Archive for February, 2013

Forgetting Foucault

In Taoism, being unlearned is a good thing. No, it doesn’t mean you should be an idiot. You should learn: read the classics, cultivate your intellect. Then you should forget everything you learned and return to being an idiot. But a different kind of idiot. 

When I graduated high school I didn’t want to go to college. My reasoning, if we can call it that, was that I already knew everything and that college professors had nothing to teach me. What an idiot.

I can see now that my resistance to learning anything new was my ego being incapable of admitting its own ignorance. It took humility to shut up and listen and learn. I gained a lot, no doubt.

But sometime after I graduated, it became apparent that I couldn’t think for myself. I had no faith in my own voice- I didn’t even think it existed. If we were talking about something I would tell you what Nietzsche or Foucault had to say about it.

Now I’m trying to say what Ben has to say. I need to forget Foucault (and all the other scholars, I’m only using Foucault because ‘Forget Foucault’ has a nice ring to it). At the same time I’ll never completely forget what I learned and I won’t revert back to the kind of idiot who doesn’t want to learn more about something from somebody else.  

Why be unlearned? Nature’s unlearned and it’s genius. But then there’s lemmings.

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Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

I can judge my spiritual fitness by the condition my bike is in. Right now it’s spotless.

I took a damp rag and scrubbed the frame washing off dirt, grime, and salt. Winter-time. Salt is the worst. It chews away at whatever it can get its teeth on: your wheels, gears, shifter, screws, cables, and spokes. That’s why it was a big deal for me to scrub my bike clean, to get all the salt off.

When I finished scrubbing I noticed there were tiny areas throughout the bike that couldn’t be reached with the rag. So I got a pipe cleaner out of the tool box and, with gumption, went to work. I squeezed it in between the tiniest cracks and moved it rapidly back and forth, throwing clouds of particulate into the air. I changed angles, adjusted how I sat, and continued, cleaning every square millimeter of the bike.

Then, I went back again, noticing crevices I didn’t see the first time around. With consistent effort and concern for detail I cleaned them all. In the process I discovered parts of my bike I didn’t even know existed. Next, I took a bottle of lubricant and oiled the chain, the brakes, derailleur, the point where the handlebars turn, every part that needed it.

I kicked the kick-stand in order to let the bike stand in the sun, admiring my work. Radiant. Hadn’t looked that good, even when I bought it.

Finally, I was ready to ride. I got on the bike and started to pedal. I went a block and a half. Then a car pulled in front of me and I had to slow down. I hit the brakes but the back one didn’t work. I remembered, then, that the last time I rode the bike I was in an accident and broke the back brake but forgot to fix it. To avoid crashing into the car in front of me I had to swerve into the opposite lane. Thank god there a car coming in the other lane.

My bike is spotless. But it doesn’t brake properly. I can judge my spiritual fitness by the condition my bike is in.

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Where Butterflies Come From

Caterpillar was crawling across a big rock. He reached forward as far as he could with his front legs. Then he pulled his back legs up behind him, bending his back like a bow. Then he stretched forward his front legs, again, and dragged the rest behind him… again and again… across the big rock that never seemed to end.

Sparrow watched Caterpillar struggle with amusement. When Caterpillar finally reached the far end of the rock, Sparrow hopped down in front of him. Caterpillar looked up, was exhausted, but nevertheless turned around to slowly make his escape. Sparrow hopped in front of Caterpillar, again, and asked him, “Where do you think you are going? There’s no way you can outrun me”. Caterpillar said, “I’ve only got one life and I’m going to give it all I got. I’m no Possum”. Sparrow laughed, but then became disturbed, for Possum had eaten one of her eggs that spring, and she also- for a moment- lost her appetite.

“Tell me”, said Sparrow, “What would you do if you had more than one life?” Caterpillar looked at Sparrow’s wings for a long time. “I would fly”, said Caterpillar. Sparrow laughed and said, “You would fly! You are not a bird!  You’re almost a maggot. You would fly. Ha!” Caterpillar, becoming angry, rose up on his tail and shouted, “I did not say I wanted to be a bird! I said I would fly. I don’t know how, exactly….” His voice broke off, and he fell back to the ground.

