Blog | Drew Michael


Santa for Grown-Ups

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I've posted a few things on Facebook lately that are pseudo blog entries. So, I am just reposting them here:


December 11, 2014 (11:04 AM)

There is no “United States.” The problem is when people criticize the U.S., nationalistic citizens automatically get defensive because they embed their own personal identity in this (fraudulent) notion of “country." This is an issue because the actual policies of the U.S. have nothing to do with the constituent populous. The decisions that the “U.S.” makes are determined by an extremely exclusive concert of wealthy people’s interests, ranging from domestic policy to foreign policy all the way to covert, extrajudicial operations that qualify as neither. Those are the actions that define the “U.S.” The people have nearly no influence over these decisions so nationalism becomes an inherently phony connection. People who “love their country” do so in vain: the country doesn’t love them back. The “country” doesn’t care about anyone except those select few interests. “Love for country” becomes a unilateral, unrequited love which highlights the deep yearning we all have to feel a communal sense of belonging. It’s superficial. The “country” is lettered with silly tokens like a flag or certain buzzwords like “freedom” and “democracy.” These are all totally vacuous ploys to suck you dry. That’s why it’s even more tragic to see millions of well-intentioned individuals pour a very genuine energy into an entity that barely notices they exist. Due to the spiritually barren nature of our society, we are unable to satisfy that need organically, so we require shallow logos and concepts to bridge the gap. This “allegiance" clouds our perception. It makes us defensive about the behaviors of these oligarchical sociopaths that run this place, because we are desperately in love with the fraudulently unifying “icons” of those behaviors. Once this dangerous, vapid, petulant nationalist/jingoist connection is broken, we will all be able to inspect the behaviors of our “country” with a lot more honesty and objectivity and take the next step to rectifying the huge problem areas. Until then, we’ll continue to be the sad emo girl writing love poems in our journal about the hot guy in class who doesn’t even know our name.


December 9, 2014 (1:00 PM)

The Senate “Torture Report” was released today. As usual, mainstream garbage posing as a supposedly irrefutable example of dissent. “Doesn’t this undermine power? It makes the CIA look bad!” Ugh. This is an old tactic. We are looking at 10+ years of violent, aggressive, genocidal foreign policy in this “War on Terrorism" -- supported nearly across the board by both parties -- but now the conversation is changed to “torture.” “Should we have tortured? Are we torturing too much? Is torturing helpful to our war aims?” Never mind that the actual war aims themselves are wholly illegal and morally reprehensible. The conversation is changed from honestly inspecting the brutal reality of our foreign policy to a well-packaged “hot button issue” of this partisan attack that can be debated endlessly on news channels and turned into a movie or whatever puerile garbage the public consumes. This is not news. It’s olds. Just like Watergate: it’s power attacking power, which is NOT dissent. But nobody in this fucking country has a memory longer than a season of Breaking Bad so they can just keep telling us the same bed-time story over and over like we’re a nation of easily-pacified alzheimer’s patients.


December 8, 2014 (7:20 PM)

There is a movie coming out on Christmas where two American journalists are hired by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un. Could you imagine if there was a Pakistani movie about trying to murder Barack Obama? Or an Iraqi movie about killing George Bush? Would anyone be okay with this? The fucking ego and hypocrisy in this country is insane.


December 5, 2014 (12:53 PM)

Fred Hampton was a gifted, intelligent leader of the Black Panthers. He was murdered in his (drug-induced) sleep by the FBI (COINTELPRO) and Chicago Police during a raid on his house at 4:00 AM on December 4, 1969, part of a huge government operation to sabotage the BPP (and many other dissident groups). This is but one of many instances of power vanquishing black lives and, more importantly, snuffing out their ability to organize politically. So, this Brown/Garner shit might be new to white people, but it's an old story for black people. In fact, this is the BEST it's ever been. Scary stuff.


November 25, 2014 (4:49 AM)

Okay, so imagine it's hundreds of thousands of Michael Browns and Wilson is not only not indicted; he's the president.

Now does 9/11 make sense?


