Dear Mole: No Expectations

mcguirk

Since you saw fit to draw me back into the loop of pointlessly pointed pontification, I am going to employ a more fitting approach in the composition of my reply.  This new approach involves even less effort than what was required for any of my past correspondence, as I didn’t even write a draft or formulate any ideas for this one, I just accessed your site and started typing.

I wonder what I’ll say?

There was a recent pseudo-scientific article on CNN advising people to accept their mediocrity in order to eliminate the shame and stress of striving for impossible goals.  This, of course, caught my attention right away but unfortunately, the amateur psychologist that authored it lost his nerve right at the end and added the seemingly obligatory disclaimer “…of course, one must strive to be the best they can be” and that’s when I realized that despite the compelling headline, this guy somehow missed his own point.

If it can be said that I have a goal or purpose in life, it is to master effortless mediocrity.  It isn’t a lack of self-confidence that keeps my sights low, but an actual desire to expend as little effort as possible in the maintenance of a nearly responsibility-free lifestyle.  Do you know what happens to great people when they die?  History’s great masters and geniuses?  The brilliant innovators and movers of society and culture?  They become compost, just like us.  That being said, what the hell is the point of all that expenditure of precious energy?

The slow moving creatures of the world are truly the elite on the Tree of Life.  When you remove human arrogance from the equation (which would, of course, result in a mountain of bullshit colossal enough to Fill Houston), the only measure of an organism’s “success” is its adeptness at survival.  This is why the noble sloth has an average lifespan of three decades compared to the exuberant and enthusiastic dog, which has an average lifespan of one decade.  But the mighty tortoise reigns supreme, slogging along at its sub-leisurely pace for over a century.  See a pattern here?

Regardless, humanity at large has been so conditioned in the opposite direction that my championing of the average is usually met by one of two responses: patronizing amusement or straight up anger.  The latter response is the result of someone so indoctrinated by the Cult of Effort that he or she is incapable of relaxing their standards in the naive hope of achieving “greatness”.  Thus oriented, a willful slacker like myself represents to them the most offensive and threatening kind of person alive.

Writing is something I do if/when it’s fun.  I am never going to be famous, renowned or even published and that’s not just okay with me, it’s exactly the way I like it.  I don’t create outlines or multiple drafts or any of that stuff that was invented to take all the fun out of the written word.  The reason I continue to write is no different than the reason I continue to watch three hour blocks of cartoons on Adult Swim every night while taking copious bong hits.  Sometimes it’s fun, often it’s relaxing, but what it never is is important.  As soon as something becomes important, I avoid it like the plague.

I greatly enjoyed your take on our current case of The Plague, incidentally.  Stocks plummeting is a beautiful thing.  I almost want to say that it’s an important thing, but then I’d have to go back and edit some things I already said and frankly, that doesn’t sound like any fucking fun at all.

Plague,

‘Mudge

 

Dear Mole, Stupid Questions

receipt

Perhaps pondering unanswerable questions is our version of playing Angry Birds.  It’s certainly no farther up the scale of practicality or importance.

It also serves to alleviate the tedium of the daily grind, though I’m not sure why.

Whether or not those “other beings of the Cosmos” exist to question their own existences might be a moot point and quantum physics, as usual, is the culprit in rendering the query meaningless.  Since over a century’s worth of research and experimentation has shown time and time again that the result of an experiment must take the experimenter and his or her laboratory equipment into account – literally inextricable from the equation – is “why are we here?” even a viable question anymore?

This bizarre and counter-intuitive theory leads me to only one conclusion: we are all mortal gods.  Animals, too.  Any living thing, in fact, that can be said to be “experiencing” is among the pantheon of temporary gods.  We created “all this” with our own perception of it – if there is no one to perceive it, can it be said to exist?  This then leads to an even stranger question: did anything exist before the first being had its first moment of sentience?  All of that background radiation leading astrophysicists to posit the 14 billion year old event called The Big Bang – what if this 14 billion year old shit is actually only as old as the first person who thought about it?