“O!” said Sparrow “you would be like Bee or Cicada, or one of the other bugs with wings. “Maybe” said Caterpillar “I do not know what I would become” Sparrow thought about this for an instant, then began thinking about eating Caterpillar, again. She said “Well, you know, there might be a way your dream could come true.” “How?” asked Caterpillar “Simple” said Sparrow “all you have to do is let me eat you- I won’t eat you all the way, just enough so I can regurgitate you into the mouths of my babies. Then, when they fly, you will be inside them, and you will be flying, too!” Caterpillar looked horrified. Sparrow licked her beak. “Wait, wait” pleaded Caterpillar “I see that you want to eat me. And I haven’t much chance to get away. But you’ve given me an idea. Let me ask you something: do you still have that egg?” Sparrow hopped back away, composed herself, and asked “how do you know about the egg?”

Caterpillar said “I know that Possum does not eat eggshells- only what’s inside of them. And I know you collect all sorts of things. So I imagined that you held on to the broken egg your unborn chick was in”. “Okay” said Sparrow “maybe I still have this egg. What then!” Sparrow was sad at thinking about her unborn child, and then angry at Caterpillar for bringing it up. She said “Tell me now why I should not eat you”. “I won’t. Eat me.” said Caterpillar “But I only ask you for one thing: don’t regurgitate me to your chicks. Swallow me whole. Let me go through your belly. And, when it’s time, you know, to let me go, I want you to do it inside the egg. And then sit on that egg and protect that egg, with me inside it.”

“You!?” said Sparrow “That won’t be you! You’ll be nothing but- poop!” “I know” said Caterpillar “but I want another life and I want to fly and this might be the only way. Will you do it?” Sparrow, unable to speak, promptly ate Caterpillar. She flew back to her nest where her little babies, and her empty, broken egg, were waiting. They clamored to be fed. She had a lump in her throat, both literally and from the emotions wrought by her conversation with Caterpillar.

Later that night, when Sparrow had to relieve herself, she lighted upon the empty egg exactly how we humans sit down on a toilet, and did the one thing Caterpillar asked her to do.

The next day, and the days after that, she sat on that egg and kept it warm. All the other birds, her children included, thought she had gone Cuckoo. Cuckoo did not appreciate the comparison whatsoever. But Sparrow stayed true to her word. She left the nest only to get food for her chicks. Otherwise, she was planted on top the egg containing the material that was Caterpillar.

As she sat there, contemplating, she began to experience the emotions of losing her child to Possum- emotions she had kept locked inside until now- and she cried and she cried, and she cried. Sparrow thought of the name she was going to name her child: Butter. This went on for forty days. During that time all her chicks became big enough to leave the nest and did.

On the forty-first day, she began to hear the egg shell crack. First, just a little, then an entire section broke apart as two antennae probed the outside air. Sparrow was startled- transfixed. She backed away from the egg, in awe. Slowly, something came out of the egg. It had long spindly legs. Its eyes and nose were huge compared to its worm-like body. But most of all, the most terrific aspect of this thing were its wings: bright, magnificent, patterned like the bark of Old Tree, or the face of Pond when Wind blows across. And on those wings were two, black, and brilliant eyes staring back at Sparrow. Sparrow would have shrieked if she didn’t have a lump in her throat, this time quite figuratively, for the eyes she stared at were- her own.

The wings began to flap, first slowly, weakly, and with great effort. It waddled to the edge of the nest, looked down, then turned around and walked toward Sparrow. However, its wings were no longer damp, but dry and pumping broadly the air around it. Sparrow pushed it back toward the edge of the nest and at the right moment shoved it out shouting, “Fly, Butter! Butter, fly!”

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Happiest Man Alive Kills Himself (and other news)

 

Dalai Lama: Violence OK, Actually

His Holiness the Dalai Lama made a drastic departure from his previous stance on non-violence on Tuesday at a press conference announcing his new book entitled, Violence: Not If, But When. The Dalai Lama stated, “Violence is, ultimately, the only real option for getting what you want and need. The pretense of non-violence is just that- pretense. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi were great ideals, but at the end of the day the only way to get something done is to bust some heads.”

