the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

the cure for lonely writing time…

In humor, life, writing on February 22, 2012 at 11:32 am


There is no cure. DEAL.

OK, let me be a little nicer about it.  There is a lot of stuff written about how difficult it is to fill the page with words. I’m not a drinker, but sometimes I wish I was when I’m starting something new. That’s when I just want to have an out-of-body experience while my body taps away a first draft.  That first draft can sometimes be fun, but most times, it’s not great and I’m going to have to edit the bejeezus out of it, which I don’t mind.  I just hate getting the words out the first time.  Of course, if I were drinking, my first draft would suck it worser, so there’s that to consider.

Still, even harder than writing a first draft of anything is just putting my butt (and keeping my butt) in the seat while I tap away at my keyboard.  For a long time, I was writing at my house in the backroom. But recently, we got a washer and dryer from my folks, which means that my backroom has become a back corner. I don’t mind. I’ve noticed I write best when facing a wall. I also have noticed that I like to write in narrow spaces, in which I can feel the walls on either side of me.  Is it from my grad school days when I used to spend hours procrastinating in a tiny carrell?  Maybe. But I think it might be more primordial.  As in, during my time of insecurity before the plain whiteness of my screen, I need a continuous hug or something. Not to make light of people with Autism, but I’ve heard there are these things you can sleep in that wrap around you and make you feel like you’re getting a hug the whole night long.  Maybe I should write with one of those on. Of course, I don’t think you can use your hands when you’re being embraced.

The back corner in my house is not bad, but even the walls only have so much power over me.  If I don’t get right to the work in the morning, I start looking for things to clean.  Dishes, clothes, back corners of the pantry, the toilet even. You name it.  I don’t think that’s primordial, though. I think it’s just sad.

Talking about sadness, the reason for my struggle when starting to write, I contend, is loneliness. Not to sound overly dramatic, but writing is kind of like death. You don’t know what’s waiting for you, and you have to face it alone.  No one is going to get you out of it. You have to find a way to cope.  So, the last couple months, my solution has been to write in coffee houses, which for some reason, focuses me.  It might be the caffeine, too.  But really, it’s the people.  Don’t get me wrong. I don’t talk to anyone except for the nice woman who makes my coffee. I don’t come here for that kind of community. I come here to work. I’m on an analogy-run here, but coffeehouses are kind of like the original non-virtual Facebook. The place is full of people you recognize who put up announcements about this or that event who are all in their own world and want to stay that way.

There are a few disadvantages to this set-up–of course there are. First, there’s the cost. I try to be cheap. A double espresso costs about 2 bucks, which is not bad, though sometimes I give in and get a vegan cookie (not because I’m vegan but because I live in San Francisco, vegan capital of Gaia.)  If I were smarter about money, I’d get an espresso maker and do it at home, and then, I wouldn’t be tempted to eat vegan hockey pucks. (If I were really smart about money, I wouldn’t spend so much time writing.)  I figure six months’ worth of espressos would be about the same as a decent machine, and if I include the vegan delights, I’d probably break even in three. BUT then I’d be back at my little back corner hugging the walls or cleaning the lint off them.

There’s also calorie intake to consider. Espresso with a couple sacks of sugar isn’t bad, but the vegan goodness wears on you.  I’ve written a lot these last couple months, but I’ve gained five pounds, so I’m going to start running more.  (Vegan baked goods = less guilt, more gut.)

Lastly, there is the problem of hours and caffeine. I have to write in the morning because of my schedule, but sometimes things don’t work out and I can only get my words out at night. Espresso late at night = bad sleep and crazy dreams, which then screws my next day of writing.

OK, so as you can see, my solution to the loneliness required by writing is problematic.  (I’m not mentioning yuppie moms and dads with their SUV baby carriages and/or African sling things.  Why do all these white women dig their slings so much?)  If you have some ideas, I’d love to hear them.  What do you all do when you need to write? Let’s start a therapy session right here. It won’t keep you up, or make you gain weight, or give you the need to scream at a yuppie mom trying to get in touch with her Wisdom.


what we talk about when we talk about God…

In life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on January 29, 2012 at 3:15 pm

lilywhiteamongthorns , a blogger who read my recent post about the God-haters on Facebook posted this comment:

I have a question. I would like for you to answer it, but I will understand if you don’t. What is your defiinition of a believer? Because you say you are one, yet you say,

“I just don’t get the idea that I have to believe that a man died on the cross for my sins, and even if I do believe it, I really don’t get why I have to think that the next guy is damned because he doesn’t. That just sounds tribal to me and against any notion of the infinite nature of divinity.”

So my bottom line question is, what DO you believe in?

It’s a good question, and I am going to try to be as direct (read short) and honest (read I’m digging deep) as possible. But to do so, I think I better clear up a couple things first.  1. I think I should remind people that my previous post about the Facebook Atheists, for lack of a better word, was pointed at the facile way they dismiss belief, and the quote above refers to a smaller point I was making that these Atheists are not the only ones guilty of condescension.  There are a lot of conservative religious people out there who can be just as dismissive of positions that aren’t their own. For the sake of this post, let me also say that when I refer to “conservative” religious folk, I am referring to Christians not because they are the only ones, but because I know that tradition best. I am sure that there are conservatives of the kind I am referring to in all traditions.

