I’ve been stuck in the same cycle since the Spring of 2007, I realized while drinking my coffee this morning. I get tired of feeling shitty, so I go on a diet, hit the elliptical machine at the gym. I discipline myself, push myself through the first few awful weeks. And they are awful, like a tiny death. But I spent hours in the gym, every week, in my teens and in my twenties, so my body responds quickly to exercise. In less than two months people are noticing weight loss and muscle. I was an obsessive athlete long before I became an obsessive writer, I tell people who never knew the bodybuilding me. And, of course, this sudden burst of fitness inspires a return to Yoga, an obsession from my 20s. Just ten Sun Salutations every day, or twenty. We’ll see. And then the elliptical three days every week, unless I can handle five. And a daily walk! There’s gotta be a daily walk. Right? Before long I’m emailing with a Sensei. Martial Arts, that’s another long obsession story. So anyway, a few more weeks of careful training and my old injuries start feeling better, ya know? Chronic pain starts to ease, relief, and that’s when my obsessive nature really grabs me by the throat. There’s no reason not to exercise every single day, not really, says my stupidly well-built shadow. Don’t be such a lazy prick. And then it’s Yoga, elliptical, a walk after dinner. And I still remember my Tai Chi. I’m just rusty. Why did I ever stop doing this? And off I go to a burn out in about four to six weeks. This is usually when I finally get back to my meditation practice, another thing I obsessively trained for before deciding to become the rogue professor #njpoet. I suddenly realize I’m slipping into a training frenzy, so I try to sit for twenty minutes, thirty minutes, an hour, just breathing, every morning before the sun comes up, before I drink my coffee. I try to dial myself down from manic obsessive poet warrior by focusing on my shaky breathing, by doing not doing like the good little Buddhist monk I once tried to be. It never works, and by then I’m usually sick with a head cold or bronchitis, or both, from all the stress, which is exactly where I sit right now—coughing and sneezing through the end of December, 2014. It’s a sad scene. Hopefully realizing the cycle will break the cycle. We shall see. Obsessive writers should never make any New Year’s resolutions.
They always call it anxiety, or depression, when I start connecting the dots across media narratives. When I laugh out loud at the things the faces on the TV have to say. Things like, “First we must solve this economic inequality problem, so we can then tackle the climate crisis.”
Oh, is that all we have to do? Just redistribute wealth, and then radically tranform our fossil fuel based societies. And we have to get all that done in less than a decade or the ecosystem, the fucking food chain is completely screwed? Ha! Sure. Am I the only one who thinks we’re doomed?
I woke to a beautiful mid-May morning, warm and almost muggy. The crew neck sweater I chose to wear was suffocating my morning commute. Hair dripping. So I drove down the highway with all the windows open, Coltrane playing on local radio, winter jacket flung in the back seat. Livin’ the dream on the first day of December!
This afternoon, while I was sitting at my writing desk, conservative radio told me that climate change is not happening. Greedy, evil scientists! Don’t be fooled! All this while my local temperature was dropping thirty degrees in three hours.
So I figure if the climate is gonna kill all the people, plants, and other animals in about 20-30 years, dark comedy is the way to go as a contemporary writer. What do you think?
I’d rather spend my days reading Plato and Aristotle, Shakespeare and Dante, than recording what I see and feel in public. I don’t want to capture images of dead-eyed customers, offended faces complaining about a long list of first world problems. I’d rather read and read and pretend that it’s the same as writing, the same as translating the mood of my shitty age into vividly foul language.
She said she understands our species is dying, and she’s very sad about that, sincerely, but right now we have to get this Christmas shopping done.
I stopped telling myself I wasn’t smart enough to read the foundational philosophers of my civilization, the deep thinkers who first spoke about, and attempted to organize, this unusual experience we casually refer to as human life. I started with Plato, because so many others I’ve already studied were always wrestling with Plato. I started reading The Republic, slowly, reading like a meditation, reading for understanding. And, for understanding, I also started watching online video lectures and documentaries about Plato, Socrates, and Ancient Athens, which led me to a wider field of study known as Political Philosophy. I easily found two online course, introductions to Political Philosophy—one at Yale, the other at U.Penn. Both contained free online video lectures, both included a syllabus with links to free online readings. I’ve been working through these two courses of study, and obsessively following current events on Twitter, all Fall. I gave up TV shows and movies in August. Instead, I skim hundreds of global and national news sources for several hours every day, seven days a week, and read my political philosophy assignments. I watch several lectures each day, and listen to the spin shows on the radio, and meditate. I exercise when I can muster it. Sleep. Repeat. I scribble into a small collection of ongoing journals when I can’t sleep, or to keep myself from crying. And I’m always cleaning my apartment. Sleep. Repeat. Sleep. While our species is dying faster and faster. Sleep. Repeat. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Human civilization is in hospice, the scientist said—his data was explicit, detailed, graphic—and I have no idea what to write about anymore.
Climate change keeps me from writing some days, more like the news about global warming makes me feel so hopeless about the future—crippled, unable to spark change—that some days I don’t think I’ll get back to writing ever again.
Why not just listen to great music, read the classics, have a lot more sex, and get drunk? I mean, if there’s no hope…
The IPCC and the Pentagon have been weaving horror stories about a half-uninhabitable planet in the next fifty years. Hell on Earth. Coming Soon! Unless we stop our civilization cold, reverse course! Pardigm shift on the count of three!
Meanwhile, the conspiratorial people still insist the whole thing is a massive plot, a scam to grab government funding. Everyone’s in on it, they tell me. Trust no one. They always have links to shady websites, videos and articles, shaky proof. Good guys. Bad guys. It’s a small small Hollywood world after all.
My rich landlord hired a construction team to build a huge concrete planter to house a row of decorative shrubbery—half a city block long, three feet high.
Meanwhile, most of the bridges and roads in New Jersey are crumbling.
All day, every day, on Facebook, on Twitter, people say poor people choose to be poor, homeless people deserve to be homeless, all women secretly want to be raped, and people who threaten the interests of American corporations must die. They say these things in thousands of original and creative ways. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s getting worse.
I mentioned to an acquaintance, a few weeks back, that I wanted to write more about the homeless people of New Jersey. She said she had no sympathy for the homeless because a few homeless men used to harass her and her girlfriends on campus during college. When I called her out on that absolute bullshit stance, she said:
“That’s a very white male thing of you to say.”
In every context, in every situation, there’s always the danger that I will say exactly what’s on my mind. Since my best friend died, and my grandma followed one month after, I have a very low tolerance for meaningless bullshit. The climate is about to flood out huge portions of the planet, creating millions of displaced refugees with no food, no shelter, no fresh water. We’re a few degrees away from a literal Hell on Earth, and rising, while almost every scientist is saying it might be, it’s already too late to avoid the worst of it. And yet people still ask me what TV shows I like to watch, or what I think about two famous strangers getting married? Seriously? Other people actually tell me they don’t believe in science. What? How dare you cling to such stark raving ignorance when there’s so much at stake for all of us.