When asked how one can reconcile violence with Buddhist practice, His Holiness drew a deep breath, gazed serenely to everyone present and spoke in verse: Rain drop falling/ off the rose petal/ again and again/ just like my fist/ smashing someone’s skull/ again and again.

 

Man To Begin Long-Term Planning, ‘Sometime in the Distant Future’

Chuck Fahey, thirty-six year old Chicago northsider, announced to friends and family last Wednesday that, “The time has come when I recognize the fact that I only live once, that if I’m really going to accomplish my dreams in this lifetime, I must begin to integrate the many interests, talents, and passions I have, cultivating them over a lifetime into a unique process wherein I’ll be able to actualize all of my unrealized potential and flourish beautifully throughout the summer, fall, and eventual winter of my life, so I can die without any regrets, a smile on my face, with love and wisdom overflowing from my heart. That time is not yet. Maybe next year; I’ve got shit to do.”

 

Easter 2013 Cancelled

The Vatican, known for its stalwart resistance to change in such areas as contraception and homosexuality, stunned the world with its radically venturous decision to cancel Easter, the two-thousand year old celebration of the resurrection on the Third Day of the Lord Jesus Christ, this year. “Let’s just see how it goes”, Pope Benedict XVI added with a wink. When asked for further explanation, the papacy proclaimed, “We already have Christmas. We already have a holiday for every single saint. Do you know how many saints that is!? I just think it’s about time we start giving some of these lesser known but equally important holidays our prayerful attention, as well.” When asked why not, then, is Christmas cancelled, the Pope responded mirthfully, “Who knows if it won’t be- that’s eleven months away!”

 

Happiest Man Alive Kills Himself

Jacques Sebald, universally recognized as the happiest man alive, killed himself this past Thursday. He will be survived by his loving family, friends, students, colleagues, and everyone else less happy than he was. The attempt to discover why Mr. Sebald, known for his profound laughter, unconditional kindness, and seemingly limitless hope, killed himself has been thwarted, despite the fact (or perhaps because of) that he did leave a suicide note, which detailed how Jacques- felt tremendous joy, as light as a feather and as immovable as a mountain- how he’s reached a point where the common pangs of fear and depression, even the common cold itself, leave him untouched- how confident he feels in being able to handle life skillfully while retaining a sense of humility, curiosity, and gratitude- how the hurts and setbacks in life that inevitably come his way are transformed into compassion and empathy for both himself and other living beings- how life is a strange yet familiar gift from the divine that he relishes for the pure sake of it- that everyone, everything, sinner and saint, stone and star, are his brother and sister.

The only plausible explanation- if indeed it is at all- is that the Happiest Man Alive was known for his ironic sense of humor and that this, coupled with his tendency to take things (happiness included) to the extreme, well, there you go.

 

Woman Flummoxed by Five Hours of Actual Energy

Lindsey Carr, 44, of Homewood-Flossmoor, was unexpectedly confronted with the weighty effects of having five hours of energy. Lindsey, who had been feeling the negative effects of the winter season, namely, lethargy, decided on Friday to purchase a small bottle of ‘5 Hour Energy’ at her local gas station. “I thought it would help me finish a to-do list, for once”, said Carr. On the contrary.

It started when Lindsey’s friend invited her to play video games. “I couldn’t sit there with a vacuous expression on my face playing like a docile chimpanzee for the reward of bright lights and high scores”. When Lindsey shared this sentiment with her friends, trouble ensued. (Once) long-time friend John Snyder reports, “She started being a real bitch. She pointed at me and interrogated me about life, my life, what we were all doing here. I handed her a bowl and told her to smoke and she went into a rage.” Reports from multiple sources verify the following: Ms. Carr opened up all the shutters of the home, blinding her friends with the light of day. She then destroyed the video game console and started shouting at her friends that there was a sun outside and dormant capacities within each of them (at this point jabbing each of her friends in the sternum with her forefinger, driving home the point) and that these (the dormant capacities) are awaiting to be awoken, at which point her friends, incensed over the destroyed video game console, chased her out of the home with the threat and then mild use of violence, locked her out, and re-shut the shutters.