November 21, 2014 (11:21 AM)

Perfect example of how broken our system is. Celebrities can be easily taken down if we find out they did something fucked up. That is, out of the realm of what they are expected to do. But if we look at other people -- politicians, bankers, arms manufacturers, corporate heads -- their behavior is FAR more violent than Bill Cosby's (or Ray Rice's, or Adrian Peterson's, or Woody Allen's, etc.) but they avoid scrutiny because what they are doing is 100% in line with what has become normalized. These people are responsible for genocide, state terrorism, impoverishing and starving millions, thwarting national independence, domestic wealth inequality, vanquishing the public's voice, promoting the commoditization of the individual and therefore the eradication of humanity from within, and more. What happens if a comedian speaks out against this type of evil? Bill Hicks basically did to the establishment what Hannibal did to Cosby, so why didn't it have a similar effect? Much easier to take a stand on pudding rape (an obvious evil); much harder to take a stand on something complex and embedded. Unfortunately, this isn't a topical issue; it's in our blood.

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I'm Not Ignoring You, I'm Just Suffering From a Socially Crippling Physical Ailment!

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I'm Not Ignoring You, I'm Just Suffering From a Socially Crippling Physical Ailment!

If you know me well or if you listen to my podcast or if you are familiar with my stand-up material, you might know that I have a hearing loss. I have talked about this before in various places but rarely have I been completely thorough in explaining myself. I felt a sudden compulsion (writers call it “inspiration”) to delve into detail about the specifics of this hearing loss as well as the impact it has had on my life thus far as well as its ongoing effects.

I say “hearing loss.” I should just be honest: I’m deaf. I’m a deaf man. A man who is deaf. DDDDDEEEEAAAAAAAFFFF! Not totally. The profoundly deaf would consider me part of the "hearing" community rather than their own. (I'm a hearing refugee!) I feel like I have a tendency to couch the verbiage in an effort of emotional self-preservation. I spent a good portion of my life in complete denial about this fact. I mean, I “knew” I had a severe hearing impairment, but I wouldn’t let myself truly KNOW it, if that makes sense. It was the intellectual “knowing," not the spiritual-emotional KNOWING.

Some (semi-brief) personal history:

I’m sure I’m going to butcher some of the chronology here, but when I was in pre-school — maybe it was kindergarten? — we did a classroom hearing test. This is standard procedure and a lot of you probably barely remember these things and if you do, you most likely remember it is an annoying formality. Not me! The nurse sat me in that chair and said, “Okay. I’m going to put these headphones on and you’re going to hear some beeps. If you hear a beep in your left ear, raise your left arm; if you hear a beep in your right ear, raise your right arm. Sound good?” Let me tell you guys. I did not hear ANYTHING that lady said. So we skipped the test and I was wooshed to the ear doctor.

He gave me a proper hearing test. The thing is, I am a great test taker. The ACTs, SATs, SAT IIs, finals, mid terms all gave me no anxiety whatsoever. The only test that makes me nervous is a hearing test. I hate it. I hate sucking at something. I hate waiting for the beep and not hearing it, then convincing myself that the light ringing in my ears is the beep so I optimistically raise my hand only to be told I have raised my hand at nothing and to “be sure you hear a beep before you raise your hand.” They charted my audiogram (graph of a person’s hearing ability with the frequency as the x-axis and decibel level on the y-axis). I have what is called a “cookie bite loss,” which looks like this:

By the way, odd choice on the nomenclature to call it “cookie bite loss.” Why bring pastries into it? Might as well have something like this:

Or this:

Either way, what "cookie bite" means is, basically, all my ranges are bad, but my middle frequencies are especially bad, which is where human speech takes place. The other thing with me is that while my volume is very low, my clarity is also very poor. So even if the volume is high enough (loud music, for example), I am often unable to make out what is actually being said. Make sense? Is this exhausting? I know. I’m sorry.

Anyway, the doctor recommended I wear hearing aids immediately but I was a real diva in my younger years. I was, as I’ve later discovered, in complete denial. I didn’t want to acknowledge this problem so if I never fixed it then that meant there was nothing to fix.

I had a brief stint with hearing aids when I was 11, at the insistence of my family and ear doctor. I wore what are called Completely In the Canal hearing aids (CICs). They look like this:

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They were the smallest, most cosmetically apt devices on the market at the time. They ran about $4,000 a pair. (Hearing aids, except in rare circumstances, are almost never covered by insurance, by the way. This is mostly because most hearing loss is degenerative meaning most hearing patients are very old and unable to produce for society so, politically, nobody gives a shit but this is a different post for a different day!) Those models last around 4-5 years and require daily cleaning, weekly battery changes, and they must be removed if you shower, sleep, exercise, swim, or do anything else that puts pressure or moisture on the device.

