photographers call it “the golden hour”
the big trees at the leper colony near our home in Chiang Mai
photographers call it “the golden hour”
the big trees at the leper colony near our home in Chiang Mai
I am scouting a new path, and forging new tools to help me enjoy the journey. My old habits have brought me mostly ennui and pain. From now on, I will try to find new ways to live.
When in doubt, I will do nothing. Although I may not be able to wait until certainty arrives, I should at least be able to resist the compulsive and repetitive behaviors that have brought me this far down. I have sunk to previously unimaginable depths. The financial future looks bleak. My reputation is in tatters.
Old friends avoid me. Now that I drool uncontrollably and palsy shakes my limbs, I am unlikely to make new ones. I could assume that somehow this is all my fault, karmic retribution for my past deeds, but I don’t think that will get me anywhere I want to go. Neither saint nor sinner, I am merely a garden-variety human being, struggling to make the best of the situation in which he finds himself.
Should I expect redemption? A bounty of good luck? Absolution for past failings, and the sympathy of bystanders? Hardly.
When I stole that bus I knew what I was doing. When I forced the children on it to walk into the desert without food or water, I was fully aware of my actions. What I failed to understand were my motives. They were obscure to me. Before that incident, I had never thought one way or the other about school buses, yet one proved to be my undoing.
Fortunately, every one of those school children survived, though I’ve heard that a few are still undergoing therapy. The owner of the school bus declined to press charges, for it was revealed that the driver was taking an unauthorized cigarette break and flirting with the cashier at the gas station. He shouldn’t have left the keys in the ignition and the door wide-open.
My lawyers tell me that I’ll likely get off with a sentence that remands me to mental health counseling. After a year or so, I’ll be free of the ankle bracelet and able to come and go as I please.
You can’t fight on all fronts all the time. Decide what’s important to you and then focus on what you can do about that. Everything else is simply a distraction.
Time spent scrolling through social media is largely wasted. You might as well flip through the pages of a catalog hoping to find some bauble to buy that will make you feel less like a loser. Any effect shopping might have will prove highly transitory.
Especially with the advent of the Internet and cellphones, focused attention is at a premium. Without the ability to concentrate, we can’t expect to accomplish much. The only times during the day when I feel the benefits of one-mindedness are when I’m swimming laps at the pool, practicing the piano, and writing. I wish I could add reading to that list, but most of what I read is skimming, to see if I can find something worth my time to slow down and actually peruse.
My opinions don’t matter much. Not even to me, but I can’t imagine anyone else taking them seriously enough to consider their merits. Who cares about my opinions if I don’t?
Things are the way they are, probably for a reason, but even if not, why should that be a matter of debate? Why is our opinion about what actually exists newsworthy? Only the most narcissistic of us would imagine that to be the way things should be.
How infantile. How vain. How completely lacking in proportion. A volcano explodes. How do you feel about that? Would you like to share your feelings with others? Speak directly into the microphone. Meanwhile hot lava runs down the side of the mountain and fans out into the streets. The sky turns back from pumice. “I’m not sure I approve.”
“We’ll be back in a moment with the opinions of other people, some of whom might have understood our question. Others will simply talk to hear the sound of their own voice. Hopefully, they will ultimately feel shame for wasting out time with their nonsense, but even prattle has its place in contemporary discourse, because nobody’s really paying attention. We’re overwhelmed with uninformed opinions. So, in order to further distract you and for your viewing pleasure, here’s a picture of a moose mating with a picnic table.”
The world is ending, but I forgot to notice that fact until it was too late for me to do anything about it. Not that there’s much that I could have done. Forces are at work that are greater than my power to affect them. Like chicken little, I could have sounded an alarm, but nobody pays much attention to my Facebook posts. If I show a picture of a cute kitten, I can get a few “likes.”
The good news is that it’s not my fault the world is ending. Lots of things are my fault, like my lack of gumption, get-up-and-go, and the fact that I had to retire early to a third-world country because I forgot to make much money when I was working. I could look at that as a “bad thing,” but I could just as easily count myself fortunate that I ended up here in Thailand. If I had been any more of a “success” this might not have been a logical choice. I could have ended up in a big house in the suburbs of a Midwestern city, polishing one of my many vintage cars and watching my wife vacuum our vast expanse of indoor carpeting.
My life here might not be perfect, but it doesn’t involve bondage to too many items that need constant maintenance. I remember talking to an Iowa farmer and he told me that he finally realized that he had to maintain over nine hundred tires on multiple machines, cars, tractors, motorcycles, trucks, lawn mowers, etc. And that wasn’t counting all the engines that demanded frequent maintenance, all the blades that needed to be sharpened. No, compared to him I’ve got it easy.
OK, so I’m getting fat. I can’t stop eating donuts, cookies, drinking sodas and it shows. As much as force myself to exercise, I can’t work off all those extra calories. Yes, I’m obviously bored. I need a challenge.
Maybe I don’t need to do more, but rather less. Relax and let things unfold as they are. Nothing really stays the same, but my fears of boredom make it seem that way. Nothing much is required of me. Acceptance is my job now.
