Eat No Vegetables

I have been spending the past several months traveling for variety of mundane reasons. Airport. Flying. Hotel. Go to bed early for whatever that’s planned on the next day. Go through the next day. Back to the hotel. Work out. Go to bed early for the next day. Fly back. And then again, and again.

During long flights everything hurts. Calf, muscles, and a toe that refuses to warm up. The day of the flight becomes a day when the most creative thing you can do is to come up with an essay that’s an unoriginal form of pensive confusion.

A couple of days ago, I met with a friend who asked how I cope with the intensity and boredom of long flights. I thought I’d share a few points on how I make the mundane experience bearable. So here it goes:

(1) Take a Window Seat
Fuck more legroom and the ease of moving around. Take a window seat. Work your curiosity and imagination by looking out the window. Take control of the window shade and look how the plane bullets through the flirting clouds. Be that stern-looking asshole that keeps the shade open while other people watch those gummy in-flight chick flicks.

(2) Podcasts
Listen to a few podcasts as appose to getting frustrated by listening to the guy who looks like colonel Sanders sitting next to you. He just returned from a successful sales pitch. He keeps downing Jacks and collapsing back onto your shoulders.

(3) Have a heart-wrenching topic to ponder on
For instance, during one of the flights from NY, I started thinking about my friend Nedi as soon as the flight took off. I met Nedi a few years ago. Young, tall, handsome and in his twenties. Full of energy. The life of his parents’ lifelike party. He had a life story that asks a lot questions.

As soon as the flight reaches 10K altitude, I usually experience turbulence as the plane goes through the rough air. The flight attendant asks me for my drink of choice with a gum-chewing dismissal. Colonel Sanders is on his third whiskey.

I look out the window and remember an article I had read long ago -that argues the cruelty of capital punishment in Japan. The possibility that an innocent person may have spent more than decades in prison is not the only reason why the issue attracted attention. In Japan, death row prisoners are locked away in solitary confinement, banned from talking to other inmates and permitted just two or three exercise periods a week.

All of those rules are pretty common but the article argues that the worst is the uncertainty. Condemned men learn of the timing of their death only hours before they are led away to the gallows. Their families are informed only after the fact. “Each day could be their last, and the arrival of a prison officer with a death warrant would signal their execution within hours,” the report says. The article asserts that the mental anguish of not knowing whether each day is to be your last is the cruel punishment.

I read the article many times. But I could never quite grasp what the fuss was about on the point of cruelty. I thought to myself: Japanese death row inmates are just like me. Each day could be my last day, too. Each day could be anyone’s last day. If that’s cruel, then the Japanese death row inmates, and us, are all in the same boat with one key difference: the inmates expect to die every day. We don’t. Which one is crueler?

Nedi passed away a few days ago at age 25. He knew where his ordeal of a life was headed as soon as his illness surfaced three years ago. Nedi’s diagnosis-paper handed over by his doctor was like the death warrant handed over by the prison officer. Though, Nedi’s case continues to be heart wrenching and confusing.

You witness these things as you grow older and you want to make sense of it. You play with notions like the one that suggests it was an unlucky gene. But luck, as they say, is the residue of design. Okay, luck may be the residue of design, but life and nature dictate unexpected scenarios, which overkill skill, practice, science, considered judgment, and normal response. If there is a lesson in Nedi’s life scenario, I fail to find it. I sheepishly take refuge in realizing that aging only presents us with additional choices to which there are no answers.

At this point of my thought cycle the plane has reached the cruising altitude. The flight attendant’s attitude towards colonel Sanders comes around like “You’re drunk and fully fed, so shut up and enjoy the rest of the flight”. At 35K altitude, one might feel a bit closer to god.

The Jewish sages discussed whether to be born or not. They agreed it would be better not to be born. But now that you are born, you should enjoy it. That doesn’t make any sense to me. Then, there are the Greeks. The Greeks tried to make sense of death by conveying that the Greek Gods are a band of perpetual adolescents, who may enjoy life perpetually at ease. Those gods can afford to be immature because they live forever and have time to mend broken relationships, or correct mistakes. Humans have no such luxury according to the ancient Greeks. Our time is borrowed. If we are cruel to others the effect could be permanent. Hence, death comes at the time of mature relationships and the absolute absence of meanness and cruelty. I’m thinking that’s a cute idea because it feels good. Fucking Greeks! They have managed to find an answer for every tough question.