I was in fifth grade and my teacher, by way of “classroom bucks” (which could be converted into extra credit or whatever) would bribe me into wearing my hearing aids. It worked, for a week or two. Then this girl Lauren asked me in the middle of class, “What’s in your ears??” Well, folks, that was all she wrote! My pube-less, virgin, already socially awkward, tiny boy self had heard (I did hear her!) all he needed to hear. I ripped those things out of my head like they were leeches sucking the blood of my ability to fit in.

I didn’t try wearing hearing aids again until I was 21.

Let’s rewind for a second. I want to paint a broader picture. Being unable to hear is a completely and totally isolating experience. I remember when my friends would watch movies, I would not be able to hear them so I would literally sit and stare at a very confusing screen and furthermore, to hide my defect, I would merely echo their responses. If they laughed, I let out a chuckle. If they acted surprised, I feigned an intense eyebrow raise. And so on. It was a nightmare. This is 20 years. TWENTY YEARS I did this shit.

The worst was in class when they did that “reading aloud” bullshit. The teacher would sadistically pick a chapter in the textbook to read and would have kids (AT RANDOM!!!! WHY????) read a paragraph. (Or two or three. YOU NEVER KNEW HOW MANY EACH PERSON READ! IT WAS A WHIMSICAL FORM OF EMOTIONAL TORTURE!!) So some kid, let’s say David, in the back would read, then after some unknown number of paragraphs, the teacher would say, “Okay, good. Now how about Jeremy?” Then Jeremy would read. Now for most kids, this was probably super boring. Not for me! It was hell. I was riveted, but only because I was surfing on the hell-waters of the River Styx. “Oh god she’s going to call my name! I have no idea where we are! AHHHH!” So what I would do is try my best to follow the rhythm of the other students’ speech patterns (since I was usually unable to make out what they were actually saying) and try to pair that with a sentence in the text book. So if a student said “a-bah-bah-ba-BAH-ba” I could find a sentence in the book that would potentially sound like that and be fairly confident that’s where we were in the reading. Insanity, I know.

It gets crazier.

So often people would ask me questions. I would know not because I heard them, but because I saw the normal bustle of the conversation stop and everyone turned to look at me. UH OH! Show time! WHAT’S MY LINE?! I usually had no idea. So, I’d use a similar strategy to the reading one. I would deduce based again on the rhythm of the conversation and the last sentence (which was the question, AKA my cue) the kind of response I needed to give. I would shy away from specifics and just give very broad, sweeping answers. Was it a yes or no question? Then a simple “yeah” will suffice. You might be asking yourself, “Why not just ask them to repeat it?” BECAUSE, YOU DOLT! YOU ONLY GET SO MANY “WHAT”S IN A DAY BEFORE THEY ALL TURN INTO POO MONSTERS AND STOP BEING YOUR FRIENDS. If I said “What?” or “Come again?” or “What’s that?” too many times, then it would trigger an alarm in their heads that something was WRONG with me. “What are you, deaf?!” YES, YOU FUCKWIT! THAT WOULD ONLY MAKE PERFECT SENSE, WOULDN’T IT! But everyone was so young and unable to process the nuance of humanity. So, we clumsily trudge along in our black and white paradigms (cool vs. retarded) of adolescence.

An exercise: put yourself in that position. It’s nearly impossible to truly understand but try. Imagine you are unable to hear almost everything that is said. For 20 years. And you know this. So you lack the confidence that almost everyone else takes for granted to even approach a verbal dialogue. How would you communicate? How would you socialize? How would you flirt?? SPOILER ALERT: You wouldn’t. You would shut down externally and stay in constant communication with the only person on earth you were guaranteed to hear: yourself.