We cannot conceive of nothingness, though it’s the (non) state in which we were(n’t) prior to being born.  We go through hours of it every night in dreamless sleep.  It’s a pretty safe bet that it’s precisely where we’re headed after our century or so of melodrama comes to an end.  So…if I, Desert Curmudgeon, were to die in my sleep, would anyone else wake up to experience another morning?  I mean, everything I’ve ever perceived has necessitated my observation to manifest, according to the aforementioned quantum theory.  So is this like a Truman Show situation for just one of us or are all of us simultaneously conjuring different experiences of reality?  Does it matter?  Would our ultimate destiny of eternal non-existence be changed one iota by either answer?

A recently trendy phrasing of the same existential conundrum goes like this: “Why is there something instead of nothing?”  Think about nothing again, but this time extricate yourself from the equation and just think of the physical, inanimate universe.  No living beings, no intelligence whatsoever to observe the phenomenon of cosmic flotsam and jetsam colliding and exploding and disintegrating and reintegrating in perpetuity.  Is this possible?  Obviously, I’m excluding “god” from this question, too.  Lifeless, chaotically moving stuff having no living stuff to observe it and with which to interact.  To my mind, this could not have been the case nor could it ever become the case.  “Stuff” without an observer isn’t stuff – it’s nothing.  “Nothing” with an observer isn’t nothing – it’s empty space or blackness or silence.

This is why I envy my dog.

I’ve no questions, as such, with which to leave you today.  I’m just interested in hearing your thoughts about…all of the above.

Try not to hurt yourself.

Intangibly,

‘Mudge

Dear Mole: Misanthropy 101

dog

Busy, yes, but in my case, only comparatively so in relation to my recent year of shirking all responsibility.  After receiving my textbook in the mail about a week and a half ago, I awoke at 5:00 a.m. the next day and hit the ground running.  I learned the correct directional terms on an animal’s body used in veterinary clinics, the names of all the bones in the canine and feline skeletal systems, the proper operation of a radiograph and ECG machine, the roles of the circulatory, endocrine, digestive and respiratory systems of domesticated animals, and the signs and symptoms of common diseases.  I continued this pace for another few days, acing the quizzes for each lesson, until it dawned on me that I had to slow my roll.  I mean, of course I was getting 100% on these quizzes – I was taking them literally two seconds after sitting through the corresponding lesson.  Perhaps this signifies a better short-term memory than I thought I possessed, but it doesn’t mean I retained the information.  So now, I’m taking a lesson a day and saving the quiz for the following morning after I’ve slept on it.

I’m surprised I didn’t nod off while typing that tedious opening paragraph.  Does that imply disinterest in the details of this new career I’m so impetuously pursuing?  Yes.  Yes, it does.  For instance, when I think about the woman in my past with whom I was most in love, I can’t ever remember taking even the most cursory interest in the function and structure of her spleen.  Ditto for Jesse.  I love dogs, but the individual parts and systems that compose and animate them have nothing to do with that fondness.  I guess I view veterinary medicine similarly to human medicine: it’s awesome when you have a broken leg or a rash on your naughty bits, but is the human animal really meant to survive for nearly a fucking century?  The precarious state of the planet on which all 7.8 billion of us live and its (naturally) ever-depleting resources is all the answer anyone should need for that one.

It’s so weird how excited everyone but me seems to be about the fact that I’m going to school.  I appreciate the enthusiastic votes of confidence, but I also think they’re somewhat misguided.  “You’ll do great, Paul!”; “How perfect!  You love animals!”; “Wow, a new chapter in your life!”  That last one’s the real kicker.  I’ve recently realized that my mind is in an obsolescent, nearly geriatric state.  I’m cool with hanging around for as long as my body holds out, observing things with varying degrees of interest and filling my head with silly frivolities, but I have zero interest in starting any “new chapters”.  In a recent post, I chalked this up to a short attention span, but that’s an oversimplification.  What I seem to be lacking is the ability to form an extended, long-term (i.e. lifelong) interest in any subject, discipline, activity or person.  I absorb most information that I take in, assuming I’m at least moderately curious about it.  For example, all of that Buddhist reading and practice into which I delved for five or six years left many lasting impressions on me, some of which inform most of my thoughts and behaviors in positive ways and will probably continue to do so since they’ve become habitual.  But the terminology?  The history?  The unpronounceable names of countless Tibetan and Indian “masters”?  The endless ritual and mantras and meditation practices?  What I found fascinating just a few short years ago bores the crap out of me now.  It’s the fact that I no longer seek out an image, you see.  If I had kept going with this and reached the point where I walked around wearing monks robes and greeting everyone with the word “Namaste”, that would indicate I’d deliberately decided to adopt the image of a “guru”, astoundingly inaccurate as that may be.  It’s also a pretty safe bet that many people would justifiably find me pathetic and laughable, just like I view anyone whose obsession is of the religious or spiritual variety.

