madman away from nuclear annihilation, a world of rich buffoons and censored truthtellers, a world where cancer eats the flesh, and inflation eats the earnings, and progress eats the soul.
I emerge from a grimy dive bar on E 4th Street and sit on a gratified bench in the 3pm hot sun to watch the frantic folks babble on phones and walk with an unholy detachment on the sidewalks of an evanescent empire.
Everything is noisy and zooming by, fast fast fast, the great symphony of modernity — cheap amusements, diversions, billboards of smiling stooges, steel and cement and wifi, guns and knives and needles, conmen, thieves, and murderers, fat wallets placed in the back pockets of adderall-souled bigshots looking for the kill, but hey, I just sit here half-drunk in the golden afternoon and admire the girls because the world is ugly and they’re still pretty in their rustling skirts, and their lavender smiles make me smile as they stroll by my saluting eyes.
O America America America what have you done to your children, these cogs in a relentless wheel, these nervous news-watchers, these swollen toads of bitterness and anxiety who wage war on their own lives. Goddamnit, this place reeks of mediocrity and madness, I say let us burn burn burn the hollow creeds and the bureaucratic rules of this waiver signing society and let us revive the Promethean fire of the dead poets. Whitman Lorca Rimbaud Verlaine Hölderlin Rilke Ginsberg Hesse Baudelaire Auden have more to offer than any of these pathetic media folks who have a vested interest in keeping you and I “adjusted” to the soulless status quo.
Let us burn burn burn the headlines of treachery and the flimsy thrones of all these pallid-hearted politicians, and let us do away with the life-negating dogmas and all the stupidity corruption greed war murder and the childish delusions that sustain these idiotic inanities of a belligerent world.
Luckily the ravens still flutter in the demented wind and the lilies bloom somewhere far off in spite of the murderous affairs of the world, and here I am, sitting in the golden afternoon on the incomprehensible streets of mankind half-drunk with a 4 day beard thinking of nothing valuable, nothing special, nothing revolutionary, just sitting there in the golden gloom of the afternoon dreaming about pine forests and jugs of wine and old trains slicing through prairies while quietly awaiting the next lavender smile to pass by.
“…if he is an artist, he will be compelled to make sacrifices which worldly people find absurd and unnecessary. In following the inner light he will inevitably choose… poverty. And, if he has in him the makings of a great artist, he may renounce everything, even his art.” ~ Henry Miller
Disillusioned but alive, he saunters slowly through the haze of hysteria in an age of a pretentious outrage.
He’s a man these days who communes more with the dead than the living, a man who finds more beauty in the shadows than the light, a man with empty pockets and a bulging soul - an offbeat dreamer, an artist a malcontent condemned to the eternal fire of his poetic defiance.
In the petty hours of the light, he holds his cards close to my chest and does his best to compromise with what’s been given. His hat sits low to disguise the eyes of an exile, forever roving the forlorn streets of a hijacked future alone the tide of his ancient blood ebbing beneath disintegrating flesh.
Most nights, you’ll find him in his old shack on the outskirts of the civilized world sitting in the mushroom glow of a midnight candle with a vintage hardpack in his hands. When he reads he no longer agrees or disagrees with the sentiments of the dead. He’s at ease among words, a curious spectator stirred by the lyrical upchuck of the collective unconscious.
The priests and pundits and academics are no longer served by his attention. He’d rather meditate on the paintings of Van Gogh, Hopper, and Andrew Wyeth than to castrate his senses with the senseless sermons of the day.
The bloodless lusts of the over-civilized eye had always sickened him - their idolatry of appearances, their exaggerations of purity, their incessant need for glittering illusions to go on living. Never re-examining the underlying deceptions that sustain their lives, they live in the clutches of cliches, their voices dull and tremulous, their minds easily susceptible to the assault of the most ludicrous demagoguery.
