It’s 5:51 in San Francisco right now. I’m not there, of course—it’s almost 9 in Macon, Georgia. But my own internal clock is stuck at that manic, jittery, predawn phase, where the world outside is still blue, and the streets are mostly empty, and the fourth cup of coffee has started to make your fingertips twitch.
I had been pondering my Next Move when the Madness took me, and I sat down to put thoughts to paper. The Madness comes but rarely, and one must surrender to it when it does. It can jerk you like a puppeteer controls a marionette, twisting until you’re flailing around in some hideous, spastic tarantella. It doesn’t do to resist when this happens. Far better, instead, to go with the flow and see where you end up…
Where am I ending up today? Jesus, how about an easier question? Like, why do I have so Band-Aids on almost all of my fingers? What’s this Sig Sauer P938 SAS doing on my desk, and why is it in a DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster? Or maybe, how many more times am I going to have to do this?
In order: Because I chew my fingernails until they bleed; I don’t have anywhere else to put it, and the holster is new, so I’m stretching it; Reply Hazy, Ask Again.
There’s a critical point in every system, a moment in space or time where the correct pressure can fracture the whole operation, splinter it like a glass ballerina thrown from a speeding car. Pressure is the key, of course. It is a Universal Constant, Entropy’s cousin; as one hurls everything away from the center, the other pulls everything together.
Some handle pressure better than others. The great blind fish at the bottom of the ocean are the masters of working under pressure. But they can’t not. Drag them out of their deep trenches into the light and they explode, guts spilling out of pale carcasses. Those deep horrors cannot abide a world of ease, where the gentle air is the only thing holding your skin in place.
We are the same, even though we are not as strong-willed as those creatures. They are unique in their fortitude, but not in their limitations. If a Normal Man (if one could be found) was to be plucked from the solid earth and carried into the sky, he would die gasping, blood vessels bursting in his eyes. We need pressure to survive, even though too much of it will destroy us just as surely as not enough.
So what is my Next Move? Take off these Band-Aids? Unload the seven rounds of Hornady Critical Defense 9mm Parabellum from this beautiful piece of weaponry and arrange them on my desk in the shape of a small, ballistic face? Or keep stumbling forward, trying to find enough pressure to keep me from exploding like a grotesque sea monster, like some white, sightless thing that cannot abide the light?
Reply Hazy, Ask Again.
I distrust dates that only have three numbers in them. Look at that—it’s a pattern. 6, 26, 16. Next is 06. Then what? The future is a mystery. Ominous. But we must always be aware of the Patterns in the fabric of the world, lest it unravel without our knowledge.
It will unravel all the same, of course. But it will not do to be unprepared.
You have to be prepared these days. It is prudent to stockpile beans and high-proof whiskey against the day Der Fuhrer takes control of Amerika, when the good people of this nation will scuttle into priest holes and crawl spaces. We will wait it out, I think. Give the Fiends and Monsters a turn running the place. Burn it all down. Get it out of their system for the next fifty years. Then, if the Sand Mutants haven’t swarmed over the Wastes in search of the last quart of clean water, we can all go back out into the sun and have a big laugh about it.
It is also prudent to be prepared for assaults on the psyche. ESP and Psychic Martial Arts are no longer taught in public schools, which is a Great Failure. We are sending our children into a brutish world, unequipped to do battle with the heathen Chinaman and the crafty Cossack. It is widely accepted as fact in the halls of Langley that His Lowness Vladimir Putin can ignite a matchbook by sheer force of will alone. Against such a man, what chance do our Best and Brightest have in the international markets?
I experienced a very bad shock to my system two days ago, and I cannot help but wonder if perhaps I would have suffered less if I had been taught such mental combat techniques in school. My nerves are still jangling, crystalline wind chimes in empty rooms, the echoes of delicately shattering glass going on, and on, and on. It was my own fault; an amateur mistake. My failure was not recognizing that there was a hole in my Pattern, a vacuum that would be filled, one way or the other. Thanks to a convergence of brain chemistry, cream liqueur, fair trade coffee, and too much spare time, it was filled with a particular bit of Popular Culture (a beloved piece of televised comedy).
