The “Culture War” Is Really Humans Vs. Culture

Make America Angry Again! It seems like everyday now, there’s some TV show or public event aimed at upsetting the president, followed by a Trump Tweet that fires everyone else up. Everywhere you look, you see angry racists, angry anti-fascists, angry feminists, angry football players, and angry celebrities screaming, waving their arms, and killing each other with cars over something Trump said or something Trump did.

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Come on people. Look at this guy. Does he really deserve this level of validation?

Now, I realize that the issues that have Americans so enraged these days aren’t entirely the president’s fault. These are old fires being stoked, but we’re not going to douse by throwing tantrums or going out of one’s way to piss people off.

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Yeah, I’m talking to you, interchangeable NFL protesters. Now, I don’t care about the National Anthem or all this disrespecting the flag one way or the other. To me, those as symbols, and I leave symbols to the same people that George Carlin does. The way I see it, you’re just exercising a right that this great country is based on. I’m proud to live in a place where you needn’t worry about getting lynched, stoned, or even fired for your actions. Whether I agree with you or not, however, I still think you could find a better venue to share your viewpoint.

Let’s be honest: Monday Night Football is not the place for you to speak your minds. In fact, you’re not hired to speak at all: you are modern-day gladiators, paid to beat the shit out of each other in an arena for the pacification of the public. That’s all you are, and that’s all anyone cares about. As for me, I don’t care one whit. If you want ruin your careers and damage the reputation of the company you work for, then go right ahead. Maybe it’ll get Americans to stop thinking about football and start thinking about real issues. I just think you’d do better to speak at a college, publish an essay, or even write a letter to the editor, for crying out loud. You’ll have a smaller audience than when you’re on your precious tee-vee, but at least you’ll know that the people you do reach will actually give a shit.

It’s the egotism that bothers me more than anything. What kind of self-absorbed douche gets on a soapbox in the middle of work? If some dude at my office decided to interrupt every workday with a political message, the rest of us would throw our staplers at him. And don’t give me that shit about free speech. The First Amendment only protects you legally. It doesn’t mean that your friends, family, employers, or sponsors will like what you have to say. There are consequences for saying the wrong thing, so suck it up, buttercup.

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Then you’ve got the people who love to say that the president has emboldened racism and hate groups. Once again, I think those people are giving Trump a little too much credit. These organizations have existed, and will continue to exist, for years and years. You can’t blame Trump, a professional narcissist, for these violent rallies that are going on. Have we forgotten that the president works for the citizenry, and not the other way around? We hired him. Trump became president because we voted for him, not because he reached into his bag of racists and Russians and pulled them all out to vote. He is a reflection of us. Cruelty and ignorance are All-American home goodies, baked at three-hundred and fifty degrees for over two-hundred years.

Why do we keep blaming the president for all our problems anyway? He wields no real power. Sure, he puts his name on the bills, but his position only exists for one purpose: to provide “good feelin’s.”

Let’s be honest again: for all his impressive oratory skill, what did Barack Obama really change? I mean, really, as in the quality of our daily lives? Any changes in my life during his presidency were brought on by my own efforts. He certainly didn’t turn the country into some femi-homo-disarmed-Euro-paradise like conservatives feared. All he did was send warm, liberal fuzzies through the television while business, war, and politics went on as usual. In 2017, we just exchanged one talking head for another, one that says what the other side likes to hear. And still, nothing is changing. Do you have more money in your pocket than you did before Trump became president? Do you feel better protected from terrorists and scumbags? Is the nation a warmer, happier place than it was last year? Nah, but at least you have your alpha-male role model shouting down those pussy libtard snowflakes, and that’s all these people need.

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Therein lies the trouble we face: mindless tribalism, or as the magazines are calling it, the “culture war.” People are trading their individuality for groupthink and entering into twisted crusades against each other. You can’t say it’s only happening on one side, either, or else you wouldn’t see the childish clashes we’re getting. Those militant morons out there chanting and whining don’t care about making life better for anyone, they just want to feel morally superior to those they disagree with, by shouting them down and belittling them. When they vote, they don’t consider which candidate will improve the nation, but the one that will run their enemies out on a rail and silence them for good.

