my short essays
sw 1 part 2
It’s Tuesday, December 2, 1997, and the sun is four fingers past the midheaven. All I’ve done in a year toward this issue is get my ideas and energy bound up and stuck in a bunch of half-finished drafts. That way of writing is an inward spiral that grows more constricting with every word. This calls for Revolution. So I have stapled together 12 pieces of paper and I’m writing it the way you see it—straight to final draft, in order.
Lately I’ve been obsessed with change. In the spring I wrote some arguments trying to get scientific conservatives (including many of my politically progressive friends) to accept so-called “metaphysical” and “paranormal” ways of thinking. Of course it’s all perfectly normal and your grandchildren will laugh at you for thinking otherwise. Then in the fall I campaigned for Nick Licata, a long-time local activist running for city council, whose opponent talked enough environmentalism and transportation and growth management that the Seattle Green party accidentally endorsed him before everybody figured out that he was a tool of Big Money. Licata won by just 5%. Then I followed one of my favorite ideas from the Bible, that if a mote in someone else’s eye bothers you, take out the beam in your own eye, and I started changing my own life.
I gave up Tarot cards and all divination, and immediately Anton La Vey died. I gave up scamming transfers and immediately I got 5 from an unexpected moving job. Now I just don’t ride the bus, but I can walk and bicycle longer distances again because I just halfway fixed my fatigue problem by relentlessly focusing on my body and breathing. I gave up sweeteners, frying, and grains, and spent a week furiously cooking, eating, still being hungry, and losing hard-gained weight. Now I’m mercifully back on grains. I gave up reading and it lasted a day; I gave up writing and it lasted a week; but now I’m better at refusing both when it’s just something I’m supposed to read or write.
But I didn’t give up enough to open a path to either of my Holy Grails—money from work I’m really passionate about, and sex with a woman I’m really passionate about. I’ll settle for money or sex without having to pretend I’m care about anything other than the money or sex, and God bless the Global Beast and a manager who doesn’t really serve it—I think I’m about to get the former, from a job at a bank. Updates later.
Now I’m no longer writing it exactly the way you see it—the ink was coming through the page, so I’ve left pages “2” and “3” of my original blank, and I’ll have to staple more pages in the middle. It fascinates me that you, reading these words, know what I don’t know writing them, though I control it absolutely—how many pages they will take up, and what all the words are that follow these. When I wrote that sentence, I had no idea that I would write this sentence, but you knew it—yet I write it. I think occult divination is the same way—these mystical intelligences know a few things you don’t, but they’re just the readers; you’re the author. Writing this way is really interesting. I suppose that’s why it’s how we live our lives.
You know the plot structure in Citizen Kane, where you start at almost the end, and then you go back to the beginning, and gradually catch up to the end, and go a little farther than where you started? I hate that. I don’t think it’s ever worked. My favorite narrative structure has a whole lot of things going on in parallel, interconnecting, none of them dominant. I want to do this that way. I expect to have continuing features that, in earlier plans, were to have been lumped together as articles. So here’s one:
Cooking. It’s still Dec. 2, a little past total dark. All day I’ve been eating pumpkin pie (filling 1 ¼ C canned pumpkin, 2 eggs beaten, 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (which I make from 4 parts cinnamon, 3 parts ground ginger, 1 part nutmeg, 1 part cloves, less than 1 part salt), and liquid and sweetener to fit your taste for texture and sweetness. Crust—whole wheat pastry flour sourdough starter, white flour, salt, and olive oil, in proportion to make a firm dough that’s just soft enough to roll out without much trouble between sheets of waxed paper. Bake 425 reducing to 350, about 40 minutes) in warm rice milk. Just now, instead of heating the rice milk in a pan, I put the bowl I was going to eat from straight on the gas stove. It’s a robin’s egg colored pottery bowl my sister made. I have never before put a stone dish straight on the stove and then eaten from it. What happens is, the stone absorbs and holds a lot of heat, and radiates it for a long time—into the food, and as the food gets eaten, there is proportionally more hot stone heating the food. So it starts out warm, and as I eat more, it gets hotter.
Now that I’m seeing that this way of writing works, and how it works, I foresee that it’s going to be different enough from Third Hemisphere, and similar enough to what comes after it, that I’m going to want it to be issue #1 of another name.
A few months ago I could not have done this, because I did not have the perception and discipline and perception-discipline coordination to know when to stop, and stop. I would have pushed it and made mistakes.
My name is Ran, short for Randolph. Rand is fine. Randall is not my name. By calling me Randy, you relate yourself to the most miserable and pathetic part of my life, from age 5 to age 26. I've been in Seattle for eleven years, going to college, working office jobs, and mostly recently, living on savings. Some of it came from my parents, but if you add it up and spread out all the money I have ever got, from all sources, as an adult, it's only five or six thousand a year. If I have savings and you don't, it's because I'm better than you at living cheaply. I don't have a car, I eat out only once or twice a month, and I haven't bought myself one new piece of clothing, two CDs, or three new books in the last two years. Now, with miraculously low rent, I'm under 0 per month. I do this so I can have a job as little as possible. People want me to declare some "thing" that I do instead of having a job. I let them think I'm "a writer" but I think of writing as something at the edge of me, not in the center. I don't want to get pinned under a "thing" that I'm supposed to be doing. As John Strohm sings in Antenna's song "23", "Nothing's something after all." I avoid having a job so I can be me 24 hours a day.
My sister says, “Don’t you want structure in your life?” She’s 17 months younger than me, but everyone who doesn’t know thinks I’m younger, and some people who do know forget. She used to be the rebellious one, while I was getting obedience out of my system. I thought about her question.
