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?”
Although I have a hard time identifying with any belief system, one’s actions can sometimes categorize one’s self into certain identities. With that said, I guess I’m fairly pagan–as wonderfully nebulous as that is.
I celebrate the solstices and equinoxes. They designate important time periods in my part of the world, and are particularly important as mile posts for the waxing & waning of the unfortunate side effect of northern latitudes: seasonal affective disorder.
That’s not a blanket side effect for everyone on the forehead of the planet. But it sure fucks with me. After floundering for too many years, I have found that observing the points where the sunlight increases or decreases is one small way to acknowledge the cycle.
That way, no surprises. The merry-go-round is there for all to see.
Unfortunately, I was born with a ticket and can’t get off. The freewriting piece below is awkward & unsettling & dizzying, kind of like a merry-go-round. It’s an older piece, but from the same period to come, between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. I don’t think it offers much hope, which is why I felt the need for this preamble.
—And can’t you go for a week without? Look at what you’re doing to yourself—
<<Doing? That’s exactly it, hun. I’m doing>>
—You’re doing nothing—
<<You’re doing nothing>>
—That’s exactly it, hun. I’m doing—
<<What are we doing here?>>
—We’re here again. You ever wonder if it has anything to do with a gain?—
<<It sounds more like a loss. To be anywhere again is only retracing your steps>>
—Unless you took a new way. What are we doing here again?—
<<I wish I knew. You’re no help>>
—No help is right. Look at what we’re doing to ourselves—
<<This is confusing>>
—That’s right. I’m doing—
<<You’re doing it again. We’re here>>
—And can’t you go a week without reminding me? Listen to yourself—
<<I feel it all over again. We’re here again>>
—God fuck it. Krishna suck it. Devil may share. Damn us all to earth for a thousand lifetimes—
<<And you would still just come back here>>
—Probably. I can’t go a week without—
<<What does it taste like?>>
—It tastes like we’re here again. I feel it in every nerve—
<<Must be close>>
—Must be doing nothing—
<<Unless you took a new way>>
—Naw, fuck it. You know it. There is no other way—
<<Did you just feel that?>>
—I think that’s the point—
<<No, it wasn’t sharp. It was full-bodied>>
—Why don’t we forget about it all and get a bottle of Malbec? —
<<Why don’t we just enjoy the tilt of the earth for once?>>
—You know there is no other way—
<<There must be another way around it>>
—Oh sure, we can circle it all day, but we’re just going to up here—
First & foremost, I don’t intend to validate “celebrity news” with this post. On the site where I most often encounter agglomerated news stories, the Celebrity section is laid out ahead of Finance. Since I’ve become old enough to want to read about commodity prices & shit Warren Buffet says, I have to scroll past thumbnail pictures of people who look so perfect I wonder if they even belong to my same species.
When I saw Jim Carrey’s uplifting smile in one of those thumbnails, I swooned. I clicked. I wanted to know whatever vacuous thing this celebrity columnist thought I needed to know about people I don’t really know.
It really helped that the headline said he gave an “emotionally heavy talk about ‘giving up hope’ during [a] rare public appearance”. As Robin Williams’ suicide reminded me, these slapstick comedians aren’t as one-dimensional as their typecasting made us think. (It also made their later films like One Hour Photo or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind so jarring that you could forget it was Aladdin’s Genie or Ace Ventura on the screen.)
The NY Daily News article went on to explain that Carrey spoke on a Broadway stage with Michael Moore. They got real. After quizzing Carrey about how he was coping with Donald Trumps’ presidency, Carrey went into his “emotionally heavy” stuff that apparently made people uncomfortable.
“Give up! Surrender to the idea that things are bad and yet still, from 3,000 feet up, we don’t matter,” Carrey continued. “Things are happening and we’re going to happen along with them whether we like it or not. But we don’t matter. … Once you lose yourself, you’re pretty okay. Just get you out of the way.”
Jim Carrey, 2017
That quote was the gem that made me realize Carrey was tapping into some classic wisdom that modern society has since tar-papered over as ‘nihilism’ and clinicalized as ‘depression’. Had he said this in an ashram, people would have swarmed the stage to touch his feet or place garlands around his neck. But he said it on Broadway, in a country where at least 1 in 6 people are on a psychiatric drug.
