TURN OF PHRASE: A SKEPTIC’S THOUGHTS ON DEATH

If you’ve already made your mind up about what happens after you die, then this article is not for you.

But….

If you’re like me and still exploring all the metaphysical options out there, then just maybe we can have a little discussion.

Being a forever-student I’m always reading -absorbing various philosophies on what makes us ‘us’.  Admittedly, it is my skeptical lean that allows me to throw out the hoodoo voodoo theories that just don’t quite resonate. Believe me, there’s a lot of rainbow unicorn ancient aliens junk out there that doesn’t make the cut. I’d like to think I’m able to explore the unknown without donning a tinfoil hat. Not yet, anyway.

A while back, I was reading through Gordon White’s Pieces of Eight: Chaos Magic Essays and Enchantments. Rarely do I come across an individual that puts thoughts down on paper that I feel have rolled right out of my own brain. White is one of those authors. Mind you, he does it far more clearly and beautifully than I ever could.

 A theme throughout White’s Pieces of Eight that resonated with me was the idea that modern science has become a religion in itself, ripe with ‘magical’ tones.  Recent developments in such fields as physics, engineering, cosmology, etc. have become more abstract in nature. This leaves scientists ‘preaching’ the new tune of ‘we can’t actually prove our hypothesis, so you’re just going to have to believe us.’

These are exciting times. Many concepts once thought of as science fiction or magical are being proven in the research lab.

Magic is just science that hasn’t been figured out yet.

In White’s universe, there is room for all things fantastical and mysterious to exist in what we call reality.

I can buy most of that.
Faeries and dragons aside, perhaps we can apply some of this theory to the final question. What happens to us after we die?

Let’s dig in.

Here comes the neat little illustration I’ve created to explain my acceptance that death is somewhat more ‘elastic’ than once thought.

It starts with a simple phrase – any phrase.

Just think of something – anything – and say it out loud.

I’ll wait.

To simplify things, I’ve broken down the spoken word into three easy components.

  1. The abstract thought or concept (the soul).
  2. The actual physical act of creating a phrase (the body).
  3. The reception of said words to a second party (the legacy).

We can argue all night about just how a thought comes to be. Again, I’ll ‘dumb it down’ because that’s the only way I can understand it. Let’s just say something in the subconscious triggers a cloud of invisible thought. In this illustration we’ll say ‘I love you.’

Next, we have the actual physical process of creating the phrase ‘I love you.’ This includes the electricity of the firing neurons, the air pushed out from the lungs, and the work done by the voice box to manipulate the sound.

Finally, we have the second party’s reception to the words ‘I love you.’ This relies solely on one person’s relationship to the other. Is the other person your spouse or partner? Are they your parent? Child? Perhaps they are an old flame that burned out decades ago. Maybe you’re just yelling at random strangers on the street. The effect will differ greatly in each scenario.

Hopefully, I’ve clearly illustrated how one phrase ‘I love you’ is made up of several different parts – soul, body, and legacy. So, is it safe to say that one single entity can exist in several different forms? Much like water can be frozen solid, a running liquid, or evaporated into the air – are we any different?

Bend your brain just a little bit and think of the universe and all that resides within it under the same light. It can be grasped as merely a collection of energies in all sorts of fun shapes and sizes – forms, if you will.

Apply the example of ‘I love you’ to your own body. It is true that one day the body will die. As far as I know there’s no way around that. But what about the soul? The legacy?

Of course, I’m using the term ‘soul’ only because it tends to be easily absorbed by western culture. The Wah – The Mojo – The Spirit – The ooey gooey star-Nutella that gives us meaning – call it whatever you want. It’s the thing that Christians try so hard to save and the philosopher tries so hard to understand. It’s the electricity to the meat. Sure, we could argue that it’s nothing more than the after-effect of a billion chemical reactions. But that wouldn’t be any fun, now would it.

That brings us back to the million-dollar question:

What happens to us after we die?

I have no clue.

Nobody knows for sure, and if somebody claims to have the answer then they’re probably trying to sell you something.

