It is said that they who know well how to live meet no abusive douchebags or maddening politicians as they scroll through the news, and come out of the workday untouched by the weapons of capitalism. For, in them, an abusive douchebag would find no flesh for his selfish hands, a mad politician nothing to lay his power upon, and a weapon of capitalism no place to make a withdrawal. How is this? Because there is no room for Death in them.
The Tao Teh Ching
by Lao Tzu
“It is said that he who knows well how to live meets no tigers or wild buffaloes on his road, and comes out from the battle-ground untouched by the weapons of war. For, in him, a buffalo would find no butt for his horns, a tiger nothing to lay his claws upon, and a weapon of war no place to admit its point. How is this? Because there is no room for Death in him.” (from John C.H. Wu’s translation)
I found it half-hidden in the seam of a decorative pillar.
A standard white 8.5″ x 11″, filled with printed text on one-side. The font is size 11 Calibri, Microsoft Word’s most recent default. The first thing I can tell is that someone opened the program and started typing before firing it off to the printer. This was a passion plea.
Olympic Plaza is Calgary’s inner-city monument to the 1988 winter games. It’s now well-lit, to keep away the junkies who found the grass and water fountain soothing. They go nine blocks west now, to Century Gardens. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what the police do to them–their own dealers are serving up fentanyl/carfentanil-laced powders. That’s a different story than now. Or maybe not. I can’t really say, I guess.
There were two police vans parked on an open pedestrian cobblestone path. One van passed me slowly as I approached. I didn’t think anything of it.
I made a roundabout around the fountains, where a man asked me for a cigertte, then hounded me when I refused. He even dropped the hockey bag he was carrying and stomped towards me from behind. That might have been bravery, but I saw how shallow it was when I spun around and stomped toward shim one step. Mahatma Gandhi could beat me in a boxing match, but I know that most people are scared shitless when you call them on their bullshit.
After that mess, I stopped at the commemorative larger-than-life sculptures of Canada’s Famous Five–suffragists who helped Canada realize that woman were in fact persons in 1919.
I was even reading each of the pillars. The French side first, for practice.
At the third pillar from the left, I saw the thin hint of a paper.
I’m a writer. I check out edges of pages like frat boys lose themselves in cleavage. When I saw the full block of text I felt a flutter in my chest.
My first guess was that it was one of those Artificial Intelligence experiments. You know, random computer-generated words strung together through iterative algorithms. Some kid thought it would be brilliant if some unknowing idiot picked it up.
I read the first line. Then I remembered the police vans. I stashed the letter in my coat pocket and started for my hotel room.
Before I even undressed, I pulled up a chair under a lamp, rested my elbows on my knees, and read everything through before moving:
[Verbatim & sic. Some private contact information has been obfuscated with Xs.]
Sep17th2017.Csis in Calgary are hounding me24-7,Zerzetsen,Zersetsung,Gang stalking/mi6 and csis stops my mail calls emails to my family in Plymouth England since I was deported to Canada by mi6 in 2002/Auntie Pamela X Abbotsbury way lowerham Plymouth Devon pl22hs. Tel XXX5X-5XX5XX/csis had Richard Kovac try to frame me up ask lee walklin about the hand guns ,csis blackmailed kovac to do this as he had sunk his boat in Vancouver Bc for the insurance, lees a witness-X Patna place north road west Plymouth Devon pl15ay uk-telXXXX-66X6XX,lee was fooled by kovac/csis try to break your will so you comply to them as a slave would to his master pure torture (Sound device) covertly done and hard to prove but not the hand guns, Brain numb, poor vision, slurred speech,headaches,teeth,penis,lungs hard to breath,ears,skin,feet,joints,eyes,Ass,hard too walk,spine lower back all painful, sleep deprivation for years here in the (TRUE NORTH).People who know what csis is doing help csis cover this up-David Eby was Bc civil liberties shouted at me while I had no sleep for days at his office and refused to help me which is my right as a Canadian citizen, he is a MLA now in Vancouver ask him 6XX-66XXXXX/Gail Davidson Human rights lawyer lied to me on her doorstep for csis, she told me she only helped People in war she works for lawyers watch ask her XXX-XXX-XXXX,just before I talked with her 2 female Agents walked past me and said hello to me one was British/Don Wright of Amnesty international lied to me ,he told me he had phoned my Auntie Pamela McCormac and spoke with her which is Bullshit when I returned to talk with him at his new office he told me he would get the police on to me if I returned, he knows that I know he lied to me for csis/ Wally oppal helped csis, wally told me that he had not got a note from me that I had handed him at a bookstore in Vancouver so I gave him another note and csis were standing right beside him snarling at me ,again I had no sleep for days, ask him TEL 6XX-6XX-6XXX – XXXXXXXX@XXXXXXXXLAW.COM I ALSO WENT TO HIS OFFICE/Kent hehr MP lied to me and put on a good act for csis and told me he was sorry which he will be when this goes to court, he has 4 notes that I handed him in persion-4XX-X44-XXXX/Joan crockat MP lie to me at her office on 17th Ave Calgary, she told me csis had more important things to do then hound me and did nothing/Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nanshi has a Note that I handed him in person at the library Ask Naheed -XXX-XXX-XXXX- if he can help me or csis .office of Mayor City of Calgary PO Box 2100 station M Calgary,AB T2P2M5/Csis had RCMP in Vancouver coerced me sign blank forms for a mock crime while I had no sleep for days and had me go to the police station for finger printing yet I was witness ?(2018- Bent Female cop)more Bent csis cops 5329-2511-who have used their power for csis/RCMP here in Calgary have helped csis they covered their numbers they would wake me up 2 AM when I lived outside in the snow and say hello Sammy are you cold or Turn on their lamp into my eyes or tell me to get going/Peoples commission network–csis watch–know about csis but not me Emails stopped and mail/Csis had Retard agent offer me $200-000 Bucks to work for them and a house and even a girlfriend, I told the Dumbass to stick it where the sun never shines/At first csis befriends you then they frame you up to blackmail you to be a (human labrat)/I have come across others like me one in a food line years ago in Vancouver he did not know his mates were csis till I told him so which pissed csis off, more torture (SOUND LOW FREQUENCY)/BRAIN LOCKS ON/Agent bumps into me for a week to piss me off then just walks past me the next day hoping i will attack, there is a camera above my head recording if I do the police have Evidence/Agent dressed like me in every way walks about shouting at people on the street, police are called they stop me/Remanded for attacking Agent who I never attacked, KIM ROSS my so called lawyer said he would not talk about my penis in court nor did he talk about csis either case thrown out Agent did not turn up at court ask Kim XXX-XXXXXXX,he talked to csis/ please contact Journalist to go to address( NOT YOUR OWN COMPUTER OK –TRACE )csis will not let me leave Canada to go home I stay at the DI staff helps csis, Agents live at DI.ME SAMMYMCLOUGHLIN,SINS–NE505944B-725514236.thank you. Stops me working, no welfare.
