“Here nor There” by John Wolff


my daughter falls asleep in a warm room rich in ambiance. the hum of an air-conditioner in the window, the whir of a humidifier on the dresser, and the persistent music from an mp3 player are all there to lull her to sleep. i muse to myself about the narcotic life-support systems we create for ourselves. though, i also wonder about the countless, tribal aborigines babies raised, on every continent, naked in the night wind and under the stars, with only their parents to protect them. how far can man go, multiplying in number, devouring resources around him and replacing them with that which he creates? is our species one of gods-in-training? are we only postponing the end of a life-cycle? or are we missing the point entirely? as we become more and more dependent on the synthetic world we learn to create for ourselves, i daydream of a nameless tribe that never existed…

 

 

a class of neutrality will inherit the earth.

call them ‘meek’ if you like. i don’t trust thousand-

year-old translations. conscientious objectors will wear

their unsolicited and un-avenged scars like badges of victory when

obsolete ‘parties’ and ‘sides’ have fallen to dust. you cannot force human beings

into biased categories they reject. “…with us or against us!”, only exists in your limited

imagination. we do not support you. and we will not oppose you.

(until you compromise our human rights)

 

one of his favorite past-times

was making calls on his cell phone

while he smoked a cigarette and ate

packets of artificial sweetener in front

of the microwave, in hopes of a luscious

tumor sprouting in his head which would

grow and grow and grow, slowly crowding

out the rest of his senses and brain function.

until, in its enormity, the ripe, bulbous cyst

would explode in horrific, rapturous form

and then he would comprehend the true

nature of infinity, or understand why

life exists in this universe. though,

really he should be watching his

kids, or voting or something.

but it’s a hard call to make when

you’re instilled with a looming sense

of senseless ineffectuality for the whole

of the species. how does one strengthen

and protect the next generation for its own

trials of futility with credit, crime, war, spam

and all the other predators and tyrants that

we accept as the natural and inevitable

expression of humankind? not that he

was one to think of us as trapped

by our past. but, it wasn’t hard

to study the limitations of man’s

intellect and compassion with so many

examples of its defeat at the hand of instinct

and barbarism. did no hope exist at all, he would

not promote and prolong the lives of those within

his influence. he’s merely reserved in expectation

of positivity. and expresses his fear for others in

cynicism and occasionally conceit. certainly,

he over-esteems his influence with some.

as he under-esteems his influence with

others. but, we none quite know our

-selves as a part of those things

which we are a part of.

 

 

it has been said

that each generation

wants and aims for its children

to have a better life than they have had.

in the past that may have been as straightforward

as devoting enough dedication and hard work into elevating

your offspring into the next socio-economic bracket. however, in a time

when our species is reaching its pinnacle in so many ways, i believe that what parents

will be called upon to provide will change. the upcoming generation will not need economic

resources or status quite as much as they will need foresight and guidance. because, when CNN

tells you the US dollar isn’t worth a thing it will be too late. and five miles is farther than

you thought when you have to transport enough water for a family of four

without a car. i won’t go into reiterating conditions and causes

bound to coalesce in our future. by now, most of it

is known to all, unless they are stuck in

the rose-colored 1950′s or 80′s.

one of those post-war booms

where the people’s chauvinistic moral

was stroked by the state, and their mortal fear was

stoked by the media. this is a productive combination. China

uses some variation of it. but, anyway… this theme of role migration isn’t

anything new. with growing knowledge of agriculture humans shifted from nomadic life

to farming. with the industrial revolution the bulk of occupations shifted to production labor.

with the technological revolution the majority of vocations (in the first world) rotated to

the information sciences. so, it only makes sense that as we near the summit

of the curve we can make a choice to take a precipitous fall back to 17th

century technology and population, or we can loosen our grip on

the past and embrace our new role of predicting and preparing

for some reasonable change in a way that is more acceptable.

 

 

they don’t believe in objective truth.

all they do believe is in dirt and carrion.

for, from a human perspective those are all

that one can be certain of having permanence.

the inspiring and bewildering magnificence

of our atoms, and glass, our mathematics,

and trans-orbital satellite networks

are all so transient and precarious.

and despite all this they find them

-selves more and more like their parents

each day. not that they don’t love and revere

their elders; they just never wanted to be like them.

with all that strength, prominence, and respectability

they never understood how there was any room for

the looming demands of an uncertain self. the

plan that they had held on to, to be lowly

and invisible, had begun to crumble

when a foot got caught in the cogs.

and after being pulled in and churned up,

it now, more closely, resembled a sorry form of

that which their time and place dictates they should

be. ’cause they’re all more foolish and impressionable

than they’d like to think.