And that was the biggest effect. I regressed into the sanctuary of my own thoughts. (Many people who know me are right now going, OH NOW I GET IT!) When my friends would watch movies and I would do that flickering-screen-stare-fake-out move, I would be lost in thought, contemplating whatever. When I was in the back seat of a car and the front seat people were showing off their ability to hear like bare-chested braggarts (read: having a conversation), I would take the hot air balloon express ride into my own head. During class if the teacher turned his/her back. During bus rides. Walking down the street. I basically spent 20 years of my life listening to my own one-person podcast. I got to some pretty wild places. When you have 20 years to think, you get to the outskirts of your own consciousness. It’s half cosmic beauty, half total solitary hell.

Let’s go back. When I was 21 (near the end of my college experiment), I decided enough was enough. I called my mom and told her I wanted to get hearing aids again. She reminded me that when I was twelve, they dropped $4K on a pair that I wore a total of 10 times. I acknowledged the immature mistake and vowed this time would be different. It was, to an extent. I got refitted for a new pair of CICs. I would wear them to class and whenever a situation “called for” them. It was partially effective. I ended up dropping out of school (a positive step nearly everyone in college should take), moving back home and I started dating my first girlfriend. (At 21. But that only makes too much sense now, right?)

In March of 2008, I moved to Chicago to pursue stand-up full time. I was wearing the hearing aids to perform because it is literally impossible to do without being able to hear the crowd’s response. Not just hecklers, but stand-up is a very fine-tuned volley between performer and audience, even if they are not disruptive. Their laughter is their communication and you need to be in sync with that.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how thankful I am that stand-up comedy exists as it has proven to be a near-ideal outlet for me. I can take all of that stored up thinking and project powerful bursts of it into crowds. Stand-up is basically thinking aloud, only this time everyone can jump in your head with you!

In October of 2008, everything changed. My ear doctor told me about a brand new hearing aid called Lyric, made by Insound (later bought by Phonak). Lyrics were a “24/7” hearing aid that required no battery changes or cleaning. You get them put in and they stay in for 2-3 months (or however long the battery lasts) then you come back to the ear doctor and have them replaced. You can shower with them, sleep with them, work out with them. The only thing you can’t do is swim or otherwise submerge your head. Oh, and they are completely invisible. They fit like this:

My audiogram was barely within range of the power of the devices but they needed to see if they would fit my canal as they were not custom, but came in a few sizes (Small, Medium, Large, etc.). I tried them and they were able to fit my canal. They came in a year subscription meaning you can get as many replacements as necessary within that year. The subscription cost around $1,800 per ear, per year, so $3,600 per year. (Again, not a dime covered by insurance.)

I have been wearing these ever since. It’s been almost 6 years and honestly it revolutionized my life. Full disclosure: they are not perfect. I still do not have anywhere close to normal hearing. I could probably stand to use a more powerful hearing aid, but the benefits of these — not having to take them out ever, not having to think about them really except for a few times a year — outweighed the negatives — not being able to swim, still not hearing at a “normal” level, and one of them can die at random in which case you have to go to the doctor and have it replaced. This is a problem because sometimes you have to wait a few days, which renders you out of commission in the meantime. (This actually happened to me this week which is what prompted this article.)

I still can’t hear 100% of movies so I watch them with subtitles and rarely go to the theaters. I have a hard time with hecklers because they are usually dark and far away so I can’t read their lips (another "trick" I picked up by accident over the years) or body language. I would say I hear now at around 70% of what you do. Which is a marked improvement. It has allowed me to be infinitely more social which has allowed a lot of my emotions to transcend their adaptive barriers.

I am still wired to default at “closed off.” In addition to not being able to hear well (still), I am extremely inwardly focused. A lot of times people think I’m ignoring them or being an asshole; I’m not. I either can’t hear you or I’m millions of miles away from you in terms of my thought-dot on the consciousness map. Also, small talk makes me uncomfortable. See, when you spend so much time stretching the limits of your own internal monologue, you get to some crazy places. Small talk with myself ended when I was two. I remember thinking to myself, “So what’s new in diapers?” and then whistled awkwardly while my consciousness and I just kind of stared at each other. Since then it’s been full-throttle, broodingly intense exploration, often propelled by depressive mood swings. So the shift back to folksy small talk is a jarring one for me. …and then maybe if you just accept death as part of the process, it isn’t anything to fear because I’ve already been dead and that was fine and being dead is the absence of feeling so I’m sitting here afraid of a not-thing which is so absurd and—Ah! What?? Oh, uh, yeah, um, that show is hilarious! Good seeing you, buddy!—it’s something that everyone goes through so it can’t be THAT terrible… In addition, I am so worried that I’m going to mishear someone in a small talk exchange that it gives me anxiety so I just blurt out weird fragments of my now-shattered train of thought. I don’t abide by the usual ebb-and-flow of stranger exchange and it’s just a mess for me so I often try to avoid it by maintaining that inward focus.

