Archive | June, 2012

Exercises in Narcisscism, Part One

17 Jun

Let me tell you about a story about a person named Ashley. Ashley was a precocious kid. She read literally every book she could get her hands on and that was her world. That’s what she knew because it’s where she went when things got rough at home when she was growing up. Consequently, Ashley was a lot smarter than her peers. But this didn’t affect her social skills and she made friends easily from the time she started school. She was someone who trusted easily, who grew close to people and suffered when her friends suffered, celebrated when they celebrated. A home movie from 1988 shows her addressing the camera with, “I love you very much, world!” And this innocence served her fairly well in the years before hormones and teasing.

Until about 4th or 5th grade, when kids started getting mean. From that point on, school was a relentless siege. She didn’t really understand why she was being singled out for so much ridicule and punishment until she hit 6th grade and came around to the notion that some people enjoy prodding at sincerity, at creativity, at earnestness – even teachers. Her 6th grade teacher in particular gossiped and picked on her right along with the other girls, and she withdrew even further.

So she kept reading. Junior high was more of the same. High school was only better because she was able to find those other creative, sincere people and commiserate with them, but she still hated nearly every minute of high school. Band – that was about all she could tolerate, so she threw herself into being a band geek and kept on reading. She wasn’t particularly good at her instrument and lacked any comprehension of “practice.” Everything she did musically was a crapshoot, pure chance. There were at least as many bad days as good days and some of her peers weren’t shy about telling her how much she sucked. (As late as college, she had days where she couldn’t play a half note in time. Thankfully, those days are long behind her. Use your metronome, kids.)

But she liked band, liked the goosebumps she would occasionally get in rehearsals and performances. She liked being moved to tears sometimes for no other reason than the music was pretty. She never thought she would ever be “good,” never even entertained the notion of making music for a living. She threw up so many mental roadblocks and made every rehearsal a challenge. She quickly grew bored of concert band, got ahold of a copy of Kind of Blue at age 15, and decided she wanted to play in jazz band. There are no baritones in jazz band, she was told. So her mom took her to the music store and rented a trombone, and she bought a method book and started sheddin’.

Jazz band was a purposeful thing for her. She never rose above third bone, but she came to appreciate it because it trained her ears so much better than anything else she had tried. One of her section mates was a guy named Nathan Dyer. He had long hair and a goatee and when he wore his hair down he had the beatific demeanor of Jesus Christ; nonetheless, he acquired the nickname “Nasty Nate” for his skill as a musician, among other things. He wore the same corduroy sport coat every single day. He was a high school student who listened to Spyro Gyra and early Chicago and quoted Jimmy Pankow in his solos. He was a unique, transcendent soul, a true original in a sea of posers and conformists. She looked up to Nasty, but drifted away from him once they had graduated. He went off to pursue a music degree; she drifted.

High school ended and she flopped around like a hooked fish desperate to live but unable to pull away from reality. The music thing sort of faded away. Paramedic school, she thought. I’d like to help people, and being a paramedic sounds sort of fun – something different every day. She had grown into a bitter, angry, purposeless young adult who didn’t really like people all that much and worked hard at alienating her friends – she had that down to a science. Music was nowhere to be seen. She rapidly unlearned everything she had worked at in high school. No one gives a shit that you’re a self-taught trombonist if you A. suck and B. never play again. Band was just a thing she did back in the day. She tried to suppress the goosebumps and tears and intense range of emotions she felt when listening to music. Back then, she thought, man, how cool would it be to be moved to tears by the beauty of what you do for a living? Professional musicians are so lucky. I could never do that.

Then she was watching the news one night and saw that Nathan Dyer had been killed in a car accident. She suppressed the emotions, choked down the tears, and tried to be a tough kid. It was going great until the funeral, when she walked into the chapel to see a tableau of Nasty’s short life laid out before her, his trombone forever silent, at rest next to his ubiquitous corduroy jacket. That scene was too much and she couldn’t stay, even though the jazz band where she and Nasty had sat next to each other played a couple of Sammy Nestico charts in his honor. Music was too painful then, like the sun being too bright.

Life ebbed and flowed from that point on and eventually she got the bright idea to run off and be a music major. She was a 22-year-old infant, a hack in every sense of the word, but she just woke up one morning and decided to apply to Pittsburg State. Nasty Nate had gone to Pitt State in pursuit of his music degree; so had several other friends, guys she admired as musicians. Maybe they can straighten me out, she thought, and get this fire lit for good. Her experiences at Pitt State are worthy of their own volume that could perhaps rival War & Peace in length and self-righteousness. Stay tuned.

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Spiritual Disclaimer

1 Jun

This: http://www.wisefoolpress.com/damnedest/disclaimer/

…is probably my favorite thing written on the subject of personal enlightenment and the quest for it. Pretty much says it all.

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN:

BY CONTINUING BEYOND THIS POINT the reader acknowledges and agrees that the state of Spiritual Enlightenment discussed herein conveys upon the seeker-aspirant-victim no benefits, boons, blessings, or special powers and bears little or no resemblance to assorted New Age or Eastern varieties widely dispensed under the same name. Orgasmic euphoria, orgiastic bliss, obscene wealth, perfect health, eternal peace, angelic ascension, cosmic consciousness, purified aura, astral projection, pan-dimensional travel, extra-sensory perception, access to akashic records, profound wisdom, sagely demeanor, radiant countenance, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence and opening of the third eye are not likely to result. Tuning, harmonizing, balancing, energizing, reversing or opening of the chakras should not be expected. The kundalini serpent dwelling at the base of the spine will not be awakened, poked, prodded, raised, or otherwise molested.

