Los Angeles, CA
|Painting by Alizey Khan|
I've wandered down the boulevard of broken dreams more times than I can count. I know where all the cracks are located on the sidewalk and the parts where the pavement has been thrust upward due to some sort of natural phenomenon like a century-old oak trees and its tangled mangled roots spreading out for miles underneath our paved over cities. It's as though Nature is waging a thousand year holy war against humanity and Nature is slow-playing us (to death). Mother Earth, Gaia, whatever you call it... knows the current score and understand that it is losing in the short-term to the cancerous growth of human kind, but someday, nature will overpower mankind it'll get the last laugh. Eventually the momentum will swing back and nature will run good again and revert back to its dominance that it once had for millions and millions of years.
Something wiped out the big beasts and lizards and birds that roamed the land and patrolled the skies, and after that leveling war (insert your own theory of dinosaur extinction... Ice Age, meteor crash, alien architects re-booting civilization, or God's hand at work), all that was left over were the proverbial cockroaches of the food chain. The dominant ones passed after an agonizing death, while some of the smallest species survived to carry on the good fight. Somewhere along the line, prehistoric-man "crawled out of the sludge" and thus began the cycle of mankind. Hundreds of thousands of years later, we've evolved from monkeys hurling shit balls at each other, to monkeys hurling fecal-covered political tweets at each other.
Whos, whats, wheres, and hows do not matter. The universe is and that's just the way it is. I'm more concerned with the whys. Like why do I continue to wander down the boulevard of broken dreams when I know in the long run I'm gonna be toast?
I ponder that question many sleepless nights and I cannot come up with an answer other than... I know of no other places to wander.... so I might as well enough it and poke fun at myself trying to figure out alternative ways out of this endless loop, like a surly ghost unable to pass over into the light so it stomps and broods and haunts everyone for centuries wandering around in circles. Back and forth. Back and forth. Forth and Back. Back. Forth. Back. Forth.
Buddhists say that I must wander the boulevard of broken dreams until I finally have built up enough karma points to move onto the next life. That's when I'll reach nirvana, and I'm not talking about getting to see Kobain rock out to Polly at a club in the afterlife. I'm talking total and complete consciousness becoming one with the universe. This is why murder and war baffles me. We're all God's children. We're all stardust. We all originated from the same Big Bang. Why is there need to invoke the powerful name of invisible deities to justify death and destruction?
If this is a godless and chaotic universe like so any existentialists think, then what's the point in trying to convince others that there's a fair and just God that cares about your individual choices?
I never had an existentialist knock on my door and try to sell me an existentialists bible. I never had an existentialist wander over to me in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert to talk about Hari Krishna and the path toward enlightenment is not through LSD, but rather through meditation and trying to recruit others into a cult of bald dudes with bells and flowing robes.
Buddhist teaching suggest we must live an honorable life now otherwise we will pay for our sins through reincarnation. I've had a pretty good and fun life and indulged in some of the most carnal pleasures known to humankind, which makes me wonder if this life is a reward for whoever came before me and lived a previous life like a total pious monk. There's something to be said about taking accountability for your own actions.
Act good now, or suffer later. Maybe it's just a bluff that Buddhist monks were trying to pull off on its students so they would not act up and revolt against them, but then again, there's something to this compassion and kindness and respect for all living things. We have to rack up enough karma points to move onto the next step. Ultimately, that is what Bill Murray's character was forced to realize in the film Ground Hog's Day. He kept reverting back to the same default switch for who knows how long... months, years, decades... before he finally got it right with the perfect day by being compassionate, and selfless, and caring... and after he finally transformed from a selfish prick into a Buddha-like person, then and only then was he was able to bust out of the endless loop of repeating the same day's events over and over and over.
The famous French philosopher Sartre said hell is other people. That's such an incredibly French way of morose thinking, but if he's right, then we're living hell on Earth.
I have a theory that Earth is purgatory and that we've all died many moons ago. Our dreams are just flashes of previous lives, but we're here on Earth as a crossroads. If we're good and do good, then we ascend into heaven with a choir of angels and hang out with George Burns and finally learn what's the secret ingredient that makes KFC so fucking addictive. If we do bad, then we get shipped off to hell. Yes, what we perceive as life is just a huge fucking test to see if we learned enough in our previous life to gain entrance to the next level of spiritual enlightenment.
What if "life" and Earth are purgatory? And there is no hell as a specific destination, but instead hell is being stuck on Earth with other people, which fits perfectly into Sartre's line of thinking.
Hell yeah, hell is other people. Have you ever been stuck in line at the post office? Had to sit in a room with co-workers you absolutely couldn't stand? Had to sit at a dinner table with relatives who hated every ounce of your guts? Walk into a room knowing that no matter what you do or say, people are going to feel superior to you because of they way you look, or talk, or sound?