So much of my life has been defined by cynicism and a prickly personality. (That’s being generous.) Obviously no component of our emotional makeup has one root, but this hearing thing is definitely a big one. So much regression into myself has given me a very specific perspective on life. Some of which is beautiful and others are things that have to be overcome. The isolation has injected an extremely exploratory mind with a high dose of detachment and narcissistic influence. The results have been difficult as I seem to have an extremely intense need for affection, love, and intimacy — a very bright sensitivity — yet a lot of instincts which are antithetical to actualizing those needs. Bridging that gap, maintaining the strong qualities of this situation while weeding out and working through the hypocrisies and emotional pitfalls, this is my battle. Waging it is the remnant burden from this saga.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I am in the position to be able to overcome these. That I have the opportunity to grow. To change. To be better. To be in flux. To explore possibilities. It’s only in death that the possibilities are reduced to zero; so long as you’re alive, they're endless.

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Healthy Living

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Healthy Living

A friend and I were discussing, well, a lot of things. Among them was the notion of the inseparability of an unconventional lifestyle and “insanity,” the idea that in order to be creative, one must live in a disruptive, often destructive, unorthodox manner. I think this is a popular belief, where we can get so wrapped up in the process of avoiding our insecurities and anxieties (the things that make us afraid) that we obsessively choose to identify with the resulting destructive behaviors of that so-called “insanity.” This is probably true even for non-creative types. I would imagine addicts justify their addiction this way. I know I have certainly justified purely compulsive, destructive behavior this way. “I know I shouldn’t do this, but hey, I’m crazy! I’ll give in because this is the same thing that makes me great!”

It’s not true. At least I don’t think it is. If I can quote myself without you thinking I’m literally the grossest person ever, I told my friend something I learned relatively recently, which is, “Healthy living trumps all.”

I have spent so much time in my own personal dungeon of misanthropic angst and I used to call it home. It felt comfortable. It felt right. I knew where shit was down there. I was somebody down there, the king of the lair, tilted black crown and all. But I was miserable there. It was comforting but it wasn’t satisfying. It was exciting (at times) but it wasn’t beautiful. It was dark and I played ping-pong with the shadows and demons from my past and present. I danced in the fire of my own emotional self-destruction. I celebrated my spiritual demise. I truly hated myself.

Ever since I moved to New York, I’ve been sort of forced to reexamine myself. Moving to a new city is always tough, but New York strips you bare. It smashes your ego and crushes your spirit and all you’re left with is yourself. The towering buildings and speeding subway cars are totally apathetic toward your success or failure. “You think you have something NEW to add that hasn’t already been thought of? Look around, asshole. There are people everywhere. You’re nothing! I’m a huge building!” The past 7 months have been an intense process of reflection and, later, of growth.

Last month, a friend of mine died. He was 24. I went to the wake and funeral. I still haven’t totally processed it. However, I learned a lot. (It makes me feel guilty to admit that.) The biggest take away from it was just how fleeting life is. I know it’s cliche or whatever but sometimes there is a difference between knowing something and understanding it. (Knowing is in the brain goo; understanding is in the heart/soul goo.) The experience of seeing death happen when it wasn’t supposed to transferred the idea of “life is fleeting” from the knowing to the understanding. I got it. It clicked.

Moving, being in such close proximity to death, as well as various other events and experience, acted in concert to prompt a very specific, very intense inspection of myself, inside and out. I realized that I was clinging so desperately to pain and negativity because it was all I knew. The Hostility Hut was comfortable because I had been there before. I was a regular. Everyone knew my name and my order there. “Hey, it’s Drew! Have a seat, pal. The usual? A large plate of ‘Everyone is a Fucking Moron Sent Here to Ruin My Life’ with a side of ‘Love is a Hoax Invented to Mock Me’ salad? You got it!” It was a defense. I kept the world at bay because I had been so hurt by it in the past. I didn’t trust anything or anyone. I was alone and I was desperate to make it someone else’s fault. "Love is something that I’m OWED by these fucking imbeciles! Why won’t they love me?! THEY OWE ME MY OWN SALVATION!!!"

