Reflection on a Friend’s Death and What it Means for Meaning in Life

Meaning in life extends beyond and outside of ourselves and creates healthy affective transmissions that allow us to create bonds and positive relationships with others. These connections and effects live longer than we do…When you die, you still exist, and the meaning you have created in your life defines you past the time your heart stops beating. 

Phil Grech and Eric Christian

1

In the weeks leading up to my masters thesis defense, I spent little, if any, time on Facebook. On the morning of my defense a close friend of mine texted me and asked if I was going to Eric’s funeral.

I responded, “Eric? Eric Christian?”

My friend called me immediately to tell me of Eric’s death.

I had no idea. I hadn’t been on Facebook in God knows how long. And that is the only way I would have heard about my friend’s untimely passing. I held back tears because I was in front of company and had an academically intimidating experience one hour away.

I felt alone because I was the only person in the room who knew him and who felt devastated by the news; but I knew I was not alone because Eric had friends and family all over the country who were feeling what I was.

2

This semester I am teaching two sections of a class entitled “Coming of Age Stories in Film and Prose.” I assigned Susan Wolf’s Meaning in Life and Why it Matters alongside other films I have shown in class. I have attempted to engage my students in intellectual dialogue regarding the importance of leading a meaningful life.

Some students are immediately interested in this. Some students are mildly interested. And as expected, without judgment, some students are not at all interested in understanding what a meaningful life is.

That’s ok.

I don’t expect any student or person to ponder and fixate upon the perennial questions. As a teacher, I’ll do my best to press these students on the topic so we can learn how to think critically, understand values that extend beyond what we can gauge from Lil Wayne and something or other about the Kardashians, but at that point, I can only lead my students to the water.

In the course of teaching my students about the meaning in life and why it matters, as we can understand through Wolf’s text, the coming-of-age movies we have watched, or the class discussions we have had, I have kept one thing in mind:

I don’t know what the meaning of life is.

Of course not. And I would be skeptical of anyone who claimed to know what the meaning of life is.

As many of us know, the people who do claim to know this are not only full of shit, but want to fill our Solo cups with laced with poison so we can catch the next comet in our brand new Nikes. Or maybe they just want us to join their centuries-old religious institution.

Everyone has their way.

Knowing the meaning of life is not the most important concept in this conversation. What is most important is that we are thinking about it, questioning it, engaging with the idea.

Thinking about meaning allows us to better reconsider our life’s values and choices, relationships, occupational desires; it allows us to make future plans and projections based on rational criteria; and what the shit, lunch options.

In other words, by thinking about meaning in life, we live better, improved lives, even if we never figure out what the meaning of life is for ourselves or others. And that’s awesome.

My students and I have discussed much on what it means to live a meaningful life. In our discussions; we have mostly tried to understand how we can determine for ourselves what a meaningful life is; why it is important and necessary to do so; how we develop, mature, and evolve as individuals; but however, this approach does not always allow us to see the full picture.

Failing to see the full picture makes us feel like we are all alone.

3

Now I reach my ultimate point in consideration of my friend’s recent death.

What I have failed to consider in my class discussions is what the meaning in our own lives means for other people.

I may not care about my life in the moment but that does not mean that several other people don’t care.

[I am not at all implying Eric did not care about his life – let me be explicit about that; I have no idea what his thoughts were in the days leading to his death]

Again, just because you think other people don’t care about you does not mean they do not. Thankfully, I know that in the weeks leading to Eric’s death he knew people loved and appreciated him.

I have other friends who have died, or who have tried to kill themselves, and believed no one cared about them. I have felt this frequently throughout my own life as well. It’s easy to believe your life has no meaning and falling into that valley will drown you in the rainwater of your own tears. But all of our lives have meaning that will raise us to the crest of the waves, to the top of the mountains, so long as we can recognize it in ourselves and especially others.

I don’t know how Eric died, and while admittedly, it captures my interest, the how is not important in this discussion. What is important is the effect his death has had on the exponential amount of friends and family who have been impacted by his passing. I could not make his funeral (I found out about it on the day I was defending my masters thesis and the funeral was hours away), but I heard it was standing-room only.

