mantra experiment

Variable descriptions:
Subject S
Controlled variable Ω = the six syllable mantra (Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum)
Dependent variable θ = the comprehension of the meaning of the mantra
Independent variable Δ = the acquisition of θ by S
Inductive result Σ = the desired outcome of the investigated claim
Limiter R = the degree of resistance to Σ
Conductor A = the degree of S‘s actions corresponding with Δ, with reference to amount of impact (if any) on the volume of Σ

by JereduLevenin http://www.deviantart.com

The claim investigated:
Ω modified by Δ increases the value of θ leading to the augmentation of the higher brain function Σ, also to be understood as sensitive faculties or empathetic reasoning. Σ, however, will show no increase in volume without A as a modifier.

Mode of examination: Collection of qualitative data.
(What about electroencephalography?)

The experiment:
S begins intonation of Ω for a duration ranging from five minutes to a half hour in daily sessions for a period of forty days. Ostensible stasis is abolished due to an extensive range of spurious variables such as environment, or age/religion/culture of S. S is self-willed to expand θ with the use of inquiry signified by Δ. The presence of Σ is scrutinized through randomly occurring events unmoderated but recorded by the research team based on qualitative data acquired from S. Degree of R is measured and used to determine overall effectiveness of the investigated claim. Σ is measured to discover if A bears any influence on augmentation of Σ.

 

 

 

 

building a successful and enjoyable platonic relationship

Why have a platonic relationship?

Have you ever thought to yourself that you would love to have sex but not with the annoying inconvenience of being in a relationship? If you need to learn how to do this (because for whatever reason you think this knowledge is obscure and does not come naturally) you can surely find plentiful resources on the topic if not in your local library, at least out there on the Internet.

by Lauren12391 http://www.deviantart.com

This article is for those who wish to do the opposite, those who love the emotional connection of a relationship, the adventures, the ups and downs, and the ultimate joy of sharing your life with someone, but don’t want the annoying inconvenience of having to put out.

Advantages to having a platonic relationship include not having to worry about STIs, not basing a connection only on physical pleasure, and for the truly devout non-sexuals, the lack of having to do something you are not particularly interested in doing in the first place.

Structurally, it’s not too much different than an intense friendship except that the platonic part implies that this is a person you would otherwise be expected to indulge in carnal pleasure with, and the relationship part implies exclusivity, the idea that the connection you share with this person is not merely a connection shared among friends, but a thorough combination of psyches built upon the same kind of trust you would expect from a sexual partner.

So, all you non-sexual predators, here’s a step-by-step guide to getting things going with your platonic crush:

1)      Begin as friends within a group of likeminded individuals who share your same philosophical boundaries. By observing how well this person interacts with others and giving this potential partner a chance to do the same, you can understand exactly how sincere your targeted platonic crush is about forming a nonsexual relationship.

2)      As trust develops, plan outings to determine what your platonic crush uses to substitute sex. Perhaps it’s a myth that a platonic relationship requires a substitute for sex, but it’s at least profitable to know what your potential partner is really looking for, as for many this is uncharted territory. Some of the most desirable sex substitutes in my opinion include cultural activities, travel, enlightened discussion, dance, playing music and reading together. By the way, if you aren’t convinced yet that a platonic relationship is an excellent life choice, consider how these activities can be heightened by the participation of a partner you know and trust.

3)      Share private space. This is the true test of a platonic relationship. Not that you need proof for yourself (obviously you’ve already chosen to be platonic), but sometimes a timid sexual hopeful will hang on no matter how many friend groups you spend time around or adventures you have. Such a person is simply biding his/her time until a private moment can lead to an unwanted mistake. Set it up. Make it romantic if you really want to know your platonic crush’s intentions. You’re building trust at this point; you haven’t actually achieved it. Besides, a romantic scene is as pleasurable to the nonsexual as it is to the sexual, perhaps more so because the low lighting, home-cooked meal, pleasant smells and intelligent conversation are there to be enjoyed for what they are, not just as a pathway to a moment of orgasm.

4)      Continue to test trust and look for red flags. I’ve heard it said that true love has no tests. I consider that to be vain fantasy. There might come a time that your partner is no longer interested in being platonic, in which case you must either put out or be cuckolded. If your partner is flirty with others, you should not feel ashamed to say “this is not what I wanted” and despite the possible protests your partner may have, end it and move on.

5)      Communicate. Often people act in ways contrary to what they say; this is no mystery. That should not dissuade you, however, from continuing a crucial dialogue on your feelings towards each other. Even if your thoughts, actions and words are contrary to each other, at least plotting out a manifesto of intention can save your ass if your partner claims they didn’t know what you were thinking or what you expected. Of course thoughts change over time, but the mutability of intention makes communication yet more vital, for your partner has a right to know when you have altered your view of the relationship. Define what you mean by platonic. Does it mean no physical contact at all? Does it include cuddling, holding hands, kissing, or sometimes being naked around each other? Is there a financial division or commitment implied? Will you cohabitate? Are you in an “open” platonic relationship? Will you feel threatened by other potential platonic relationships? What do you consider to be the difference between a friendship and a platonic relationship? Discussing these things will save tears, awkward situations and emotional rollercoasters.

A platonic relationship ought not to be viewed as less than a sexual relationship. In fact, platonic partners are more likely to view the absence of sex as being the absence of an insincere gesture, either in the beginning wherein one is focused simply on achieving orgasm and doesn’t really care about the quality of the partner in all of her/his diversity of personality, or later on when the mechanical ritual of sexual gratification, having been the basis of the relationship, becomes the only way of expressing love, whereby if the sex is not particularly enjoyable, then the love is judged the same way. Furthermore, a radical examination of all insincere gestures may ensue. Platonic couples may find that even kissing begins passionate and slowly degrades into a mechanical gesture to signify love.