This is no way to live. Life ends. Who the fuck am I? What the fuck is my pain worth? My anger? My resentment? You lie dead at the end and all of those things will vanish as well. All of my built up rage will die with me and lose its impotent, amorphous contour in a puff of meaningless smoke. They are all worthless. Dead weight on my boat. "Throw them overboard!”

That simple (yet very difficult) switch has been a transformative revelation: I am alive, which means I have possibilities. Death is the end of all such possibilities; life is the infiniteness of hope.

The process of growing, learning, engaging, being present in the moment, being more creative, using your natural resources (body, brain, heart, thoughts) to become your future self is fucking ridiculous. It’s the best. I can literally do whatever I want! I’m alive! Holy shit!!!! Yeah. It’s that simple. Alan Ball was right. I have fingers and arms that can play piano or write this stupid blog entry or hug another person! How insane. I can strip myself of my own ego and become a selfless piece of the human race, creating unconditional love and acceptance abound! I can use my thoughts and my voice to share ideas with others and my (admittedly terrible) ears to listen (the best I can) to other people’s ideas and concerns. I can eat mushrooms with my friends on a beach and experience a new perspective in which I say things like, “Clouds always have one foot out the door. They can’t commit like trees can.” I can be a part of this absurd thing we call life. Or existence. Or the universe.

What follows is an intense level of gratitude for existing at all and a burning desire to fill your life with beauty. This is the drive for healthy living. It supersedes everything else. This idea that we must spend our time (not so) secretly hating ourselves so that we may produce more creatively is flawed. If your creativity hinges upon your life being miserable, it is not worth it. I believe more of us have that choice than we like to think. I believe you can have both. I believe you can be even more creative by becoming more in touch with yourself in a positive way than you can by merely obsessing about and swimming in the pools of your own brooding darkness. It takes a much more creative and outward approach to grow than it does to obsess and rearrange your internal sordidness.

***************

In my case, specifically, the next step of this was interesting: I realized that while a lot of my hostility was borne out of my own insecurity, the anger wasn’t necessarily wrong. I’ve started to reconcile that anger with more proper guidance. Once you step outside yourself, you can see that while hostility might not be the answer, there is a lot to be angry about. I think my emotional immaturity often conflated the two and it came out as one whiny burst of entitled bitching. But, time has afforded me the ability to uncross those wires:

What, Drew? What is there to be angry about? I thought we were so over that??

NO.

Here is what makes me angry:

ANYTHING THAT STANDS IN THE WAY OF HEALTHY LIVING.

AAAAAANNNNNNYYYYYYTTTTTTHHHHHIIIIIIIINNNNNNGGGGGG!!!!!

Fuck the Constitution. Burn it. Everyone has ONE RIGHT and ONE RIGHT only: the right to live healthily.

It’s the most important. Society is currently designed to get the most out of its citizens. WRONG. It must be (re)designed to give the most to its citizens. (This includes all life, not just human life. It is a global society.) It needs to serve our deep yearning to live healthy lives, not our artificial desire to be satisfied consumers. This is on every level: physical, emotional, spiritual, and possibly others we haven’t even discovered yet. People should not have to eat processed foods, mass produced mana that merely sustains them so they can survive until tomorrow where they’re awoken by their blaring alarm clock, only to hit the snooze button and pray for nuclear holocaust which never comes so they beer-bong a gallon of coffee to “get them through the morning” at a job where they essentially sell their lives typing numbers into computers so they can afford the terrible foods which keep them alive so they can keep coming into the job they hate year after year, only to eventually get cancer from the nonsense they’ve been shoving into their digestive tracts. People should not be forced to pay taxes to a corrupt central institution that spies on, harasses, and otherwise prohibits its citizens while ruthlessly murdering citizens of foreign countries with impunity. People should not be socially coerced into adopting, learning, mastering, and obsessing over competitive technologies that eventually take over their lives to the point where we become a society of Internet-addicted, smartphone mongers, “freely” walking head-down into traffic. People should not be brainwashed consumers or “voters,” impotently throwing what few dollars they have toward propagating a system that acts against their own interests, clinging to the desperate belief that this is somehow going to yield positive social growth. People should not be so devoid of meaning, so emotionally empty, so desperate to escape their own lives that they spend all their “free” time flailing about these technologies, frantically searching for the next Netflix documentary or NBC sitcom or sporting event or political pundit program or Asian creampie video to watch.