I didn’t realize how badly I needed these people in my life, and so I overinvested my psychic energies into this otherwise agreeable and entertaining program. By the time I knew what was happening, it was too late. The bubbling cauldron of my own fetishized obsessions and neuroses converged into a single moment, and I was unprepared for the psychic backlash. Had I watched it happen to another, I would have been cheered, but I had woven the fabric of my Pattern so tightly into this world that it was happening to me.
That realization of my mistake, and the moment of dissonance it created, slammed into me with considerable force, far too violent for me to handle in my fragile state. I had dropped my guard, and I went down hard, and I have been off-balance ever since, slightly out of sync with the rest of the material world. Bad, bad, bad, bad vibrations.
I have not yet recovered. Even now, I feel overheated and dizzy, tightly wound and dangerous, and I have no reason to believe these symptoms will subside quickly. Nevertheless, I am confident that I will be back in fighting shape in no more than six months. I have devised a detoxification regimen by which all mass entertainment will be purged from my body, lest I relapse. It will certainly be no easy task; certain perfectly symmetrical faces or a flawlessly executed punchline might send me spiraling back into this infernal fever. But this is a matter of Discipline, and, given time, I will emerge triumphant. And I have learned a Life Lesson from this, I am sure, although I am not yet certain what it is. Recognizing the tears in the fabric of your mind, perhaps, or the dangers of streaming television services.
Either way, we must be prepared.
* * *
The rules must remain fluid. I have decided that this is my new guiding principle. To explain: one full page per day has become a page or so per day has become more than a page per day every morning has become a stream of consciousness explosion of text. That’s how I find myself sitting here again, still faintly vibrating at an alien frequency, and a new strategy for burning this psychic infection from my body. Attempts at Discipline have been replaced by vodka and elderflower liqueur. I am trying to overload my system with a glut of image and sound, to drown myself in the world in which I nearly lost myself. If I succeed, I will desensitize myself to its hypnotic seductions; if I fail, I may well be shattered beyond repair.
This is a very fanciful way of saying I am listening to the Pogues and looking at GIFs of Alison Brie on Imgur. But we must all have our moments of excess.
If I can be honest for a moment—and I promise I will not make a habit of it—Community got me bad. It bit in deep, and still hasn’t let go. As manic as I was this morning, I wasn’t exaggerating. I explained it as best I could, and I don’t know if I actually communicated the entire story. It didn’t seem to help, but this is not unusual. An explanation may be satisfying without being comforting.
All of my talk about Psychic Patterns and overinvestment of mental energy was an attempt to say this: I gorged on that show. I projected myself onto the characters of Community (which, I cannot state often enough, is nothing more than an above-average comedy) so thoroughly, I craved to be a part of their exploits so badly, and (in terms as delicate as possible) I was so slap-bang stone in love with Alison Brie’s sweet Annie (Turn out the lights, these hands long to hold you) that I experienced what I can only describe as a very minor nervous breakdown. There was a fracture between what I wanted, what I needed, and what I had, and the moment of cognitive dissonance has left me twitchy ever since.
I stand by my earlier ravings, that I replaced whatever was missing in my life with whatever was present in that show. Whatever that may be—friendship, companionship, relationships, purpose, implausible comedic scenarios and expertly scripted bon mots—I do not want to speculate. It is much easier to eschew contractions and pretend I’m the next Hunter S. Thompson.
Selah, I suppose.
I don’t know what makes me more nervous: the idea that I’ll still be like this tomorrow, or that I won’t learn from this experience. When I was a younger man, I was consumed with images of hammers, of destroying walls; I felt trapped. I worry now that I am just as trapped, but too invested in the status quo to care. I fear that I will continue to fill this empty space with mid-shelf alcohol and beautiful people on Hulu.
Well, that was an uncharacteristically frank self-evaluation.
You can bet your ass that won’t happen again any time soon.
I feel like I am actually flirting with coherence this morning. It’s a pleasant and somewhat unfamiliar change of pace. I think I’ll try it for a few weeks, see where it gets me.
I wouldn’t say I’m proud of my frankness yesterday, but my explosive psychic decompression did give me a thousand words or so, so I’m willing to call it a wash. We must dip our toes in violent waters every now and then, after all.
But enough introspection. Self examinations have no place here, not in a world this interesting.