No! I want less structure, less structure, less structure. “Chaos” just means an order more complex than we understand. As I write this, they’re tearing up a lot up the street. Where the Safeway was, they’re putting a parking lot, and where the Safeway parking lot was, they’re putting a new Safeway. And past my south-facing window, every ten or so minutes, goes a truck with two open trailers full of dirt. So if I want less structure, why don’t I just sell all my stuff and go on the road? Because it’s trickier than that. I have reduced my things and gone on the road more than once, and I expect to do so again. What happens is, food and transportation and lodging cost money, and if you run out of money, or avoid spending money, you get cold and hungry, which are kinds of structure. When Chris McCandless went to live off the land in Alaska, his long journal entries fell to a few words every few days, about what food he found. His energy got trapped in the structure of basic survival. That’s why our hunter-gatherer ancestors were smarter and had richer, more interesting lives than most of their descendants do today—because our ancestors spent only two or three hours a day on basic survival and had the rest of their time unstructured, to create complexities of fun that we cannot imagine. Whereas today, society is structured so that people have to drive cars, and pay for utilities, and most important, over the whole world, people have to pay enormous monthly tributes to the rich, called “rent,” ostensibly to live on land that rich people are able to “own” by being rich, and which rich people spend to “own” more land and to keep society structured the same way. So most people are stuck eight or twelve or sixteen hours a day in structures where everything they do is done because it’s required for basic survival.
So the villain is rich people, right? And property is the root of all evil. I don’t think so. I think, on the Tree of Evil, rich people and pieces of property are only the leaves that suck in energy for a season and then die, and are replaced by new rich people and pieces of property. Maybe the concepts of property and money are the branches that Evil sticks into this world. I think I’ll have to look a lot longer before I find the root. But here’s something I suspect: I suspect that what we call evil has the same root as what we call seriousness, and seriousness is just a branch of humor—humor invented seriousness because it’s so funny. Or, you can’t have release without tension.
Science. People have no idea of the size and vastness of the cosmos. For example, if the sun were a bowling ball in Times Square, the earth would be a peppercorn in Los Angeles, the moon would be a grain of parmesan cheese in Bakersfield, Jupiter would be a ping pong ball on the moon, and Pluto would be a grain of sand on Pluto. Speaking of the planets…
Language. I am disturbed by the decline of our English language. For example, some people are trying to change the pronunciation of the planet Uranus from “your anus” or “urine us” to “you’re on us,” so that it won’t sound dirty. They’re probably already plotting to change the name of Lake Titicaca. And they’re trying to change “Brontosaurus” to “Apatosaurus” when Brontosaurus is obviously a cooler-sounding name. This kind of thinking is directly related to the declining interest in science among our youth. I propose some changes in language to make science more interesting. Let’s change the word “spectrum” to “sprectum.” So a New Age person would say, “They are beings from beyond our sprectum of energies.” Or on Star Trek: “Captain, I sense a disturbance in the electromagnetic sprectum.”
Revolution. Ten revolutionary acts you can do: 1. Burn a dollar bill—your own, of course. 2. Stop using coasters. 3. Let your sexual fantasies go really far. That's nothing. I mean really far. 4. Think of the idea or belief that bothers you the most. Talk youself into accepting it—I mean temporarily, you really think it. 5. What's your most special favorite food? Learn to make it. Eat it every day. 6. Go as long as you can without thinking any words. Now go longer. 7. Spend a whole day as if you were really sick, when you're healthy. 8. Vote whatever way feels the most fun. 9. Every night when you go to bed, imagine things you would do if you were all-powerful. 10. Cultivate pleasure in telling people what they don't want to hear.
Where is Pasadena?
I'm testing my limits again tonight—my mind feels clumsy and sluggish. Kurt Vonnegut says you're intelligent for only three hours a day. I'm not his fan—I liked the movie Slaughterhouse Five better than the book. But my favorite poetry writer, Algernon Swinburne, said about the same thing—something like, you're wasting your time writing more than three hours a day. My three hours were first thing this morning, but I didn't have a pen. I had been using my housemate's pen. But after the word "eat" I took a day and two nights break and he came back from California and I had to put his pen back, and no others in the house were good enough for this kind of writing. By the time I went and bought this one, I was stupid.
I use a Pilot precise V5 Extra fine, black. A few weeks ago I lost my last one and went to my only remaining Pilot, the same but red. So that's how I was carrying a red pen with a sharp point and free-flowing ink two weeks ago today, when my sister dropped me off at the Stadium.
We had just done a last bit of that moving job I mentioned on page 1. It was the day of the "Apple Cup," what they call the annual game between the football teams of Washington State University and the University of Washington. I graduated from the UW, but I grew up in Pullman, where WSU is, and I went there a year when the big money colleges rejected me. Also, WSU's teams have less money, fewer fans in Seattle, and get no respect from the national media. So, as far as I invest my ego in college sports teams with no important relation to me, I do so in the teams of WSU.
And this game did have an important relation to me: If WSU won (and UCLA won or Arizona State lost), they would go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1931, and my dad, who works for WSU, would take me to the game, and I would get a trip to California. To be continued...