I’d like to think that death is nothing more than a ‘changing’ of energy – a separation of the different energies that make us. Our body is gone. We no longer have the ability to speak. Yet the ‘thought’ continues – the electricity flows on throughout this weird universe. Does it morph into spirits? Is it caught on the voice recorder of some ‘Ghost Hunting Jackass’? Is it trapped on Earth, doomed to forever walk the halls of a place it once called home?  I’m afraid we’ll just have to wait and find out.

That leaves us with ‘legacy’. That, I can state for a fact, lives on long after we’re gone. Our impact on others is the only way to ensure that we’re remembered. In that sense, we can remain eternal. So, don’t be an asshole.

I find some comfort in this theory. It’s a far cry from the heaven/hell mythology created by ancient white men or the karma-heavy wheel of reincarnation. Yet, it’s not as cold as the ‘lights out’ argument. Until more proof comes my way, I’ll be living in ever-expanding gray area in between.

It helps me sleep at night.

2018: BE DANGEROUS

“Let us not live in a culture of other people’s ideas. Let us create our own.”

-Me.

     I remember a college kid.

This kid buried his nose in philosophy books, theater history, and art films.  He wrote works based on the words of Sarte, Camus, and Brecht. He wrote a play in class and sent it off to his mentor. “I want to see this produced.” said the mentor. It never happened.  The kid studied the cutup method by Burroughs – the films of David Lynch. The kid  swore that there wasn’t a decent book written after the 1970’s.

He went to upstate New York in the summer of 2000. He spent most of his time there filling notebooks, drinking scotch, and printing off pages of his manifesto using the printer in the theater office. He decided then and there that he wanted to become a writer. He wanted to change the world.

Obviously, that kid was me.

Now almost twenty years later, that kid is all but dead. He’s been buried under years and years of safety.  Self doubt and fear have left him chained in the closet – silenced. Truth is, I never set out to do this. It just happened. I started listening to others that said ‘write what’s safe’. ‘Write what sells first. You can always do the ‘dangerous’ stuff later.”  Now, it’s twenty years later, and I’m sad to say we have a generation full of vampire novels, zombie apocalypses, paranormal romances, and wizarding adventures.  The technology of e-publishing was supposed to revolutionize the printing world. Instead, it pretty much gave us an over-saturation of all the crap that was already out there.

It’s time to bring dangerous back – to push the boundaries.

So let this be the year I start pushing boundaries – physically, emotionally, and creatively. I want to change things. I want to create things that matter. Yes, that sounds pretty idealistic – naive – but, look down at that vampire/love story/post-apocalyptic adventure/kids with cancer/ supernatural horror manuscript your working on and ask yourself ‘is this really going to change the world?’

I hope you’ll join me.

I don’t regret anything I’ve written. It’s just that I have a disease that says it will chop off at least 15 years of my life, and my poor lifestyle choices will probably take another five or so off of that. So that means I have a good twenty years or so and I don’t want to spend them putting out garbage that could possible sell.

So where am I at now?

Well, years ago (around the time of my diagnosis) I was plagued with nightmares. I turned those nightmares into THE (the only novel I’ve ever published).  After the passing of my father in November, the nightmares have returned. I have pages and pages of them written down and plotted out. Will they ever come to light? I can’t say.

I’ve spent the last five years or so working on a book about serial killers and the sex trade in a small Nebraska town.  It is a crime/ psychological thriller that replaces imaginative monsters for the real life horrors that haunt us. Will it see a Summer release? Probably not.

Right now the whole universe is on standby while I weed through old material and search for new. It is my creative world, and for the first time, I feel completely in charge of it.  All I know is that this year will be full of excitement, pain, joy, and nightmares.

I can’t wait.

5 LIFE TIPS I’VE LEARNED FROM WATCHING WALKER, TEXAS RANGER

Chuck Norris tells me to watch Walker Texas Ranger, therefore I have to.

It is my guilty pleasure, and I bet my guilty pleasure could kick your guilty pleasure’s ass.