Lindsey, in a fugue, made the sudden realization that she, too, was not living as she could and should, jabbing her own self in the sternum, then proceed to walk the streets of Homewood-Flossmoor, talking to herself. “I kept asking myself, what am I going to do with all this energy? I could save a rainforest, stop poverty, build a house, learn to play the trumpet, overcome myself. There were too many possibilities. The effect of which was that my previous to-do list became insignificant; it was obsolete in comparison to the flood of inspiration pouring into my psyche. Or was it pouring out of my psyche? Is the muse within me or somewhere out-there… such were the philosophical questions that plagued me as a result of having five hours of actual energy.”

These ‘philosophical questions’ went on to alienate Lindsey, at her home of all places. Roommate Kevin Doyle, “She burst into my room with a frisbee demanding we go out and play. She was blathering about the purpose of life being to spin freely over an open meadow, or some shit like that. I started hitting her like an alarm clock, then my actual alarm went off and I started hitting that and her at the same time, and then finally I had the stroke of genius to hit her with my alarm clock, which not only shut off my alarm clock but also got her to leave me alone.”

Luckily, or so she thought, Lindsey was scheduled to go into work that evening, and hoped she could release her unspent energy. However, there was no solace from the isolating effects of five hours of real energy, even in the workplace. “I love when my employees give 110%” says boss Patty Scruples “but Lindsey was giving, like, a lot more than 110%”. It was making everybody nervous and feel shitty about themselves.” Sources confirm that Lindsey did her work both perfectly and with incredible speed, moving on to do everyone else’s work within an hour, while simultaneously creating a presentation that she shared with the entire company, on how they could expand globally by harnessing the unique features of each of its employees, for whom she had developed portfolios that were more comprehensive than a Meyers-Briggs Test, from seemingly nothing but her own observation and intuition. This (the portfolios) caused multiple employees to weep, alternating between tears of joy and tears of utter despair, at having what apparently was the equivalent of having a metaphysical mirror held up by God Himself reflecting your unconscious, revealing you to yourself in perfect clarity, illuminating the dark and unknown parts of your personality, the monkey on your back, an image that mercilessly displayed the good, the bad, and the ugly in an all-too-sudden moment of self-truth, shattering any semblance of blissful ignorance, and that this caused the whole team to break down, some of them leaving never to return, going on extended walk-abouts or getting their gender changed by operation, or committing themselves to esoteric religious orders or becoming teachers, students, or in one case, simply a bum. Mrs. Scruples, desperate to retain her staff, and from what we can infer the only one who didn’t see the almost Medusa-like power-point presentation, chased Lindsey out of the office with nothing but a three-hole puncher.

Lindsey, outside, then had a moment of sublime self-truth. “I was on a roll. My manic energy crystallized into a serene image of myself embedded in the universe to which I’m a part. Then, it shattered. The Five Hour Energy wore off. My usual malaise set in. Since that day, I’ve thought of doing something like it again, but just the thought of doing all that and talking to so many people makes me feel exhausted.”

 

Arne Duncan Changes Reading Level Standards, Nation’s Test Scores Sky-Rocket

Yesterday, amidst growing concern over the nation’s pitiful reading ability, Barak Obama’s Secretary of Education, and former CEO [sic.] of Chicago Public Schools, Arne Duncan, unveiled his new plan to improve children’s test scores. Mr. Duncan’s brilliant strategy for educational reform is to make the second-grade reading level “the new eighth grade”. In a single day, reading and writing scores across the country ascended.

Eighth-grader Pete Thompson, of Chicago, had this to say, “I was, you know, not a smart, like, you know. Other kids.” When asked to expand, Pete said, “What?” When told to say more, Pete responded, “I was like, awesome! Now I’m like, real smart. You know.” Thanks to the visionary efforts of Arne Duncan, millions of young men and women such as Pete can now read just as well as students from Finland, Brazil, and Belarus.

Similar plans are being discussed in regard to math and science. “The era in which children need to know long division and the components of a water molecule is bygone.” said Mr. Duncan “What kids really need to know is the difference between ‘less’ and ‘more’, ‘hot’ and ‘cold'”. Such a move, without a doubt, would catapult math and science scores up to the ranks of the nation’s now laudable reading levels.

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