If you never get around to making a decision, someone else will decide for you. Circumstances will change whether you like it or not. People will come and go whether you invite them in or ask them to leave. If you fail to take responsibility for your life, then you can neither take credit for your successes nor blame yourself for your failures. That condition isn’t the same thing as freedom. It more closely resembles bondage because the little freedom it offers comes at such a great cost.
Many things offer the illusion of freedom at the cost of bondage. How else can a consumer society encourage people to go into debt to buy things they hope will transform their lives for the better? I remember when the teenage son of a friend of mine got his driver’s license. He had saved up some money working during the summer, and bought a used car he couldn’t afford. Then he sunk a bunch of more money into an expensive sound system for the car. When the summer job ended, he found he could not pay the car loan, so they confiscated his car. He found that losing the car did not mean that he was now out of debt. Quit the opposite, he now owed the entirety of the high interest loan he had taken out, and lost the sound system he had recently purchased. The longer he could not pay for the loan on a car he no longer owned, the more he owed. Bondage, pure and simple.
means there’s no incentive to tear down a ruined building. Just let it sit there until property values rise and the Chinese want to build a hotel there. After all, it’s across the street from the Chiang Mai bus station
You might want to surrender now while you have the chance. Eventually, they won’t be so nice about it. They’ll just kill you and say you gave them no choice. So if there was ever a time to lay down your arms and assume a prone position, this is it.
Sure, they might kill you anyway. Even if cameras are rolling, they can claim to have been in fear for their lives. It was either you or them. You resisted their lawful commands. You left them no choice.
Chances are, however, that if you act soon to stop resisting, you’ll be alive at this same time tomorrow. As I said, time is of the essence. They only have so much patience, and it’s rapidly wearing thin.
Once they are sure of your intentions, they can set about the task of rehabilitating you. That might take some time. If you still think your cause is just and theirs isn’t, then I don’t have much hope that you will be able to successfully join their ranks. At best, you will always be an outsider, looking in, nursing a grudge in your rebel heart.
If the Man wants your ass in a sling, he’s got it. He’s not fooling around. There’s too much money at stake. He’s going to come out on top no matter what, so you might as well stop fooling around and face whatever music the Man is playing.
Actually, the Man is tone deaf. He doesn’t play music himself, he hires others to do it for him. The Man isn’t bothered by the expense of hiring musicians. Musicians work cheap. They lack the rigor and resolve which come as part and parcel to being the Man.
The Man doesn’t care if you don’t like him. He’s not waiting for consensus. He’s taking action now. Sure, he might respect you more if you’re full of resolve, but how you’re feeling or how you respond don’t matter to the Man. He knows how he will feel and what his response will be to anything you do. Again, he’s not really interested in you, even if he has pretended to be in the past.
He’s in it for the long haul. He’s playing to win. If you have any plans, he will outmaneuver them. If you have any hopes, he will counter them with specially selected facts.
By now you’re probably wondering what I really do for a living. Surely not this. You’re right, this is a hobby, a diversion, something to fill the time while I wait for death. I want for nothing. Any whims and desires that float in one ear and out the other can be easily ignored, or acknowledged with a cheerful “thanks for stopping by!”
I know full well what many only suspect. If you’re not full of gratitude, you’re toying with insanity. You’re making yourself miserable. You’re driving yourself crazy.
Even as the pandemic oozes about us, striking down a steady five percent of all whom it visits, there’s still plenty of cause to rejoice. We aren’t dead yet! What more can be expected or demanded from this life? Did we choose to be born when we were, into the family and nation of our birth? Of course not!
Clearly we are but the victims or beneficiaries of Fate. None of this is our doing. We are along for the ride and nothing more.
Someday I will rise to fulfill whatever promise was made by my very creation. Then I will be free to fade into obscurity. Until that moment, I must pay attention and listen for my cue. Only at the right time will this actor part the curtains and enter the stage. Only then will I deliver my lines, the ones I have been memorizing all my life.
False Dependencies lead to disillusion and depression. You can never get enough of what you don’t need, but convincing yourself of that when you feel deprived and needy is not easy. You’ve got to first assure yourself that you’re going to be just fine without these things you’re terrified you’re not getting enough of. Sex, money, status, or some subset of them is usually what you’re afraid of losing out on.