Language. The language nit-pick that angers me the most is when people say, “You can’t say ‘very unique’ or ‘more unique’—a thing is either unique or it’s not.” And you’re either faking your intelligence or you’re not, and I know which. “Can’t” my ass. Despite your pronouncements, people will continue to talk about variations in uniqueness, and they, not you, are backed up by observation. “Observation” is what people call watching that patch of colors and stuff that’s off the edge of the page of your Carl Sagan book. I’m sure you’ve been told, and accepted, that no two snowflakes are exactly alike. Neither are any two of anything. If you take a handful of bolts out of a bin at the hardware store, and keep looking at them, you will find differences. But isn’t a hailstone among snowflakes, or a nail among bolts, more unique than a snowflake among snowflakes or a bolt among bolts? In the face of the obvious usefulness of talking this way, you might hold out and say, the hailstone and snowflakes are all just unique, because that’s my definition. Then your definition is, more than other definitions, insane. Or you say, snowflakes are not unique, because unique means the only one of its kind; “more only” is nonsense; a thing is either the only one of its kind or it’s not. I can argue with that logic! Everything is both the only one of its kind and not, as you move the meaning of “kind.” Try it. And saying “more only is nonsense” is trickery. It’s kind, not only, that takes the modifier. If something is more unique, then it’s the only one of a more distinct kind, or a more simply-defined kind. Or, if you want to change language a little, it’s a member of a less numerous kind…I noticed while writing this that “one of a kind” is idiomatic. Taken literally it means, there is a kind, and this is one of them.
Where Is Pasadena? (continued)
Apple Cup games are sold out and packed. But all week I had an intuition that I could get in. I got to the stadium at halftime and figured I could just get a ticket stub from someone leaving. It turned out I also needed a hand stamp. The hand stamp was red. Without ever getting a good look at one, or telling people what I was doing, I glimpsed a few, drew a draft on paper, glimpsed a couple more, and drew something on my hand, with my red pen, that got me in the gate without a second look. I went through the first door, down the steps, and sat in an aisle seat that someone had left for good. Later efforts to find a better seat found no seats at all.
I read somewhere that some percentage of people, a lot but not a majority, believe that their presence at a sports event affects the outcome. At first I thought what they wanted me to think: “Ha ha, a lot of people sure are fools.” But then I thought, why not? Of course “cause” and “effect” are simplified stories told by a perspective that’s stuck in time. But there is no argument that a spectator’s mind does not have some collaborative relation with events on the field, except that the dominant science of the moment does not tell stories that explain it. When I pay attention to my own experience, I find a persistent relation between parts of my experience called “internal” and parts called “external.” For example, at higher levels of ping pong, and at all levels of bowling, even though my rational intentions, and my rational control of my body, stay the same, I notice radical differences in the outcome depending on whether I feel confident or afraid, or aggressive or merciful. The mechanistic orthodoxy can tell stories explaining this experience in terms of their mindless particles and waves (though I suspect there has been little or no research fleshing out these stories). But I don’t notice this effect just in ping pong, or just in motor control, or just in events where I am obviously involved. I notice it everywhere. I don’t think it’s a feature of the brain or the body—I think it’s a feature of Experience, or Consciousness, Itself. And at the football game, when I started thinking, let’s give the other team some slack, or, maybe it would be too much bother to go to Pasadena, then the game went against me, and when I focused on my determination and readiness to go to Pasadena, the game went with me.
I don’t want to slip into messianic thinking, and I definitely don’t want to slip into objective thinking. I’m not saying that if the 74,000 people at the stadium looked closely, they would see that I made WSU win. I’m not saying that all 74,000 had emotions that fit events on the field, before they saw those events. I’m not even saying that the average WSU fan emotion was more positive and confident than the average UW fan emotion. That’s all an insane perspective. To tell stories about the way things “are,” or even about the way other people experience things, is to fall into a fantasy world. How’s this? If I got the names of a few thousand people who were at the game, and I started interviewing them one by one about the relations between their emotions and later events in the field, my experience of these interviews would, like all experience, fit the laws, or habits, of consciousness, that I am trying to describe here: If I got overconfident, or underconfident, or selfish, or stuck in one kind of thinking, they would start telling me things I didn’t want to hear.
This is all Science, in a broad sense: noticing stuff, telling stories to fit what you notice, figuring your actions from these stories, noticing stuff in wherever your actions take you, adjusting your stories, and so on. As I keep looking, I expect all the stories I'm telling here to break down—or rather, I expect their absolutism to break down, as they become simple cases of more complex laws, or simple views of more complex pictures, or sentences in bigger stories. I'm always tempted to get stuck on a story. Then all I have to do is stop looking. Suppose I flip a coin, and it's heads, and I say, aha, heads come up more than tails. Then, for every coin, or in every test of my law, I just keep flipping until there are more heads than tails, and then stop. Or suppose I wanted to argue that an observer's mental state is reflected in later events. My positive attitude was reflected in my team winning and me going on a trip. But you were in the same situation, with the same attitude, for the other team that my team beat. Then I say, but by staying home instead of going to Microsoft Introduces Windows 7.0 Bowl, you got this job. Then you say, but the job gave me repetitive strain injury. Then I say, but the injury led you to change your life and be happier... Does this kind of thinking take us anywhere? Yes! Because as we keep looking, some stories will get harder and harder to back up with what we see, and some will get easier and easier. If I'm arguing that coins come up mostly heads, and you're arguing that heads and tails are equal, then I'll have to do a hundred flips, and then a thousand flips, and then a million flips, before I get mostly heads. Then a billion. It never ends. And you can sit back, and look at my data, and say, I see half a million tails, and half a million and one heads—that looks equal to me.
Eventually I'll have to turn around. Or more likely, I'll just die. Because when I've spent my life flipping ten million coins, death is easier than accepting that it was all a dead end. Of course it doesn't end with death. When I come out, you'll say, see, holding onto one idea didn't make you happier. And I'll say, watch the next life. Watch me live ten billion lives, all working together, and I'll show that my way is better than yours. But gradually I'll figure out that it's not working. In one life after another, I'll give it up. For example, in this life, I spent twenty years investing in structures of stuck energy, sticking my energy with them, to try to get the money and status and other shallow benefits they promised. But these structures no longer have—or never had—the resources to give me even these benefits, unless I do even more unsavory things.