Meaning in life extends beyond and outside of ourselves and creates healthy affective transmissions that allow us to create bonds and positive relationships with others. When a person dies, that meaning lives on; while some may the soul lives on beyond the body’s death, I am more appreciative of the fact that the meaning a person’s life can continue to affect us days, weeks, years, and decades after that death.

In this sense, we are never alone.

4

We all loved Eric. Once you got to know him, you had no other choice.

The last time I saw Eric I was driving down bumpy, bricked Oviedo Street after having just arrived in Saint Augustine. I saw him outside of a house with friends so I pulled into the driveway of the residence, got out of my car, and we spent a half hour catching up. When we concluded, we hugged goodbye.

Eric was happy. He was smiling. He was joking. He was improving his life and interested in how I was improving my life. Eric was being himself: a genuinely great person with a sense of humor, enough energy to caffeinate America, and a thirst for life that goes so often unnoticed by many, myself included.

Meaning in life is necessary for us individually, but it is not selfish. Meaning in life is not merely self-concern. It is not isolated to our egos. We affect others no matter how much our depression or other personal, psychological problems falsely adulterate our thinking.

Have you known someone who has died when you haven’t spoken to them in a year?

I have friends who have died from unknown causes, drug overdoses, suicide, and murder.

But this tally is irrelevant. The effects of their deaths are never forgotten: from momento mori, to remembering great times, to remembering the value of human life, these effects crawl inside of us. They either infect us or make us reconsider our own lives – usually both. It’s like when someone you know dies you live more meaningfully while dying quicker.

Absence produces presence, like when you invite a friend over for dinner and she does not arrive, her absence immediately produces her presence. You think about her. And so even if she has not arrived, neither of you are alone.

5

I have learned something upon my friend’s recent death:

No matter how many people you know who have died, the next death does not hurt any less. That life does not become any less meaningful than the previous. If you have known one hundred people who have died, the next person to die does not matter any less.

If anything, each friend’s or family member’s death makes you more fully grasp the importance and fragility of life. We are all connected to people who love us. Just as you love others and want their affection, attention, and respect; other people love you and want the same. And if you read this right now, you know you’re not alone.

While I mentioned before that “what meaning in life is for other people” it should not take a person like Eric to die for you or me to realize this. Most of us already know that. But Eric spent a lot of his final years bettering himself in multiple ways. I believe his determination encouraged many of us to follow his lead.

I never told him this, but the hard work he put into self-improvement in the last few years of his life inspired me. I was proud of him.

He was proud of his friends and family too.

So I conclude with this:

Live a meaningful life, whatever that means to you, and know that your life is meaningful to others. The meaning you live is greater than you and affects those around you. Your life, your presence, and the positivity you exude creates direct, healthy transmissions for all of the people you encounter. When you die, you still exist, and the meaning you have created in your life defines you past the time your heart stops beating.

Your life is meaningful, and it’s meaningful beyond you.

If you read this right now, you know you’re not alone.

RIP Eric Christian

In Case of Emergency, Contact

Down, down, down in Gainesville

No stranger to shame, Coltrane, and pain pills

When a person drifts across the room and their scent remains for days like a memory attaching itself to your olfactory system. It’s a perfume present in the past but passed by the present. How do you ask memories to repeat themselves?

What do you say when your students ask, “Why aren’t you doing anything for Thanksgiving?”

Who do you call when you haven’t eaten in five days? Your stomach acid is eating away your stomach lining, you’re being unjustly sued for twenty thousand dollars, there is a stack of papers to grade, PhD applications to complete, presentations to organize, rent to pay, utilities to pay, novels to read and meaningfully digest, and all you want is…

A hello, a hug, a hand, a home, a home-cooked meal, a home-cooked heal

All I really wanted you is to remember my name

The day I first moved to Tallahassee I filled out a rental agreement alongside my new roommate. I had to complete the following sentence:

“In case of emergency, contact_________”

I sat baffled, confused, reflective. I filled out the remainder of the lease agreement and promised to return the form that would indicate who the authorities should contact in case I pushed a nail through my hand hanging up a painting, inhaled too much bleach cleaning the bathroom tub, or simply failed to wake up one morning.

The form sat on my kitchen counter for days. I frequently approached it like a friend in need of an answer, but for days I approached her and left her let down.

