Tonight’s drunken manifesto

What if there were no one to disagree with? No one to argue your points with? Your emotions left to endorphins from other things: running, love, nature, good food. How long would it take you to get off that drug of aggressive discordance? A few days? A few weeks? Years? It could be decades until you realize that perhaps maybe there is some truth to the experiences of your adversaries. Just as your experiences are true. We can never know the actual experience objectively because it is all seen and known through whatever senses are available to its witnesses. Perhaps if we cut away the fabricated reasons for why we so staunchly stand for something, we could deal with the real reasons that often balance upon emotions. And of course, as a patriarchal society we’ve been taught that emotions are not legitimate reasons considered yet history is littered with emotions. White folks are supreme to all others? No objectivity there but all found their arguments later in defense of what their nostalgic emotions wanted to protect. Disagree? That is your right! But here is where you lend your opinion based on the thoughts you’ve acquired. Life is not a courtroom and we are not all lawyers (thank G-d) finding every precedential   court case to defend our stance. When you make your opinion before these facts, is it really an opinion based on facts? No. Is this wrong? No. What is wrong is that we have decided is worthy of consideration and what is not. We are taught to be embarrassed by our emotional responses. At least, most of the folks in my upbringing. If we look at animals, we see a whole lot of organisms working together unknowingly to keep an ecosystem operating at the needs of all. Is there death? Duh. Is there weird sex? Duh. Emotions? How can we really know? Does it matter? If we consistently see ourselves about the lives of animals as we do within our food production, we cannot equate it. So, therefore, if we are of a higher intelligence, it is the recognition of our emotions that separates us. Recognition that the actions we make have a direct or indirect effect on everything around us. Do we, as a society, seek to recognize? Only when it is convenient for the views we seek to impress upon others. We fail at a high percentage when listening to others’ needs or thoughts. Dismiss them, because surely, they cannot mean anything compared to your own. But! Lord forbid, someone questions your own experiences. I suppose that some time ago we maintained to keep these discussions “civil” because they happened face to face. In the year of 2017, this is not the case. I have no statistics to quote but I’m sure there is a sizable percentage of such discussions that take place online: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Facebook, maybe even the antiquated email. Not a new revelation by any means but if “civil” discussion is to happen, is it now defined as the discussion that happens within social media? These definitions surely change over the years just like any other definition. So there are all these different definitions and so there are all kinds of offenses. Maybe we need a new word? One that communicates that idea that one party is saying something that they would not proclaim in the physical presence of the other. Like, “Dude, you’re just ‘ghosting’.” Yeah? Fuck if I know. So the comment debate on Facebook goes on and on and both of you know that no progress will ever be made because really, this is all done for the sheer joy of getting the shit out of your head to that target you’ve found in the name/face/profile that represents whatever group you’ve focused upon.

I look out my window onto the street and with the lighting in this room plus the street lamps, it looks like snow has landed. Possible in mid-August? I suppose. Likely? Not at all. Pick one of many to defy the claims of others and this is where you lose credibility. It’s a new world, thank the Lord that we realize there is no just “good” and “bad.” More so, there is a face value and a deeper adjustment according to our time and listening so to speak. This is why it is so easy to call the other side “libtards” or the other “fascists.” That way, without ever talking to the person, you can easily decide who is on your side and who is not. This is the war mentality that our society (our world?) has been built upon. That is the left brain taking over. From the beginning of most identifiable civilizations, it’s been the left brain in the winning circle. Somehow, the female goddesses went away, the use of language turned things black and white. Language has been mostly developed and defined by the male mind. Wrong? No. Fair? No. So here we are a few thousand years later and we are still slowly dealing with the effects. Somehow the writings told women they couldn’t wear pants. Somehow the writing told the new North Americans that the folks they bought from Africa were worth less than the white man. So, here we are. Where are the facts in this? Or did the emotion take over and seek to develop these facts in order to support the emotion? Yes, emotion. What else is it? Emotion meaning pride, defensiveness, greed, insecurity, fear, and arrogance. Could be better descriptions, I’m sure, but forgive me, I’m a little behind the dictionary. I’ve had lessons many times over that teach me that anger is the mask of most of all emotions. I’ve always this to be true. Pride=”I will beat you if you don’t leave my yard!,” defensiveness=”like You know, you are sooo naïve,” greed, “white privilege? I’ve earned this comfort!,” insecurity=”the Black Lives Matter folks are terrorists! They’re going to kill every white person!,” fear=”you’re saying I can’t run my business like that anymore? What are you gonna do?,” arrogance=”they bitch but it’s always those folks I see committing crimes.”

Who wants to jump into that shit?! Ain’t no fruitful discussions there. The pride must be leveled. The ego must come down. The humility must rise. You fail to see others as human beings due to the fear you have in recognizing that their capabilities are within you as well. You can’t buy empathy. I’m sure you can grow it. I’m sure you build it. I’m sure you can extract from the worldly human being that you are.