He owns very little and holds no delusions of duty, status or causes. Out of his deliberate austerity he’s bestowed the ultimate silence needed to create perilously from the deepest crevices of his ancient soul, transforming dream to flesh, triumphing over the manufactured illusions of a frantic era.
Possessed by some daemonic being higher than himself, there he is, alone, as the world burns, working in the dark, in the shadows, stretching his sensibilities to the brink of madness, divulging his whole soul to the destructive force of reality, beautifying the lies that lead to the ultimate truth.
He’s the awakener, the emancipator, a defector of the human race.
The long night of human history is drawing at last to its conclusion.
— Terence McKenna
Look at how politicized we’ve all become these days.
Look at the barbed wire and the needless shit that surrounds our unpoetic lives.
Look at the vast idiocy we see in the cities and on our screens.
Look at us — inattentive drudges, heavy on information yet starved of intuition and insight, paralyzed by irrational fear.
Hardly anyone thinks or feels outside the group or the party or the race or the nation they belong to.
Critical thinking is irreparable and our readymade opinions are quite expected along with the synthetic desires we hold.
Even the most intelligent minds among us lean towards conformity — particularly when their careers and reputations depend on it.
Institutional compliance trumps truth-seeking.
Social media algorithms nurture our biases and predispositions, managing our will and amplifying our delusions.
Predictably, the virus has ramped up human indecencies to an unimaginable intensity — extreme tribalism, greed, stupidity, callousness, and an unthinking allegiance to authority.
CNN, NPR, MSNBC, and Fox News are laughable entities that finagle the worldviews of the feeble-minded.
The worst among us are the smug censors who shut down inquiry in the name of protection; those who’ve deceived themselves with bought and paid for certainties.
Our massive institutions today want to keep the brilliant light of your consciousness buried deep in the partisan mud.
They want you in debt and highly medicated. They want you over-politicized and dehumanized and spiritually crippled like most of us have become.
They rely on your dependency to thrive. They don’t want you to take charge of your own health, or your own finances, or your own mind, body, and soul.
No, No, No.
They want you weak and lethargic, regurgitating mottos, outraged, gulping down copious amounts of pharmaceuticals while forever sitting in front of screens airing out your petty grievances, scrolling away the hours of your trance-like life.
They know they have you.
That’s why they threaten to throw you behind bars if you ever stray too far from their narrative.
That’s why they get away with sending our youth overseas to die for lies while deeming you a threat for asking too many questions
That’s why they spy on your tendencies and have you on constant surveillance and know what desires you inhabit, and you’re okay with it because it’s for your safety, you tell yourself.
They want you to FEAR because they know that hate is born out of fear. And with our deep-seated fears, we are impotent and shoot arrows at each other as they sit back and watch with glee.
I can’t help but be reminded of the poetic lyrics of a great Bob Dylan song:
Sometimes I think this whole world Is one big prison yard Some of us are prisoners The rest of us are guards
How do we revive the art of living inside this dysfunctional culture? How do we revitalize the human soul before it’s too late?
Perhaps it comes with a renunciation of it all.
Get off your knees. Consume less — media and material. Detach yourself from the charade. Use your unique mind to express yourself. Take control of your own life. Your own consciousness. Quit feeding it shit. Quit following gurus and politicians and leaders and start listening to the whispers of your own BEING.
Instead of waiting around for the return of Christ, recognize the Christ within.
Get off your knees.
It’s time for a mystical reimagining, a reconnection to the essential, a recapturing of the authentic, a reevaluation of the validity of reality, an Archaic Revival — what Terence Mckenna called “the process of reawakening awareness of traditional attitudes toward nature.”
There’s no bureaucracy or institution coming to set things right.
It’s on you and me.
Unlearning is our salvation — a heedful defiance of the junk values perpetuated by an egocentric culture.
But it takes a little guts and hard work to reevaluate what’s been embedded in us since birth. It takes a willing crucifixion to commit yourself to the tormenting task of deconditioning yourself from the “dehumanizing values” handed down to us as “control icons.”