Now here’s the truth: if that’s the way you think when you vote, then you’re admitting that you don’t want a president, you want a king. That makes you a defector from democracy, and a supporter of despotism. You are precisely what Benjamin Franklin warned us about, and precisely what the Revolutionary War was fought to tear us from. In a democracy, everyone gets to speak, and in a society as diverse as ours, a tug of war must exist in perpetuity.

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So what’s the answer? I don’t know how to calm these nutballs we see on TV every night, but I do see the difference between them and the regular people that surround me in real life.

The fact is that regular people don’t get so worked up over these things. They’re too busy trying to survive. They have households to manage, families to raise, budgets to balance, jobs to attend to. They stay informed of policy and vote, but they don’t allow their identities to be so wrapped up in gang mentality that they want to kill the opposition. They are decent, reasonable folk who want to live in peace, not to create trouble where it needn’t exist.

It’s time we started taking responsibility for ourselves. We have to stop surrendering to the waves of manufactured consensus, and start owning up to our actions. Terence McKenna once said that “Culture is not your friend.” It aims to control you, to categorize you, to paint you as something you might not want to be. In fuming over the latest stupid tweet Trump made, you are playing straight into culture’s hands. Focus on your life, your reality, your people, your God. Consider how to improve your world practically, and don’t let anyone else, especially some nimrod on television, tell you how you should do it.

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Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts

I love to be scared. No, I don’t mean when some jackass makes a loud noise behind me, I mean that sensation of eerie discomfort, of not knowing what lies in the dark before me. I love it when I hear a strange sound in the distance at night — my imagination runs wild with freaky figments, and my very psyche is perturbed. I love it because it’s true and real emotion, a catalyst for creativity. Moreover, it speaks to the human desire for the incomprehensible, the need for mystery and un-knowledge in a profane and ordinary existence.

So it pisses me off when people exploit that desire for fun and profit. Here, check this shit out:

“Spirit boxes” are quite possibly the most blatant examples of “ghost hunter” bullshit you’ll ever see. What these cheap contraptions do is spin through all the local FM frequencies, from highest to lowest, at high speed. They repeat this cycle ad nauseam. This means that they’re little more than radio scanners, but ghost hunters would have you believe that they are conduits to the netherworld. Hunters sit and talk to these things, ask boring questions, then take whatever strings of words that their radios pick up from various stations, and present them as legitimate responses from the dead. How are simple radios able to connect with the spirits? No one knows. Even their inventor admits that he doesn’t understand the functional principle, and that’s a pretty big matzo ball right there.

The subtitles piss me off. They’re meant to be “translations” from radio garbage to whatever the hunter wants to hear. Of course, the responses are always brief and static-filled, and the hunters can never maintain a conversation, but that hasn’t stopped the YouTube rubes from eating it up. I’m sure that if viewers listened to the audio without reading the subtitles, they’d probably hear very different things from what the hunter does. It’s a perfect example of forced suggestion, a kind of cold reading, designed to grab the attention of desperate, grief-stricken people.

Then there are the hauntings.

Here, look:

This is a pretty cool idea, something that would fit well in a movie, but it’s hardly convincing. Notice that the recorder of this stuff is happy to make (and sell) an attention-grabbing “documentary” about this supposedly supernatural experience. Did anyone consider the possibility that it might be the guy’s own daughter pawing at the glass door, and then hiding in a nearby crawl space? She certainly looks the part, and she’s obviously interested in Daddy’s little attempt at a viral joke:

Her acting is atrocious, by the way.

This shit sucks. I don’t care if ghosty folks want to have some fun and creep people out for a good time, but they should at least be honest about it. For them to package this fake stuff as though it was real…it’s just cruel. People really believe this shit. How much money and faith is squandered on it? As someone who’s now on the fence about spiritual forces, I’d like to see some serious evidence from people who’ve had real divine experiences, not a bunch of charlatans out to make a few cheap hits. I said it before and I’ll say it again, attention-seekers, get lost.

The Perils of Being a Wallflower

“Metaphorically, DMT is like an intellectual black hole in that once one knows about it, it is very hard for others to understand what one is talking about. One cannot be heard. The more one is able to articulate what it is, the less others are able to understand. This is why I think people who attain enlightenment, if we may for a moment comap these two, are silent. They are silent because we cannot understand them. Why the phenomenon of tryptamine ecstasy has not been looked at by scientists, thrill seekers, or anyone else, I am not sure, but I recommend it to your attention.”