If you’ve ever watched the show (or happen to own it on DVD-not that I do) you know that WALKER is a phenomenon all its own. Chock full of overdone action, exploding with unbelievable heroics, and showcasing acting that would make any soap opera scowl, WALKER has punched a place in our psyche.

And whereas the show will never be truly recognized for its effects on culture or winning any awards for social change any time soon, I have discovered that there are many life lessons that can be learned from watching it.

After much ‘study’ I have come up with a list of 5 successful life strategies that can be taken from Walker, Texas Ranger and practiced by us mere mortals. These are 5 rules that will help you kick much ass in your personal life. You don’t even have to wear a black stetson or a fancy pair of shit kickers.

Mount up!

  1. LESS TALK, MORE ACTION: Walker is a man of few words. He’s too busy kicking bad guy ass to wax some useless dialogue about whether or not so and so is ‘just not that into you’. Walker doesn’t tweet. Walker doesn’t update his facebook page every time he single handedly disables a Mexican drug cartel. He just does it.

How many of us just sit around and talk about all the great things we want to do? How many people go to the grave full of regret over unaccomplished goals or empty promises? We have lists and lists – honey do lists, project lists, goals, bucket lists…etc.etc. but we never act out on a single one.

Stop whining about being underemployed, being alone, writing that great novel-JUST DO IT! Start punching out the small stuff. Before you know it you will be achieving your dreams and never looking back.

  1. ALWAYS HAVE BACK-UP: On the rare occasion Walker finds himself stuck in a particularly doomed situation he has his trusted friends to help him out. Every Walker needs a Trivette (personally, my favorite character in the show). You need a good friend to help you out when things get tough. A good friend will help you overcome the tough obstacles. They’ll save your ass during the occasional warehouse shootout.

However, never forget…

  1. ONE MAN CAN OVERCOME HUGE OBSTACLES : It never fails. In every single episode Walker finds himself cornered by a group of B-grade thugs. One of them always yells ‘GET HIM GUYS!” and all hell breaks loose around our hero. It doesn’t matter if he’s unarmed, out-manned, and out of time -Walker finds some crafty way out of it.

Think only superhuman Walker can beat the odds? Wrong! You have many skills and abilities that you never knew you had until you are forced to use them. How many times have you been down to the wire on a big project and still pulled it off? Somehow you manage to get rent paid. You still breathe at the end of a tough day. Have faith in yourself. Maintain confidence at all times and you will succeed. Of course, having a big gun doesn’t hurt either.

  1. USE THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE: This is one of Walker’s most powerful crime fighting tools. He catches evil doers off guard and turns the tables in his favor. I’ve seen the man take out an entire gas station with a single bullet while being perched safely on a helicopter flying overhead. I’ve even seen him play dead just long enough to hop back up and unleash a storm of suffer upon the enemy.

Always keep them guessing. Do something unexpected. One way our enemies maintain power over us is by knowing our routine. That douchebag at work is going to take credit for something awesome you did because he knows you won’t speak up. Every morning you find yourself stuck in the same traffic and stressing out because you always leave at the same time and take the same route. Change it up a bit. Put that bully in their place. Take a new street to work. Put on that tacky Hawaiian shirt!

  1. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS -ROUNDHOUSE KICK: Okay, so I’m not condoning the use of violence to achieve success. You know when Walker is about to win a fight because here comes that slow-mo shot where he is swooping around in mid-air -breaking the skulls of any villain within twenty feet of him. Yeah, don’t do that. I tried it once and now I can’t have children.

I’m speaking of doing something extreme. I found myself in a very unfruitful relationship for years until one day I just stood up and said ‘no more.’ I walked away and never looked back. Throw those cigarettes into the trash. Ask that crush out for coffee. Put your foot down to that overbearing boss. Break into Paradise By The Dashboard Lights the next time you’re at a karaoke bar. Remove all processed foods from your cupboards.

Start living life Walker, Texas Ranger style. Your life will only kick ass if you kick ass.