Most of us are just a tad too busy, secure, comfortable, or set in our ways to take on the task.
So here we are…
Uneasy and restless, always on the move, forever running away from our inner reality, into the enticing door of the cultural trap.
Unhappy. Asleep. Afraid.
I’ll end with the words of the great poet, Rainer Maria Rilke:
“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves in knots of our own making and struggle, lonely and confused.”
It’s Friday, the day after thanksgiving and bloated bodies, infused with fierce anticipation of scoring even more trinkets and gadgets at a discount on credit, have been up since 1 am, perhaps earlier, standing in long lines in the dark in front of stores. Some even bring tents to get an earlier advantage. . As soon as the doors open, they’ll eagerly make their way in, nudging and pushing and slobbering, stripped of the remaining remnants of human decency, with the sole intention of possessing another object they think will bring them happiness or improve upon their inner despondency.
Sanctimonious servants of the status quo, forever kneeling at the altar of heedless consumption, their only function.
And Proust and Emerson remain unread and the wildflowers on the side of the road remain unnoticed as with the stars that hang in the night.
One of the last great American poets died this week at the ripe old age of 94.
However, like his words, his death is of no consequence to the early morning consumers elbowing their way to the TV section.
They have never read anything or pondered on anything beyond the advertisements suggested to them.
“Reclaiming the sacred in our lives naturally brings us close once more to the wellsprings of poetry,” writes the poet. But our ears are no longer equipped to hear his cry.
The very few important figures in the western world have always been ignored.
And everything that is beautiful and profound has been buried beneath the ruins of false progress and the illusion of security.
Children of a hollowed-out empire, habitual flesh with a childlike understanding of what’s going on in the world, they continue their relentless quest to satisfy their synthetic appetites, relinquishing their lives to an insidious system that sustains itself merely by their submission, their fidelity.
They deem this — good citizenship. Patriotism.
The American Dream at last, an endless commercial, an emotional wasteland plagued with shopping centers, quick-marts, theme parks, and prisons, the sunny afternoon suburban streets as desolate as the souls who inhabit them, the good folks bustling and bantering, gorging themselves to death on Netflix and the never-ending news cycle, spouting facts to conceal their illiteracy.
I don’t believe you, you with maimed souls sermonizing from high up in your ivory towers, you pretend purveyors of justice, you apostles of false purity who deliberately misconstrue your impotence for prudence, you morose molesters of the lifeblood who spew mindless mantras and parade around labels that you convert to absolutes, you who attempt to garble truths to accommodate your muddled worldview — to massage your feeble sensibilities, falsifying human existence to make virtue out of your fragility, you crusaders of sterility, you champions of censorship who sneer beneath banners, unfucked, unloved, untested, detesting everything that reeks of vitality as you type away with uncalloused fingers in the basement of life, waging digital war on a world that you’re too frail-spirited to revel in.
Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only indispensable, but positive hinderances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor.”
― Henry David Thoreau
He’s known by the locals as “River Dave.”
A man who simply walked away from the trifling world of comfort and culture and into the womb of the natural world.
The small-framed 81-year-old off-the-grid hermit, David Lidstone, has been living in a little old raggedy cabin in the woods of New Hampshire for the last three decades. Alone. Barebones living to the core, River Dave says that he’s happier than all the billionaires that inhabit this crazy world.
A modern-day Thoreau who never quite made it back to town. With his Tolstoian white beard veiling his habitual smile and an old walking stick clutched in his ancient hand, River Dave moseys all around his tiny little homestead, a bother to no one. Like Thoreau, he’d rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to himself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
He’s a man who has, in the poetic words of Emerson, “retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth becomes his daily food. In the presence of nature a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows.”
