Friday, April 25, 2008

As best I understand it

If you get together with your friends in an online game, cooperating in a team environment to complete a challenge, that's weird.

If you get together with friends and silently watch that latest reality TV show, which you know from the credits has writers, that's normal.

If you dress up as an imaginary character, go to a friend's house and play a role playing game, essentially an elaborate improv exercise, that's weird.

If you dress up in a football player's jersey to show emotional support for a guy who makes several times what you do, simply because he got hired by a team that's headquartered somewhere near your home, that's normal.

If you spend a few weeks practicing a rhythm-based video game so that you and your friends can interactively listen to music, that's weird.*

If you spend years of your life honing your skills at a real instrument that you never play publicly, that's normal.

If you read a book about ethereal beings with superhuman powers who struggle in a battle of good and evil, that's weird.

If you're Catholic, that's normal.

If you travel across the country to attend a video game expo, where you sped several days trying out unreleased titles, playing in free tournaments, and enjoying free concerts with thousands of other people, that's weird.*

If you travel across the country to attend a convention for a job that you don't like, that's normal.

If you write your thoughts onto a blog, where the people you know can read and respond to them, that's weird.

If you write your thoughts into a journal or diary that you never show to anyone, that's normal.

*Not to mention going to the hardware store so you can get something to modify your pretend-guitar, just so you won't accidentally hit the "Playstation" button anymore.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Thank you. Thank you stranger.

Where would I be now without you? What kind of person would I have become? Would I still be the sort of wretch I once was, before you came along?

There was a time . . . it seems like several lifetimes ago . . . I was so naive about everything: politics, religion, even the very world around me! I was a part of the problem.

But then in one fell swoop you changed my whole perspective. You taught me about all the evils of our time, and how we can all live in peace.

I'll never forget that day, stranger, the day I read the bumper stickers on your mid-90's Honda Accord with one broken tail light.

Each one was special, but I think the "Coexist" sticker had the most powerful effect. Something about the way it was written out all in religious symbols . . . so clever! Yet so true. So very true. If only we could get that message to all the countries in the world where religious intolerance exists today, we could change everything! People would stop, mid-persecution, and realize how wrong they'd been. Even if religion was only an excuse used to cover up more serious cultural and economic motivations, even then the tyrants would be left stunned . . . if only they could be stuck behind you at a red light.

And then there was your "F The President" sticker, right there in the center of your rear window. I was so shocked. I didn't even know that some people didn't like our president! I thought the job he'd been doing was actually super-good. But you knew better. And you knew that only by purchasing a sticker of your beliefs and slapping it on your window could you ever change people's minds . . . and hearts.

When I meditate (as I do nightly) on your wisdom, I wonder: Does that sticker mean you're giving the president a grade of "F?" Or is it short for the expletive, and you're saying "F the President" If only the light hadn't changed when it did, I would have asked.

Oh if only you hadn't driven away, how much more I would know now. I could have posed all my questions to you and been enlightened by your informed, well-thought-out arguments on each one. And your ideas wouldn't be based on egotistical snobbery, like so many others in the world, but on calm and careful reasoning that points to a clear, comprehensive plan for action.

As I consider each one of your nineteen other bumper stickers*, divining out their tenants on heath care, war, and global warming, I take comfort in knowing you're still out there changing the world, one stop sign at a time.

*One of which is always a Mac Apple.

Friday, April 11, 2008


There are these things we say that don't have any actual meaning, if you stop to think about them. They are pure filler, existing just to take up space in conversation:

-Every dinner discussion of religion will undoubtedly end with someone sing-songing: "Well-in-the-end, it-all-comes-down, to-a-matter-of-personal-faith." And that phrase will end the conversation every time, no matter what issue or religion you're talking about. It doesn't have to have a direct correlation either, it just means "I'm tired of talking about this, for the love of whatever god you believe in lets move on."

-"I know just enough to be dangerous" is one that drives me crazy. First of all, knowledge doesn't just make you dangerous by itself. Thinking that you know more than you do, now that's dangerous. But if you're using that phrase, then you know how little you know, so you should probably just not do the thing you're dangerous at. It doesn't make any sense, but people say it anyway, and other people chuckle, even though it's totally not funny.

-Saying "lets shed a little light on the subject" when you hit a light switch. This one is, I'm fairly sure, limited exclusively to my mother.

And those are just the day-to-day meaningless phrases. We have more complex ones for more complex situations.

Break-up talks often use this little gem: "I just need to figure some things out" and the even more hilarious, "YOU just need to figure some things out."

The implication here is that human beings achieve emotional stability through a complex series of calculations! It's as though the person is going to retreat into a quiet library with an abacus and a box of tissues, gradually working out some kind of psychological sudoku puzzle until they sit bolt upright and yell, "Of course! Six and Eight have to be in the bottom block, so only seven can go in the middle square! That's why I'm scared of intimacy!"

But I think my favorite of these phrases is the tragic-news go-to: "Let me know if there's anything I can do."

I know it's just a nice thing to say, but I always find it difficult to hear, because . . . . I mean seriously . . .

How can I let an opportunity like that go?

"Actually there is something you can do, get me fifteen red paper clips."*
"Paper clips. Red. Fifteen exactly. I don't care what size."
"Well, ok . . . why?"
"Just get them. RIGHT NOW."

*Other options

1. A blond wig, a can of motor oil, and a glass eye.
2. A gold plated hand puppet in the shape of a monkey.
3. Swords . . . SWORDS.

Friday, April 4, 2008


As long as we've been friends, I've thought of us as two sides of the same coin.

At the core we're both relentlessly idealistic, and like most idealists we've encountered a lot of disappointment. But where I cope with it by enduring, walling myself off and plowing forward, she copes by fleeting, preferring to sink than run aground. It's like the tortoise and the hare.

And I'm not saying that my way is better than hers. Both methods have their benefits, both their consequences. I just want to point out that, even though we seem different on the surface, the internal struggle is the same. Heads and Tails. Walling and Fleeting.

So I shouldn't be surprised at the latest dichotomy in our outlooks, but I was. I'd been so sure of my way of thinking.

Rejection of the material is a big deal, spiritually speaking.* The Bible says that "the love of money" (Not money, itself, mind you. That gets misquoted all the time.) is "the root of all evil." And that's just the best known quote. Nearly every major world religion, morality play, or sappy Christmas special has something to say about how material possessions don't bring happiness.**

Which is why I always assumed that the physical world wasn't important, that only in the spirit could we find God. So I devalued the material. If the things of this earth aren't worth anything, I have no reason to want them. If I don't want them, they can't weigh me down.

And that's why she caught me completely off guard. She loves the flesh of things, in the sensing of them. She smiles at how disgusting she finds a crawling bug to be. She'll suck the lemon juice from a wedge just to experience how sour it is. She even likes cash, cash and the very idea of commerce. She finds God in the physical, almost entirely in the physical! Somehow she came the other way around on it all, giving the the material world so much value that it became spirit.

Heads and Tails, I guess.

*You'll note that the last time I talked about spirituality, it also involved "rejecting the physical"

**Except for certain snowmen, who seem to think that money is everything.