Perhaps other love signifiers you have employed, the aforementioned sex substitutes such as travel and adventure, will lose their appeal as most overindulged activities eventually do. The glory of having a wide range of love signifiers is that as you gradually become bored of them, as you would in your own solitary life, you get to see how you both grow together, dropping some interests and picking up new ones. With a sexual relationship, you don’t have this level of freedom. Once the sex is gone, there’s really nothing to replace it with other than non-gratifying sex.

My personal opinion is that a platonic relationship ought not to be partaken of for religious reasons. The religious motivation to save sex for marriage still highlights the eventual goal of sex. Marriage is, on earth (unlike in heaven), a legally binding agreement to remain exclusively coupled with a partner until either death or divorce, and ought to be treated rationally: your wife or husband is your business partner for life, so you ought to want to keep the business running for a while. The chimera of sex and business does not a happy couple make. Happiness results from a shared vision, a manifesto of intent agreed upon by both parties.

Follow this process and you may just have a fulfilling platonic relationship. Or you may just decide you want the sex, in which case, I’m surprised you’ve read this far.

Happy hunting!

 

 

 

 

prayer for all

Alright, here’s a source of some controversy. I am not blindly recalcitrant, but I do acknowledge that the forces, while they spin this tiny blue dot in the cosmos, get trapped in certain grooves that may or may not benefit our understandings of the total experience of non-material reality. In essence, I am not impressed with demiurgic renderings of faith when there is a much larger spiritual reality to be understood.

There it is. Clear as mud, right?

I’m not trying to throw you off here. How can I explain to you the importance I find in direct faith? How about a prayer?

To the heart and essence of creation,
Manifest daily in all things,
By the level at which we perceive Thee,
We deny our bigotry and prejudices,
For these are barriers to our understanding
And experience of Thy Light.

We thank Thee for Thy blessings and trials;
We see Thy Light in every soul we encounter.

When we ache for Thy presence,
We perceive Thee close at hand;
When we feel Thy power,
We perceive how we’ve never been without it;
We know Thy power
As we’ve witnessed it in our own works of charity,
Of compassion, benevolence, tolerance and simplicity,
And therein we know the power is not ours, but Thine.

Give us strength to enact Thy will
And ears to perceive Thy guidance;
Give us hearts to understand our trespasses,
And give us hands to make amends;
Give us eyes to see the divine beauty
In all Thy works, and illuminate the paths
That guild the mired roads we mistakenly tread.

For Thy essence we live,
For Thy truth we pray,
And for a bright path for all
We solemnly strive:
Help us keep our faith alive.

Amen.

around here, we obey the law

Photo by Stu Leal

the law of observation

of course it doesn’t work correctly
when someone is watching

murphy’s law

the best laid plans of mice and men often go ugly
so we learn to laugh at our mistakes
and learn what we can from them

the law of innocence and experience

travelling from innocence to experience is a necessity of life
so we show love to others on this path
remembering how difficult it was for us

the law of love

any belief or thought system
that does not have love as its core belief
love for all persons
the intention not to harm others
and even the intention to love that which we don’t understand
is not a system that works long term

the law of fear

people may try to harm others while suspended by fear
although the threat of danger has passed, they cannot let it go
they are only trying to protect themselves
even if the fear has taken over
the person is still in there somewhere
great amounts of fear cannot be defeated with equal amounts of fear
only an equal amount of love will combat that fear
i don’t know if i have that much love
where can i find it?

does your teacher suffer from ATTENTION REQUIREMENT DISORDER?

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from http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ASqxgcdQGmw

Have you noticed your teacher standing in front of the class and lecturing continuously for long periods of time while you, the student, begin to grow bored and lose the ability to focus or retain any of the knowledge that is being imparted? Does your teacher grow angry and heap useless and damaging amounts of psychological torment on you while your brain, starved of stimulation, attempts to learn something else from your surroundings? Does your teacher reward students who are willing to lifelessly stare straight ahead of themselves, unmindful of the serious psychological damage that can come from non-interactive learning? Perhaps your teacher suffers from a common illness that is devastating our classrooms and causing students to hate learning. This disorder is called ARD, or Attention Requirement Disorder.

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I feel like this guy. On the right, that is.
–from http://assets.fundoofun.com/bollywood

Once you have diagnosed your teacher as having this unfortunate malady, beware that you might not be taken seriously by professionals. The reason your teacher has developed this behavioral disorder is because it is quite probable that s/he has been rewarded in the past for tolerating and accepting attention requirement as a legitimate teaching method. As with Attention Deficit Disorder, this affliction is behavioral. Once the victim of this disease has been diagnosed, the bulk of the treatment must be behavioral. Drugs should only be prescribed as a final remedy, but know that prescriptions do not solve the problem in the long term.

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Notable ARD victim, Mr. Snape. Class, say hi to your new chemistry teacher.
–from http://img.moviesunlimited.biz/

It has been speculated that media such as video games, graphic novels and high-intensity action films have contributed to ADD by splitting the mind’s attention, creating rapid response reflexes and destroying its ability to concentrate. Think about this for a moment. We’re making the argument here that modern technological and creative advancements have sped up the brain’s functions beyond the point that they can be considered productive. Does this mean our brains are failing, or that our idea of “being productive” is problematic? I do not recommend that we bring video games into the classroom. I simply suggest that we work WITH cultural and technological advancement rather than working AGAINST it. Big businesses in video gaming are profiting from an increase in human brain activity. Why can education not benefit from this discovery as well?