“I’m sorry. I don’t always have the answers.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t who you can call if I nail bleach through my hand, or bleach my hand on a painting.”

Whose name should I put down? To whom do I assign responsibility for the mere task of picking up the phone after I drink too much gin only to wake up, body swollen by wasp stings, and no explanation as to explain why?

My aging mother who lives six hours away and refuses to drive more than a thirty minutes distance? My siblings busy with their spouses and children who live 1200 miles away? If not them, then who?

I knew no one. I know no one.

I wear my scars like the rings on a pimp

I live life like the captain of a sinking ship

Sitting in a Gainesville hotel room, memorizing lines from The Two Noble Kinsmen so I can recite them in two days, I wonder, what if I drove a nail through my hand stealing the unoriginal painting hanging on the wall? What if I drank too much of the cheap coffee laying lazily in a thing, plastic bag in the bathroom? What if I simply failed to wake up?

Checked out before I check out.

I’m staying here because it was the only hotel in which I could find a vacancy, which is more opportune than I can say about myself.

All of these rooms are taken.

Too taken and too empty.

Lazy inhabitants.

Visitors with no hellos to hi, no hugs to hold, no hands to hold, no homes to have, no halves to whole.

Can’t let her dance up on the top floor

Been there, done that

What do you think it’s locked for?

A hotel in Gainesville, an apartment in Tallahassee, a couch in your-city-here. I’ve seen people die when it was least expected. I’ve been in the room. I’ve slept beside them.

Who would the cleaning person contact?

Who would I contact?

Who would you contact?

I’ve always expected to be in that hospital room alone, surrounded by white walls and nurses performing their utilitarian positions. I waited years for it to happen and it finally did in my second year of grad school.

Stressed and suffocating under the pressure of work, teaching, PhD applications, and so on, I was unable to eat for five days. I could drink water and gin, and the gin is the only thing that quelled my stress just enough to consume roughly 400 calories in those five days.

On the fifth day, I woke up and called a friend to bring me to the hospital.

Sitting on the hospital bed, I was curling over in pain, squeezing some plastic barfbag the nurse had given me, which I didn’t need because I hadn’t consumed anything and had nothing to vomit. Eventually the nurse came in and administered an IV.

“I’ll inject you with something to end your stomach pain and nausea,” she said, then, “and now I’m going to give you Dilaudid.”

“What’s Dilaudid,” I asked.

“It’s a painkiller eight times stronger than morphine,” she replied.

I thought morphine was the pinnacle of painkillers. I didn’t know there was a medication that could more quickly dull, quell, and kill.

I made a joke about how I, “…applauded the Dilaudid.” The nurse didn’t laugh. Then she went to inject it.

“No,” I refused, “You can’t give that to me.”

“No,” she rebutted, “I’m giving it to you. You’ll feel it right away.”

And I did. As soon as she injected this painkiller into my vein, it felt like lead coursing through my body, then my body felt like a cloud, floating in an emergency room.

When I finally arrived home I was coming off the Dilaudid. I violently threw up off my back porch. A woman in a parking lot across the back yard area watched me intently, pretending like she wasn’t watching, but obviously was as I threw up whatever was in my stomach.

For all I care, I was back in a Gainesville hotel room. I was back in my Tallahassee apartment. I was in your town. I felt like I almost died. Some say I did, but that doesn’t matter.

I’ll move from this apartment just like I’ve moved from every previous one. Always in search of a home, always in search of a name to write down when that rental agreement comes.

“In case of emergency, contact _________”

When I have no food to eat, no one to contact, I have memories to sift through and a name to find.

*All italics are from Atmosphere lyrics. Google it.

The Forecast Predicts Stormy Weather

I haven’t updated this blog in a pretty long time so I figured I would get some thoughts that were running through my head this morning/afternoon. Grad school hasn’t made much time for personal or “creative” writing.There is not any particular “plot” to this, or maybe there is; it’s up to you. Pardon the frequent semi-colon use. And apparently I have 343 people following this blog. I don’t know who any of you are, but thank you, meaningfully and truthfully.

Did I ever tell you about the person I was named after? Maybe I will another time; that’s too personal for right now.