Alone but never lonely, he keeps busy, a deliberate kind of busyness that living a self-sufficient life requires. He enjoys the company of his pets, chickens, honey bees, and, occasionally, the random kayaker that he makes friends with on the river and invites up to his place to tell stories about his long life.
River Dave’s wooden, two-level A-frame cabin is located back in the cut of a 73-acre parcel of land along the Merrimack River. He grows his own food there and has solar panels for power and gets his water from a nearby stream.
“I do all my wiring, all my plumbing, I’ve done every bit of it. There isn’t a nail in this house I didn’t drive myself,” he says proudly to a local newspaper reporter who came out to interview him a few years back.
On long summer afternoons, you might find him chopping wood or tending to his garden or hiking up a little wooded hill to sit in an old lonesome chair that overlooks the river. “This is where I talk to the eagles,” he tells us.
“So why are you living out here, Dave, why you doing it?” asks the reporter.
“To get away from people like you,” he replies with a wink and a chuckle.
“Fair enough, Dave, fair enough,” and they both laugh and slap each other on the back.
In mid July, River Dave ran into a big problem that threatened his whole livelihood. His cabin is allegedly located on private property, and the 86-year-old landowner now wants him off despite the property sitting untouched with no future plans of development.
On July 15th, men with badges and guns came out to River Dave’s place in the woods and arrested the old man for a civil contempt sanction for refusing to leave. When he arrived at the courthouse, Dave looked the judge in the eyes, called him a few unpleasant names under his breath, and stated that under no circumstance would he comply with the order to leave the cabin. “You came with your guns, you arrested me, brought me in here, you’ve got all my possessions. You keep ‘em,’ I’ll sit here with your uniform on until I rot, sir.”
Sitting as a solitary figure in a little jail cell didn’t bother Dave all too much. Unlike most folks, he thrives in solitude. He’s in good company when alone, always has been.
“I told that judge, you can step on little people, but I will bite your ankle,” he says.
On the very day of his court hearing, Dave got the unfortunate news that the cabin that he built from the ground up himself, the cabin he called home for 27 years, had been burnt to the ground. This happened last week.
Dave believes that his cabin was intentionally burned down. “There was nothing in there to set it,” he said. “The cats usually don’t smoke very much.”
Out of jail and homeless, the local community came to his support. They set up an “Official” GoFundMe Pageto help find Dave a new home and he’s completely overwhelmed with gratitude for the outpouring of love he has received.
Material things come and go, he tells us, they don’t last, but relationships last forever, having good relationships with people is what matters most.
River Dave is a rare breed among us civilized humans. He chooses poverty over wealth, solitude over the crowd, sitting under trees rather than behind screens. He is a man with few needs, an old man with a childlike soul who simply carved out a little finite plot of existence in the infinite cosmos — a place where he could live authentically and unbothered by the demands of a broken world.
Unintentionally, perhaps Dave is advocating a new way of life — a life lived closer to the earth, an outdoors life lived in solidarity with all living things. Perhaps he wants us to understand that we are all a part of everything — the forests and the skies and the mountains and rivers and even to yesterday’s fallen leaves that crunch under our worn boots.
He doesn’t have a lot of time left. But at his age time doesn’t exist. In the brilliant words of the poet Ranier Maria Rilke, “Take time as nothing but a tiny step within the presence of the infinite.”
Each day is a triumph. Each moment a miracle. Each breath a blessing.
He has no desire for the endless fetters and trinkets of the man-made world. He has no need to involve himself with the excessive commotion of modernity. He simply wants to live out the remaining days of his life tucked back in a place where the “flowers flaunt their fragrance” and “every fruit demands a kiss.” A place secluded in nature where “the call of life never ends.”
He’s a good man but he believes in politics and therefore, an irrational man.
Not a dumb man by any means but a man hypnotized, paralyzed, stupefied, like a staunch believer at a tent revival, his hands are raised for the taking.
He’s a man whose mind is pummeled with certainties and thus, dead to new truths.