NO PROMISE OF SELF-ADVANCEMENT self-esteem, self-aggrandizement, self-gratification, self-satisfaction or self-improvement is made or implied. Likewise, self-indulgent, self-involved, self-centered, self-absorbed, and self-serving persons will not find satisfaction herein. The reader should construe no assurance of reward, rapture, empowerment, deliverance, salvation, enrichment, forgiveness, or eternal rest in a heavenly abode. No raising, altering, transforming, transferring, transposing, transfiguring, transmuting, transcending or transmigrating of consciousness is to be expected.

PURCHASE OR POSSESSION OF THESE BOOKS does not grant admittance to idyllic or mythical realms including but not limited to: Atlantis, Elysium, Garden of Eden, Heaven, Never-Never-Land, Nirvana, Paradise, Promised Land, Shambhala, Shangri-la, or Utopia.

THESE BOOKS MAKE EXTENSIVE USE of analogy and symbolism. The terms vampire, zombie, caterpillar, butterfly, dreamstate, Maya, and others are used metaphorically. Likewise, any suggestion that the reader should leap from a skyscraper, step into a blazing inferno, perform ritual self-disembowelment, or bathe in a vat of corrosive acids are not to be taken literally. The reader is advised that cutting off his or her hand, plucking out his or her eye, or chopping off his or her head, may result in bodily injury.

THE PURSUIT AND ATTAINMENT of Spiritual Enlightenment may entail loss of ego, identity, humanity, mind, friends, relatives, job, home, children, car, money, jewelry, respect, specificity in time, solidity in space, strict adherence to accepted physical laws, and reason for living.

THE SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT REFERRED TO HEREIN is a process and product of will and self-determination. It requires no reliance on or cooperation with God, Goddess, Satan, discorporate entities (angelic or demonic), gurus, swamis, seers, sages, holymen, priests, teachers, philosophers, faeries, gnomes, pixies, sprites, (wee folk of any sort), or any other agent or agency of non-self authority.

HEART-CENTERED APPROACHES AND QUALITIES generally considered to be of the essence of Spiritual Enlightenment, such as love, compassion, tolerance, grace, tranquility, and pacifism, will be viewed herein as antithetical, misleading, and irrelevant.

THE SEEKER-ASPIRANT-VICTIM has no need of any spiritual practices or belief systems including but not limited to Buddhism, Kabbalah, Hinduism, Sufism, Taoism, Gnosticism, Mohammadism, Judaism, Christism, Paganism, Occultism, Zoroastrianism, Wicca, Yoga, Tai Chi, Feng Shui, Martial Arts, Magick, or Necromancy.

THE SEEKER-ASPIRANT-VICTIM has no need of any so-called spiritual or New Age paraphernalia, trinkets or amulets including but not limited to crystals, gems, stones, seeds, beads, shells, incense, candles, aromas, bells, gongs, chimes, altars, images, or idols. No special clothing, jewelry, adornments, tattoos, or fashion accessories are necessary to this endeavor.

THE SEEKER-ASPIRANT-VICTIM need not avail him or herself of any of the myriad enlightenment-inducing procedures and techniques including but not limited to meditation, candle-gazing, mantra intoning, subjugation to guru, standing on one leg, pilgrimage on belly, unaided flight, drugs, breathing techniques, fasting, wandering in deserts, self-flagellation, vows of silence, sexual indulgence or sexual continence.

THE SEEKER-ASPIRANT-VICTIM has no need or use for any spiritual powers, arts or sciences including but not limited to astrology, numerology, divination, tarot or rune reading, mandala making, fire-walking, psychic surgery, automatic writing, channeling, pyramid power, telepathy, clairvoyance, lucid dreaming, dream interpretation, ESP, levitation, bi-location, psychokinesis, or remote viewing. Furthermore, tricks, stunts or feats such as shooting arrows from horseback, endurance of cold, live burial, materializing ash or jewelry, walking on fire or glass, laying on glass or nails, piercing of face or arms, conjuring and rope tricks, have no bearing or merit as regards the Spiritual Enlightenment discussed herein.

THE SEEKER-ASPIRANT-VICTIM is hereby advised that study of ancient cultures, travel to distant lands, or learning of foreign languages avails not in the least, and that, for the purposes of understanding and attaining the Spiritual Enlightenment discussed herein, there is no better place than here and no better time than now.

CONFRONTATION WITH PERSONAL DEMONS the facing of deep-seated fears, and the step-by-step dismantling of personal identity may result in elevated pulse, high blood pressure, loss of equilibrium, loss of motor control, pallor and loss of skin tone, loss of hair and teeth, loss of appetite, loss of sleep, loss of bowel and bladder control, tremors, fatigue, shortness of breath, dry-heaves, acid reflux, dyspepsia, halitosis, diarrhea, seborrhea, psoriasis, sweating, swelling, and swooning. The emotional upheaval attendant upon the discovery that one is oneself a fictional character in a staged drama may result in forlornness, weltschmerz, intolerance, anger, hostility, resentment, hopelessness, despondency, suicidal despair, morbid depression, and a suffocating awareness of life’s meaninglessness.

THESE BOOKS ARE NOT INTENDED for human consumption. If ingested, induce vomiting and seek immediate medical assistance. Avoid inserting these books into bodily cavities. Repeatedly plunging these books into the mouth, eyes, ears, nose, vagina or rectum may result in unsightly bulges and a painful burning sensation. If symptoms persist, consult a qualified metaphysician.

ALL CHARACTERS, PLACES AND EVENTS depicted in these books are entirely fictional insofar as these books and the universe in which they exist are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual people, places and events is purely the result of resemblance to actual people, places and events.

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