I went for a walk this morning around Lake Ella. I wore black boots, dark green denim pants, and a blue shirt. My roommate insisted my outfit did not match; I insisted I did not care. You can all eat roaches.

The weather predicts stormy weather for this afternoon. As a result, I was probably the only one walking around Lake Ella besides the girl who asked me to sign a slip which would allow the daughter of Bob Graham to run for Florida State Senator. I would have signed despite being neither a Republican nor Democrat, but I am not registered to vote in Leon County.

One lap around the duck inhabited lake and then I met with my roommate, her boyfriend, and his roommate at a Chinese Super Buffet. They went for hangovers; I went for companionship. I decided not to eat because it’s a Chinese Super Buffet – tautologies be damned. My companion’s immediate complaints upon finishing their food were, “I shouldn’t have eaten here. I feel disgusting.” This confirmed my hesitation about eating at a buffet restaurant where children are most likely slapping their snotty hands on the creepily creamy shrimp and awkwardly present macaroni and cheese.

After breakfast I returned to Lake Ella and continued walking with a copy of Walden in my hands which I never ended up reading. Typical, right? Reading Thoreau at Lake Ella. I saw a Mexican family that was at the Chinese Super Buffet.

The father wore a cowboy hat, cowboy shirt, and had two knives attached to his belt. He and his wife had five children present – I think all boys. They stood by the water and enjoyed their Sunday.

The capricious winds in the capacious environment precluding the storm calmed and grounded me. I thought of a girl I dated recently and wondered why I still thought of her. It wasn’t logical, but emotions are not concerned with logic.

I haven’t spoken with her in weeks and I know she has forgotten about me. That’s a typical recurring fate I encounter, a curse I can’t escape from, a repeating destiny.

Her mellifluous, melodious singing still haunts my apartment, resonating, echoing in that open space, that grey area between Self and Other, where we see the physiological effects discussed in Affect Theory. Memories haunt, and I know she is somewhere else, laughing, dancing, smiling. I still don’t know if she ever heard, understood, listened, or knew me. It’s memories all the way down, memories to fill that abyss. Echoes are always heard but never able to be grasped. They are an objet a that damages the psyche. They permeate like parasites and find their cures in addiction.

The forecast predicts stormy weather; it always has. I have inherited a particular gene structure, call it a fate, call it Fate, call it something we can’t determine or know or see in a microscope. It’s an inheritance by any other name and one defined by accursedness.

How do you tell someone you are cursed? Where’s the proof? It’s a feeling, and feelings are too underrated.

I know the Myer-Briggs personality type test is bullshit but I consider it to be similar to Wikipedia. You can’t use Wikipedia in a paper, but it helps to take a quick look for a brief summary of a subject. That being said, I fit the profile of an INFJ quite well. The test profile describes me better than I can describe myself.

Apparently we are only 1% of the population, the rarest breed, and one that is not easily understood. An additional note reads, “The INFJ individual is gifted in ways that other types are not. Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ, but they are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement.”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I’m some unique fucking snowflake. But I do know I feel the world in ways I believe most people can’t. I feel in ways I don’t often find others capable of. I feel empathy sometimes to a fault. I meet people who claim to be empathetic and I soon discover they don’t even know what the word means. They can be as be enjoys as the next scorpion. Maybe I should stop here.

Have you ever met someone who displayed a particular set of personality traits only to discover you were deceived? In the beginning they were genuine and they listened; in the end they were fraudulent and solely self-concerned. These realizations can be disappointing.

But I do want to help people. When I see a person cry, hurt, or experience injustice, I have an overwhelming need to help them, save them, and end the oppression.

Did I ever tell you who I was named after? I still don’t think right now is the right time, but I will tell you that the forecast has always predicted stormy weather. Paradoxically, the capricious rains and tempestuous winds settle me.

The singing of someone long gone still haunts the claustrophobic apartment I pay rent at. I hear the singing of a spirit who has freed herself, already unfettered, but who I keep around as a matter of object cathexsis. It’s not a home and I’m not sure if I have ever had one in several years. I’ve just paid rent at a series of locations, moving quickly like the winds that rush across my skin. Another apartment, another haunting.