He gives unwavering allegiance to a certain political party in spite of all its corruption and culpabilities and will defend these vices by voicing that the other party has countless more.
You’ll see him on most days, bored and defeated, posting clichéd political memes on his little social media account that hardly anyone follows.
His only victory.
He doesn’t post to inform people, or bring forth a fresh perspective, no no no, his only goal is to point out the other party’s hypocrisies and evilness while remaining completely blind and silent to his own.
He swims in a vast sea of manufactured lies spawned from the party line. His only aim is to seek out information that confirms his biases.
He’s a good man but he believes in politics and therefore, an unprincipled man.
He’s only against war if the other party wages it. He’s only for a program if his own party advocates it. Different points of view are deemed “conspiratorial.”
He’s not after the truth or justice or mercy even though he’ll constantly tell you he is.
If the solution lies on the other side of the political spectrum, not only will he refuse to acknowledge it, he’ll double down on his own misguided stance and will hurl childlike insults to any opponent.
Sometimes, perhaps after a glass of wine or two, he’ll have the gall to try to convert those on the outside over to his delusional side of the issue.
His only victory.
He won’t lift a finger to help because his opinions are all that’s required for change.
He’s a conformist disguised as a revolutionary. A hoodwinked citizen cloaked in enlightenment. A man who identifies his sense of being with the existing institutional entities.
He’s a man that Nietzsche long ago predicted would eventually arise - the last man. A man who sits more than he moves. A man who regurgitates slogans because he’s incapable of grappling with the complexity of new ideas and concepts.
He’s a good man but an unheroic man floundering in his own sloth. A man who looks to politics for salvation. A man who hasn’t fucked his wife in months. A man who despises the current system but lives lavishly within it.
When the evening comes you will surely find him in the dark corner of his home typing away his latest political diatribe, his grinning face lit up by the screen, his wife, alone in bed, reaching into the nightstand, slightly opening her legs, as the soft vibration purrs into the night… her only victory.
“It’s a disease. Nobody thinks or feels or cares any more; nobody gets excited or believes in anything except their own comfortable little God damn mediocrity.”
— Richard Yates
It’s quiet here in the early dawn and no one’s around. Just the way I like it. I’m sitting on a bench, sipping black coffee on an old dock looking out over the ancient lake. I watch with an incredible sense of serenity as the fog dies out with the rising sun. There’s a peculiar stillness here this morning.
The sky grows lighter and lighter. A subtle breeze makes small ripples on the water. The fish jump and splash and the birds chirp and flutter and everything seems joyous and harmonious. The great hum of life.
Behind me, the world is not so joyous and harmonious.
Behind me is a society teetering on the edge of all-out madness; a society of half-asleep people completely entangled in a web of false narratives and social fictions. A semiconscious society of disenfranchised people at war with each other over manufactured illusions and irrational beliefs — people completely alienated from each other, from themselves, from the TRUTH.
“Every realm of society is permeated with falsity and falsification,” as the great Henry Miller reminded us so many years ago. He’s still right. Probably more today than ever.
As the morning unfolds the commotion begins much like the day before. Alarm clocks fire off. The TV’s flick-on and the news prompts us as to what we should be afraid of today. Antagonizing headlines heave us into a partisan frenzy before we even step foot in the shower. No one cares too much about the TRUTH because our minds are already made up.
This is the modern world.
The water splashes the face. The coffee is brewed. The social media is checked and updated and the emails are read over breakfast. Tired and heavily medicated souls make their way onto the billboard-littered highway to inch along in bumper-to-bumper traffic to a job they despise.
The kids are dropped off at their prison-like education camps where they are segregated by age and forced to submit to an outdated national curriculum concocted up by some inept bureaucratic process. And it’s here, where the inherent curiosities of little unique individuals are smashed out, and their little minds are molded and standardized and taught the “virtue” of conformity and obedience.