The emotional red flag was vindicated this week, when Carrey appeared at New York Fashion Week. This time, the reporter was baffled and defensive about Carrey’s attitude in the midst of the grand event celebrating fashion icons. Carrey never missed a beat, his delivery so perfectly casual:
“Celebrating icons? Oh boy, that is just the lowest aiming possibility that we could come up with. Icons. Do you believe in icons? I believe in personalities. I don’t believe that you exist but there is a wonderful fragrance in the air.”
Jim Carrey, 2017
That last line was a straight-up Zen koan dropped on this unsuspecting fashionista. How else could E! approach that, besides by dwelling on how ‘strange’ it was?
“Why is the monkey not dancing when I ask it to dance?” they wonder.
Because the monkey has found a way out of the cage. But the good zookeepers at E!, Entertainment Tonight and TMZ like to come out with their cattle prods to make sure the monkey gets back behind its bars for our entertainment.
There is the classic yogic aphorism that when you are ready, your guru will appear. Basically, you have to be in a certain state of preparation in order to receive the grace of the guru. Carrey is not a guru per se, but I think the principle applies here loosely—if you’re not ready to be enlightened, you will never find the means to achieve enlightenment.
“As an actor you play characters, and then if you go deep enough into those characters, you realize that your own character is pretty thin to begin with,” he said. “You suddenly have this separation and go: ‘Who’s Jim Carrey? Oh, he doesn’t exist actually.’ There’s just a relative manifestation of consciousness appearing, and then somebody gave him a bunch of ideas — they gave him a name, and a religion, and a nationality, and he clustered those together into something that’s supposed to be a personality, and it doesn’t actually exist. None of that stuff, if you drill down, is real.”
Jim Carrey, 2017
Holy wow! Rich white people pay tens of thousands of dollars to sit with enrobed wisemen who tell them the same thing. We get the fucking thing for free and can’t even appreciate it.
Yoga is a great exploration of identity. In fact, the system of yoga as described by Patanjali is entirely based upon stilling the modifications of the mind and going beyond false identities. Right off the top of his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states:
At other times, when one is not in Self-realization, the Seer appears to take on the form of the modifications of the mind field, taking on the identity of those thought patterns.
“The moment you are identified with something that you are not, your intelligence is freaked. It will go in cycles around that. Whatever you are identified with your intelligence functions only around that. […] A prejudiced mind cannot see; a prejudiced mind cannot reveal the reality of life, that’s all it is. When I say prejudiced, it’s on many different levels. ‘No, no, I am very broad minded, I am not prejudiced.’ Well, you have a broad prejudice, you know. Your mind is functioning with a certain identity. Once there is an identity it is prejudiced.”
Sadhguru oftens speaks about finding the separation between the seer and the seen. Patanjali reminds us that confusing the two is the essence of egoism and a major stumbling block to achieving self-realization.
The science of yoga is the technology to make ourselves into a zero because zero is not a simple thing. Zero is infinite, it is the very beginning of everything.
Although I don’t think dipping into the river of sorrow & suffering is a viable method for many people, we have to acknowledge that there are many paths to the same place. Reducing Carrey’s method to depression or some other mental illness is infuriating. If Katy Perry can try to find her heaven in a mind-eraser Friday night, why can’t Jim Carrey find his heaven by facing his suffering in an honest and vulnerable way?
I don’t know the man, so I can’t say for sure if he’s coming from a place of self-harm or self-help. But on the face of it, in my unqualified opinion, between Carrey and the people reporting on him, there is zero doubt in my mind who truly deserves the ‘mentally ill’ stamp.
I leave you with one last quote from Jim Carrey. It ends happily, or at least peacefully. I compliment it with another Patanjali sutra to chew over.
While the activities of the emergent mind fields may be diverse, the one mind is the director of the many.
“Know that no matter what happens, this is not who you are,” Carrey said, according to People. “You choose the part you want to play in this life. I want to be a good guy. I want to do good things. I want to make people happy and I want to help out when I can. So you do what you need to do.”
I don’t particularly like to write in books. I know people who keep Foster Wallace footnotes in the margins of all their books.
Like most things, I have an exception: my Nietzsche books. They are fair game. Friedrich Nietzsche’s works, when not aphorisms, are dense–they are difficult to scan.
I read and re-read Nietzsche, the same way I mull Patañjali or the Bhagavad-Gita or Kerouac or Baudelaire.