There is a claustrophobic inside and commodious outside. There is neither specificity nor generality. It is all just feeling and perception. The present consists only of memories. The memories consist only of perceptions. After that it is all confusion.

These topics are not easily discussed. You don’t just walk up to someone and tell them you are cursed. These are not medieval times where we can cure melancholia, the black humor, by bleeding a person out. Nor can we ascribe supernatural causes to events which are not easily understood. But to feel the world, and to understand what it is we are surrounded by, requires a sense of feeling, a sense, ability, and faculty that is rare and often misunderstood.

It’s really nice to meet you.

Let’s skip to the part where we reveal our skeletons. You already know I have no patience for the in between.

Before you I didn’t have any missed calls and I didn’t need to leave the porch light on. None of that will change with meeting you, I know; I’m sorry if I gave the impression I might think otherwise.

Well, maybe I did think, for a moment, when you smiled at me and looked in my eyes and held them in your hands. But I know I don’t need to check my phone to see if I have any missed calls to tell me where I won’t be this Thanksgiving.

You won’t have to tell me why. I’ll ask the skeletons what they think. I remember what I wish I could forget.

If Byron could drink from the River Lethe to forget the cursed past, I can share the same body of water for the same reasons. I look out my window: grey skies, naked trees, a storm fast approaching. I’m beating my heart until it stops beating.

Ye know it, and I cannot utter it

Maybe next time, if the weather is different, I’ll tell you about who I was named after. You will know this curse I have inherited.

I look out my window and see that the clouds are getting darker, the winds are gaining speed, and the storm will soon no longer be a neighbor but a resident. The rain is now pouring down like I should have stocked up on batteries and non-perishable foods. It’s all grey skies and naked trees. Memories and vague perceptions clouded by whiskey and Ativan. Raindrops collect on the window like perceptual misunderstandings, disfiguring visual perception.

The storm is confirming the prediction. The present is confirming the fate. The curse is predicting the future.

How to Find Validation in Capitalism

I had been through this many times but that didn’t make it any easier there is us and there is them and I was them I anxiously stood in place knowing this moment was going to arrive my pulse rate grew quicker quicker quicker until it felt like my veins would explode beads of sweat formed and grew larger on my forehead they dripped down my bearded cheeks and somehow landed in my empty pockets I knew I would have to face this moment and be brave no matter what happened it wasn’t my first time but that doesn’t make the fear any less destructive hurry up I yelled in my head why was this taking so long it never takes this long it’s taking too long now there must be a problem I had been through this experience so many times, but this was worse because it took seconds longer than all of the previous ones how many life situations make seconds a matter of live or die terrorist attacks hostage situations but this shouldn’t be one of them stay calm I told myself I tried to make my body language appear normal even though there were people a panel of judges all around me who could tell I was moments away from a complete meltdown the wait lingered for what felt like hours people stood around me they were judging me before my verdict had been delivered eyes everywhere that knew my secret there are a lot of people in my position but that doesn’t make it any easier this was taking longer than normal and that exacerbated my anxiety I was a grown man filled with fear how can I be a 31 year old man who doesn’t fear a person breaking into his apartment who can change a tire throw a punch bench press more than his own weight and still be afraid of this very moment I put my hands in my pockets to clench my fists I squeezed my fingernails into my palms so hard I thought I would make myself bleed I didn’t care I deserved it I wanted them to bleed I was disappointed that my skin was so strong Still it had not happened I yelled even louder in my head, COME ON APPROVE ME I stared at a screen a screen that would tell me if I was approved or not would I be approved would I be validated would I be accepted what was my verdict why are you doing this to me I cried to the Universe I felt laughter I saw pain I heard judgment I smelled class division I vomited the contents of simulacrum

Then finally it happened

My debit card was approved at Publix

I quickly gathered my grocery bags walked out of the store and wrenched the collected sweated from my emptier pockets out feeling like I had gotten away for something being a member of them and reminded myself the battle is not over yet

Do Atheists Have a Place in America?

In the fall of 2011, I sought out a printer to print a collection of short stories I had written. The collection was entitled “Iambic Pentagram,” and contained a dozen short stories and essays, mostly satirical and humorous social insights and observations. One of the essays was called “Why I am an Atheist.”