When I was finished, the phone in the hotel room rang. I didn’t answer it. I copied the letter before tearing it into tiny pieces and tossing it out the suicide-proof window. The pieces fluttered down like confetti onto the rail tracks the downtown hotel backed onto.
The phone rang again. I waited until it was clear it wasn’t an accident. Then I answered it.
“Your pizza is in the lobby.”
It occurred to me that I had gone for the walk to wait out the forty-five minute pizza delivery. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I told the front desk I would be down shortly.
I put on my sweater, coat & toque before I left the room. The delivery guy met me in the lobby, and didn’t know what to do when I followed him out.
From the hotel, it was only a couple blocks back to Olympic Plaza. I roamed around with my pizza. After long enough that I could feel the warmth from the box fading, I found a group of men with long beards. They had big backpacks and carried bags of empties. They were settling down for a smoke in the shadows beyond the well-lit fountain.
With pizza box under my arm, I strolled up to them–straight-on and with a smile–and when they saw me I held out the pizza and asked if they were hungry.
Of course they were, they told me. I sat down and cracked open the box.
“Alright…” I said as they rested back on their elbows eating folded slices of pizza. “Tell me, what do you guys know about Sammy McCloughlin?”
I have been absent. This blog hasn’t had much of an update in some time, and I have no illusions that this is a bad thing.
Then again, I consider myself a writer—or at least I aspire to be a writer—and a substantial part of being an active, contributing artist in our modern society means having a presence.
Of course, that primarily means an internet presence. The flashy artists, the ones who show up in trendy magazines or are renowned in the lit scene, they live in big cities and can attend live events, buy drinks for fellow poets, or have a one night stand with that cute up-and-coming singer/songwriter. More than anything else they do, they show up.
More than anything else I do, I don’t show up.
I have a measly internet presence. Years ago, a woman wearing too much make-up laughed at me. How the fuck could I even be human if I didn’t have Facebook? It was a naïvely idealist view, at the time. Something I could roll my eyes at and dismiss. But since then, it has become more and more true.
Not that I feel any less human. In fact, in the past year of neglecting the internet—after too many years trying to coyly join in on the party—I feel more alive than I ever have. But then again, as the Millenials say (and let’s face it, Millenials will become the dominant force as Baby Boomers vegetate & die): if you did it but didn’t record it, did it happen at all?
None of it happened. Because life never happened. It is happening, or it is not. Anything besides what is currently happening is either memory or imagination. Life itself is an existential experience, a matter of the present—of being present—of presence—and there we are again, with that goddamn pejorative.
What really gets me about presence is Definition 1.1 in the Oxford Dictionary: “A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen.” That is essentially internet presence, although of course, with the narcissistic twist that the internet produces, this usage gets confused with 1.3: “The impressive manner or appearance of a person.”
The first definition speaks to something beyond the self, something beyond the senses. The second speaks to ego, the self, the senses. The way we interact with the internet is that: it’s beyond the senses, beyond the self, beyond the ego—and yet it engages the senses, the self, and the ego. It’s an empty egg, and we’re subsisting on an imagined yolk.
I prefer the first definition. I even take it to heart and let it expand: “A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted.”
Then what is it?
I don’t know. Maybe that is what I am endeavoring to find out.
That’s the problem with taking too much time, whether it’s away or closer or wherever else we go when we are not present.
I’ve been away. Need to get back into it. But the blank page is a haunted house–the blinking word processor’s line is a reminder that bringing form into formlessness isn’t that hard…it’s only tricky if you want something more than a line.
The line never says enough. That’s where we pick up from.
And that’s where I need to pick up from. That last line, so long ago.
Don’t get me wrong. Been writing as much as ever. Just much more focused, less distracted by this social posturing.
But here I am. Getting back into it all–for posterity, for popularity, for the possibilities we are promised by extroverted polemics.
As simple as taking a solid stem auger to lake ice. Hold steady and let the drill’s teeth do the work.