Survival is incredibly overrated.  In the novel Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut expressed this opinion thusly (as the godlike narrative voice describing hapless protagonist Kilgore Trout): “I had given him a life not worth living, but I had also given him an iron will to live.  This was a common combination on the Planet Earth.”  The thing is, most people seem able to fool themselves into believing they’re still passionate about the same stale old things, whether it’s a career, religion, football, romance, politics or whatever else people utilize to fill the time while they’re in the process of surviving.  What’s that you say?  What about Notes From The Avalon?  Hey, Eastern philosophy held my interest for a half dozen years; it only took me 6 months to finish that admirable online crap-fest and if you’ll recall, I nearly threw in the towel more than once before its completion.  In other words, I would have reached the end of my Fifteen rope sooner or later had the series not conveniently ended before I got bored.  I don’t know how anyone can spend the better part of 100 years forcing themselves to keep sounding passionate about their childhood religion or the high school sweetheart to whom they’ve been betrothed for decades.  How exhausting!  What if we just allowed ourselves more honesty and less ego-stroking by admitting that sometimes, sparks fade and interests die?  Would society collapse?  Maybe it would.  Some professions do indeed require an inextinguishable passion for the work.  I don’t know how the hell people do it.

So we survive for the sake of surviving.  So do tapeworms.

Learning for me is always better when it’s spontaneous.  School doesn’t provide that type of learning, so I go by rote.  Cram, memorize, hope to hell I never have to apply the knowledge in a real-world setting.

Regardless, I think you made a great list of the major components of learning.  I know that it’s great because it is the lack of ability or willingness to engage in these processes that makes humanity as odious and hopeless as it is.  The one that really struck me was “Holistic lessons are useless…sweeping statements provide no guidance”.  This should be self-evident, but obviously it isn’t.  The best illustrative example I can think of is that of the alcoholic or drug addict who, in the interest of survival, turns to A.A. or N.A. for help.  Tangible help might be expected but sweeping statements and holistic lessons are all they receive.  “Fake it ‘til you make it!”  “One day at a time.”  “Let go and let God!”  What an industrial sized vat of hogwash.  12 step programs are so popular, in fact, because they provide so little pragmatic instruction – most folks just replace the liquor entering their mouths with stupid, trite slogans exiting them.  And this is the method of “recovery” that’s still fully endorsed by the AMA.  Those dedicating themselves to the spurious views espoused by Bill Wilson in the 1930s have essentially two choices: go back to being a drunk or become the ultimate buzzkill that only other recovery automatons can tolerate.  The vital thing missing from 12 step programs, of course, is an exit strategy, and that’s why, in the absence of anything else, many people embrace it as a lifelong passion.

ryan

So we fill the time however we choose while we wait on our survival instinct as it fulfills its curious, often century-long purpose.  Those who still see “importance” in this (i.e. a divine plan or lofty visions of human destiny) are obviously too frightened to look at the foundational facts.  And those facts, once again, can be summed up very simply: we live until we don’t because that’s the way it is.  Everything else is just window dressing, usually of the gaudiest variety.

Do you enjoy teaching?  If so, how do you manage to nurture enough optimism about the future of our species to consider the transfer of knowledge a worthwhile endeavor?  Would creative writing even be publicly applicable in the oppressive authoritarian world we’re clearly determined to bring about?

Dogs have a bone in their penis called, appropriately enough, the os penis.

I retained that one.

Higgledy-Piggledy,

‘Mudge

Dear Mole, Pancakes

pancakes

Oy, indeed.  Drawing the curtain on unanswerable existential questions is just what the doctor ordered.  But I wouldn’t know where to fish for the monkey-faced eel and despite my former status as a hallucinogenic connoisseur, I’ve never been able to get my hands on peyote.