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No, I did not write this article just to make use of my extensive collection of sexy teacher pictures. Heh-heh…
–from http://pcdn.500px.net

The best behavioral treatment for ARD is the following. We must begin by becoming teachers to attack ARD at the root. We must plan interesting activities that stimulate thought. We must as teachers keep our introductions short and our interactions with students relevant. Here’s why: If students turn into zombies, simply watching, listening and taking notes, we as teachers will be quite easily replaced with television screens and robots. There’s no perceptual difference between a teacher suffering from ARD and a robot. Not to students. If you want to keep your job, you will follow these simple steps:

1) Prepare. Have a bag of tricks at your disposal at all times so that if your introduction is not effective, you can switch gears.

2) Interact. Make groups with your students and give them a relevant activity. Visit each group to keep them on track. This is possible with a classroom of up to thirty students (six groups of five students each), but anything past that is difficult and ineffective. Therefore, lobby your education board for smaller class sizes.

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I love teachers who love teaching. Doesn’t everyone?
— from http://marvelousmisadventures.typepad.com

3) Focus on topic-changing minds, specifically. If you’ve noticed that some students have a hard time staying on topic, it is possible that they exhibit characteristics of ADD. That said, attention levels naturally vary, and the benefit of giving increased attention to unfocused students is monumental both for them as individuals and for our future society at large. Before we rush to involve clinical psychologists in our affairs, let’s try the behavioral approach, which begins in the classroom.

4)  Stop talking about bad students. Realistically, a truly bad student is a violent one. Students who cannot keep from speaking up in class, or are more interested in cell phone video games, are not bad. Unfocused, perhaps. Uninterested, certainly. Here’s the thing: Teachers must get past their hurt feelings and take proactive steps to give students a reason to pay attention. “Because I said so” is not a good reason. If we mistake compliance for morality, we need only scan a history textbook to find out exactly how ethical compliant societies in the past have been.

When you spot ARD, consider that the sufferer of this common disorder has feelings, and those feelings can easily be hurt. Do not rush to bring their disorder to their attention. Simply try to understand this menacing affliction and do your best to help your fellow students who may not understand why their teacher is behaving in such an erratic and undisciplined way. Forming study groups with your fellow students will both allow you to retain the material your teacher could not effectively explain, and also give you a chance to discuss how you are responding to your teacher’s disorder. Besides that, the teacher will get the impression that you are fantastic students, which in reality, was true all along.

the artist and the capitalist

Off the top of my head, I can think of two kinds of artist. One is an artist, and the other is a capitalist. Both of these artists have their merits, but they are divided by perspective and worldview.

What differentiates the artist from the capitalist is that she draws inspiration and motivation from something I call “love” but that word has so many meanings, doesn’t it? I only register one. See below.

The capitalist, on the other hand, is primarily motivated by money or material goods, affluence, and privilege. One might even say that to the capitalist, these material gains ARE love.

As Thoth the Atlantean once wrote, nothing there is below thee but a different operation of the law. The law is love. We’ve known that for millennia. No matter how much money the artist has, abstract numbers and dollar signs float around in the ether devoid of meaning until they feed the hungry, develop a project, or are manifested in something real, which is a product of love. That is the only use for the acquisition of money.

The capitalist, on the other hand, finds the idea of love quite perplexing. What is love? How can I quantify it? How can I spend or trade it? Moreover, how can I own it? Money is much easier to handle. I can check my account and see how much of it I have. I can’t do that with love, can I?

So, the capitalist learns a trade, say, painting, guitar playing or singing. He studies the status quo and learns from it. He attempts to fashion a high-quality product for mass consumption. He checks his account and watches the numbers in his ledger get bigger. He becomes happy when he has been compensated well for his hard work.

The artist called capitalist has become unhappy in decades of late. People now get media for free. Many artists are distributing their music for free. No longer can the capitalist simply learn a trade, promote his excellence, and be compensated duly. Now he needs to learn about love, something that he has been putting off for entirely too long. He finds the idea of spontaneously playing a free show in the park with no planning repugnant. There are municipal bylaws! There is no profit to be made! Somebody needs to alert the vendors! Someone needs to promote the tour! NO! YOU CAN’T JUST DO THIS! IT IS TOO ERRATIC! I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT!

Painting ze yin und yangNO, he cries, I WILL NOT JUST HELP PEOPLE REALIZE THEIR DREAMS AND LET THEM HELP ME! I NEED TO KEEP TRACK! I NEED TO ACCOUNT FOR INFLATION, GET A PROMOTION, GET A RAISE, AND RETIRE IN TAHITI! ACCOUNTS AND BALANCES, PEOPLE! YOU CANNOT PAY THE BILLS WITH LOVE! YOU PEOPLE ARE GODDAMNED CRAZY!

Meanwhile, the artist does what she always has done. She walks the land, giving and receiving love. Oh, yes, and there were times when we were burned for it. And it could happen again. Nothing inspires more fear than the thought that what one has worked hard for could fall apart.

Siva-sakti, you told us this is what love really is… the acceptance that what we have worked so hard for could crumble at any moment. That is the truth of creation, destruction and rebirth. Please help us all to see this.

morning dates = awesome

Lace and I went out to see the falling cherry blossom petals this morning. ❤

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It all started because I woke up too early. I didn’t know what to do. I took my shower, did stretches, made my coffee, and sat in my clam shell sipping and looking out the window. Lace was there on the balcony. I looked at her wheel and the triangle of her frame and thought about reading for a bit. Then I thought, why not take Lace out around the lake?