The flight slowly descends to northern California. I can now see a few big buildings with large signs at the top. It’s the northeastern stretch of Silicon Valley between San Francisco and Sacramento. No clouds.

I immediately fall into that one dimension that the current generation of people in their sixties and seventies may be the last cohort of humans for whom death is absolutely unavoidable. While such thoughts are fantastical to many, leading scientists are convinced that we are on the threshold of stopping the aging process and curing terminal diseases. And, some of them speak as if aging is a disease. According to them, mortality as a great leveler and equalizer may be coming to the end of its insurmountable rule.

These weird thought go through my head over and over during the long flight that’s almost over as we reach the 10K ft. Colonel Sanders has stopped snoring.

4. Eat no vegetables
Eat no vegetables during long flights. Too gassy.

Golden Penis

As a child, my occasional nickname literally meant golden penis. The term is a cultural metaphor that represents an appropriate term of endearment and flattery. That gesture of attention and kindness has been nothing but the biggest puffery in real life.

My mom treated me as this guy who is genius, athletic, and handsome with a chiseled jaw who has impressed the little fucker himself. Then, fueled with so much endearment, I felt like I’d grow up having a small fleet of sports cars and when I’m not busy melting my family, I’m changing out hot girlfriends with my thick charm as if they could swim in it.

There is nothing new about fallacy of a handsome set of expectations and dreams. Though, the next thing you know, a swift kick hits those balls hanging off the golden penis. You find yourself flipping burgers for an asshole who looks like Frank Zappa, and similarly, doesn’t give a fuck about people like you, or your involuntary bullshit dreams.

My mother also taught me that there is a God. But around the time I was flipping burgers for Frank, I learned that God is very busy. So I started finding a few little gods and called them friends.

The biggest lesson of all has been around that lifelike dream called love. I was told that love is kind, mutual, and lasts forever. But I learned that love is preferential, exclusive, and particular. I was told that no one could resist loving the golden penis. But I learned that love is strong and it can turn the golden penis into a vagina.

During my formative years, I learned that no dream lasts forever. But favorably, it changes to something better that fits the realities of life. For every forced dream that got shattered, a better experience appeared. After all, that constant pressure to always be something amazing, to be the next big thing, will be lifted off your back. The stress and anxiety of feeling inadequate will dissipate, and until then, you are not a grown-up.

Some of us are taught that life is like a black tie party, which takes place in symphony halls where they serve caviar and truffles while you’re drinking crystal. But life is like a harsh mistress. It teaches you that there is a party, and it is more like a karaoke that takes place in the back of an Irish dump where they sell six chicken wings for a buck, and you can drink a few pints of cheap beer.

The beauty of real life hides beneath the acceptance of your own mundane existence. Such learning will actually free you to feel content with no lofty expectations.

My mom taught me great lessons and I’m grateful for her never-ending love. Though, some of my happiest dreams happened when I was out with the little gods drinking a few cheap beers.

Micah

Micah is respected for his intellect having been a professional writer for a long time. He’s equally reviled for at times coming across as arrogant, cold, and aloof. He is never known for his warmth, and his persona certainly would not lend itself to today’s touchy-feely era of screen-time. Nonetheless, he is the most prolific writer that portrays all indications of deep confidence and inner-piece.

So far in my adult life, I’ve never managed to grasp the main point of each decade until long after it was over. This is yet another indication of my slowness in grasping the full picture of one’s real persona. The realization has nothing to do with my deep admiration for writers.

10/6/2015 – 9:45pm

I wish I could save my feelings at a certain point in time. I wish I could go back to those emotions and review them, and feel exactly the same. If that was the case, forgiveness would suffer and benevolence would spike. It’d be like time is a non-existent concept in that it could not neutralize or erect past emotions.