A friend of mine is a shrink and we spoke in arduous detail about whether or not I had a substance abuse problem. In the end, he agreed that I don't have a problem with a desire to get schwasted... rather... I have a serious people problem because I ingest drugs/booze in order to deal with people I don't want to deal with but have to for whatever reason (mostly work/family obligations). When I don't have to deal with undesirables, I'm rather content and have no itching need to self-medicate.
When I'm forced to interact with stupidity and ignorance, well that's when I need to dull the senses. Perfect example... I cannot read Twitter or Facebook unless I'm stoned, otherwise I want to gouge out my own eyeballs (with a spoon1).
I struggled for decades to maintain a semblance of sobriety with satisfying the urge to get uber-blotto whenever I have to spend time at home for the holidays. I found solace numbing my senses every summer in Vegas when I was stuck in the press box trying to crank out hundreds of thousands of words about the "genius of degenerate gamblers", while drowning in douchebaggery. It's not the content that struggled with. Not one bit. I actually enjoyed prying into the gambler's mind and exploring that part of the human psyche.
I'm that kid who got yelled at for taking the toaster apart or opening up a transistor radio to see how it works. As a writer, I try to reverse engineer the human brain and figure out what makes people do the things they do.
In trying to determine whether or not I had a legitimate substance abuse problem, I dug deep inside my head and peeled back layers and layers of my own onion-wrapped mind to figure out why I had the desire to avoid sobriety was due to a prevailing sense of stress created by conflict avoidance.By keeping my mouth shut, I avoided conflicts, but in doing so I got stressed out which I alleviated with various elixirs and the finest herbs in the shire.
I rode the Buddhist high road of tolerance and sipping on a flask filled with my own bitterness for so many years until it wore out. It came to a point when I couldn't be the laid-back tolerant guy anymore. The solution was to re-learn to get along with others and force toleration back into the equation. Yet, I thought it was pointless to have to constantly bend over backwards to deal with the undesirables, but the only way I could remain tolerant was to engage in self-medicating behavior.
The conclusion: I needed to work on my people problem so I wouldn't have the need to get schwasted in order to be around them.
Therein lies the problem about the problem, because I don't have a general problem with people (or sheeple for that matter) because I do what I can to avoid troublemakers and anyone who has a cloud of negativity hanging over their heads.
I cannot see auras (though, that might be pretty cool), but I trust my gut or rather I trust my mind/body interpreting the vibrations that other people give off. If they are radiating dissonance, then I get the fuck out of the way. If they are warm and gregarious and radiating with light, then that's someone I want to be around and as close to as possible. It's so rare to come across people who can invigorate your soul by just being in their presence, so I jump at those opportunities to be around or work with those types of energy-boosters.
My major conflict is with people who are black holes of energy, or emotional vampires who feed off of my positivity and manipulate my tolerance Again, I do everything possible to avoid coming in contact with those undesirables, but due to the nature of how I earn a living, I was forced to deal with them because of obligations and responsibilities. Work and family. Both are royal pains in the ass, which is why I struggle with them most. I cannot get away from family because blood is blood, and I gotta pay the bills somehow.
Every summer for seven years in a row I moved to Vegas for a work assignment, which was more like checking myself into a prison or mental institution. I did not have a choice and was forced to cross paths with miscreants and scuzzy angle-shooters. A few of those undesirables were colleagues that we all loathed and would never let inside any of our houses, but somehow we were lumped together as a group and forced to interact. Hell is other people. No days off. Surrounded by undesirables every day for seven weeks. To complicate matters, some evil entity opened up a vortex over Vegas and the soulsuckers rushed in and they keep coming in... waves after waves of despair and debauchery. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. That was hell, my own personal hell, which I signed up for it year after year because I knew that if I could gut it out, then I would be paid mega bucks and have a few good survival stories to tell.
I woke up one morning and decided that there's no point to walking through the gates of hell anymore. The task took a huge toll on my mind and body. It nearly killed me. If you spend enough time around emotional vampires, you know how they will ruthlessly suck you dry. Thus why I aggressively avoided/severed toxic relationships that pollutes brains and poisoned souls. In order to combat that bombardment of toxicity, I self-medicated instead of realizing I needed to get the fuck out of dodge.
It's like kicking a really horrendous bout of the flu. Imagine lying in beds for days on end with fever dreams and the cold sweats and the spinning sensation and aches/pains all over... until you wake up one morning and feel significantly better than the day before and you know that your health turned the corner and that it's all uphill from there as you crawl out of the hole of sickness a few days later and eventually get back onto even ground.
Well, that's what the last couple of years have been.... trying to kick a cold, shake the flu... except the germs were the remnants of poison and other toxic materials left over by the radioactive undesirables. My blood got thinned and siphoned off by emotional vampires, but finally those puncture wounds to my soul have slowly scarred over and healed, while my body regenerated a new blood supply.
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1 The spoon reference is from a tweet Jess Welman made a few weeks ago about a scene from a really bad Kevin Costner rendition's of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, in which Alan Rickman plays the Sheriff of Nottingham and wants to carve out Robin Hood's eyes with a spoon instead of a knife because as he describes, "It's dull... it'll hurt more, you tiwt!"