When we started the sky turned my favorite shade of grey, dark and foreboding. Then lightning split the sky and from the rift successive blankets of hard-hitting rain baptized us. With the rain, the final cherry blossom petals departed from their homes and flew on twirling wisps of wind around us. The bite of cold is gone from the air, and the only sensation in my skin was the soak of raindrops.

Coming back against the wind, my mouth filled with droplets, water coming down harder than before. Every part of me was drenched. Lace’s brakes whined a little in the final stretch. Sorry, sweetie, we’ll be home soon.

Back at home, we dried off with a warm, fluffy towel and I sipped a bit more before going to work. Coming down from that has left me passive and ready to rest. But my day has just begun…

a tale of wood and stone

A Tale of Wood and Stone

We live on a rock bobbing gently in a dark sea, a rock swimming unceasingly around a ball of fire. The stone that our home is made of is enduring and mysterious. As it travels, we travel with it, even when we stand completely still. Some of us love our stone home, and appreciate its gifts by trying to give back as much as we take. Some of us use it simply for its resources and continue to ungraciously take more than it can offer.

ImageThings made of stone represent permanence. Something made of stone can be relied on. The reason I am thinking so much of rocks and stones is that our guide on our Dokdo trip (August 24-27, 2013) with Isabu Academy told us a story of rocks and stones that inspired me and changed my perspective about the Korean island of Dokdo. Our guide, Han Dongwan, is knowledgeable about foreign and international politics. He is also a cyclist and knows much about bicycle routes throughout Korea.

Our tour bus stopped at a site on the island of Ulleongdo near a pagoda and a few freestanding rocks. Throughout the trip we had been learning about igneous rocks, granite in particular—the kind of rock that could be found forming natural archways along the shore. We learned about how volcanic magma flows created the curious cliffs and various erratics surrounding us on our journey. Where we stopped, there were two important natural sculptures: Lion’s Rock and Helmet Summit.

This story begins with the people of Usan-guk, an area comprised of Ulleongdo and Dokdo. Their leader decided to lay siege to an island near Jeju-do. From this island, the king took off with a beautiful princess and returned from his victory, proud to have taken for a queen the most astounding beauty of the East Sea. Due to her dazzling desirability, the queen was able to acquire anything from the lascivious ruler whose passion for the queen, burning brighter with each day, bound him to being unable to refuse her a single gift. As the royal coffers emptied and the king’s army and citizens suffered, the king had no choice but to aggressively invade every kingdom within his reach. Driven to war by the queen’s endless requests and the king’s desire to fulfill them, the army became an aggressive force, though it is said they were not particularly intelligent. The queen died and the king fled to the hills to sing of his sorrow. This is the pretext of the region General Isabu came to annex in the 13th year of Silla King Jijeung, which we date AD 512.

General Isabu’s first conquest against the rowdy, uneducated followers of the lusty king was a failure. It was not until a second attempt that the general would set a precedent for future triumphs of cunning such as General Yi Sun Shin’s famous attack formation and invention of the Turtle Ship and King Sejong’s restructuring of Joseon’s cultural and innovative landscape by fostering technology, invention and the creation of the Hangul writing system.

The general planned his attack intelligently and creatively. He ordered his best carvers to create wooden statues of lions. He assumed the rough, starving warriors would be subject to the hallucination that the lions were real. He then sailed by Usan-guk, where he told the dumbfounded soldiers that he would release his lions if those brutish islanders failed to comply with Shilla’s demands for annexation. Whether the soldiers truly believed the general, or they were simply fed up with the lascivious king and his selfish excesses, the citizens of Usan-guk yielded to the ruse and Usan territory was now under the dominion of Silla.

ImageHelmet Summit represents the king’s pitched headgear, and Lion Rock represents General Isabu’s clever plot. Once the story was finished, there was talk in our tour group that another rock formed the likeness of the dead queen, but this remains unverified by the Koreans we have spoken to about this subject.

Let me tell you a little about our tour group. We came from Jeolla-do, where it is said that you can find some of Korea’s best food, including delicious dolsot bibimbap, which is served in a stone bowl. But the residents of Jeolla-do have not always been so fortunate to have an abundance of delicious food. There was a time in our region that many impoverished Jeolla residents embarked on an exodus to the former Usan territory. They named the small, beautiful island they found in the East Sea, Dokdo. In Jeolla satori, or dialect, stone was pronounced dok instead of dol, hence the name, Dokdo—the stone island. The Japanese, prior to calling the island Takeshima, called it an island of wood, Jukjo, from the word for bamboo.

On Monday, we saw the island with our own eyes. The only wood on the island is the wood that was brought to Dokdo to construct a narrow staircase to the top of the igneous slope. Wood is a natural resource, something to be harvested and used. This is another side to this tale of wood and stone.

For our entire trip I had the chance to see Dokdo as an island of stone—something enduring, reliable, and central to the foundation of Korea. I have seen the island portrayed as something unmovable, grave, and monumental through dozens of creative projects on this tour: stories, carved wooden lions, and a 3D animation of the whole island, to name only a few. I had forgotten that to some it might not be an island of permanence and monument, but a territory rich with resources and benefits such as fishing waters, passageways, national borders and regions for strategic military use.