There were two mentions of a Christian God in the essay. They were:

1. If I knew Jesus was truth, I would accept that truth. If I knew the Christian God was the God I ought to believe in, I would believe, just in the same way that if I knew any other possible God was the God I should believe in, I would worship that God.

2. I’m not mad at the world and I’m not mad at God. No matter when the world ends, hopefully God will know that with the rational mind he intended us to have led me to deny his existence.

That was my best and most genuinely honest approach at remaining open-minded and asserting to an audience that I knew would be partly Christian that I have no problem with Christianity or a belief in God. I simply do not believe in God. I understand that when some people hear the word atheist, they automatically attach a number of meanings to the word. For example, he must be a jerk and dislike religion.

I understand that. I have seen it happen and I have met the people who fit that exact description. But that is not me. And that does not describe many of the atheists and agnostics that I know. Have we not all met someone from a particular group that misrepresented the group as a whole?

Regardless of my “best and most genuinely honest approach at remaining open-minded,” the printer refused to print “Iambic Pentagram” because as the CEO of this North Carolina-based company told me over the phone, “You’re trashing my God and I need to put my foot down as a Christian.”

It would be difficult to argue the legal issue of his refusal to print my booklet. My limited understanding of legalities tells me that he had every right to do so. However, the fact that he blatantly misunderstood my statements as “trashing God” led me to believe that despite the safety measures I took, he still felt that as an atheist, I was anti-God and had a deep-rooted hatred for those with a religious affiliation. He was wrong.

Let us reverse the scenario. Suppose I were the CEO of a printing company which publicly also has no religious affiliation. One day, a Christian wants to print a booklet and one essay states, “I don’t have a problem with atheists, but my rationality has led me to conclude there is a God.”

That is not a controversial statement by any stretch of the imagination, but I were to refuse to print this person’s booklet, would it not make me seem like I am being a bit sensitive and perhaps anti-religious? Arguably, many more people would consider this latter scenario to be more unjustifiable as compared to the scenario that I actually experienced.

To get a better understanding of this issue, a 2007 Gallup poll showed that 53% of Americans would not vote for an atheistic presidential candidate. This statistic points us in the direction that there is a distrust of atheists in America. Unfortunately, the Gallup poll does not answer why.

There is perhaps a polarization in the American religious spectrum because oftentimes, the question boils down to, “Are they Christian or non-Christian?” In a sense, and of course not always, Jewish people, Muslims, atheists, and agnostics – and pretty much anyone who is not Christian, get lumped into the same category. In a Christian dominated country, this sense of polarization should not seem brand new.

Robert Sims, 22, a philosophy/religion and history major with a youth ministry minor at Flagler College identifies himself as a strict Roman Catholic. He said, “Ignorant and thoughtless people may certainly marginalize or negatively view the atheist or agnostic and vice versa. Unfortunately this type of person or this attitude tends to prevail as the majority among our contemporaries.”

Offering greater insight as to why the Gallup poll shows numbers that look unfavorably upon atheists, Sims stated, “I think that almost any person prefers people who agree with their opinions – be them religious, political, or otherwise – over people that do not agree with them.” This makes sense in a country where one practically must be a “strong Christian” in order to win a presidential election.

Jared Smith, 23, a Flagler College graduate with a degree in philosophy/religion and political science, has no particular religious affiliation. His response to this matter was, “In certain areas of the U.S. atheism is seen as a stigma, and I think that is a hold-over from the time when religion and morality were viewed as synonymous. But in more and more areas of the country, Christianity is becoming less of a presumption, and people are generally more open to their friends or colleagues being atheists.”

In the Gallup poll, just 7% of Americans would not vote for a Jewish presidential candidate and Mormons got a harder blow with 24% of Americans refusing to vote for them. The question of course then is, what often separates atheists and agnostics from those with a religious background? Why do the numbers jump to a startlingly 53% when atheists are brought into question? A person refusing to vote for an atheist or agnostic may easily claim that those who are not a member of a traditional organized religion (i.e. Christianity, Judaism, Islam) lack a moral fabric.

Many people not only find a moral compass in a religious environment, they believe it necessary to have a religion in order to have a moral foundation – and to not be associated with a religion means to be without morals. Is the statement “No God, no morals” a true one? Of course not.