~ Terence McKenna, The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelics, Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFO’s, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, & the End of History. (1991).

Dimethlytryptamine: the granddaddy of all hallucinogens. I’m not interested in trying it, as the results sound a little overwhelming, but I am very curious about the psychological, emotional, and spiritual implications of the experience that many of its users have shared.

Terence McKenna described the five-minute DMT trip in great detail: after smoking or otherwise ingesting the ayahuasca plant, the user sees a colorful mandala. It starts out small, as if in the distance, but then it grows and approaches. When it fills the user’s vision, a tearing sound is heard, as of ripped cellophane. The user pushes through the mandala like a Trojan onto the football field, and enters a vivid, sharp, unearthly landscape that is described as a vast, underground dome.

Then the entities show up.

McKenna called them “self-transforming machine elves,” which sounds ridiculous. Nevertheless, he insisted that this was the most fitting term for them. They are the size of basketballs, and their surfaces continually roil, bubble, and shift. They bound up to the user like happy dogs, and they speak in a nonsense language. Nonsense or not, though, the user understands exactly what they’re saying. The message is understood as, “It’s so good to see you! We’ve been waiting so long for you to show up!” This message is “felt,” rather than translated. McKenna says there is a warmth and a welcome, a sense of hospitality and eagerness that has no menace or threat to it at all.

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After the greeting, the elves, as though knowing that their time with the user is short, quickly demonstrate their powers. They urge the user not to give in to astonishment, but to pay careful attention to them. Then they pull a series of miraculous, impossible artifacts out of thin air, like a child eager to show off his or her toys. These objects, like all the other elements of the experience, are mystifying and bizarre, both organic and geometric, and constantly changing. The user is invariably amazed, whether it’s a first-time trip or not.

Next, the entities remind the user not to freak out, and they do something even weirder than the demonstration: they gather before the user, and leap into his or her chest! Users say there is no discomfort in this, or any physical sensation at all, though that fact alone can still be disconcerting or frightening.

At this point, a sort of “bubble” grows in the user’s body, like an expanding gas. It rises into the user’s throat. If the user relaxes and lets it come out of the mouth, the most incredible part of the trip occurs. The “bubble” expresses itself as a song of glossolalia, a musical string of gibberish that the user cannot fathom, even though it is not dissimilar from the language the elves used.

What’s more, the nonsense words manifest themselves visually: expanding from the mouth as artifacts of the very same kind that the elves created.

In describing the trip, McKenna didn’t go much farther than this, so I guess that the user wakes up shortly after this curious creative rush.

Now, what the hell does this all mean?

While tripping, a DMT user does not physically go anywhere, and yet, by all reports, the landscape they envision is completely foreign, and clearer than any dream. It all looks “realer than real.” What this tells me is that the user does not travel outward, but inward.

Somewhere inside his or her own mind.

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The subconscious, perhaps? The entities are so glad to see the user that it reminds me of the near-death experience — those who’ve gone through it describe the sense that loving spirits are awaiting their arrival. It’s such a warm feeling that they presume the entities to be deceased family members beckoning them to Heaven. Are they peeking into the same realm where the DMT dome lies?

I think – and this is the theory of an untrained goofball with limited formal education – that the “elves” are messengers, ambassadors of that subconscious self that we usually suppress.

I see the subconscious mind as a foundation: a neglected part of ourselves upon which we build an identity. This identity is a hemlock chalice. It is the product of societal myths that are drilled into us from childhood: values, judgments, opinions, worries, assumptions, things we think we want, ways we think we should behave, things we think we are. We perch at the top of this tower with a monocular, watching for trouble ahead.

Sometimes, the subconscious foundation doesn’t like the weight that’s pressing down on it, and it lashes out. Being so far above it, we sense this shouting as feelings of unease, a distant banging on the pipes beneath us. Most of us ignore these unbidden thoughts and ideas, or bury them under distractions until they go away.

The DMT upends this situation. It pulls the user down from the imaginary tower and forces him or her to look at the foundation, at the dreams and thoughts that they ignore. And they have a lot to say.

“Pay attention. Don’t freak out. Watch what we do, and then do it yourself.”

So what is the lesson to be learned? How does the spontaneous creation of impossible objects help us? Moreover, why is it that we’re able to imitate these alien beings so accurately? It can’t be done in the real world, but in the trip it happens by simply allowing it to happen. It is simple, and yet inexplicable, like willing our hands to move. It must be because the elves are part of us, right? So it seems to me that they’re not teaching us something new; they’re reminding us of something that we have forgotten.