If Dokdo is an island of wood, it is not representative of history, but convenient for the moment; it is not a site of traditions, stories and beauty, but a possession to be obtained. In my three years of living and teaching in Korea I have heard the voices of students, teachers, families and friends whose adoration was directed to the East Sea, to this pristine, beautiful island. But I have not heard the perspectives of those in nations who have recently decided they want to take control of the island for its resources. I do not know if they talk about it, construct museums dedicated to it or invest as much love and care into study and education about it as the Koreans I have spoken with do. I wonder if the kinds of pictures of Dokdo I see on billboards, in museums and framed in homes in Korea are, in another country, kept in offices, hidden in file folders marked “land acquisition”.

Finally, I wonder: Do you know Dokdo? For you, is it an island of wood, or an island of stone?

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“Unabridged” 10/01/2013.

P1070912

Another footfall. The pavement here is spongy. Nice on the feet, but still I pant like a maniac. I’ve decided to retrieve my bike from the bus station, which is a half-hour run away. I missed the bus from Jeonju, a small city near the west coast of Hanguk, the country that is temporarily my home. I stayed out late last night and had to cab home, so my bike is at the bus station. I started running, and thought I might run the whole way. I have ten minutes in on this run. Where’s the breaking point?

What’s the breaking point? That’s when my body relaxes. My stride is longer and my breathing is less desperate. That’s when my primate self dies and I am one with my breath. That’s something we have in common. Breath. One of the only things.

The people around me must be confused to see a six-foot-tall foreigner wearing five dollar clothes. In Korea you can get almost anything for five dollars. Graphic print T adorned with yellow skeletons and white text, CREEPY dance!, five dollars. Camo print canvas sweats, five dollars. Black and red runners, five dollars. Black UV guard sleeves, Gangnam style socks and grey zebra-print hankie tied around my neck, collectively five dollars. Ear buds in my ears blaring Amanda Palmer’s Theatre is Evil and drowning out my thoughts and the noises the world makes, five dollars. Amanda Palmer’s Theatre is Evil, free. But you can pay five dollars for that too if you want.

This is the kind of getup I show up in for a going away party for a man named Sky. He and his friends do a writer’s group in Seoul. Seoul is a big city in the northwestern part of Hanguk. The city used to be called Namyang. Hanguk used to be called Korea, hundreds of years ago, in a time when a man named Charles the Great ordered his soldiers to anally skewer and incinerate my Saxon forefathers because they wouldn’t switch allegiance from their barbaric war idol for his equally barbaric war idol. After Korea, this country was called Joseon. Now it is called Hanguk, a country in which there is an apartment party where two writers examine my attire and say odd things about it, including:

Tim: Damn. HE looks like a writer.
Deanne: I think you’re confusing author and character.

Now my chest hurts. The doctors diagnosed me with asthma. The truth is that my lungs just don’t work the way they should. My eccentric grandfather smoked cigarettes in his 1985 Ford Escort station wagon throughout my youth. My car window was often open, as was his. Smoke flew back into my lungs for years. Heartland, a research division funded by Big Oil and Big Tobacco to warn the people of the world that they are being fooled by Big Science, claims second hand smoke isn’t bad for you. Heartland would like to change American public school curricula to reflect their values. Some politicians would like to let them do that.

My chest burns so badly now. My legs ache. I want to stop. Something won’t let me. I’m tired of limitations. Will Smith once said something during his famous alchemist interview that stood out to me. He said that his secret to success was that he gives himself only two options. He will either do what he has set out to do or he will die. There’s no third option.

Tears are streaming down my face. Not sad tears. Determined tears. Tears that scream, DEATH TO LIMITATIONS, MY BURNING CHEST, MY ACHING LEGS. Let them burn. Let them ache. Two options. I run or I die.

My body realizes that I have become psychotic. It gazes in at the movie projector in my brain. It sees me crying at the side of the bed where my cousin lies unconscious after a serious asthma attack. I wasn’t sure if he was going to survive. I didn’t know he was going to grow up to become a successful documentary filmmaker. At that moment all I knew was that I can’t handle the thought of death.

In this moment all I know is that I can’t handle living with limitations on what I can do. All I feel is the burn from the last cigarette I smoked. All I see is my grandfather, smoke pouring out of his white bearded lips, balancing a beer with a Du Maurier in one hand while his elbow steers the wheel and he tries to block out the sound of my grandmother screaming at him to pull over. The demented Santa Claus responds with an ear-shattering HO HO HO!, and becomes a goat. Grandma can’t compete with that. End of discussion.

I see my body collapsing to its knees in the soggy street because my lungs have failed and triggered a severe attack from an unchecked case of COPD, stifling my heartbeat and releasing my consciousness from the burden of possessing a central nervous system. The lights go dim. I cannot express how happy I am to never again have to worry about happiness.

My body is donated to science. The scalpel unzips my chest and a wheeze of foul smelling smoke rises. Doctors swear they see two eyes and a mouth in the likeness of Bastard the Unfriendly Ghost lift with the putrid emanation. The same guy who filmed dead birds on the shoreline filled with bottlecaps and other human garbage finds that there is nothing inside the body of Leif Sturmanis Nordholm but gobs of tar, cigarette butts, kimchi, rice and a key to a heart-shaped locket I once swallowed in a moment of symbolic frenzy but never managed to eject with the rest of my shit.

In accordance to a legally binding final testament, my chest is coated in polymer and my arms are nailed to a crucifix made of AK 47s, which is planted in the ground across the street from the Heartland Institute and set ablaze.

My body, having seen this all playing out on my inner movie screen, realizes that this psycho isn’t kidding. My muscles relax. This is when I become frightened.