Tuition is paid and I’m enrolled in the Santa Fe Community College veterinary tech program.  However, the online curriculum is rather useless until I receive my textbooks in the mail, so I have another day or two of exquisite inactivity to enjoy.

Yesterday, I filled some of that time by watching a few episodes of The Sarah Silverman Program.  This is what I learned:

Aside from a deeper understanding of canine and feline anatomy, this might represent the sum total of acquired knowledge needed to see me through the rest of my life.

I’m also hoping that it may serve to compensate for my lack of substantive commentary about food in my last post.

Boysenberry,

‘Mudge

 

 

Dear Mole: Losing It

oscar

All things considered, it seems quite appropriate that Elvis shook off this mortal coil while his ever-expanding ass was parked upon the commode.

I hope that’s where I meet my end, too.  Such an ignominious farewell is exactly what I deserve after half a century of horrible eating habits.  A few years ago, while I was clawing my way through the vast works of Alan Watts, I came across an essay he had written about proper food preparation and enjoyment.  He treated this subject with just as much reverence and significance as he ever did Zen Buddhism and the erudite skewering of monotheism.  I hate to admit it, but he made a lot of sense.  Food is life and my lazy disinterest in its origins, preparation and appreciation might say something about my relative lack of interest in life itself.  Palettes just don’t come as unrefined as the one I’ve used and abused for almost 50 years.

It may also be related to my lack of a passionate counterpoint to those who take issue with my stated theories.  What you interpret as niceness is much closer to ambivalence.  As I indicated several times on my recent blog of perpetual silliness, perpetual silliness is one of the few things I still value.  I enjoyed putting intellectualism to bed for a while and just letting loose with laughable nonsense far more than I ever enjoyed attempting to influence people’s views along philosophical, spiritual or political lines.  In other words, it was attempting to make a very significant point and that point was that I no longer consider myself to be someone in possession of a worthwhile point.  What’s left after that?  These little bite-sized moments of philosophizing that you’ve afforded me here are more than enough to satisfy what residual curiosity I have left.

Everyone talks shit — all day, every day.  That includes such luminaries as Nietzsche and Einstein and Freud and Gandhi.  They all talked shit — all day, every day.  Those who talk, talk shit.

Thus, a shrug of the shoulders is my new silent mantra.

That’s how I see it.  Others who have known me for a while interpret it quite differently.  They’ve told me so.  I think these deliciously despondent lyrics about lost talent and lost passion from the late, great Neil Peart perfectly illustrate the unnecessarily melodramatic view of what’s happening to Mudge at (almost) 50:

The dancer slows her frantic pace in pain and desperation,
Her aching limbs and downcast face aglow with perspiration.
Stiff as wire, her lungs on fire with just the briefest pause —
The flooding through her memory, the echoes of old applause

She limps across the floor and closes her bedroom door.

The writer stares with glassy eyes, defies the empty page,
His beard is white, his face is lined and streaked with tears of rage.
Thirty years ago, how the words would flow with passion and precision,
But now his mind is dark and dulled by sickness and indecision.

And he stares out the kitchen door where the sun will rise no more.

Some are born to move the world, to live their fantasies,
but most of us just dream about the things we’d like to be
Sadder still to watch it die than never to have known it —
For you, the blind who once could see, the bell tolls for thee.

Heart-wrenching stuff, but I can’t really relate.  In order to fall from grace, one must once have been in a state of grace and I’m not even sure what that would mean.

So here’s my closing query for you: does engaging in philosophy and linguistic erudition still give you a sense of pride or accomplishment?  And if your answer is anything shy of a resounding “yes!”, do you find the composition of fiction to be a way to still scratch an itch, as it were, without getting bogged down in argumentative semantics?

Unwashed & Somewhat Slightly Dazed,

‘Mudge

Dear Mole: Cliques, Clubs, Clumps & Dung Heaps

bc

Blackfoot, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Crow, Apache, Arapahoe…

The reality of tribes is sadly unavoidable in discussing the troublesome “social animal” design (flaw) of our species, but it’s something that makes me feel a little gross whenever I talk about it.

If you interpreted that to mean that I personally find people to be gross, that’s not too far off the mark.