I still have a few years left to live, and I fully intend to become a ballet dancer, a jet fighter pilot, an astronaut, and an opera singer while I still breathe. It’s going to take some real efforts at time management for me to fulfill my remaining potential. No more wasting time on social media. Nose to the grindstone.
Will I be good at any of these occupations? I suppose the only one that really matters is fighter pilot. Others could be killed if I over-estimate my abilities. If I prove to be a mediocre astronaut, I will disappoint Mission Control, but drifting off into the endless void will not cause others to suffer. As a clumsy ballet and opera performer, I can bore an audience, but such an outcome would hardly be newsworthy.
When you look at everything as a gift, as grace, then envy and remorse disappear. If you consider it your duty to simply enjoy this day as much as possible, then you become child-like. You are less inclined to confront other people, to give instructions, to find fault, to blame. You find it easy to cultivate patience, because the whole notion of waiting becomes absurd. Who are you to decide which moment is more important than another? Why not find a way to enjoy where you are and what’s happening around you, right now? Any other response is at best arrogance, and at worst, insanity
By the time you read this, I will have already ascended into heaven. It was planned this way from the beginning. Even before the solar system was formed, my course was set. How do I know this? I have always known this. The angels have known this, as well.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m delusional. Just another kook who entertains delusions of grandeur. My goal is to get you to think you’re just like me. I know that we’re all part of an all-consuming plan to bring about the fruits of creation, and I want you to know that, too.
This is my religion. It’s nothing I want to force on others. I’m not a voice crying in the wilderness, hoping to be heard. I don’t care if no one listens to or believes me. I certainly don’t want you to believe in me. Believe in yourself.
Let me tell you a story. When I was yet a boy, I was visited by an angel. I had a fever, maybe the mumps. I was about three. My parents took these childhood diseases seriously, for I had had an older brother whom I never met who died about the time I was born. He had contracted measles which then turned into encephalitis. He died in agony. I simply ran a high fever and saw an angel standing at the foot of my bed. We talked for a long time, he and I. I got the impression he was as tall as the empire state building, but somehow fit into my bedroom.
The angel assured me that great things were in store for me, and that death was nothing to fear. That being the presence of God was the most enjoyable thing imaginable, and it would never prove to be less than that. I did, however, have a job to do before I got to enjoy being the presence of God, and that I shouldn’t worry, because inspiration and coincidence would be mine for the asking.
I have found that to be true. There is nothing to worry about. Simply enjoy the situation you find yourself in, no matter what it is, because it is wholly sufficient for your happiness.
I’ll never forget the first time God Himself appeared to me as a ball of fire. I was driving down the highway in my Ford pickup truck and a ball of fire entered through the windshield and hovered just above my knees. He told me not to be afraid, that he didn’t intend to burn me, but he wanted me to light a fire that would cause others to come to Him. He wanted revival, and wanted me to take whatever actions would make that come about. He suggested that maybe once I got it going I could upgrade to a Lincoln Town car and allow the pickup to be used on the farm. I didn’t yet have a farm, but maybe that was in the works, as well.
God suggested I found a school, the Institute of Bible Theology, and train students to be ministers. Three weeks would be enough for the coursework, and they could take the exams online to prove that their proficiency.
When I stopped for gas, the ball of fire vanished, but a beautiful young woman named Emma appeared. At first I thought she worked at the service station, but then I remembered that all the gas stations in this state had been self-service for years already, and Emma told me that she was an angel, sent by God Himself, to give me courage. She handed me a big bag of gold dust and winked, saying “there’s more where that came from. Plenty more!”
“But guess what, the news gets better yet! You don’t need to wait for Jesus to return, because you’re already Jesus. We’re all Jesus!”
I thought that sounded a little fishy and vowed to run it by some experts in the field as soon as I had the time to do so. But it was nice to see a pretty girl be so upbeat and excited.
I don’t like to blow my own horn, but this was all fitting in perfectly with my preconceived ideas about religion. Yes, I was special. Yes, up until this moment I had been selling myself short, but no more. Now I was ready to spread my gossamer wings and fly.
I know what my detractors will say. “Where are the miracles?” I must admit, I can’t explain why I have not yet manifested any crowd-pleasing spectacles. That’s where faith comes to the fore. If I truly believe that I have been chosen, then all my faith reverts to and focuses on He who chose me. If anyone asks what I have done lately to prove my holy status, I will smile and bravely say “my time has not yet come.”
Some of us take a while to grow into our full powers, while others are on a mission right out of the starting gate. A dreamy child, I was unaware of my gifts until early adolescence. Then at the age of thirteen, it all started to come clear to me. Yes, I could read minds. Yes, I had x-ray vision. Yes, I could astral project myself at light speed across the universe with nothing more than a wink and a nod.
Of course I entertained myself with these powers for a while after discovering them, but then the novelty wore off. The thoughts of others were no more profound or entertaining than my own. Seeing women’s bodies beneath their clothes became commonplace. One part of the universe looks pretty much the same as any other after a while. Most of it is thinly spread hydrogen gas, punctuated by an occasional star. Ho-hum.