The feeling that everyone else is getting his or her needs met but you aren’t is an easy place to get stuck. Some people never leave that hole once they fall into it. It colors and warps everything from the moment they realize they got left behind. I remember when I was a child, I saw a live TV version of the Pied Piper of Hamlin. I think it was on Ed Sullivan’s show and starred Van Johnson, a movie star at the time.
Anyway, in this tale the Pied Piper played his magic flute to rid the town of rodents, but when the towns folk refused to pay him, the pied piper took all the kids and led them to a beautiful playground which was then magically sealed itself so no one could ever leave or enter again. One little crippled boy couldn’t keep up with the procession, and he was locked out. I remember thinking “I’m that little crippled boy. For as long as I live, I will never forget nor forgive this injustice!” You see, I had an active imagination, especially when prompted by self-pity.
Now it is sixty years later, and I’m just beginning to forget and forgive my justifiable resentment. While I’m still sure somebody, somewhere owes me an apology, I can no longer remember what I’m waiting to be apologized for. As I write this, I’m listening to Chopin’s Nocturnes, and am reminded that he wrote all his amazing compositions in a very short life span, which involved a long decline due to tuberculosis. I’ve had almost seventy years of good health during which I’ve managed to accomplish…not much. But I’m still waiting for an apology.
I just received another message from Facebook saying my account has been suspended for fifteen more days due to “unusual activity.” When I sent an email to a friend with a copy of their message, the email itself was rejected by his server because the subject title “banned from Facebook” aroused suspicion. This latest stint in Facebook prison began when they uncovered a picture I’d posted a few years ago, showing Hitler feeding a squirrel. Something weird is going on.
The most contentious thing I remember doing was sharing a post about Israeli abuse of Palestinians. Might that be at the bottom of all this? I have friends who routinely share pornographic videos on links Facebook, with no problem. But Hitler feeding a squirrel, well that’s just pushing the envelope a little too hard.
If Facebook doesn’t want my business I guess I should look for another social media site, except this whole wasting time online things has gotten old. Like most of us, I have no idea how much time I have left on this planet, but I don’t want to waste it posting funny pictures and clamoring for approval. I’ve already made contact with everyone I ever knew, and they know I’m living in Thailand, retired, and obviously wrestling with too much free time.
Do most people think before they speak? I sure don’t. Whatever comes out of my mouth is a complete surprise to me. The same goes for my writing. My fingers do the talking and I’m just along for the ride. Sometimes I can type more quickly than I can read, so it’s all news to me.
You might call this a gift, but it could as easily be seen as a curse. What one person calls “inspiration” another might deem “delusion” or “compulsion.” I can just see me in court saying “your Honor, I had no idea what I was typing.”
Nobody reads anymore, and for people like me that’s a good thing. My literary output joins the stream of detritus that flows day and night without pause through social media platforms. I tend to favor offbeat subject matter. Routine politics bores me, but the chance that Joan Rivers is still alive or Hillary is an alien seems reasonable to me. I mean, really, who knows for sure?
How can you be charged with a premeditated crime if you never plan anything ahead of time? Non compos mentis is my alibi. I’m just another frog in the pond, croaking away on the chance that another frog is listening.
Clara was a sleepy girl, often timid, and mainly waiting for someone to want her. She could not imagine why a boy or man would desire her, but knew that in the natural order of things these things happened all the time, so she had a chance. Once he wanted her, it would be nothing at all for her to want him back. Finding him would take some time, but once he was found, that would be the end of the search.
She practiced being pleasant at all
times, and feigning interest in even the most pompous of bores. She
could look you right in the eye and tune you out, thinking about
something else entirely. Even nodding in the right places came
naturally, as a sort of musical rhythm thing. Talk talk talk nod. All
the while she would maintain eye contact, but through the gift of
inattention, not see or hear a thing being said.
She had also mastered the art of
repeating the last word you said, as if contemplating the deeper
meaning of it.
Her only exercise regimen was swimming,
but as regimens go, that was the best. Hard to injure yourself
swimming. Despite her lack of rigor or ambition, she found that she
became better at it over time, and it was an excellent way to develop
her body physically. Inside she was a poet, but on the outside, an
Fifteen was an exciting age to be
alive. Everything was changing so quickly! Like many her age, she was
in love with love itself. Romantic love, love of Beauty, God,
Animals, Nature, and on occasion, all mankind. One night she stayed
up all night just to see what it would be like. When winter turned to
spring and then summer, she took it personally. A June morning could
be so full of portent and meaning it was like being punched in the
stomach. She gasped for breath at all the beauty, drowning in sensory
When one of her classmates was
discovered to have super glued her upper lip back to make it look
fuller, Clara understood. It took a visit to the doctor to have it
unglued. Some snickered, but Clara considered it a courageous act, a
nervy experiment. You do what you have to do to feel fully alive.