I’m not saying that refusing to print my booklet is “religious intolerance.” But you have to ask yourself why people without a religious affiliation continue to be looked down upon by people with one?

Discourse on Embracing Love – Even Though it Will End

Imagine this: One day you wake up and find yourself in the same position you were the day before that, the day before that, and for that matter, the months before that. You wake up, you have to go to school or work, and you’re already late before you even started. But this day is different and you don’t know it yet. Because this day you find the one you will love forever.

Who doesn’t want that? Perhaps those with deficiencies for true love like psychopaths, cult leaders, and those who ascend to earth from the underworld, but otherwise, I think many of us have woken up on Sunday mornings with the hopes and desires of finding someone who will love us for us for who we really are. In turn, we will do the same. We will mutually love that person for the essence of their being.

When they are ill, we will bring them soup. When they are sad, we will comfort them. When they are tired, we will help them lay tired bodies to rest. In short, it will be a lot like a relationship with Jesus but add some awesome carnal relations. And in turn, we will have amazing experiences with that person. We will climb mountains, figuratively and perhaps literally. We will have as much fun and enjoyment with that person at a red light as we would at a theme park on our shared favorite holiday in the perfect weather – because we have gotten to the essence of that person.

Many would describe this as finding one’s soul mate. In a Socratic dialogue narrated by Plato, Socrates and Aristophanes discuss soul mates. Aristophanes claims that humans once had four arms, four legs, and one head with two faces. Zeus separated the two, condemning every human on earth to spend his or her life searching for their other half.

Any sane person would reject this story as mythology; however to add to this list of mythological stories worth discussion, I would include Disney movies and romantic comedies that suggest merely finding our “other halves” would complete us, make us whole, and seemingly eradicate and make nonsense of previous worldly problems. It was Virgil of course who said that “Love conquers all things.” But does love actually conquer all things? Is this fairy tale romance something we should consider worth pursuing because it is actually obtainable?
Probably not.

Many of us want to fall in love. We lay our weary heads against our soft pillows and fall asleep dreaming of the one person who we can spend our last scores with. The one person who will accept us for our flaws, our imperfections, our bad morning breath, our hatred for people who chew with their mouth open, our despise for those who hate the political party we also hate. We want someone who loves us for our idiosyncrasies.

Being human, this seems like a pretty good deal to me. Where can I sign up?

Not so fast. Let’s look at the fine print. We must face the facts and statistics. Most relationships will end before you die. Let’s forget that marriages where one or both spouses admit to infidelity is 41%, and may then end in divorce. Let’s forget that.

Let’s say you have found the perfect person. They don’t care that you believe that Newt Gingrich represents the pinnacle of rational personhood, that you love to play video games when they have something important to discuss, that the garbage hasn’t been taken out in months and there is no more room to sleep in bed because the rat’s nest has overtaken the sheets that haven’t been changed since New Years 1999. Love conquers all, right?

When considering our options and abilities to be with someone forever, we should look at things as they actually are, not how fairy tales and western cinema likes to get our hopes for. If you have a partner, chances are more likely than not that you two will break up before getting married. When considering marriage, don’t forget to consider that over 50% of marriages in the US end in divorce. Let’s say you and your life partner never gets divorced, circumstances still do not quite live up to the fairy tale standards we have engrained and embedded in our soft, delicate hearts.

First of all, be happy that you found someone you will never divorce. Congratulations on either finding love, or someone incredibly apathetic or invalid. But chances are pretty good that one of you will die before the other. That means you will have to spend years alone without your soul mate while you spend a torturous life on earth paying taxes and getting stuck in traffic behind people with ugly, foreign license plates.

I don’t know which is saddest: never finding someone at all, or your fairy tale romance ending at a funeral which costs thousands more than the engagement ring that signified eternity.

There we have it: most relationships will end before you die. If they don’t, your partner will die before you. Therefore, the most romantic event you can hope for is to die together, like in a car accident. Don’t worry. There will be roses aplenty at your funeral. And roses are pretty damn romantic.

Regardless of the existential crisis this thought may induce, giving up on wanting or striving to find your most ideal sense of true love, in terms that you have defined, still seems silly. Because a life without any love or shared emotional attachment with another being will always be more lonely than the existential abandonment that may tear you shreds in your soul mate’s absence.