Maybe you have noticed that in this whole text I have not made a spelling "error," or, except for conscious stylism, a grammatical "error." I put error in quotes because spelling and grammar are structures of stuck energy, raw and pure authority, and I am a traitor to them. I can do them "perfectly" and I don't care. They're just arbitrary rules. As long as you're understood, one spelling is as good as another, and "bad" spelling is more fun. I advertise, right here, the observation that by obeying the authority of spelling and grammar, I drop that authority on those who accept it, and command them to more readily copy my thinking into their minds. My obedient sentences are Trojan horses, bearing soldiers of...
Revolution. That's what this argument is about. Revolution, from my perspective at this moment, means freeing energy from the structures it's stuck in: declarations you believe, things you own, habits of language, and eventually, belief, ownership, and language themselves. I've noticed that the people who say language creates reality protest the hardest when I take that theory to some of its conclusions, for example that the ideas and imaginary artifacts of ancient science, or medieval science, or contemporary fringe science, or primitive tribal science, are just as "true" as the ideas and imaginary artifacts of contemporary dominant science. I don't think language creates reality. I think language filters reality, or anchors reality, or sticks reality in place. Or we're all climbing on a big rock cliff, and words are spikes driven into the rock, and languages are chains or ladders of spikes. And people use the spikes so much that they no longer know how to climb on rock. And whole cultures of people, with a limitless cliff face around them, are packed onto a few thin spike trails. And those who know how to drive spikes, and pull them out, manipulate the trails to serve their interests. And people are called "great" when they drive spikes into places no one (from their culture) has been in before. I think Jesus Christ was a rock climber. And St. Paul saw people starting to follow Jesus onto the rocks, and got frightened, and drove a few spikes in the direction Jesus was going and called it Christianity. And the central doctrine of Christianity is that Jesus was the only rock climber. I think we're all rock climbers. But I want to hang out here on the spikes a while longer. As St. Augustine said, "Lord, take away all my temptations, only not just yet."
Where Is Pasadena?
So I was out with some friends, and I told them I was going to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl, and someone asked, "Where is Pasadena?" I said, "It's in L.A." Then we all spent the next twenty minutes arguing about whether it's good or bad to expand the name of a city to cover its entire metropolitan area.
Whenever people argue seriously about anything, there are other things they're really, or also, arguing about. When I said, everything out to where the buildings stop is L.A., I was really saying, "I refuse to respect political boundaries." The division between "Los Angeles" and "Pasadena" exists only in the invented world of lines and in the actions of those who are under the spell of that world. If I flew into LAX, from the air I would just see a bunch of streets and buildings. If I spent a few weeks walking around the area (and managed to avoid being much hindered by local residents or their uniformed servants under spells of drug/money/security addiction or race/class/cultural hatred), then I would see changes in the land and buildings and people that were more gradual, more complex, and in more and different places than you would think from looking at a map.
I wouldn't care about all that, or notice it, if it wasn't related to my emotional issues: political authority, and the drawing of lines, bother me a lot. And everything that bothers me a lot keeps coming back to bother me, in one form or another, until I find the same thing in myself and come to terms with it. By "come to terms" I mean two things (Aha! There I go drawing lines), or two fronts where I can engage the enemy--accepting it and defeating it. For example, sometimes I feel intense hatred for the "big money interests," which I think of as inhuman patterns of concentration of wealth, using humans—mostly rich ones—to manipulate this world so that wealth and power get concentrated denser and stuck tighter and it's hard for anyone—especially rich people—to be happy or feel alive. Of course, as I described on page 3, I am manipulating my world so that my money gets stuck tighter and it's hard for me to be happy. So, to the extent that I accept this behavior in other people, because I understand it in myself, it no longer bothers me; and to the extent that I defeat this behavior in myself, it no longer bothers me in other people, because I have experienced, within myself, being stronger than it. Not surprisingly, what I call "defeat" turns out to be more acceptance: one would defeat one's race hatred by accepting other races, and I can defeat my money-hoarding by accepting my loss of money every time I buy walnuts or the heat goes on—or by accepting my non-gaining of money from
It's December 13, Saturday, night, and I'm cold. But Philip K. Dick wrote his most powerful novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich, in a shed so cold his typewriter ribbons would freeze, and on a recent album Tom Waits had his musicians record in a cold place to put more life in their playing; so maybe I'll write better. Today I gave final word on the job I mentioned on page 1.
I have trouble making decisions. Pancakes or waffles? White flour or whole wheat? Egg or no egg? Milk or water? A little more salt—no—a little less. The salt that's stuck to my fingers—put it in the waffles or back in the salt jar? Maybe put some of it in the waffles... There is no limit to how trivial a decision I can get stuck on, or how long I can get stuck—or, the limit is my own awareness and discipline, as again and again I pull a decision out of the downward spiral of obsessive-compulsivism. Or the limit is my own courage, to dive headlong into a decision that may cause suffering and loss (meal is ruined—all ingredients were wasted; meal is unsatisfying and unpleasant to digest). Wait—strictly, awareness and will are the indecision limits; discipline and courage are powers that I can use in decision-making. Another is intuition. But what it all rests on is—here we go again—the acceptance of any possible future.
So I went back and forth for weeks on whether to take that job, because I couldn't accept either future. In one, I would spend months chained to a schedule and throw away hundreds of hours of my consciousness and energy in the empty, dead-end fantasy world of business office work. In the other, I would possibly spend those same months just discovering different dead ends in the endless dark labyrinth of my life, while my money ran out.