THESE ARE ALL IN THE WAY OF HEALTHY LIVING.

Do not mistake my perspective on “American life” for cynicism. It is only because I am comparing our social norms to the hypothetical norms of a healthy society. A society where people are engaged not detached, self-aware not in denial, readily selfless toward their community not selfishly hoarding capital out of fear of poverty/collapse/other people. So when I see an obstacle to living well, an instrument of opposition to living well, a pillar of propaganda turning people against their own interests for the sake of production, I get angry. Angry because I know the succulent treasure of which we are being deprived. I have seen it! In bursts. It is possible. I have seen the synergetic possibilities of human selflessness. I believe we all have. To oppose those possibilities, or to stand in their way, is tantamount to spiritual genocide. It’s a valid anger. The anger is so much stronger too because I know now that it’s not emerging from the depths of my own wretched self-loathing; no, it comes from an authentic internal volcano that erupts recurring bellows: “THIS IS WRONG, GOD DAMN IT.” I’m fighting on the side of healthy living. That is the one and only “right side of history.”

Cultures and individuals are not that different. Our society is full of hostility, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, insecurity, anxiety, and fear.

As a society, we must reexamine ourselves, break ourselves down and be willing to confront our demons and our collective insecurities. We can't let fear control us and allow our power to be diverted into the hands of a sociopathic ethos. We must completely gut ourselves in the effort of being remade. It will be painfulWe will learn things about ourselves we wish we did not know. But ultimately, these will be beneficial. We can then face our fundamental issues with confidence rather than cower from them in fear. Are we creating a safe place for NEW HUMANS (children)? Do we infuse them with a healthy life or deprive them of their potential at every turn? Do we show love to ourselves? What is the cost of our material gains? Does a healthy society pillage its land base and its xeno-species neighbors or does it strike a balance of love and reciprocity? We live in a hostile society with cement, glass, and commerce running through its veins. What is the source of this hostility? What are we so afraid of?

Remember, the collective fear of our civilization will die with us. What good was the Roman arrogance in the end? What of the ostentatiousness of the Greeks? Or the Chinese? Or the decadence of the Europeans?

We must rid ourselves of the ghosts that haunt us, the aggregate worry that we aren't good enough, collectively and individually. We are. We have the power of humanity inside of us, here and now, free to use any time we want. We can endure the requisite pain and remodeling. All it costs is being true to ourselves and each other. The rewards are heaven on earth: all of us, together, engaged in healthy living. What could possibly be more important? 

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Behind Your Face

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Behind Your Face

The answer is not in front of your face. It is behind it. Look within! You have all the answers inside of you. Our human capabilities are so magnificent it breaks my heart to see people afraid to tap into them. I get it. It's a confounding web of existential gunk. But that's where you exist. Inside of that web. Around it. Of it. About it. Within it. You ARE that web. It is you. The world wants to tell you to ignore that. "Pay it no heed, friend! Focus your efforts on buildings and elevators and sunglasses and banks! Production is the way to enlightenment!" screams the rotten whore-corpse of commerce. We all have a very common desire to find ourselves. We have an energy that drives that search. The energy is frantically rerouted to things that are of no importance. "Vote for THIS politician! He/She is the light!" "Buy THIS car! It will help you find the truth!" "You will die if you don't wear this visor and type these numbers! Save yourself!" No. All wrong. You need none of these things. You need to let go of these things. Let go of your worries and clear out all but yourself. Which you have, and have had all along. It's there. Everything you want. Right behind your stupid face. In front of your face, we are all waiting for you to join us.

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I Lost A Friend

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I Lost A Friend

When Joe called to tell me that Dan Ronan died, I didn’t believe it. Not that I couldn’t believe it, of course I could. I had all but foreseen it. But it’s one thing to believe something and then be confronted with accepting it as having happened. What a ridiculous moment in time. Perhaps this is premature as I’m sure I haven’t fully processed the reality we’ve all been forced to face, but I felt compelled to write this. To write something. It’s probably going to be sloppy but perhaps it should be. I lost a friend. I am crying as I write this.