 

 

Therapy

i would have to dismantle and reconfigure all the philosophical underpinnings upon which my fragile constructions of life and self are built.

well, if they’re fragile then they’ll be even easier to do that to.

are you sure that’s how that works?

no, but it sounds like a good enough theory, and the lab work is too time-consuming and ethically-questionable for us to venture into.

i guess i’m as angry at myself as i am every other shmuck-flawedDNA-sack going about their lives all around me.

angry at yourself for what?

besides being a human, i guess (as sad as it is) i’m angry that i haven’t “done” anything, haven’t “made a difference,” in essence that i feel so inconsequential.

how do you think an ant feels?

what the fuck kind of question is that? did you really just ask me that?

i was just thinking about it.

are you even listening?

ok, ok… so, you feel worthless?

now, don’t go putting fucking words in my mouth.

i didn’t intend to. i was only trying to recap. please, go on.

i don’t know… it’s just that i used to think i was the kind of person who could champion some meaningful cause or something. but, now i don’t even believe in ’causes,’ not even in the most fundamental sense.

which is?

determination, i mean.

if you’ve come to believe that none of us has any significant weight upon what does or does not happen, how are you supposed to live up to your own standards of “significance?”

indeed, a conflict of beliefs. …now, i’d be happy just to be able to care.

yes, a logical prerequisite for the afore and/or a sensible step down.

however, it seems to me that caring is an intrinsic ability or characteristic that one is either endowed with or isn’t. i can’t fathom a way to foster it from nothing.

hmm, try standing up for a moment.

[therapist stands up and swiftly boots the patient in the nut-sack]

tell me, do you care now?

eeerrrrr, nnnoooo.

oh, well that didn’t really go the way i saw it in my head. (but it still felt kinda good.)

maybe you’rrrre right thoooough. perhaps my perceived inability to care to no more than adherence to my general belief set which revolves around mortal impotence and predestination.

i’m not sure how you drew those parallels. but, i guess that’s what i was trying to say.

but then the problem is as stated at first. when dealing with something as vague and uncertain as metaphysical and ontological matters i would imagine it must take a turning point of a certain type and severity.

i think i might have read about that once.

and my life is friggin’ boring, though operable. so, it’ll be a while until i’m pushed to reshape the dysfunctional pieces of my psyche.

would it help if i kicked you in the balls again?

 

 

the new messiah will be a bastard

of bio-technology. i’m just calling it

right now, that’s all. as we lean more on

scientific advances, we correspond increasingly

via telecommunications. and so personal interaction

becomes simpler and more regimented. we gradually remove

the aspects of inflection, intonation, facial expression, and figurative

differentiation. we define ourselves as movie and song clips, web links,

borrowed and abused quotes, and touched-up jpegs. on the other hand,

technology is learning to ‘think’ more like a human mind. processors

are being developed to connect more freely and laterally. their

computations are beginning to account for context in a

variety of forms. and machines can build upon

their existing parameters based on past

results. IBM has created a computer

capable of playing Jeopardy, a game

of vast and varied form and proportion.

maybe we’ll all just trade places, who knows?

all that’s certain is we’re getting closer to common ground

every day. actually i believe the progress will be effectively staved off,

if not lost, by crises stemming from humankind’s optimistic mismanagement

of the resources necessary for, not only, innovation and industry, but survival itself.

…but that’s only natural.

 

he loved people

who said, ‘they didn’t

play games.’ because, he knew

that if it were true, then they would

be an outcast like himself. for all culture,

society, and tradition are but games. they say

college is for elitist snobs who think that

they’re better than the working man.

and blue-collar labor is only for

chumps and dolts with

more testosterone

than brain power. now,

where does that leave the rest

of us? what are we when we see only

what we are not? what do we do when we

know the flaws and faults that we’re destined to

pass on to, or instill in, others? what if we

know the self-invented monster’s life

of painful serenity because we

lived it, and still have no

answers for anyone?

i wish that i could have as

much patience with the majority

of human kind as i do with my daughter.

and i wish that i could have the unwavering

patience with my daughter that i would if granted

boundless selflessness and love. of course,

some would say that helplessness only

exists if you accept it. however,

i’d counter that accepting

helplessness is, in fact,

the route to understanding

and dealing with it. admittedly,

a fool’s paradise is quite enticing, too.

perhaps it is merely a matter of choice, and

one of the few we have. i watched a movie once

about a man who was incapable of feeling

comfortable or at home in any place

that was familiar to him. only

in a completely foreign

environment could

he experience the total

dissociative freedom of being

an outsider, unrestrained by himself

or others to observe, understand, and act

authentically. perhaps, this can bring us clarity

in the midst of (seeming) powerlessness.

when we manage to pare back more

layers and see with the wisdom

-hungry eyes of innocence

we may be reminded

of the most basic common

denominators that connect even

those things we least understand.