I was leaning toward my own dead ends. Then I did the worst thing you can do—I asked my family for advice. Your family—or mine, anyway—does not know what's best for you, or care. What they know everything about, and care about deeply, is what's safest, and on any important decision, their advice is meaningless and distracting, because they're just going to tell you to do the most cautious thing. I read somewhere that the best people to ask for advice are total strangers on the street, because they have no security interest in your life, so they can tell you to do what's most courageous and exciting.
But my mom persuaded me to go for the job just in time for me to have an experience I would otherwise have missed—a real, corporate-style job interview. It was over the phone, severely limiting the things I could do wrong, and I had only three hours notice to slip into a paralyzing abyss of terror—no notice at all would have been perfect. And I don't know if it's the short supply of unemployed people in Seattle, or the policy of the employer or the personality of the interviewer, but instead of interrogating me about my outside interests and my thin and unusual job history, the woman, who sounded younger than me, stumbled apologetically over my application as if I was in some sensitive protected category that no one's sure how to talk to. It was heartwarming. Occasionally I get reminded that the evil corporate world is mostly populated by really nice people who try hard and are even more lost in this world than I am.
So now all I had to do was go in for a farce interview with the final hiring authority, whom I know personally, and he would give me the job. Yes, that does bother me, that the other applicants go through the whole process in good faith, never knowing that they have no chance. But wait! Because I'm going to California for a week, because WSU won the Pac-10 for the first time in 67 years, I can't start until January 7. Suddenly, I found out that they couldn't wait that long. So I couldn't take the job. I was free!
Of course It doesn't work that way. A few days later, I found out that they could wait that long after all. If I really didn't want the job, I would have to take full responsibility for turning it down.
I did. I can tell some clever stories explaining and justifying my choice, and I think I will later on. For now, it must be clear enough that I just didn't want to do it.
Cooking. Today I bought 23 bananas. Central Co-op had the organic marked down to 35 cents a pound, and they were just touched with brown—they'll be good another week. I used to like bananas only with no brown. My taste in bananas is still the only thing in my life that ever changed suddenly and for good—I liked one banana green, and the next banana I couldn't stand green, but I didn't care how brown it got. That same banana was my first organic banana. But now that my taste is changed, it's changed for all bananas.
So in the oven at this moment is a banana pie. Not banana cream—I just put cut up bananas between two crusts, with a juiced quarter grapefruit to stop them from turning brown, and some flour to absorb the water, and baked it. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm worried about the grapefruit and flour. Just bananas would be more daring and elegant. The last few days I've been making just apple pies—apples inside and nothing else—and they're great!
The pie worked! I'm telling you, bananas cook as well as any fruit. I'm sure my tropical ancestors roasted them in their skins over fires.
My tropical ancestors? Not in any written or oral record. But I accept that the human race is much older and more migratory than the declarations of anthropology in this backward century say we are. Last Christmas I got the orthodox science Illustrated Brief History of Time as a girt, and I traded it in for the fringe science Forbidden Archeology, a giant book full of records of modern human artifacts in strata dated millions of years old, and records of the suppression of these finds by the orthodoxy. There's an abridged paperback edition called The Hidden History of the Human Race.
As for migrations, today's dominant storytellers make it sound like stone age people were sleepwalking morons, stumbling a few miles a generation into new lands. But they were just as smart as you or I would be if we had never watched any television, and they were all trained from birth in wilderness survival. There's a book about two or three guys who escaped from a Soviet labor camp and walked thousands of miles through Siberia and the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas into India to be free. If frail specimens of industrial Europe can cross the highest climates of Asia in a few years, then I think there were parties of pre-agricultural people who walked from North to South America and back to tell about it, or who crossed the oceans in hand-made boats bearing language and technology. Our estimation of their powers is filtered by our cultural bias. How do we know they couldn't feel the Earth's magnetic fields, or talk telepathically? How do we know they couldn't fly through the air? We think the Cro Magnons were smarter than previous hominids, because they were the first ones to make really elaborate artifacts. I wonder if the first Cro Magnons were prehistoric retards who couldn't put their intelligence into living life, only into making lifeless things. Excuse me—they were differently abled: Earlier hominids had the ability to live wonderful, magical lives, and Cro Magnons had the ability to make really good stone objects, like weapons, which they then used to kill all the other hominids and overrun the world and germinate me, wasting my life energy in this bitter lamentation of all we've done.
"We" my ass. I don't care who my ancestors were. Even if I didn't have hair on top of my nose, and chew with all 32 teeth, I could still identify with Neanderthals or whatever races or cultures "my" culture replaced.
Maybe you've heard of the zine Race Traitor, or seen the book. I love their idea: that "white" is not a race at all, but a privileged class, the definition of which has changed many times and is only distantly related to skin color. I love to tell people that the Irish didn't used to be white. Every time they fall right into the trap: "Then what were they?" "They were Irish." If I'm cursed with a long life in which the world fails to change, at least I'll get to tell scoffers that I remember when Asians didn't used to be white.
Everything I Need To Know I Learned In Junior High School
* We all live in a hellish manufactured world from which we escape only during sleep.
* All evil is done in the name of social status. Yet the people with the highest status do not personally do any evil—they behave as inoffensively as they can.
* The usual way to get status is through imitation.
* You can also get status as an intellectual, by imitating elaborate combinations of words. But only other intellectuals really care about this, and it's just as unpleasant and cruel as other status systems.
* No punishment is ever as bad as the fear of that punishment.
* The people you used to be in awe of turn out to be nothing.