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I say “we” because this is an experience shared among DMT users of many stripes. This raises another question: how can so many people receive such a singular message? Is it possible that they all receive it from the same source? If so, what is that source? Instinct? Adaptive memory? Jung’s collective unconscious?

God?

Alan Watts, a staunch advocate of Hinduism, pointed out a fundamental difference between the religions of the East and the West. Whereas Christianity and Judaism profess that God is a sort of engineer, an omnipotent father figure that built the universe and knows its every end and purpose, Hinduism describes God as a dancing, many-armed force that did not construct the universe, but expressed it, and continues to express it, like a song. The concepts of past and future, good and evil, death and life, are all meaningless to God; It simply is, right now. The vibration of existence, the so-called “cosmic wiggle,” is the result of the endless movement of God. This means that each of us is an extension of God’s dream. We are not connected to each other laterally, like a spiderweb, but rather we each extend from the same hub, which is…well, I don’t know exactly.

It is possible that the machine elves, by joining with us and showing that we are as powerful as they are, want to help us regain our true personas, return to our foundations. That wouldn’t explain, however, why so many people experience the same thing. Perhaps the machine elves are trying to remind us that since we are capable of creating life and matter with nothing but wholeness and will, we are not far removed from God Itself. God exists through us, and as such – blasphemous though it may sound – we are God.

It’s a theory. I would never presume to know what God is, or why It does what It does. However, these concepts seem to line up with the psychological knowledge that I’ve gathered. The problem I have now, though, is that I don’t know how to apply these ideas. I am still too shy and afraid to heed my own feelings as a writer, as a cartoonist, and as a person. I may be part of God’s dance, but that doesn’t mean I know the steps.

I suppose that, when I am ready, the answers will come to me. Should I continue to examine my dreams, act on my true feelings, and follow the directions that my being provides, I think I might figure it out.

One day.

Twelve Answered Prayers

Day Twelve, The Letter-Writing Campaign: I’d like to preface this post by warning that it might sound crazy to you. It sounds a little crazy to me, too, but I insist that it is absolutely true.

I was an atheist for most of my life, but I wasn’t one of those arrogant, fedora-wearing pricks who take joy in deconstructing people’s beliefs. No, I was just a man who, having learned of the atrocities, iniquities, and warped values of humanity, decided that there couldn’t possibly be a God. The lives we lead are completely out of balance: we work ourselves to death or coma-like states, we ignore the suffering of others, and we spend our earnings to emulate and worship those who exploit us. I could reach no other conclusion but this: there is no plan here. Nobody really knows what he’s doing. Life is a meaningless parade of lunacies. We are cosmic accidents, burning our precious lives away on a Mobius strip in the unforgiving dark of space.

That’s what I used to believe. That changed this summer. I was kneeling over the edge of bathtub filled with hot water, holding the edge of a chef knife to my wrist, when I realized that I couldn’t afford to think this way anymore.

It started with a comedian. Doesn’t it always? I listened to the audiobook Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black. In particular, I listened to the chapter titled The Psychic. I had never believed in psychics before. I figured they were all charlatans out to make a buck off of the bereaved, but something about Black’s story touched me. If he could be made to believe that something could be watching us, the evidence must have been overwhelming. Perhaps there was a way I could find proof of that sort.

According to Black, the psychic Michael Bodine explained that he no real “superpowers,” as it were; he simply could see and talk to people that most of us couldn’t. These people, called guides, or angels, or whatever name you like best, were the ones who brought him knowledge of the future, or possible futures. Bodine was just a messenger.

I did some research on these “guides.” Different psychics have different ideas about what they actually are, and I suspect that none of them really know for sure. What they agree on, however, is that they are intelligent, helpful beings who can be communicated with.

So how do you communicate with one? Again, the methods differ depending on who you ask. Some say you can just talk aloud to them. Others say you can have a mental conversation with them if you meditate and clear your mind properly. Still others recommend writing letters to them, leaving them out for them to read.

I kind of liked this last idea, so when my long dark night came, I got out a sheet of paper and a pen, and wrote. I wrote a brief but desperate plea for help, to whoever might have been watching. I didn’t care who it was, if it was God, or my guardian angel, or whatever. I closed with, “I am open to you now,” and I stuck the finished letter to my bulletin board.