Of course, we all have an ever-shifting assemblage of tribes to fulfill our strange need for a consensus.  As you accurately surmised, my current circle of influence is relatively small, and the most significant constituent of those interlocking associations happens to be a dog.  In high school, I fell in with a singularly bizarre and fiercely independent group of friends who stayed in touch far longer than one might expect post-graduation.  In recent years, it seems we’ve all realized the wisdom in finally cutting that umbilical, but a few remain close friends.  In the late 80s, our common bond was a ludicrous sense of humor and an affinity for partying.  These days, the only sure common bonds that remain are bilateral symmetry and opposable thumbs.  Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.  Regardless, much of their former influence has proven indelible.

I’ve had my drinking tribe that necessarily moved on once I stopped imbibing.  The specifically non-drinking “recovery” tribe with whom I briefly fell in at that point quickly proved far too insipid and childishly religious for my tastes.  I’ve inadvertently found myself in the midst of other appropriate tribes revolving around punk rock, writing, philosophy, Buddhism, shared political views, and terrible Nickelodeon shows.  I am a person and I am not quite a hermit (yet), so all of this is naturally par for the course.

But as you alluded to in the final paragraph of your letter, the word itself with its newly odious sociopolitical implications makes me bristle at its very utterance.  I remember just a few short years ago, I often found it cute when another blogger would refer to their readership as “their tribe”.  It was relatively innocuous and seemed to foster a sense of inclusion and acceptance.  I no longer find it cute.  It’s gross.

I don’t consider co-workers to be a tribe.  Generating income in a soul-crushing job is the new pursuit of former hunter-gatherers, and the randomness of a company’s staff coupled with the involuntary nature of having to work for a living takes the common bond tribal aspect right out of it.  It can be a tribe if you’re lucky enough to enjoy the company of your fellow automatons, but I would guess that this is a comparative rarity.

People will continue to float in and out of my life for as long as I continue inhabiting this planet.  I try not to attach to them.  Emotional independence is literally all I’ve got going for me.

I also have a very short attention span, my recent monomaniacal blog page notwithstanding.  Usually, within a pretty short time frame, I can extract all the inspiration, education and camaraderie that I seek from a person.   After that, I simply remember them fondly as having been among that rarest of tribes: people who don’t make me want to vomit.  Is it any surprise I’ve never had the desire to marry?

I know that some of this might sound pretty cold, but I venture that it’s true of all of us, to varying degrees.  Embracing an ever-shifting cast of characters while former tribe members necessarily fall off is a form of non-attachment and as such, seems to be a somewhat healthy psychological outlook.

Do you, like me, secretly admire the simple and the stupid?  They may need bigger and more clamorous tribes than you and I, but I also surmise that most of them are considerably happier.  Am I just jumping to arrogant conclusions when I assume such things or do you agree that the bigger one’s intellect, the more potential for depression and existential ennui?

Does my aversion to social media have anything to do with my ever-increasing lack of tolerance for my own species?

Forget that last question, I don’t care if it does.

Fuck Zuckerberg,

‘Mudge

Dear Mole,The Oracle in The Kitchen

oracle

Does complacency equate to surrender?

I must admit that your seemingly straightforward query presented quite the stumper for me.  After several unsuccessful attempts at answering your question as posed, I realized that I view this problem in reverse, asking instead, “Does ambition equate to surrender?” since the world at large seems determined to dutifully fulfill their “societal obligations”, probably owing to the fact that a willful lack of ambition is what’s truly anathema in our collective finger-wagging discourse.  Or, if you prefer, the reworked question could be phrased: “Do you have the balls to do nothing?

Apparently, I do, because I managed to avoid working a single day in 2019.

Every year, I buy a new wall calendar to hang in the kitchen.  Last year, appropriately enough, it was this:

sloths

This year, I realized that if I’m to suspend disbelief and embrace the humanity in my DNA enough to enjoy the new year in ways that go beyond bong hits and iCarly marathons, a different type of wall calendar message for me to superstitiously consult would be in order.  I settled on Rick & Morty, but as soon as I opened it and hung it on the wall, I saw January’s message of surprising and hopefully prescient profundity:

rick

And that’s really it, isn’t it?  When we know nothing matters, which we of course do, then The Universe is ours.

Can’t wait to see what you choose to do with it, ‘Mole.

In A Single Atom,

‘Mudge