* When you get to a higher level, everything from the previous level is thrown away. But they never tell you this.
* Everything you do turns out to be meaningless, except hanging out with your friends.
My Middle School Teachers
Everyone calls it "Junior High School" now, but at the time, we all called it "Middle School." It went from grades 5 through 8.
Fifth grade. Gary Johnson, a wiry guy, maybe thirty, looked like Neil Young with early Beatles hair, and one of the most difficult and complex people I ever had to adjust to. He had the classroom all partitioned and decorated with Peanuts posters. On an unseen sound system he played "Paint It Black" and Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day" over and over. He was obsessed with our chairs—we had to push them in every time we left our desks, and we were forbidden to slouch—that is, to slide our butts forward on the seat while leaning back. Leaning forward was OK. He told us chair-slouching would ruin our postures for life—a bizarre lie that still haunts me. Once he tied a kid to the back of a chair with a rope. More than once he said, or implied, or joked, "If my kid did that, I'd hit him." His kid was a few years younger than me, and later I heard that he was really mean. Mrs. Johnson was also a teacher and had the same authority problem—I'm told she forced all the kids in her classes to write with really light pressure. I hope that training has at least produced thousands of illegible carbon copies that are undermining the bureaucracy.
Mr. Johnson wanted us to affectionately call him "MJ." He made us march down the hallways in perfectly straight lines. He loved "pep assemblies," where we all chanted in unison that the school at which we were enrolled was superior to the schools at which we were not enrolled. He made us recite the pledge of allegiance with a change he made: "working for" liberty and justice for all, instead of "with." He was a liberal who gave long lectures about uncontroversial liberal issues like race prejudice. Thus I first learned to associate what we call liberal thinking, not what we call conservative thinking, with authoritarian emotion.
On top of everything, and best of all, he liked conspiracy theories, and must have spent almost a week talking about all the anomalies in the Kennedy assassination. Finally, to his credit, he had a sense of humor, and he always tried really hard. If I met him now, I would expect him to recognize me, and remember my name.
Sixth Grade. Jan Slaybaugh, I think. You may imagine the teacher from The Simpsons, a good person with some healthy cynicism, and nothing about her teaching that anyone would call bad or interesting.
I don't remember much except that was the year I made friends with Rick, or my conservative friend Ric whom I'm written about before, and every day at lunch Rick and I and Adam Frazer, a black kid from New York City, would play a war game that we invented on a big piece of paper, with little ships and planes that we drew in pencil and moved around. We called the game "Ze Map," because when we couldn't find the map we would sing a song in a mock European accent—OK, it was a German accent—that went, "Where is ze map? We must find ze map." In high school some other people resurrected the game—which they still called Ze Map—but they had made the rules so complicated that it wasn't any fun.
Adam was my best friend that summer. We caught snakes and talked about building atomic bombs and buying a plot of land. But the next school year Adam drifted away from us to join the popular kids. What I didn't know was that one branch of the popular kids—who all looked the same to me—were doomed to become the tough kids. I don't remember ever seeing Adam in high school, and the last I ever heard he was in jail. Continued...
A Fairy Tale
One bitter cold day, a man gave his coat to an old beggar, who changed into a magnificent dragon. "I grant you," said the dragon, "three wishes."
Now the young man, who knew that some wishes bring only suffering on those to whom they are granted, thought for a very long time. At last he said, "For my first wish, I would like the foresight to always make the best choice."
"That," said the dragon, "is the cleverest wish I have ever been asked to grant. I grant it."
The man's face lit up with an astonishment the dragon had never seen before, and has not seen since, though many ages have passed. Immediately, he said, "I have two more wishes and I would like you to grant them both in the same instant. For my second wish, I would like to reverse the first wish; for my third wish, I would like this whole encounter to be wiped from my memory until the end of time."
"Granted," said the dragon.
"Thank you, sir," said the old beggar. "A man as wise as you will surely live a happy life." And he shambled away, leaving the young man wondering.
My Middle School Teachers
Seventh Grade. Gwen Cochran, a young mousy ex-hippie, who was also the art teacher. I'm not completely joking when I say she was the best teacher I ever had. From the System's perspective, she was "incompetent"—that is, she didn't program us much, or try. Mostly she just let us talk with our friends all day. Without that precious experience, my social instincts would probably have been so stunted that I would now be another dime-a-dozen computer millionaire, not even shallow, walled up in a house, huffing pompously at enemy abstractions, abandoning my body to cancer. Actually, I feel like that now, except for the millionaire part.
Eventually some parents, including mine, got worried about the social status of their kids' future jobs, and persuaded the school to bring in another woman to "teach" us English by stopping us from practicing living English and instead programming us with the pronouncements of people who have killed English and dissected it.
During lunch people would hang out in the art room where J.C. Bolick would always be playing Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In the Wall Part 2." He was a great kid. He got Multiple Sclerosis in high school and died a few years ago.
Near the end of that year we spent all our time on a giant class project, to put on a play we wrote ourselves, a disco version of the Wizard of Oz, in front of the whole school. But on May 18 Mt. St. Helens dumped an inch of volcanic ash over the whole town and they closed school early.
Eighth Grade. Dutch Day, a big, cheerful, deep-voiced, black-bearded guy, and probably the most radical person in the whole school system. A couple times in the seventh grade he appeared like a mad bear outside the back windows of our classroom, tearing up and stomping on the fuzzy ball creatures that we all wore on our shoulders at one time of the year. If I remember right, they were part of the annual Magazine Sale, and only Dutch Day understood how horrible the thing was: little kids bullied by social pressure and school administrators and lured by pennies worth of crappy prizes into being unpaid laborers in the most dehumanizing activity ever invented—sales, diverting tens of thousands of dollars from their families and neighbors into an industry that manufactures countless identical copies of a few bland articles and the commercial advertisements they support, to distract us from the limitless perspectives and possibilities of our actual lives.