Nothing to be ashamed of there.
Sometimes at night when she found it
difficult to fall asleep, she entertained a waking dream, a long
fantasy about her and a group of friends washed up on a tropical
island. There were two cute boys and some awful girls who the boys
avoided because they were both in love with Clara. It didn’t matter
how long it took to finally fall asleep, because the long, delicious
fantasy in which Clara wondered which boy’s love to accept made the
interval between hitting the sack and falling asleep a pleasurable
Clara’s Mother’s Diary
I’m worried about Clara. Half the time
it’s like she’s on another planet. There’s no getting through to her.
I asked the school nurse if she thought Clara might be on drugs but
she said “no, she’s just fifteen.” I don’t think all
fifteen-year-old girls are walking around in a daze, but maybe many
of them are and I’m not close enough to them to see it.
I’ve asked her father to talk to her,
but he says he can’t see the problem. He’s not around as much as I
am, and when he comes home from work he just wants to watch
television and relax. He and Clara watch TV together, but they don’t
talk. I feel like I’m the only one who sees a problem here. Am I
Clara smiled at me today, but then
walked right past and started talking to some girls in our class. I
thought I was going to faint when she looked right at me and smiled.
She’s already beautiful, but when she smiles she’s even more so.
She’s like a goddess! A superstar! And to think she smiled at me!
She wasn’t always this way. Last year,
when we were fourteen, she wasn’t anything special. Like many of us,
skinny and awkward. Of course, she had braces until halfway through
the school year, and those make anybody look dorky.
Now she has grown into a mature woman,
a powerful person who could be a movie star if she wanted. Clara has
more going for than all the other girls in this school combined.
Natalie’s Letter to the School Nurse
Dear Miss Brooks. By now you are
probably aware of Clara, the snob who pretends she is God’s gift to
our school and the world in general. We other girls in her class see
right through her little act, but the boys have been completely taken
in by her and think she’s some kind of movie star. For the sake of
our school and the children involved, please do something. I’m sure
you can get Principal Stevens to listen to you, and if he wants to
have a meeting with us, we’d be glad to.
Natalie, Schuman, 10th grade
PRINCIPAL STEVENSONS’ REPLY
Dear Miss Schuman:
I spoke with your teacher Miss Brooks
and in our conversation together we were unable to ascertain the
exact nature of what offense you think Miss Englert is guilty. You
say she is a “phony” and “all the boys have been taken in by
her…little act,” but I am unaware of any violation of our school
code of conduct this may entail.
While it is normal for girls in your
age group to form “cliques” or groups of friends who are often
tight-knit and critical of other cliques, this situation you describe
demands neither disciplinary action nor medical intervention. So I
think we will simply watch and wait for further developments.
I haven’t been able to sleep much. The
last two nights I tossed and turned thinking about Clara. When I did
dream, I dreamed about her, only she was not doing what I wanted her
to do. She was ignoring me. She even laughed at my attempts to tell
her why I care so much about her, and worship the ground she walks
on. Is this normal? Do I need to be medicated?
I thought about talking to the school
nurse because maybe she wouldn’t tell my parents. She also knows
Clara and that might help her understand what I’m going through.
Chad’s Parents Respond to a Note From the School Nurse
Thank you for telling us about your
visit with our son Chad. We want to make sure we’re not
over-reacting, and we certainly don’t want to ignore this distress
Chad is enduring. We will respect your wishes not to tell Chad that
we’ve talked to you, or know that he sought your help.
This Clara girl seems to be a real
character. She’s like a tornado roaring through the lives of her
classmates. I suppose there’s nothing any of us can do to change her
behavior, but we must say that it’s quite difficult for us to stand
by helplessly watching our son suffer, and we’ve spoken to the
parents of Natalie Schuman about what the other girls think of Clara.
Again, we don’t want to make a bad situation worse or put fuel on the
Clara Talks With the School Nurse
What’s everybody freaking out about? I
don’t get it. I’m just being me, minding my own business, and people
are going crazy to my right and to my left. Don’t they have any real
problems they can deal with? I mean, get a life, people!