While fairy tales are a joke and probably detrimental to our emotional well-being and our approach to conducting romantic relationships, I will argue that having someone for a month or a lifetime seems significantly more valuable than having no one ever. As far as a marriage ending up in divorce, I am still too young to determine that value, but I would imagine it depends on the persons involved. Even though you will leave this planetary realm the same way you came in, that does not mean you should not embrace every waking, savory moment with another person – if you are fortunate enough to have and make that work.

So go get ‘em, but remember that all things come to an end.

Carving Your Way

Did you hear that? It sounded like the closing of a cave door collapsing into the ground from a cave occupied by a cave dweller. It sounded like a special effect from an Indiana Jones movie. Stick with me now. I’m going somewhere with this.

It sounded like someone was dragging a shovel over the cement. Remember the sound of shoveling snow? The shovel scraping against the driveway? It was like that, but slow it down. Yes, like that, a slow shovel scarily scraping.

This is what I really heard: The sound of his knuckles dragging. Walking down the street, one hand in hers, the other cave-dwelling appendage draped to the ground carving an imprint of his path making the sound of an ancient Egyptian slave pushing pyramid blocks. His knuckles leaving a Hansel-and-Gretel trail so we can find the destination of a slow thinker.

He grunted something inaudible to my distant ears, probably inaudible to anyone’s ears. She laughed and clenched his hand harder.

One of those laughs when the person doesn’t find something funny but they laugh because they are trying to appease the other.

One of those laughs that makes you want to advise the person to stop trying so hard.

Their sweat mixed together in each other’s palms, converged in the crevices and valleys of their life and heart lines. She looked up and to her right, deep into his eyes and thought, I hope he likes me; I’m insecure and I’ll suck his dick so he’ll like me. He looked down and to his left, deep into her eyes and thought, I’m going to fuck the shit out of her. Her transparent, white shirt and black bra underneath conveyed you’re not paying enough attention to my tits.

In order to convince her and the people around them he was intelligent and moral, he wore a white polo shirt with khaki shorts. Most everyone was convinced. They let him right in the door without checking any ID. Put on your church pants and everyone thinks you’re the one guy who follows the Ten Commandments.

Waiting for the white hand at the crosswalk, they kissed. Troglodyte DNA infused into her accepting mouth. More DNA to follow later; same location, different source.

Wondering what I did last night. Trying to piece it back together. I don’t remember pouring another glass of Jameson, but I did and the glass somehow made it into the sink intact. I try to piece it back together, but it’s difficult because all I can remember from last night is shards, fragments, like only receiving a few pictures from the entire roll dropped off at the photo booth.

Some touch of madness seems to take over when you see things other people don’t. And I do see many of those things. Yeah, I said it. I see things many other people don’t. You might. You probably have before. But let’s face it: lots of people do not see these things.

It could be a particular idiosyncrasy, a particular trend, whether that trend is an undercurrent in our society or culture, or whether that trend is a prevailing, obvious one sweeping the nation, gathering idiots into the tornado that will no doubt leave them on the ground, shattered in pieces of moronic fragments. It could be a trend with tangible goods, a trend with colloquialisms, a trend in behavior. It doesn’t matter. Like I said… gathering idiots into the tornado that will no doubt leave them on the ground, shattered in pieces of moronic fragments.

Don’t worry. They’ll gather themselves back up, glue themselves back together with false pretenses and some front that irrational people find charismatic, then wait for the next trend tornado to take them wherever they can’t take themselves because they lack the will power to do something on their own, make their own decision, or ignore the trend in the first place and be an individual, manifest the principium individuationis.

That’s why I despise the cave dweller: no fucking principium individuationis. He accepts that which is given to him and never seeks anything out that he can call his own. He fades into the background. He is the background. He lacks the mental and intellectual stamina and courage to separate himself. He thinks he is bold because he bought his opinions and cozily fits right in. I think he is weak because he cannot formulate his own or stand apart.

How disappointing is that? To live life without authenticity, disingenuously, fooling others and even worse, fooling yourself. We are all going to carve something during our short time on this planet.

One man carves the ground with his knuckles; another man carves himself with his ideas.