They become much like ourselves — well-adjusted disciples of the status quo. A society of well-fed, inwardly starving folks who’ve become dissimulated by this thing we call “culture.”
I sit here in complete solitude as the freshly born sun seeps into my eyes. The morning chill dissipates along with the warmth of my coffee. A cardinal sings on the wood railing of the old dock. I breathe in the pure air of a new day.
I read somewhere recently that more than 99 percent of all organisms that have ever lived on Earth are extinct. And yet, here I am, alive, and it’s good to be alive. I think. But so many of us take it for granted — this miracle of breath, this accidental thing we call LIFE.
Sitting here I can’t help but look up at the skies and ask — what the hell is happening to us as a species?
Prayers haven’t worked out all too well. Most of the big cities are uninhabitable. Our communities have all but disintegrated as the pockets of our overlords have fattened. The vast array of self-help books that fly off the shelves daily haven’t helped us. Money and an abundance of toys and possessions haven’t made us happy. The filters on our posing faces can’t keep out the truth.
Everyone is afraid of everyone else. This once beautiful land is now a land of dread. Something is ending. We are at the precipice of something none of us understand.
How did we get here?
How did we arrive at a point in the United States where unbridled consumerism, endless war, vast surveillance, conformity, obesity, illiteracy, loneliness, victimhood, bitterness, infinite division, mindless entertainment, and an insatiable appetite for OUTRAGE came to be the defining characteristics of American civilization?
Looking around you can’t help but feel this grave, disquieting anxiety slithering all through our culture. A recent article revealed that a third of adults right now in the US are walking around in a concussion-like daze due to stress and lack of sleep.
As Richard Yates wrote in his brilliantly intense mid-20th century novel, Revolutionary Road, “You’re painfully alive in a drugged and dying culture.” Indeed, we are.
Look at us.
Woven nicely into the fabric of a sick society, plagued with an aching sense of emptiness and self-entitlement, passions snuffed out by the nine-to-five or no work at all, no time for voyages and adventure, too timid and afraid to live creatively and authentically — just good folks splashing around in the shallows as the pills are gulped down and the lights slowly dim.
Author, journalist, and one of the most fiercely lyrical, no-nonsense writers of our time, the late great Charles Bowden, had his finger on the pulse of our whimpering nation when he wrote:
We are an exceptional model of the human race. We no longer know how to produce food. We no longer can heal ourselves. We no longer raise our young. We have forgotten the names of the stars, fail to notice the phases of the moon. We do not know the plants and they no longer protect us. We tell ourselves we are the most powerful specimens of our kind who have ever lived. But when the lights are off we are helpless. We cannot move without traffic signals. We must attend classes in order to learn by rote numbered steps toward love or how to breast-feed our baby. We justify anything, anything at all by the need to maintain our way of life. And then we go to the doctor and tell the professionals we have no life. We have a simple test for making decisions: our way of life, which we cleverly call our standard of living, must not change except to grow yet more grand. We have a simple reality we live with each and every day: our way of life is killing us.
Is this life? — this apathetic mode of existence that we’ve created for ourselves? Living at odds with nature, at odds with our natural instincts, unable to cultivate a connection with our own spirit, forever in exile from our own being?
Is this it?
To live in a kind of forgetful fog while being dominated and pushed around by the whims of these institutional-minded bigwigs and so-called experts?
To keep buying and consuming our way toward this phantom idea of happiness? To work soul-sickening jobs to keep up the illusion of success? To be given the miracle of breath only to become life-long servants to the myriad of rules and dictates imposed from the outside?
Is it any wonder why so many of us live lives of quiet desperation, as Thoreau noticed?
Are we the society that George Orwell warned about so many decades ago? A society “marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting — three hundred million people all with the same face.”
Seems we’re mighty close. All the ingredients are there — rampant fear, anger, ignorance, blind obedience, laziness, and immense resentment.