The other point has to do with the words, “believer”and “belief”. In the other post, I was using a very broad definition for the first word–something like, anyone who believes in some thing, some force in the world that is greater than any one of us and that is greater than the physical world. Yes, it’s vague, but I was using the term in opposition to people who don’t believe in any such force, or God, or whichever word you think appropriate for divinity.

As to the word, “belief” and how I use it, (OK, wake up,lilywhiteamongthorns, because this is what you were looking for) let me say that I think of belief in terms of hope. There are a lot of Christians (they are probably not the only ones) who use the word belief when they really mean knowledge. For my taste, they are just a little too confident in their proclamations. When it comes to God-talk, I think vague is the best any of us can do. So if you ask me what I believe when it comes to God and to an afterlife, to the metaphysical, to the spiritual, my general answer is, I hope for a lot, but I know nothing.

Now,if that sounds like I’m being safe and non-committal, let me be more specific. Let me put to you a scenario that sounds like a joke, but isn’t. I think this story will get at what I hope for when it comes to God.  So, imagine a bunch of mystics from all the religious traditions of the world coming together in a room to discuss the idea of God. You pick the panel.  Can you imagine it? A Sikh Guru, John of the Cross and his grimace, some Buddhist sage–it’s like a collection of religious superheroes from all the ages. At first, all of them argue with each other. The Buddhist says there is no God, the Christian claims that God can be known in three aspects: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The Jewish mystic thinks all of that is mishegaas. The Hindu looks on amused and imagines that all Gods are just some version of Vishnu. But as they keep talking, as they keep trying to boil down what they are after, all these individuals find that their language is the problem, their words are the obstacles to their coming together. In other words, their ultimate concern, in order for it to be ultimate, is actually the same thing.

NOW, I AM NOT SAYING THAT ALL RELIGIONS ARE THE SAME. Religions are made out of culture and they speak to the concerns of the culture they come out of. They are for this world, at least that is what I believe, by which I mean, that is what I hope. So, to loop back to the question above, the blogger points to my reference to Jesus. As a Christian, I should say that I believe in the resurrection–by which I should be saying I KNOW Jesus rose on the third day. I cannot say that, but I can say that I hope he did. I hope for this not because I think that that event washes away my sins if I accept it, but because it is an act of God piercing through the cold rationality of this world, a type of proof that there is something greater out there that awaits us. I hope for this with all my heart, but I also hope that God spoke to Mohammed and told him to recite, and that the Buddha was able to grasp Nirvana through contemplation one day long ago, etc. I believe/hope in things unseen, but I know nothing. Is God some old guy with a beard sitting on a throne surrounded by angels? Maybe, but maybe he is not a He. Maybe God is some force in the world that acts in the world, or maybe He/She/It is none of these things.

This hopeful doubt is the only way I can imagine a God that exists without also thinking that my Jain friend, or my Buddhist friend, or even my Facebook, condescending Atheist friend is going to suffer hellfire because they don’t share my beliefs. Again, I might be wrong. Maybe God is a his-way-or-the-highway kind of God, but I hope that is not so. I hope so more than I can express here. But who the hell knows? (pun intended.) I know I don’t. That much I know. And I’m wiling to bet that no one else does either.

why are all my Facebook friends hating on the Almighty?

In humor, life, observations, Uncategorized on January 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Listen, I’m not religious. I’m going to say that right now. My mom was pretty Catholic until she wasn’t. Some priest hit on her when I was a kid, and she’s also got a feminist streak in her and she doesn’t understand the Church’s views on women, so she kind of fell out. Anyway, after she stopped making us go to Mass, I felt no great need to kneel and stand and kneel and pray on Sundays, so that was that for me with the Church until it wasn’t.

In my 20s, kind out of nowhere, I felt a need to reconnect to something spiritual. I went to church for a year on my own every Sunday until I approached a friar who worked at the church I was going to. Brother Hyacinth was in charge of adult spiritual education, or some such thing, and he was awesome. He was a Guinness-loving Irishman who loved his church but who was also open and curious about views that weren’t his own. He was the right person to bring me into the fold, and I spent a year getting myself ready for confirmation. I took the name, Augustine, which, I found out, was not quite right for me. (Augustine, I was to learn, was the guy who, among a few others, really pushes the notion of original sin, i.e., the idea that we are screwed because of Adam and because we have bodies that are corruptible. Of course, before he came to that position, Augustine slept around and had a bunch of kids out of wedlock. Then he found religion, guilt and sanctimoniousness. I’ll let you decide if there’s a connection there.)