A Short Story

“Max Patch Mountain”

“Why is it that when someone asks ‘Where were you when such and such happened?’ it’s always a sad ‘such and such’ like JFK or 9/11 or Katrina?” Charlotte wondered aloud. For all of the random and silly queries that regularly came out of Charlotte’s mouth, this one kind of had some substance to it. Once when asked where Danish people lived, her answer was “Dane.” Fair enough.

“Well, what about walking on the moon? Our first black president? There are some happy points that can unite us” offered Sylvie.

“Yeah, but no one hardly ever talks about those.”

She was right. Often, the tragedies that we go through together are the opportunities of unity we tend to remember most. Of those times, Sylvie could remember the exact day and place when she heard about Andrew. She and Jed were on their first camping trip together. He’d finally made time to get away with her, for an entire weekend at that. Halfway through a breakfast of overcooked eggs and instant coffee, a message lit up her phone. It was Tommy. “Did you hear about Andrew?”

She had not. But she immediately knew what had happened without having to ask. Sylvie tried to remember the last time she talked to Andrew.  A direct virtual interaction, not just a “like” on a song he shared on social media.  It had been too long, embarrassingly too long.

Andrew was never the kind of guy to share his emotional weight with you. Looking back, maybe that’s what made him such a great minister. In college, he would buy a case of Natty Boh and share it with the house.  Sylvie knew it meant Andrew wanted that nasty beer to fuel genuine discussion on his philosophy courses with her.  She was the only one willing to “go there” while the rest of house went deep into a purple haze. Andrew was the son of a minister, who was the son of a minister. Naturally, this was the last thing on his mind. And then it wasn’t.

“His sister said he killed himself” Tommy wrote. Shocked yet unsurprised, Sylvie replied with the usual unanswerable question, “Why?” No one knew. There was no note. No anything. Just that mixture of sadness and rage that runs through you when someone dies, when they shouldn’t have.

“Damnit,” whispered Sylvie.

“What now?” Jed asked as he tore a strip of bacon from his teeth.

“My old friend, Andy.”

“Let’s pack up and go for a beer.”

At the tavern that often held office for such instances, Sylvie toasted to the memory of Andrew and pensively stared at the mirror behind the bar, the kind that lines the whole wall so you can see all the drunks’ thoughts. Sylvie loved this mirror and often made goofy smiles, pretending to nose pick at people she knew, sometimes people she didn’t. She remembered how Andrew would do things like that, too. If it was fun and it didn’t hurt anybody, why not? A few years ago, when she heard he was attending seminary, no one was surprised. When Sylvie finally had the opportunity to talk to Andrew’s mother, her first words were “He didn’t just preach it, he lived it.”

There he was in her hands, a little twisty-tied plastic baggie filled with a handful of tiny of rocks. Over a cup of bitter coffee and a drive-thru breakfast sandwich, Karen explained all she knew and all she wish she knew. It was a gun, his grandfather’s rifle; he did it outside the parsonage as to not make a mess inside. Between cautious bites of hash browns, the weight tumbled out of Andrew’s mother.  Sylvie wondered if Karen had openly talked to anyone about it before then. She couldn’t shoulder it alone any longer.

“I promise I will do my best to honor him and scatter this where he would love to rest,” Sylvie said as she held the little bag of rocks. “I know,” said Karen. They stared at each other with their arms hanging over open car doors. Sylvie planned to check in with Karen but knew they’d likely never be in the same room again. Driving south on I-81, Sylvie weaved in and out of Thanksgiving holiday traffic. The next day she would hike up to Max Patch Mountain near Hot Springs, North Carolina, and let the ashes of Andrew join the wind, scattering on the snow dusted bald. Whatever pain he had, it must have been enough for a man of faith to let go of his one life in the world. There would be no answer to the question “Why?” And there would be no more snarky comments between the old college crew. And there would be no visiting his church again. And there was no more Andrew.

A couple of years later, Sylvie stared at his obituary taped to her office wall. It was starting to crinkle in the changing humidity and the single piece of clear tape had been reinforced with another single piece of clear tape. Charlotte was right. Their college years together were one joyous blur of life changing fun and madness. Years later it was Andrew that brought them back to together.  He didn’t need to die to do that. Sylvie went home. Every so often she would go to Andrew’s page online. His mother had never taken it down. Sylvie would scroll through his pictures and posts he made in the years before his death, some of them from ten years ago in college. She finally looked to see the last message between them. It had been almost two years before he let us go. His last message was “Let me know when you want to make the trip for another service. We can get some Natty Boh!” Sylvie had never replied. She had left him hanging. Suddenly, she decided to finally reply “I’m so sorry I didn’t make this happen. But next time, I’ll buy the beer. I love you, brother.”  She then sent a message to Tommy. “I still look at Andrew’s old pictures and posts. Do you still think about him?” She watched the animated bubble of dots that meant he was typing a reply.