One time, after a special asembly about the wonders of vaudeville, Day explained to us why he hated vaudeville. Another time he spoke admiringly of students at another school who organized to be allowed to go to the library instead of pep assemblies. Mostly, though, he just lectured on contemporary politics, going as far left as he could get away with, which I suspect was farther at the eighth grade level than at his former job at the high school. A few years later he moved to Seattle, and in the summer of 1990, by accident, I lived next door to him for three months.
Language. One word you'll never see me use, unless I make a mistake, is "mainstream," because I think that metaphor is a terrible lie. It suggests that the most duplicated and distributed books, magazines, newspapers, and television transmissions are like a big river, wide and deep, into which all the shallow little streams flow. The way it really works is the reverse: There's a giant ocean containing all the experience in the world, and in one place, some of it is sucked up into a river, which is then divided down into smaller and smaller streams, until all that's left is a thin trickle going up the drain of a urinal in an office building in New York City, into some guy's dick, and out his mouth into a little bottle labled "Ocean," which is then duplicated one million times and delivered to people who live right next to the ocean but never go outside.
Or, what these systems do is filter everything, according to their own interests, down to one thing, then make many identical copies of this one thing, then replace, with this filtered uniform product, the complex and varied experience of its consumers. If I make this pattern a little more general, I can spot it everywhere in the unnatural world, and a few places in the natural world. For example...
Race Traitor Continued
sometimes, out of a varied bunch of creatures, one type will expand and push out or kill all the others. I accept that this happened with hominids recently, that a few thousand years ago, or in some places a few hundred years ago, there were a lot of kinds of upright-walking, opposable-thumbed, intelligent ape-related animals other than the six-foot-tall, big-cerebrum, mostly hairless animal that dominates the world today. The best book on this subject, to my knowledge, is Ivan Sanderson's Abominable Snowman: Legend Come to Life. It's easy to find in libraries. Sanderson brings together recent sightings and footprints of cryptohominids, data from dominant anthropology, and folk stories and histories from all over the world, and argues that they all come together in the same picture: many human types, gradually and recently pushed out of the land and consciousness now inhabited by this type, but some still surviving. My favorite part of the book is a spectacular rant about how much of this world remains not only unexplored, but unpenetrated by industrial humans, and how map makers, like all experts, are mostly occupied in covering up their ignorance.
Sanderson does not include "mystical" thinking, but I do, and I think some of these human types were pushed into—or came from—what we call other realities, and they're still there. I think dinosaurs are still there. I don't think there's any gap, or any honest place to draw a line, between "human" and "animal," between "rational" and "magical," or between "this" reality and "that" reality. I think these lines, or gaps, are lies; and these lies are intimately related to the exclusion or suppression or murder of anything that fills what's been called a gap, or crosses what's been called a line.
Some people talk about this sort of issue as "eastern" versus "western" thought. But the underground mystical traditions of western Eurasia describe the same unified, consciousness-based universe as so-called eastern thought; and the military-economic big-system history of eastern Eurasia is full of the same murder and line-drawing as so-called western civilization. I think whatever's got us has got our entire hairless, big-domed race, men and women, pale skin and dark skin, rich and poor...
My Life Intrudes
I was planning to go from the above ideas into more of the ideas of the Race Traitor publishers—that the best thing I can do, as a light-skinned USA citizen, to undermine the privilege system, is to stop identifying as "white." So for example, instead of thinking, "We took the land from the Indians, and that was bad, so let's be nice to them," I think, "The Europeans took the land from us." Of course it's not the same. People of non-dominant appearance and culture have endured, and continue to endure, an intensity of abuse that I and my recent ancestors cannot imagine. And these experiences, even over one or two generations, carve deep habits in people that cannot be erased just by an intellectual idea. But for a mere idea, the Race Traitor idea is shockingly powerful. If you're in any privileged category, try it out. When you're out in public, look at some people in "your" category and think "I'm not one of them; in fact, there is no 'them.'" Then look at some non-privileged people—poor people or black people or teenagers or fat people or rural people or very old people—and think "I'm one of them." Feel what it does to your mind.
Anyway, on the last page, after the words "universe as," more than a week passed, and I lost the emotion that was driving the writing. It's December 31, 1997, one year after I printed Third Hemisphere #3. I'm at an expensive hotel in Bel Air.
Oops! There went another ten days. It's Saturday night, January 10, 1998, and I'm back in my hovel in Seattle.
If I had understood what this trip to L.A. was really all about, I never would have agreed to go. What it was really all about was: "We're spending a lot of money on you, so you have to do what we say, and pretend you like it." Now that I think about it, that's what this whole society is really all about. In the hospital: "These toxic radiation treatments are expensive, so take them and die smiling." In school: "These computers are expensive, so do what they tell you and be grateful." In the family: "I work 80 hours a week at a job I hate to buy you this expensive lifestyle, so act happy when I come home." In politics: "The USA is the richest country in the world, so if you live in it, you must support the global terrorism that keeps it rich."
The flaw in this thinking is the idea—never said straight out—that money is positively related to good. This idea is hard to find in aphorisms, religious writings, classic novels, Hollywood movies, or human life experience. What you find instead are arguments and evidence that money is inversely related to good. Expensive medicine makes you sick; expensive education makes you stupid; an expensive life-style makes you unhappy. But we don't believe it, so we have to learn it for ourselves, one person at a time.