 

 

the human is a nostalgic beast.

he says the sunset is beautiful because

he knows it is from comparative mnemonic processes.

he will not actually feel much of anything until looking back on

the moment as a memory. in the present his mind is busy in cogitation.

maybe he’s trying to keep their craft on course, keep up a conversation with his

ship-mates, and appreciate the bouquet of the Italian cabernet in his glass while not

letting it spill above the rim of his glass with the rolling of the waves. that album in his

cassette player for his morning commute in the better part of ’98-’99 constitutes the

physical embodiment of his mean emotional range for that era, broken down

into twelve, silly, predictable (in hindsight) tracks. perhaps this partly

explains our affinity for botching things up and cutting off our

own noses. if we’re unable to appreciate our condition

until it’s in our past, perhaps we’re more likely

to usher ourselves out of one stage of

existence and into another. though,

whether our advanced adaptability

is an effect, or another contributing

factor of this is too far for even my nut-job

speculation.

 

 

i have blue balls

made of plastic hanging

from a half-dead, electrified,

evergreen conifer taking up half

of my dining-room. it makes me think;

(yes i still do that sometimes) what makes

us do the things we do? if i were alone i would

probably just put a yule log and some chestnuts on

the same skeleton that i pulled out of my closet

for halloween… or thanksgiving. but, i like

to do things that make the few people

i give a shit about in life happy.

i can’t blame it all on them,

besides. in the end, acting

average and conformable tends

to invite far less attention and scrutiny

than the alternative.

 

 

the american dream is the chicken IN the egg… that will never hatch. and if it did it would probably eat itself alive. the theory of class mobility and self-made-men fail with the general trends in means and status; specifically that they both preclude one another. not that meteoric rise is impossible, clearly. but, that such cases are not as much a reflection of work ethic and a nod to universal opportunity, as they are the exploitation of dialectic loopholes and/or the erratic power structure of our fashion-based culture. the mere existence of investing, the fact that “money makes money” ensures the reality of an economic gap. either one is so without means that they are never able to get ahead, or they are ahead and always getting more ahead. either: you have a beat-up 15 year-old truck that you can’t afford to inspect, register, or insure, and can barely put gas in, but need to drive it if you want to work and get a check. or you drive a new high-end vehicle that you have the means to pay people to fix and maintain perfectly so that it will retain its value for when you upgrade two years later. i’m digressing -but not, because what we’re really talking about is not directly finance or status, but image. self-image, image to others, these are the true players in how our position all sorts out. it’s an ambiguous system, at best. and whatever your place in life, rationalization tends to be key to sanity because, let’s face it, we all do bad shit. at one end, there is a certain romance in being a bottom feeder, be it capital, ethical, or what have you. there’s a feeling that you are somehow stronger or wiser than others stemming from the fact that you can and/or do live without some of the crutches or superficialities in their lives. at the other end, the highest up are generally held to be more intelligent, refined, resilient, important, or of more worth in one form or another. the in-between is only a messy, splotched, gradient of mediocrity. it’s like a cute, little, microcosm of our species’ progress. the poorest are stereotypically the strongest and most adapted to survive in a natural sense, but ignorant to modern science or culture. the richest are stereotypically the most knowledgeable of, and skilled in, specialized fields relating to human production or inquiry, but are weak out of their milieu and have lost touch with their larger sphere. and obviously, the middle-class vaguely engenders some of the pros and cons of both in less drastic degree. now, i know, you’re thinking; all this generalizing and judgment, this is deplorable!! however, i only simplify things to appreciate their true richness. to an extent i believe these assertions, though i recognize them as partial truths. from a distance, earth looks blue and white and green… but it is much more. the best part about these observations is the realization that our species is so varied and complex that the exceptions, the misfits, are innumerable. there are so many individuals out there that defy this reduction and categorization, people who sculpt their own place with a patchwork of influences from different strands of life –these are the ones will survive.

 

 

he presented a small, grey, box with a square bow on the top.

it promised nothing.

he opened it. a great volume of sand spilled out, and he said,

to know it is to count it.

and i thought i understood.

 

 

everything you ‘know’ (ie: believe) is attributable to an estimation of your own perception, or someone else’s authoritative (sounding) presentation of theirs. once you recognize the inconsistency and relativity of this, the world takes on another shape. for life’s generalities, this may work fine. but the more specific the point in question, the more complicating factors there are to compromise the calculation or evaluation of increasingly specific evidence.

 

perhaps we are lucky that there are those who are willing to dedicate lifetimes to the study of one receptor on one type of neuron under one set of particular conditions. …or perhaps we’re not. for, even if something is to be learned, our social pathways of disseminating information -though advanced in areas- amounts to little more than privatized games of telephone across nations and ages.

 

did mention i have ants? i kill a lot of them. and i found myself wondering how and/or by what/whom the decision is made to distribute the colony’s resources between harvesting potential food sources, scouting for other sources, and attending the hive. if i keep stepping on the suckers, at what point do their losses become unacceptable? is it determined by chance? do the ants know math? are they instilled with another sense? is there a program, or is it situational? these are things i will never know. and thusly, perhaps am never meant to know. it would take many years of studying thousands of laboratory-bred control ants to even approach an acceptable conclusion. maybe, it’s nature’s way of attempting to make us focus our interest and effort on those things that it wants us to attend to. i don’t know.

 

END