If I’m being honest with myself, I lost him months ago. Back in December, when I looked into his eyes, I realized he was already gone. Something had taken hold of him so completely and it did not let go. It grabbed his soul by the hair and everyone around him was forced to watch him thrash and struggle against the demon that would inevitably swallow him whole. I saw this in his eyes. I knew then it was a matter of when, not if. I resigned myself to that and walked away to spare myself the turmoil. To spare mySELF! How selfish! Who am I to place my own sense of well being above a loved-one’s fight to LIVE?!

I’m sure as time goes on I’ll feel guilty about that day. I’m sure I’ll have my Oskar Schindler moment. “I could have done more!” But the cold truth is I am not a magician. I couldn’t fix this. I tried my best to do everything I could to help and to prevent this. I held interventions, I talked with his family, I talked with his friends, I talked with him for hours and hours and hours. We cried in each other’s arms in the wake of some of the damage. But those were all human efforts against what proved to be a superhuman force. We were all relegated to sideline duty as Dan sparred with himself.

I don’t care for the word “addict.” Dan had such a drive, mostly powered by compulsiveness. If only that energy could be funneled toward something productive - comedy, producing a show, being a friend - all would be well! But our humanity kicks in. Stress and insecurity try and knock us off the high wire as we try and keep our balance. Some people are able to walk easier than others. Dan’s walk was a burdened one. It wasn’t something I would wish on anyone. He was plagued by his own mind and spent his entire life trying to regain and maintain his balance. When the turbulent internal forces became too great, he would often succumb. He gave in because it was borderline insane to keep fighting. Just give in! It’s so easy and would feel sooooo nice! And I’m sure it did feel nice. At first. It’s hard for anyone outside of his pentagram to make a compelling argument not to give in. Everything we say, all of our cozy rationale, our entire web of “logic" is devoid of the intimate knowledge of what it is to be incessantly harped on by a tireless succubus that lives in your heart and feeds on your emotions like a spiritual tapeworm. It’s ugly, ugly, ugly. I should know. I looked into its eyes. They were right where my friend’s used to be.

Forgive the morbid language. I would be remiss to neglect the goofiness that Dan loved and embraced. The same motor that drove his troubles also powered his talent. A yin and yang, if you will. He was indefatigable in his pursuit of comedy. Not just as a job, but as a way of life. He was the first one to crack a joke at his own intervention. He is author of some of the greatest “Man on the Street” moments (a segment of The Lincoln Lodge where an anchor would go out to the street and conduct impromptu interviews with passersby). He was a huge part of The Late Live Show. (Check out one of Joe’s favorite sketches.) He was invaluable to the production of Comedians You Should Know. Almost every booker he came into contact with took an interest in him and wanted to help him by giving him spots.

I remember taking him to LaCrosse, Wisconsin for a god-awful one-nighter. The headliner closed with 15 minutes of Simpsons and Family Guy impressions and the whole drive back, after staring out the window in utter disbelief for an hour, we laughed at how ridiculous this whole comedy thing is. He was always fun to have in the car or on the show. He sincerely wanted to be a good person. He wanted to be a good friend. He wanted to make everyone’s lives better, whether it was by making them laugh or just by being with them.

These are facts, untainted by any nostalgic glasses with rose-colored lenses.

Even so, fuck the facts. The facts are brutal. I acknowledge them, but I choose to remember Dan as the person he wanted to be. He was a good friend, he was a talented comedian, he was a caring human; it’s just that his self-actualization was cruelly interrupted by the hands of fate. And so we press on against that same tide as best we can. Together.

I honestly believe Dan is in a better place now. I don’t mean that in any spiritual or metaphysical sense. I am not speaking about an after-life. I mean that the total absence of consciousness in Dan’s case is almost preferable to being bombarded with daily waves of violent compulsion. He battled as well as he could. He had some really beautiful and special people on his side who I have been lucky enough to know and we will all lament this loss.

Dan’s fight is over. He is finally at peace. The heart-breaking tragedy is that he never got to live that way.

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