Der Fuhrer has been quiet in the news, but only because Brexit has been dominating the reporting cycles for the past week. There are rumblings now that the Brits might not go through with it after all, murmurs and halfhearted protests that the referendum was just advisory anyway, it isn’t legally binding, if we had to do it again we would do it different, we promise. There’s a growing, vocal minority that wants to forget all of this psychic anguish ever happened.
I say go for it. It’s working for me so far.
Venezuela’s problems are more tangible. No food, no electricity, no water. Cheap oil is great for us, of course. Less so for the country that imports more food than any other country in the Americas. Will there be revolution? If there is, how will that help? You can’t grow wheat from bullets. Will a regime change the global price of oil?
Troubles abound in South America. Venezuela is only a piece of it. Who knows if Brazil will even exist this time next year? I have a vision, impossible to shake, of thousands of people descending on the country for the Olympics. The land underneath them groans and quivers, then collapses under their weight, swallowing up tourists and track and field athletes. The entire country sinks into the ocean, drowning the mosquitoes and destroying the favelas, and then it is gone, not even a ripple to mark its passing…
A bad scene, to be sure. But that could hardly be worse than what is actually happening down there.
At least Colombia seems to have its act together. If the FARC treaty holds, that is. I hope it does, of course, but I wonder what the opinion is in the marble halls of Washington? War is good for business, of course, but how much business do we have there?
This is all speculation and baseless conjecture. I’m no expert in South American politics. I’ve got no special insight into the European Union. But it is good, every now and then, to recognize that whenever your brainbox is infected with tremendous psychic turmoil, there’s a continent or two that’s going through the same thing.
I wonder if they get Community in Venezuela?
They found an enormous supply of helium in Tanzania the other day. This is good news for MRI machines and Alvin and the Chipmunks enthusiasts, but the rest of us are perhaps less thrilled.
It’s hard to get excited about much of anything these days. Between Pressure and Entropy, we’re kept in a weird, hellish equilibrium. The Late Unpleasantness in the UK is a perfect example: we’re consumed with a desire to break free from our chains and limitations, but we crave the stability of the status quo.
Well, it is too late for the Brits, I say. Make ‘em go through with it, just to see what’ll happen. We all have to live with the consequences of our actions, whether it’s throwing a brick through a plate glass window or destabilizing a continental economy.
Entropy drags us to chaos and darkness, while Pressure pushes us out into the unknown (which, scientists agree, is largely chaotic and dark). We are caught between these forces, and usually fortunate enough that they cancel each other out, because if there is a name for the small, shuddering being at the center of this dynamic, it is Fear. The Fear, as Doctor Thompson might have said.
Thompson knew a lot about Fear, I think, even though you wouldn’t know it from his books. A man who rides with Hells Angels and drinks with South American smugglers couldn’t be fearful, could he? He certainly never let on, but I think it’s there. It has to be. A man that disgusted with the State of the World has to get all that anger from somewhere—and to paraphrase a great twentieth century philosopher, anger comes from fear.
But sometimes a rare figure will emerge who is truly without Fear. They are dominated by one or the other, either committed to collapsing into Entropy or driven by intense Pressure, like an exploding oxygen tank flying across an airport tarmac. Terrorists and athletes, mostly. Many poets are wallowing in Entropy, and the great entrepreneurs are slowly exploding from their decades of built-up Pressure.
One decides that Entropy is inevitable, and that Chaos is Truth. They see the world as it is, and seek to spread the Word, to enlighten us. They do not fear the chaos at the center of things because they know themselves. They have seen their core, and found the kernel of themselves at the center of a storm that is beyond their control or conception, and in this understanding there is peace. They are in contact with their Higher Guardian Angel, as my good friend and spiritual advisor the Rt. Rev. Jack Roller might say.
The other rejects their core, not as being False, but as being incomplete. When the Pressure has become too great, they go out to achieve, and change, and build. They do not fear chaos because they know there is Opportunity there.
America is supposed to be the land of Opportunity. I suppose that’s why everything is so chaotic right now.
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap, you’ve gotta get out while you’re young…’cause baby, tramps like us, baby we were born to run!
I’m not one to question the Boss, and I can’t say I disagree with the sentiment, but what the hell is a suicide rap? And who would brag about being a tramp? Aside from hobo clowns, I guess. But their stock has been pretty low these days. Not as low as post-Brexit England, of course.