Where, then, do we get the idea that expensive stuff is good? From the people who sell expensive stuff, and from the people who have bought it and don't want to admit they made a mistake, especially if these people are your parents. When you're a kid, your parents are too busy making worthless money at their hellish jobs to give you love or attention, so they give you money-bought stuff. Then, as you get older, your parents give you less and less money-bought stuff. The idea is, you never found out that there's anything better in this world than money-bought stuff, so you think you need it; your parents have addicted you to it, like drug pushers. Now the only way you can keep getting it is to go get your own hellish job. Then you're ready to have your own kids and continue the cycle.
In theory, love is the strongest emotion. But in the actual world I see around me, the strongest emotion by far is fear, and the strongest kind of fear is the fear of looking bad. I feel like, to most people, I am a tool to keep them from looking bad, which I do, in their hands, by living the way they live and acting happy. If I live like them and fail to act happy, I threaten to expose their own life-long unhappiness that they've worked so hard to keep hidden from themselves; so they get furious and abuse and threaten me until I act happier. And if I live unlike them, and let on that it's working, they get murderous. I'm pretty sure that my parents and closer friends wouldn't kill me, but remember that we're dealing with the strongest emotion in this world. I think the real reason behind all genocides and sytematic mass killings is that some people are living in a way that makes you look bad, and it's easier to just murder them all than to admit that your whole life has been a giant humiliating mistake, and start over from nothing.
Or, this society is a giant emotional pyramid scam. A financial pyramid scam is not backed up by any helpful product or service—it just keeps going by capturing new members and feeding off their life energy, with the promise that they'll get to feed off the life energy of future new members. But inevitably the whole thing has to collapse. I intend to see it in my lifetime. And the people in the pyramid intend not to see it in their lifetimes—they're in a desperate race, trying to get safely to death before the whole thing collapses and they have to face life without it.
How, specifically, does the pyramid work? What goes in and comes out? Pretty much, lies: many hours per person per day of behavior calculated backwards from what people want, not projected forward from how you really feel. I'm talking about all the tasks you do, at your job and at school and at home, that you don't really want to do, and all the lies you have to tell (I mean telling people what the ear of Power wants to hear) to do your tasks "correctly," and all the people you have to suck up to. And it never ends. The higher you go in the pyramid, the more lies you have to feed into it, and if you ever stop, then you're thrown out, and all the lies you've fed in your whole life were for nothing. Of course, they're for nothing anyway, because all you ever get out of the pyramid are the same chore-lies and suck-up-lies and lie-lies, done for your supposed benefit by other people.
It is now time, in this little story, for me to blow through the narrow end of the trumpet—a metaphor one of my college professors used for the idea that it works better to talk about personal experience than to talk about generalities and abstractions.
The Sunday after Christmas (or maybe the Saturday), I got in a bigger argument with my dad's second wife than I ever got into with any blood relative. She said I was being a "rude" house guest because I was not showing enough enthusiasm and gratitude. And she was furious—or she pretended to be. Now that I've seen her act perfectly cheerful for days while nurturing resentment, I've lost all confidence that any of her emotional displays are honest.
I was astonished. Up to that moment, I thought I liked her and she liked me. No one else has ever, to my knowledge, called me rude. I am intensely conscious of the cultural differences between myself and most other people, and I work so hard at fitting in to awkward cultural environments that sometimes it seems like my life is one big practice session in that skill. I am obsessed with always doing the right thing; if I get in a conflict with someone, I will spend hundreds of hours, over years, if I have to, trying to get to the bottom of it in my own emotions, finding a way to use the conflict to improve myself, finding the beam in my own eye.
I can think of only one other time in my life when someone did not just criticize my actions, but directly criticized me as a person, and it was the same kind of situation: someone was giving to get, and I was not giving them back what they wanted to get, but they had never asked me for it, because then they would have to admit to themselves that they were giving to get. And I wasn't clinging on to a situation where I was accepting without giving—I didn't like it either and I was trying to get out. But before I did, they condemned me for not giving them the fake love that they had been told they would get in exchange for passionless work.
So in the argument with my dad's wife, I said I apologized and I agreed to perform more the way she wanted, but I also stood up for myself and never admitted any specific wrongdoing. Once I said she didn't have to give me anything, and if she threw me out of the house, I would leave. But my favorite part was when, out of nowhere, she said some self-helpy thing like, "You've got to let yourself be vulnerable," while her eyes were flashing with intense hatred. That has got to be the most bizarre moment of my entire life. Of course I take all criticism very seriously, and I really am going to make sure now that I'm doing enough to let myself be vulnerable.
Some people would have pushed the argument until they really did have to leave the house, or they would have backed out of the trip. My style was to give a little ground and stick it out. I also stubbornly wanted to prove that I could learn and follow her cultural rules. I would be dead or in prison now if my philosophy were not "When in Rome—do as the Romans do"—just not to the point of murdering pagans, or imagining that there really is such a thing as a Roman.
So I went on the trip. I do feel gratitude that my dad and his wife let go of so much money in my name; and I believe in and appreciate their intention to make me happy. But money, um, doesn't buy happiness. Or if it does, then what's really creating the happiness is the money-spender's empathy with the passions and values of the happy person. And their money-spending never left the world of their own values.
My sister did the same thing—her Christmas present to my dad was an herbal remedy that they both know he'll never use. OK—she gave three other useful presents. But the herbal thing was a power play, practice for when he's a weak old man and she can get revenge by making him go along with her culture. Maybe I'm no better—when I occasionally have power over people, I wield it according to my own values by giving them more freedom than they know what to do with.
go to part 2