My fingers scramble nervously to turn up my mp3 player. I try to drown out my thoughts with Theatre is Evil. But it’s too late. The thoughts come rushing in, as they often do when I am not in pain. That’s what pain is good for. It replaces the part of my brain that thinks about the one thing I don’t want to think about: My story. Everyone has a story. Every story is fucked up.

I don’t write for pity. I write for crazy people. Crazy people are otherwise sane people who have been frightened by fascists into believing the BS statement, all the pieces fit. And if they don’t fit you have to try to make them fit. And if you don’t toil daily to make them fit, or you do and it just isn’t working, it’s your fault. You are rushed to the guillotine in front of the entire world so the fascists can make an example of you, because THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FAIL TO MAKE THE PIECES FIT. That’s fascist humour. This is my humour. I write to make anyone else who is fucked up laugh. Laugh at the opera. Laugh at life. It’s tragically comic. It’s filled with magic and monsters. That’s why I’m a clown. Because everything is tragically hilarious. I learned that from my mom.

My mom was promoted from a sect of diamond land Buddhism to the philosophy of atheism to the enlightened state of self-absorption in which she found a fuckbuddy ten years her junior, a man who spent most of his life training to become a leader of a now-defunct cult in Minnesota. While he went gambling with her credit card, she sat at home emptying cheap bottles of merlot until she could regain the sense that everything was hilarious, which happened in the six minutes that occurred between being hopelessly drunk and passed out cold. Then she’d see the truth, the truth that everything is brutally funny. My stepdad failed to see that. Two abortions of illegitimate children later, one from a boyish photojournalist and the other from one out of six regrettable decisions, things did not seem very funny to my stepdad. Some people just miss the point.

My mom told me once while shaking and sobbing that she had reoccurring dreams in which her mom, dad, family, and everyone she knew was sitting around a table. They were alive, healthy and happy. They were all discussing random things and laughing.

Maybe she was dreaming about love.

I don’t really dream these days. I just have thoughts. I think now about the last time I ran. This was the first time I had run for any serious distance since grade 5 running club. Grade 5 running club was invented by Mr Baron from Liverpool, my homeroom teacher. He used to run beside me. He liked to mumble to himself as he ran. I never understood what he was saying.

I had moved to this rural town called Summerland with my mother and stepdad. According to mythology, Summerland was a place people went after they died. In reality, it was a brief rest stop tossed out on the side of the Okanagan Lake, buried deep in British Columbian Bible belt.

In those days I wore my hair long and had a chain around my neck dangling a pendant my mom gave me from her trip to Hawaii. It was special to me. It was a blue S meant to look like a lightning bolt. My hair and jewelry prompted the kids to use a slanderous word against me that was trending at the time, Queer. They also liked to use the word, Faggot. These words meant nothing to me except for the fact that they flew through the air with granite stones pitched towards my head. It’s hard to explain the feeling of being stoned in the head. It’s a kind of crashing sensation. Like being woken up with cold water. I learned the following things in grade 5:

a) no student, teacher or supervisor was going to help me
b) no child in their right mind would hang out with a kid who gets stoned in the head
c) crying only makes things worse
d) there is always a place to hide

Once my mom got wind of this, she trudged down to meet with Mr Baron from Liverpool. In the PT meeting, the stoic Wordsworth looked up over his small plastic cup of yogurt and calmly explained, “I’m not sure what those kids get up to. He’ll tough it out. Just tell the boy that whatever he’s doing to invite the derision of his classmates, he should stop. I’m afraid that’s all I can say, Mrs. Nordholm?”

“Sturmanis!” screamed my mother as she stormed out. Nordholm was my biological father; I was his bastard.

One thing my mom always said about my biological dad Erik was that he was cold. Don’t be cold like your dad, she always said.

Cold. Two years after I was born he picked up and left to become the Great Canadian Novelist. You’ve probably never heard of him. Not many people have.

Accompanied by his new wife, whom he gave no kids, he put his house on a barge and towed it off to a deserted island in the Georgia Strait. Everything went into his wife’s name and he got off the grid.

This man had icy seawater mingled in with his blood. He loved boats. He had brave notions of opening his own publishing house in a boat. He sunk his life savings, combined with mum’s, into a one-of-a-kind publishing house: a forty foot fishing boat built in ’24 converted into a leaky, moldy houseboat weighted down with an industrial printing press, typesetting machine, bind-faster and wax wands for covers. The floating publishing company was dubbed Orca Sound Press. Their first contract in ’77 was for an ambitious full-colour publication for a fledgling radical environmental protection agency now known as Greenpeace.

Five years and numerous underground poetry anthologies later, the couple discovered that one cannot survive on poetry and love alone, and even those things were finite. In those five years, mum’s first husband was still coming around and Erik was clearly having an affair with a flower child ten years younger than mum, and twenty years younger than him, who took up semi-permanent residence in the publishing boat.

In that leaky, moldy old fishing boat-cum-press, stormy waters brought a new light to Earth. It was December 16, 1982. Erik was fixing a paper jam while mum reclined by the window. I’m not sure what they had planned when the water broke at roughly 4am, but whatever it was, it clearly did not involve a hospital. Mum always told me that Erik had a fear of hospitals. She told me he’d mumble paranoid statements like “they take blood tests there, blood tests!” and conspiratorial sentiments like “why do they need to know about my blood?”