We are people who have turned the elemental emotions that make us human beings — fear, anxiety, sadness — into “illnesses” and “disorders” that must be “managed” and “treated” by an ocean of pharmaceuticals rather than taking the necessary measures to get down to the root of it. As Dr. Gabor Maté once reminded us, “The attempt to escape from pain, is what creates more pain.”
You can’t help but see it in the eyes and hear it in the voices — the despair, the fear, the animosity. A society of weaklings walking on eggshells, afraid to speak, afraid to offend, afraid to live. A society of indignant complainers and fraudulent do-gooders and sanctimonious political hacks strapped with a fanatical biased worldview constantly projecting their inner shortcomings onto the fruitful.
Somehow this is the world we’ve created for ourselves — it’s our way of life. We all see it. We know something is severely off in today’s overly managed society. Everyone is angry and divided and everything is politicized and no one seems to care too much about the insidious narrative that has been fed to us as “reality.”
We’ve lost the appetite for LIFE long ago. We’ve forgotten how to belch out that big ol’ fucking YES to life.
Instead, we’re eaten alive by our own self-righteous concepts. And because so many of us have neglected our inner life, we’ve become deluded slaves to our surroundings, blindly giving allegiance to the fear-soaked narratives of our “drugged and dying culture.”
“… we are all on a train and it is racing toward a bridge that is out but no one on the train cares because they are busy arguing about train security measures or who gets to sit in which car or whether the train is only for people or whether the train is only for one sex or the other or maybe the train should be divided up according to race or language or religion and still the train races toward the bridge that is gone, races toward some chasm that will shatter it and so the people argue and do not care that their behavior means that they can never reach the future.”
Now what? What do we have to do to “break the mold”, as they say? Is there an escape hatch or are we all destined towards the looming chasm?
That’s the question I sure as hell haven’t found the full answer to yet. Perhaps there is no answer. Or maybe it’s too late. I don’t know.
One thing is pretty clear, though — there’s no Department of “whatever”, or a coalition, or some half-smiling partisan handshake coming to set things right. No one is coming to save you or the world you inhabit. No one is responsible for the affirmation of your life. Only YOU. YOU. YOU.
It’s on each of us to untangle ourselves from the fear-ridden narratives of our deathbed culture. It’s on us to live beyond our limited, fragmentary selves— the job, the labels, the nation, the race, the sexuality, the politics, etc — and in full possession of our inner drives, the fire within.
And I know nobody wants to hear that. We seem to need labels and categories to function in this society. And we need other people or some irrelevant institution to tell us how to live — the politician, the law, some guru, the preacher. Nobody wants to take on the responsibility of their own consciousness, their own brief, miraculous existence on this godforsaken planet.
But it’s the only way.
As the French philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre reminded us:
“Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.”
We must awaken and deepen our understanding of the world we live in. The essential task is to provoke a radical sense of self-awareness and to transform our passions into action. To live LIFE directed by our own real interests as unique human beings rather than becoming a subject of external causes who never possess the “true acquiescence” of our spirit, as Spinoza put it.
Becoming free, or at least as free within the contingencies of our finitude, is the result of intense awareness, effort, and extreme courage. Erich Fromm explained that “in order to achieve this freedom man must become aware of those forces which act behind his back and determine him…If you remain blind and do not make the utmost efforts, you will lose your freedom.”
I want to end once again with the inquiring words of the great Charles Bowden:
“Imagine the problem is not some syndrome of our society that can be solved by commissions or laws or a redistribution of what we call wealth. Imagine that it goes deeper, right to the core of what we call our civilization and that no one outside of ourselves can effect real change, that our civilization, our governments are sick and that we are mentally ill and spiritually dead and that all our issues and crises are symptoms of this deeper sickness…Imagine that the problem is not that we are powerless or that we are victims but that we have lost the fire and belief and courage to act.”