Where was I? Oh, yes, I was telling you about how I got confirmed and how I was going to church until the day of my confirmation. Two years in the making and I remember telling my sponsor (yes, Catholics and Alcoholics share the same vocab) that my confirmation was my first real step to ex-communication. A priest heard me say this, but that’s how I felt that day and I didn’t care. I just don’t get the idea that I have to believe that a man died on the cross for my sins, and even if I do believe it, I really don’t get why I have to think that the next guy is damned because he doesn’t.  That just sounds tribal to me and against any notion of the infinite nature of divinity.

I say this as a believer, which means I’m in the middle of most religious arguments. When I hear the religious conservative from any tradition–zealotry knows no cultural boundaries–I go bat-shit crazy. And yet, I go just as crazy when I hear the facile piling-on that my timeline on Facebook fills up with on any given day.

(YES, after 4oo+ words, I am getting to my point. But hey, this is still shorter than most sermons, and you don’t have to kneel, so there’s that.)

I’m not blind to the fact that religious movements are full-up with dumb-dumbs. I also know that historically, there have been a lot of dumb-dumbs in charge of said religious movements. Dumb-dumbs, by their very nature, come up with ideas that are truly dumb, sometimes these ideas are also profoundly and even spiritually dumb. Sure, I get it. But if you keep in mind that there are dumb-dumbs everywhere, then I don’t get why people get so up in arms about some preacher who turns out to be gay or a priest who has a kid. I mean, I get why people get angry at the person, but what I don’t get is how you go from condemning the act of an individual to condemning the notion of religion. I guess I should take my own advice and not freak out, “not trip” about the dumb-dumbs who go off on believers on my Facebook page. They have a right to say what they want. But when I read the snide remarks about how ridiculous and naive it is to believe in something (I’ll call it God because that’s the word that culturally makes sense to me, but you can call it whatever you like), I want to call bullshit. In fact, I’d say that the secular-rationalist is a bigger manufactuer of BS than his religious counterpart because by definition, the rationalist should be reasonable and not dogmatic. I’m not saying that my Facebook friends are wrong in their beliefs; I am saying that they should probably avoid making generalizations they can’t support with fact.

Is there a God? Hell if I know. But Hell if my hating friends on Facebook know.

Thanksgiving Chronicles, part 3

In life, observations, writing on November 26, 2011 at 12:47 am


It’s a little after midnight on Saturday or is it Friday?  I really never remember.  I also never remember if I’m a first generation American because I was born here or if my parents are because they came here.  Doesn’t really matter in the end, I guess.  There’s a stamp date if you’re curious–not on me or my parents but on the entry. You knew that.

I’ve been listening to Marc Maron‘s WTF podcast during my whole trip down here.  I’m a little obsessed, which is probably why I’m kind of all over the place, but I’m hoping you’re also obsessed with Marc, or short of that, that you’ll be patient as I channel my inner-neurotic.  It’s been 24 hours since I got down here.  My wife is up north because she’s a baker and bakers don’t get time off around the holidays, so I’m here seeing my folks by myself, and right now, at this very moment, I’m at a coffee place in Santa Monica, less than a mile from where I went to high school.  I’m here because I decided that I was going to actually do some work.  Lately, I seem only to be able to work after drinking a double espresso while listening to Radiohead/Beirut surrounded by other suffering, procrastinating writers who almost to the man and woman work on 15 in. Apple laptops.  I have a 17 in. because I didn’t listen to a good friend years back about the trade off of two extra inches for ten added pounds, but that’s not important.  I just got here and though the place is open 24 hours, I will leave in an hour because A. I need to get up tomorrow and not waste the day like I did today, not that hanging out with my mom is wasting time, even if she loves Judge Judy and Everyone Loves Raymond and makes me watch while she nervously wonders why I’m not laughing.  Here’s the reason: Judge Judy is a real BITCH and Raymond sounds like he needs to blow his nose.

But I digress.

Here’s the question I have for you all: when you go home, do you feel the need to put everything off so that you can hang out with family who you don’t get to see that often?  I fel like the answer is yes. There’s more to life than work.  But on the other hand, Ray Romano is pretty hard to watch for long periods of time and his voice does not really facilitate mature family connection. Still, today, aside from talking and eating and napping, I really can’t say I got anything done, which is fine, but I waited for my folks to go to sleep so I could feel guiltless as I traveled mile after mile through the Los Angeles basin to hang with my sister for a couple hours so I could then get some LA in me and do some work. 212 Pier is tonight’s choice where old surfers are arguing about chess and a couple would-be novelists are facing Facebook.  Tomorrow, as part of what seems like my mini-tour of LA grungy coffee bars that serve charred espressos, I’m off to the Bourgeois Pig, an LA spot for suffering screeenwriters who I’m sure also look at Facebook or Tweet.  The only difference between the Pig and this place is that from what I’ve heard the Pig (not sure of they call it that, but I’m not sure if I’m spelling Bourgeois correctly) is across the street from Scientology’s Hollywood headquarters.  If I don’t get any work done tomorrow night, I guess I can join Scientology and drown my sadness in L. Ron Hubbard.  That’s not sad.  Not at all.

Stay tuned.

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