Erik had an impressive knowledge of childbirth it seems. No surgery necessary. A sterilized box cutter severed the umbilical cord as rains ravaged the old boat. The baby didn’t cry, mum told me. It never cried when it was young. It just stared up into mum’s eyes, coldly. It rejected the tit. Erik was prepared with a bottle of soy formula.

“How did you know?” asked mum.
“Just sleep,” Erik quickly replied as he killed the lights and rocked the little one gently.

My eccentric grandfather, a Harvard-educated biochem PhD lauded the fact that the space traveler was born on the same day as his favourite composer. Said composer had been decomposing in Germany now for over two centuries, but you wouldn’t know it to hear Missa Solemnis played as loudly as the stereo would permit to drown out the nightly domestic disturbances in his two-story wooden house built on the edge of the Musquem first nation in Vancouver, BC. Later Little Beethoven would live with the retired couple and learn how to cry. But that wasn’t until after the fateful night the boat sank.

One night two years after the storm dropped off a parcel in a rickety fishing boat, Erik came with mum to her parents’ for what seemed to be a routine dinner. As always, Erik took to repairing a few things on mum’s parents’ shack. Mum and her parents drank too much wine and heatedly debated issues from church to feminism to failed expectations as Erik coolly sat back in his chair and sighed. He finished feeding with the bottle of soy faux-lactate, gently placed the two-year-old in a crib and led mum outside into the driveway.

Erik steeled himself and looked directly into mum’s kiln-glazed eyes. “There’s something I should tell you.”
She kept her eyes fixed on the ground. “You fucking think I don’t know?”
“Well, I haven’t been candid.”
“And I’m not stupid. You think I’m stupid.”
“No, not stupid.”
“Then what?”
“I wasn’t going to tell you that. I was going to say… I’m going with her. That’s all.”

Mum couldn’t keep her eyes on the ground, but she couldn’t keep from tearing up, either. She ran towards the porch. She looked down, and there was a vase full of flowers. She quickly grabbed it and rushed her betrayer, but Erik just stood there. He saw her bring the vase up before his eyes to smash it against his head. He slowly, sadly closed his eyes in anticipation. He didn’t flinch. He just sighed as the glass crashed against his crown and opened his eyes again, a minute trickle of blood descending from his scalp. He looked into her eyes again and turned. He paced away calmly as his red-faced lover crumbled into a sobbing heap by the side of the road.

The cradle perched beside the window on the second floor was a spaceship. The spaceman inside saw the whole event. He decided then that Earth was too confusing and from that point on he would do the best he could to follow the prime directive. This mandate would be met with varying degrees of success.

Erik had “accidentally” neglected to activate the water pump keeping the Orca Sound Press afloat. When mum returned to the spot where the floating press should have been, she found nothing but water. Erik had run not only from mum, but from the forty thousand dollars it took to finish the floating press’ payments and pay for the removal of the old fishing boat from the habour. The dream sunk. Mum had nothing left to do but fend for herself while her parents took care of the little spaceman.

Spaceman flew his spacecraft between homes, neither more functional than the other, until he made his own disposable family and finally found the man who had a biological claim to be his father.

It was a cold October when the two met again. Finally frosty Erik had emerged from a cave for a few minutes to let a friend know he was dying of terminal illness. The young spaceman had never really thought to search for this stranger, but now the word had gone out. I suppose, thought Spaceman, I should give him a call.

The men arranged to meet at an Earth colony, a family townhouse on campus at the University of Victoria. It was Hallowe’en night and the spaceman had invited his in-law Earthling family to his home. They didn’t look much like typical Earthlings. They were suited up in bright, garish yellows, blues, pinks and reds.

The in-laws Erik met were clowns—a whole family of them! That night, the musical clown family had been minstrelling to raise money for a good cause, orphans or some such thing. They were loud and laughing, happily playing music and providing all kinds of sensory stimulus that frightened Erik as he tremulously passed through the Earth colony doorway.

Erik’s eyes met with the eyes of the boy who neither recognized him nor regarded him with any sort of familial affection.

The young spaceman was friendly enough. Erik didn’t look like a man who hugged. He looked like some painting of William Wordsworth the spaceman had seen in his literature studies: present and absent at the same time. Stylish and with the world, but visibly offended by any contact with it. Not a man, but a statue.

Despite that Erik was ten years Papa Clown’s senior, he appeared to be ten years his junior, at least. It was not that Papa Clown looked so old, it was just that Erik had a timeless look. Not young, but without age.

The two cold men stood facing each other. One was cold because that’s the way he was born. The other was cold because floating out in space is chilly. Around them a carnival of colour, music and laughter lava was engulfing the Halloween house. You could tell the cold man was beginning to burn. Not even the site of baby Luna could touch his heart. He refused to hold her. “I’m alright,” he said, deflecting.

Erik, after a few mild comments to the joyous clowns and answers to mildly probing questions, chiseled through the mortar between the bricks in the wall of silence between him and his estranged son. “Maybe we could take a walk?”

“Of course,” stammered Spaceman. He could have said something else, but nothing else would have been appropriate for the occasion.

Spaceman whispered into his wife’s ear. She glanced quickly at Erik and nodded. She knew this would be coming.

They left the brightly lit, brightly spirited townhouse just as manic magma spewed out in the form of a coordinated dance routine starring Papa Clown and Brother Clown. Mama Clown had donned her concertina and was squeezing out a pyroclastic flow of musical tephra. Sister Clown followed with her fiddle of fiery fury just as the two cold men escaped into the cool night air.