The passage below struck me when I read it last night. It was hard not feel a it like Nietzsche was sitting on the other side of the sofa, sunk and uncomfortable in his Bismarck-era get-up, smoking all my ganja and rambling about decadence.
This excerpt is Section 242, in ‘Part Eight: Peoples and Fatherlands’, from Friedrich Nietzsche’s 1886 work, Beyond Good and Evil. This translation is by Michael Tanner in 1973; the italics are Nietzsche’s, the underlining is mine.
“Whether that which now distinguishes the European be called ‘civilization’ or ‘humanization’ or ‘progress’; whether one calls it simply, without implying any praise or blame, the democratic movement in Europe: behind all the moral and political foregrounds indicated by such formulas a great physiological process is taking place and gathering greater and ever greater impetus–the process of the assimilation of all Europeans, their growing detachment from the conditions under which races independent on climate and class originate, their increasing independence of any definite milieu which, through making the same demands for centuries, would like to inscribe itself on soil and body–that is today, the slow emergence of an essentially supra-national and nomadic type of man which, physiologically speaking, possesses as its typical distinction a maximum of the art and power of adaptation. This process of the becoming European, the tempo of which can be retarded by great relapses but which will perhaps precisely through them gain in vehemence and depth–the still-raging storm and stress of ‘national’ feelings belongs here, likewise the anarchism now emerging–: this process will probably lead to results which its naïve propagators and panegyrists, the apostles of ‘modern ideas’, would be at least inclined to anticipate. The same novel conditions which will on average create a levelling and mediocritizing of man–a useful, industrious, highly serviceable and able herd-animal–are adapted in the highest degree to giving rise to exceptional men of the most dangerous and enticing quality. For while that power of adaptation which continually tries out changing conditions and begins a new labour with every new generation, almost with every new decade, cannot make possible the powerfulness of the type; while the total impression produced by such future Europeans will probably be that of multifarious, garrulous, weak-willed and highly employable workers who need a master, a commander, as they need their daily bread; while, therefore, the democratization of Europe will lead to the production of a type prepared for slavery in the subtlest sense: in individual and exceptional cases the strong man will be found to turn out stronger and richer than has perhaps ever happened before–thanks to the unprejudiced nature of his schooling, thanks to the tremendous multiplicity of practice, art and mask. What I mean to say is that the democratization of Europe is at the same time an involuntary arrangement for the breeding of tyrants–in every sense of that word, including the most spiritual.”
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.
I am unfashionably late to shamelessly self-promote some new prose that has come out earlier this month in Literary Orphans. As you will see in the table of contents, pieces are listed with approximate read times…so don’t be a dick and spend two fucking minutes reading something I humbly proffer two minutes of my writing to you, dear Reader, for entertainment, for ponderment, and for didacticism.
The appearance of fiction in truth and truth in fiction is as elusive as the elctron—physicists now know that the atom isn’t an organized ball-and-orbit construct, that electrons are not like planets circling their proton/nutron sun. Instead, electrons are vibrations that exist in proximity to the components of the nucleus and can exist anywhere at any time. Their position can only be defined, in a particular space at a particular time, by observation—so that the electron is only in the ‘one-o’clock position’ (for lack of a better term) only for the split second that you are observing it there. When you are not observing it, the electron can be at any other position, and is impossible to predict.
Truth and fiction have this same kind of quality. It is impossible to say whether something is truth or fiction, even if the storyteller insists on one or the other. Even the wildest science fiction stories are rooted in some fundamental truths we know about our lives, our society, or our physical universe. And even the truest of stories can be distorted by the nature of memory, or the perceptive filter through which humans perceive the world. What a wonderful paradigm.
All of this is to say that there is truth in my fiction, and I won’t spoil it for you, besides to say that I do indeed have a first generation digital camera. It is big and bulky and takes terrible photos. Worst part is that I can’t even transfer photos off of it because the chip is old technology and would require hardware I no longer have. There are photos trapped on that camera…photos of a special time and a special place, and special people who are there, pixelated on a one-inch screen.
The photos are trapped, but the memories are captured. It’s tragic and joyous at the same time, and damnit if it doesn’t so happen that every now and then when I’m alone and drunk I will pull out the camera, reload the AA batteries and flip through those photos. I am terribly nostalgic like that.