I suppose now is a pretty good time to be a clown. After all, we have one running for president.
I’ve been thinking about Resolution quite a bit, lately. We need stories to end. We need Satisfaction, I think…but why? What is it about completion that fills some hole in our Pattern?
It’s like sugar, I think—it was so rare when our ancestors swung from trees and killed sabertoothed tigers that our brains wired themselves to treat it like an orgasm from the end of the world…but now it’s plentiful. You can’t get away from it. Common. Everyday. But nobody bothered to tell our brains that. We haven’t adapted to handle the stuff.
Completion is the same way. So rare in the wild that we were programmed to crave it. I think it has an evolutionary advantage—if you drop a big rock on that mastodon, you want to have some kind of assurance that it isn’t going to get up and stomp on your mud hovels. Resolution means no one is coming back to hurt you.
That’s a good feeling. A safe feeling. That’s why we’re spoon fed it in every book, movie, play, YouTube series, even our sports have to have narratives now. Politics is all a big circus. Stock characters everywhere, your clowns, your shorn apes, carnival barkers, sad old animals that should have been euthanized years ago…
Resolution and Sugar. At one time, they were so rare we learned to prize them above all else, and that got carved into the skeletons of our genes. I wonder if, down the line, there won’t be a new race of men, who are to us as we were to the Cro-Magnon, who doesn’t know what it is to get an endorphin rush from an Oreo or a warm fuzzy from a well told story. If we live long enough, maybe we won’t need stories to replace whatever’s missing.
Our lives aren’t stories, because stories have rules. Stories tie up their dangling plot lines, or else they get savaged by ink-stained critics. And the characters actually make sense. They have motivations, backstories. Some of them even have redeeming qualities that make you feel bad for hating them. Even better, a lot of them aren’t.
If life is a story, it needs a much better editor. This trash would never have made it out of the first draft stage with a halfway sober (or a quarter competent) proofreader.
There’s no money in being sober, these days, and less in being competent. I’ll be satisfied with one, but I’ll not lower myself to the other. I’ll let history determine which I chose.
Pressure and Entropy. Chaos and Order. Foxes and Hedgehogs. What’s our obsession with duality? Maybe it’s because there’s so much nuance to be found in nature. Maybe Absolutism is like sugar.
“The function of art is supposedly to bring order out of chaos, a tall order even when the chaos is static, and a superhuman task in a time when chaos is multiplying.”-Hunter S. Thompson
Thompson understood Entropy, even if he called it something different. He was one of those weird In-Between people, desperate and savage, relentlessly apart from the world but incapable of ignoring it. That demonstrates a pretty admirable optimism, I think, or at least a tendency to believe in the inherent dignity of man; you don’t get that angry at the filthy swine if you don’t think we can all do better.
I never met Thompson (I mean, obviously), and it is only rarely that I approach an understanding of him. But there is something about his anger—he was a Righteous man, I think. He was on the right side.
Thompson killed himself, of course, which is his right. There is some debate, I understand, as to whether or not suicide can ever be a rational act. I say no. By definition, it goes against millions of years of evolutionary imperatives. We are programmed, down into the muck where the first slick lungfish wrestled their way onto the beaches, to survive.
On the other hand, it is an irrational decision that can be reached rationally. On purely economic terms, when a person decides that they’re getting more shit in their lives than they are joy, then it’s rational to want to check out, I suppose.
The point of this is not to say that I’m advocating suicide, or encouraging it, or considering it. The point is, no one knows how much strain a man can handle except for the man himself, and even them probably only dimly. Thompson carried the weight of a dozen lifetimes, and eventually he could take it no more. It is a tragedy, and the world is poorer for it, but I hope it was a decision that brought him peace.
Probably not, though. Cordite and lead are not gentle.
In the end, the Doctor will outlive all of us. In fifty years, in a hundred, in two hundred, when the sand mutants roam the wastes in their steam wagons and bleached bones just out of the scorched earth that used to be the Ocmulgee River, a barely literate, feral child will find a cache of old books, preserved from rot and decay, and his wondering, curious eyes will read the words of a man who couldn’t help but speak the truth, who knew the world could be better than it was, and who hated a man named Richard Milhous Nixon.