Erik was visibly irritated by the short humans in unsensibly thick Hallowe’en makeup or vision-barring masks, all with truckloads of accumulated colourful plastic wrappers encasing small chunks of cornsyrup composite. Huff, he sputtered. “Sometimes I don’t want to leave the island. Why today of all days?”

Why today? Now it plays in head as I run to the bus station. Play by play. Moment by moment. Theatre is Evil has finished. It’s just Spaceman and him now, and I have a  front-row seat.

Spaceman doesn’t look at Erik. “Thought you’d like to meet my new family.”

Now they come to the edge of the parking lot to a forest trail called Mystic Vale. The trail leads down to a beach called Cadboro Bay. The man called Erik takes a seat on a bundle of sticks called a bench and the young adult who I call Spaceman does likewise on a fungi-covered stump. Spaceman is silent while he thinks about the study conducted the previous year that concluded that human DNA is not significantly different from that of mushrooms.

Erik cuts through Spaceman’s empty gaze. “I looked you up in the phonebook. In 2005, they misspelled your name.”
“Oh.”
“But in all other years they spell it right.”
“Hmm.”

What else would Spaceman say? I feel honoured that you can find my name in a phonebook?

“I knew your professor.”
“Which one?”
“Cullen.”

Cullen. Another Wordsworth. He who taught the little tricks. He who wrote the play about Sam Wong. He who deposited references to Horace and Hermes into his report writing classes. He who guided his students to find and do what they really wanted to do. He who knew the secrets of the universe and told us simply, “what are you going to do, write poetry?” He who appeared in several places on campus within minutes as though there were ten of him on hand. Little tricks Cullen. He who died suddenly from cancer, leaving behind two daughters who he’d raised alone. Erik knew Cullen.

Spaceman still wasn’t comfortable with death. “I liked him,” was all he could say.
Erik breathed deeply. “Fran just went a few years ago, didn’t she?”

Fran. The spaceman was sleeping in a 1992 Ford Escort station wagon, his home at the University of Victoria, when the news of his grandmother’s death rang on a cellphone lying underneath the car’s brake pedal at five AM. He preferred not to think about it.

He had a weird thought, a little like a grotesque dream, when he was young. When the space shuttle came to transport him from his grandparents’ house in Vancouver to his parents’ house in Summerland, he saw his grandmother dead, but most of her body was like a cooked chicken, her bed a metal tray and left out on the counter, white creamy fat encasing her limp, birdbone corpse. It was an image that just wouldn’t fade.

“What do you want to tell me? We need to get back.”
“I knew your teacher.”
Spaceman closed his eyes to keep them from rolling. “Which one?”
“Baron.”

From Liverpool. Erik sure got around for a man on a deserted island.

“I don’t get it. You’ve been stalking me, but it never occurred to you to make contact until now? Why would you bother?”
“You invited me.”

Good point.

“But I am here for a reason.”

I pull the ear buds out and focus on the cold man’s information for the spaceman.

“Cullen and Baron and I knew each other well.”

How had I forgotten about this?

“Baron gave you a book. Cullen tested your understanding. Now I am making it clear.”

Book, what book?
Yes, of course! The Red Book. An old tale set in a modern landscape. An elderly man invites the scorn of his neighbours with his reclusive behaviour and unkempt appearance.

A boy of ten wanders into his shed one day. What does he find there, but a man who is attempting to change lead into gold. The boy learns everything about the process.

A grand explosion ends the life of the elderly man. But the boy is left both with the knowledge of how to transmute the metal, but the understanding that should he attempt it, he might become a fleshy wall painting.

After Faggot!, after granite, after the PT meeting, the spaceman was given more torment by being singled out to sit in the hallway and read of alchemy while the rest of the class was hypnotized into Aslan’s kingdom via the cunning of CS Lewis.

Why, Mr Baron, was I excluded?

The fit old Wordsworth turned to the ten-year old spaceman as they ran on the dusty road in Summerland. His mumbling increased in volume, and finally I could hear his raving, and I realized it was meant for me, even if Spaceman disregarded it.

“Your peers understand the “collective” part of collective responsibility. But no, they haven’t gone much further. Religion has for the most part, been an attempt to civilize people who would otherwise behave as primates.”
“But they aren’t primates.”
“That, my boy, is EXACTLY what they are. You can tell because even religion is not enough. It never has been the primates take it over and use it to enact the selfsame poopthrowing they are most familiar with.”
“Then why bother?”
“Because at least it gives them a chance. If they were atheist, they would have something closer to the truth, but they would need to have the memories of several lifetimes to truly get it. So we wrap symbolic truth into a format that they can accept and we hope for the best.”
“So, I’m not worth civilizing?”
“No, you’re not. You wouldn’t take to it. That’s why I am offering you this. Do yourself a favour and take it.”
“Take what?”
“The symbol itself.”

What is the symbol?

Erik turned to the spaceman perched on fungus and made direct eye contact. “It is THE SYMBOL. It is from the teachings to the people of the black land. It is telepathic mind space connection held together with stars. Stick to curves, avoid the angles. Construct the ARC. Attraction plus repulsion equals circulation. This is the secret of all social and physical reality. You are now free to go anywhere in the known and unknown universe. You can now meet my kind. But you will need a guide. She will make herself known by the light of the moon…”

Erik went grey for a moment. Had scales for a moment. Flicked a tongue in the twinkle of an eye and sent me back, back to a land halfway across the world called Hanguk.

I put my hand on my bicycle seat. That run really took it out of me. Thinking about my story really took it out of me. I’m glad I’m done. Now I can once again forget about that other world, the world that has no more presence than a strange dream. Completely fictitious. And tragically hilarious.