Clowns in Peru are suffering from the Pandemic, but nobody knows or cares. If you want to understand Britney Spears, you must first understand her hair. We are all on fire with delusional thinking, but there is no simple cure for any of it. First, we must simply stop thinking altogether. Then, we can start over again, from the beginning.
I entertain myself with these kinds of thoughts. Which observations are helpful, or even real? There’s no easy way to discern nonsense from profundity. It’s up to the audience to determine the value of any communication. So far, the audience seems to be asleep.
This isn’t show business, it’s religion. It measures its gains not in tickets sold but in saved souls. Broad is the highway that leads down to perdition, but narrow and steep is the path to everlasting life. We can never forget our mission. The rejoicing in heaven is audible when we do our job well. The groans of the damned blend in with the cacophony of human misery that surrounds us.
We know we’ve done a good job when the groaning, weeping and wailing diminish and blend in with ambient noise. Then we can relax. Interactions with friends and family come to the fore. We start to have fun again.
Fun is a sign of holiness. Only the righteous can really enjoy themselves. Sinners are a miserable lot. I know, I meet them every day and sometimes it’s all I can do to resist their sneaky plans and insidious desire to drag me down to their level. They hope that by bringing me from my sanctified state they can lessen the envy that torments them.
Uncle Randolph made his living as an Interior Decorator, but it was after work that he really let the world know what he was made of.
As a boy, he was largely ignored by his parents, and if it hadn’t been for Grandma Marge taking an interest in him, he would have suffered terribly.
For a while, he tried running a kiddie amusement park, but then had some sort of of trouble with the authorities that was never quite resolved. Suffice it to say that’s been banned from being in unsupervised contact with children.
We had some foreign exchange students living with us when I was still at home, and Uncle Randolph got along with them very well. His delight in their company was totally reciprocated. The girl went on to be an important diplomat, and once invited Uncle Randoph to visit him at the United Nations building in New York City!
One day, Uncle Randolph simply disappeared. He didn’t show up for work, and all attempts to track him down came to naught.
We got a strange Christmas card from him last year, but it came with no forwarding address. Wherever he is, we hope he’s happy.
My older sister Natalie had absolutely no sense of humor, nor any interest in the arts. She was the hardest working scientist anyone had ever seen, and her advances in chemistry helped that discipline progress rapidly.
Our mother Eunice was no dope, but she never applied herself to more than the task of running our home and instructing the servants in their tasks. She envied her daughter the scientist, but never let on to that fact, and never really approved of her daughter competing with men in what was then a man’s world.
She enjoyed finding excuses to stay as far away from her husband as possible, and her interest in amateur archaeology gave a perfect excuse to travel widely. It was rumored that she also took lovers on these trips, and kept that fact a secret from my father. Everyone else knew, but apparently he was the only one left in the dark.
After my parents divorced, she moved to Paris and lived with an acrobat in Montmartre. My father cut her off financially, but she didn’t mind for she embraced the Bohemian lifestyle with the same vigor her daughter took to chemistry experiments.
Eventually, my father remarried, this time to a younger woman. She was as beautiful as she was vain, and caused him a much misery as she could during their few years together.
For the last six months of his life, he lived in the basement, creating and painting doll heads. It seemed to give him a great deal of pleasure to do so. The new wife took the remainder of his money and went to Hollywood, where she pursued an acting career, with considerable success.
I squandered my inheritance in ill-advised liasons with women who were ass attractive as they were mentally unstable. Oh well. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
It was a job, but that’s all it was. Not a vocation. No emotional rewards, no feelings of accomplishment. I escorted people who had never questioned anything, who had never had an original thought in their lives, and showed them a bunch of sleepy alligators. Nobody complained or asked for their money back, so I guess I did OK.
When I got off work I cracked a couple of cold ones and watched TV until I started to fall asleep. The next day was no different. I got to work at 1, when we opened, and already there was a line waiting at the ticket office. I knew what my goals were. I was going to save up for a flying car. Popular Mechanics promised that by 1990 they would be standard issue. I just had to keep working, keep saving money, and wait.
Every Saturday night, the wife and I would go to Bob’s All You Can Eat for stewed Troglodytes. They swam in their own gravy and you have as many as you liked. I always left with a full stomach. The wife would nibble off my plate, all the while saying she wasn’t hungry, but I think she put down as many as I did.
If we had people over, we’d show movies of our big vacation from three years ago, the time we went to Borneo, where the men grow tall as trees and the women prune them once a month. Our friends actually enjoyed seeing the same home movies over and over again, because it gave them a chance to rehearse their wisecracks.
Watching somebody else’s vacation photos is usually an exercise in tolerance, but we try to get creative when it comes to ours.
Before we send the gang home we crack out the tuna n’ waffles, which puts everybody in a good mood. It’s the most cost-effective and easy to prepare meal we know of, and that’s saying a lot.