As the summer flowers wilt and die and the ruthless year creeps ever so slowly to its belated demise; as the cities burn with fire and rage and the monuments of yesterday are toppled; as the political rift derives to murderous blows and a sea of hate and vitriol flows from the partisan hearts of humanity into the streets and neighborhoods of our nation —
there’s a little fireplace burning in a one room cabin deep in the cut on the outskirts of small town in Vermont; her and I, alone, serenaded by the subtle wind that rattles the almost bare branches from the legion of trees as the fallen golden leaves blossom in the late October mud where the only commotion–
the flames in the darkness that flicker off her naked body as she walks, with that seductive sway, towards the bed in the eerie silence of a cold cold world.
I am awakened at 3 am to the silhouette
of trees trembling on the walls. Eyes
opened, haunted in the silence
knowing the stream of blood
flowing in my veins will one day
dry up. And the breaths that I
take for granted each second
will soon lack the capacity
to sustain me.
It’s 3 am. And the dark waters
of memory come flooding in.
Who am I?
Who is this thing
I pretend to be?
I try to die most days
and the days I don’t die
I feel the wrath of
teasing my scars,
What a great burden it is to be alive
and to know the end. What terror it
is to be a self-aware creature
in the modern world where
all the gods are dead
and the soul of Walt
Whitman is long
Unlike the Buddhists, I crave
a bit too much from this war-torn
planet, too much awe, too much wonder
to ever be a satisfied animal.
Born into this,
we all grope in the dark
for a great “beyond”, reaching desperately
for the abstractions that provide
us a remedy to our mortality. It’s
the need to find an object that
allows us to express our WILL
completely — God, Leaders, Lovers,
Culture, Party — which both helps
us live and chains and
As a great mind once informed us:
“With the truth, one cannot live.
To be able to live one needs illusions,
not only outer illusions such as art,
religion, philosophy, science and
love afford, but inner illusions
which first condition the outer.”
The spiritual bankruptcy of the West
has finally reached full-fledged
disarray — a society divided,
over-medicated and greatly in debt,
manufactured anger, herd-mindedness,
disorientation, anxiety-ridden people
afraid of life, afraid of truth,
ignorant of their own shadow
that they project onto
everything they hate.
People severed from the spirit
as they watch the illusions that
have bolstered their way of life
Half-awake children destroying each other,
not because their hearts are wicked,
but because they’ve grown content
with the dimness of their souls.
I walk out into the early dawn
and hurl a brick into the
unsound window of reality,
toiling my way out of the
ruins of yesterday.
“To open the eternal world,
to open the immortal eyes
Of man Inwards, into the
worlds of thought,
I sing to the outcasts, to the deprived,
to the tears of hobos in the alley. An
archaic soul in conflict with the times,
a contrarian among the conformed,
a renegade among the compliant,
a spiritual vagrant among
The timid masses entrust supremacy to men
with eyes of coal, elevating these
monochromatic parasites armed
with the conscience of
to the pinnacle
And the armed bureaucrats fear
decency as they hide like
feckless weasels behind
rules and protocols
while ignoring the
laws of the human
Look at who we are, look at what we’ve
become — creatures who both loathe
and love power which is why we so
easily give our loyalty to those
who dispense it.
And those who speak truth are led to the gallows
and those who ask questions are forced
Our quest for earthly heroism is
the root of all evil. Destruction
is the result of the unlived
And the statues and monuments
are graffitied and toppled
and the old art
by the fresh youth who harbor,
the same evil in which they seek
to eradicate. They too
will be judged unfavorably by the
of the new “woke” generation
in a century’s time.
As the undoing continues and the cities
burn and the streets fill with blood,
I walk into the wild where the lilacs
sing to the sun and the ancient oaks
drip with quiet dignity.
I watch a big black ant crawl
up a long stem of a dandelion
and now see a speck of the truth
that we all try to deny.
I want less and less from this
nothingness and to meet death
as I was born — a naked,
unblemished creature weeping
in the dark of this