This is my strange way of saving my jarring mindset on Tuesday October 6th at 9:45pm.

Tara’s Weeks

Tara is a thirty something years old woman who lives in a city at sea level. She works very hard on Mondays and Tuesdays to solve the problems of Fridays and Saturdays. During the week she relentlessly works out. The pictures of her workout sessions get many ‘like’s from those she meets on weekends. Her body is a temple on weekdays and it becomes an amusement park during weekends. She neurotically follows every event as if there is a party train out there that tends to leave her behind at every stop.

One a Saturday night, Tara texted me and asked for help. I showed up. Only, to find out that the problem was a boring party. I took the ordeal as a complement because that means I can still revive the boredom of a party girl. We hung out for a few hours and towards the end of the night she asked me if I had any advice for her. Right there, I noticed a moment of introspection caused by boredom, which is the very nature of first world problems.

I love neuroticism. It is that fundamental personality trait that never disappoints to entertain. The feelings of anxiety, envy, and phobia are the basis of Shakespearean tales. Neurotics founded the religions, arts, and formed enlightenments that have survived the test of time. The world will never know what it owes to neurotics or how much they had to suffer to give what they have.

On that Saturday, I strayed away from giving any advice. Not that I had any or I’m qualified for it. I actually really like Tara, but as a person who’s gone through that stage of life, I felt it’d be boring to take away the excitement of witnessing someone else’s boredom. The fervor of sharing a few words never left me though. If I had to really share a thought, I’d tell her that we were put on earth for reasons other than fucking. Then again, Tara belongs to that splendid family of neurotics which is the salt of the earth.

Yoga Moms

It’s sheer shock. Me talking about the veracity of an argument from a republican writer, is like Ron Jeremy talking about celibacy. It’s like a kiss – something that serves no evolutionary purpose but it feels good. It simulates a conversation that doesn’t go longer than a hallway “how are you”.

An old Greek’s saying suggests that we suffer our way to wisdom. And I am suffering my way through realizing that David Brooks is incredibly wise about how he frames the role of emotions in our interpenetrated life (his twisted politics aside).

I live in a city that’s famous for its scenery, blithe lifestyle, and liberal mindset. Here, everyone sounds like an accountant. In San Francisco, people are really good at reason, but really bad at talking about emotions. They are really good at talking about technology, skills, safety, and health and really bad at talking about character.

In San Francisco, you can decode people’s entire decision framework in the way they raise their kids. The kids leave school at 3pm with 50-pound backpacks and get picked up by yoga moms who are highly successful career women. These moms have usually taken time off from their high-jobs to make sure their kids go to Stanford. And you can usually tell the yoga moms because they weigh less than their own kids. They’re elegant and slender. They don’t really have thighs, curves, or boobs. They just have one elegant calve on top of another.

What’s missing in this world of high life is that emotions are at the center of our thinking. Science and reason don’t make us super smart. In fact, people with those tools are quite helpless and alone. Emotions are not separate from reasons. Emotions are the foundation of reasons because they tell us what to value.

French enlightenment royally fucked us. They shoved it down our throats that reason is the highest of the faculties. David Hume research proved who we are, however. He proved that reason is often weak, and our sentiments are strong and trustworthy and we should let go of the dehumanizing bias of reason.

In San Francisco, we hunger for success and prestige. The true self however, granted it’s not lost, hungers for transcendence and those moments of human connection. IQ does not measure the greatness of a human being. Greatness is determined by how well we communicate, and how often we take turns in conversations.

Crippled by Procrastination

The publishing zen-masters claim: the mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying place. Isolated, neurotic, dark, crippled by procrastination, and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing judgments. And that’s on a good day.

I write what I feel, and I’m certainly no writer. Yet, I can relate to all those characteristics on a bad day.

People write from and for different places and purposes. The zen-masters suggest one should never write from a blue place. Or, everything will end up coming from that place.

I’ve never given too many fucks about views of someone whose social status includes a word like ‘master’. Sadly, there is some veracity in this view.