Not long after, things started to change. I kept on going, leaving letters out everyday, to “whoever might be watching.” I wrote about the worries and problems I had, and one by one, they were solved, often within a day or two of my writing.

I got in touch with my counselor, whom I hadn’t seen in months, and she offered to continue my therapy at a reduced rate.

My physician agreed to help me get on state disability while I worked my problems out.

I reconnected with an ex-girlfriend with whom I shared a long relationship and a hostile breakup. We were able to reconcile after years without contact.

I had to leave my apartment before my lease was up, and my landlord warned me that she hadn’t had any interested renters in months. Still, I couldn’t afford to stay there. I figured if I had to ruin my credit, that’s the way it had to be. I moved out, and less than week later, my apartment was taken. I was even able to get my deposit back.

Daylight crept back into my life. The biggest question remained, however. I needed to know what my path was. After years of decisions that continually brought me to the brink of suicide, I had to recognize what I wanted for myself. What is my dream? We all know the answer to this question, but we make mistakes, we make excuses, we make compromises, and years later, our dreams are buried so far beneath the layers of stupid bullshit that we can barely remember them.

I did remember mine, but I never believed I was good enough to make it come true. It was always there, though, that desire to make my own cartoons. I wanted to be like Jim Henson and share my characters, my stories, my imagination, with the world. I just never had the confidence. I always considered my artwork to be pretty weak and crude compared to what some of the kids are doing with Photoshop and Illustrator these days. I never believed I could measure up, so I pushed my old dream into a closet and locked it away. Still, the other paths weren’t working. I wrote a long letter asking for guidance to the one that was right.

That’s when I got the request to make a commission, and I began to realize that maybe, just maybe, I was good enough.

I know how this all sounds. I know. I could be subconsciously pouring effort into solving these problems, and then giving credit to something supernatural. It’s a possibility, but the resolution of these troubles always seemed to involve something outside my control. Perhaps this was just a series of crazy coincidences, but all in my favor?

No, it seems, or rather, it feels like communication is happening. Carlos Castaneda said that to find your true path, you have to stop listening to your thoughts, and start listening to the world around you. Only then will the answers will reveal themselves. I have much to learn, but this part seems to be true. I still don’t know what God is, exactly, but I’m pretty sure He, or She, or It, wants me to succeed, to say and do what I feel is right, and most of all, be the person I was born to be.

I believe that profound growth isn’t possible without some pain and tribulation. All the challenges I faced this year were for a purpose. I think I needed to recognize and accept that there is indeed a force greater than ourselves, one that is actually involved in our lives. My misery, and the miseries that I described in my past eleven entries, did not happen because this force allowed them, they happened because we rejected it. I don’t completely understand its nature, but I can no longer deny its existence.

Knowing this gives me some peace, and I hope that 2015 will see a personal renaissance in not just myself, but in all of the people who’ve undergone significant trouble this year. I can’t change the problems in the world, but I can change my views on them. The hope, the reality, the truth, is in how we look at things. Everything in the world has its place, and every event has its meaning, even if we can’t discern them from the TV news. I refuse to accept the falsehoods from the glass boxes as true and then use them to make myself feel bad. Instead, I will find the truth within myself, where God put it at the very beginning. I came to the edge of death, but I didn’t fall. I am alive. I am here, and even though I nearly lost everything, I can still see, hear, and feel the precious miracles that surround me everyday.

I’ve got a chance to change, and I will not be the man I was. I’ll begin again, I’ll rebuild my life. I will live to know that I’ve fulfilled my life. I’ll begin today, throw away the past, and the future I build will be something that will last. I will take the time I have left to live, and I will give it all that I have left to give. I will live my days for my fellow men, and I’ll live in praise of that moment when I was able to begin again. I will start anew, I will make amends. I will make quite certain that the story ends on a note of hope, on a strong Amen, and I’ll thank the world and remember when I was able to begin again.

God, whatever it is, showed belief in me by answering my call. I don’t know why, but I will use this chance to find out. Likewise, God gave you the power to make this holiday, this world, this life, as shitty or as lovely as you want it. Why would you want it to be bad?

The world is indeed lovely, and full of possibilities. Choose the good ones. Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, make it a Merry Christmas.