Self help

In the middle of the night
in Sweden, in the northern part
northish, anyway,
at midsummer
there are no stars
the light shimmers when you get up
and walk through the woods
to the outhouse
shimmers. it is not

what you are used to, shining from
like the sun through
the trees to your eyes.
it breaks and shimmers
in all directions.
at least i am pretty sure,
i didn’t have my glasses on.

we saw two moose
a big one one evening
a little one the next evening

i sat on the porch in a lawn chair
i looked at the lake
and at the trees
eventually i noticed i was not thinking
i was a little surprised

what am i doing when i am not thinking
i am living
so i lived on the porch
for a few days.

would i recommend this?
i don’t recommend anything
you’ll figure it out

His father’s eyes

It’s a weird day. It’s been a weird winter entirely. Walking down the sidewalk, Odin alternates between powerful and stumbling drunk. Sometimes he forgets to breathe, then remembers and gasps in grey atmosphere.

Crows follow him to the store, where he buys salad and salted cashew nuts because he is trying to go a few days without carbs or sugars.

By the bench, two crows – Muninn and the nameless second grey one – take nuts without complaint. The grey one flies off with a beakful.

Odin’s little brother posted a photo of himself to a popular social networking website. Looking at it, in that first instant between seeing something and identifying it, Odin’s brain was already filing the image in the section of his memory associated with his father. Oh my god, Odin said, out loud. Odin had never noticed their resemblance before, his little brother had always been bigger than their father, taller and heavier, and now he was balding in a different pattern than their father had, and with a white moustache their father never wore; but the eyes!

Odin is in a universe in which recombination of elements is the basis of all existence. All matter is made of the same atoms. Sexual reproduction recombines genes. Philosophies and religions recombine ideas. The faces of children recombine their parents’ features.

Originality is in the recombination, not in the building blocks, Odin thinks.

The universe is one big Markov generator, Odin thinks. The present moment is a combination generated from previous moments. Your thoughts are generated from previous thoughts.

So, Odin tries something. Odin moves closer to the light.

First, Odin thinks he has stumbled onto an idea he could parlay into a massive self-help empire. Then, he thinks this is the idea at the root of every previous self-help empire (including religions) in history.

Positive thinking.

Now and then, Odin thinks, Love. Or he is nice to someone. Or he thinks about someone he likes, his daughters or his wife or a friend.

Odin meditates, and a cat crawls over him and he thinks, what a pretty cat.

When you are surrounded by shit, and you recombine things, and it comes out looking like shit, that shouldn’t surprise you.

So Odin stops surrounding himself with shit, and surrounds himself instead with beads and semi-precious stones, ripe berries and smiling women.

Odin doesn’t know if this is naiive or simple.

Odin tries to recall the hardest joke he ever heard, the hardest joke to tell, but all he can remember is the man telling it – the delivery – and not the joke itself.  That alone makes him laugh.

It’s his father’s laugh.


The man formerly known as the Smallest Man in the World

The man formerly known as the Smallest Man in the World half expected to be overwhelmed with a rush of joy the moment he shrank to nothing, but he didn’t. Maybe he was too tired; he hadn’t had much sleep around that time, for the usual reasons.

One day he embarked, experimentally-like, on an expensive course of the sort of therapy and non-self-improvement (as opposed to self-improvement and self-non-improvement) that he more typically enjoyed making fun of. Complete with various inner children.

The shadow, though, was the central item, and he was fascinated with that concept (cause the shadow, you know, knows)  so he figured, you only live once, and it’s only money, right?

He was the only guy at the first seminar. He was okay with that, although he suspected that since being a guy was one of his issues, it might not have been bad were there a couple other guys around.

It went fine, though.

He was a new person afterwards.

Here was his rush of joy, baby.

Everyone told him the bags under his eyes were gone, he looked energetic, ten pounds lighter and five years younger.

Or five pounds lighter and ten years younger. Or twice as young.

Various people said different things. One said he looked as if he’d just been to the barber.

He knew this condition wouldn’t last but hoped to preserve at least some of it. During the course, he realized he would be unable to draw cartoons in the future since his cartoons were rooted in self-deprecation, sarcasm, cynicism, that kind of thing.

You can laugh or you can feel, someone said.

And the condition did fade, but not entirely and he had learned things and had food for thought and met delightful people.

Thing is, no matter how much it costs, or how little, you have to do the work.

You have to go through the shit, someone said. Someone else said the same thing, except they said pain.

He came to realize the therapist had his number.

She had his fucking number, baby. She saw through him.

Three things, in fact: she had his number, she knew she had his number, and she thought she had his number.

Thinking you have someone’s number is an unlikeable thing. It’s a form of unlikeable cockiness and presumption and a little patronizing. Unfortunately for the person whose number is being had, them actually having your number cancels that out. And knowing you have someone’s number is simply a value-free knowledge of fact.

The MFKATSMITW was used to therapists who kept you coming back for more talking, not therapists who gave you fucking homework. Not therapists who said, ok, look, this is your problem, now do this, and it works.

He was not used to that at all.

How to write a killer blog post

I can’t read anything lately. Fiction sucks, blog posts* suck, self-help sucks, self-help blog posts suck most of all. Poetry is still okay, and maybe essays, haven’t read any of the latter lately. Soon, maybe, I’ll look for an essay on “How to get a Christmas tree out of your house without getting needles on everything or the kittens escaping.”

I have been stumbling across the occasional self-help blog post, and it is this scourge I’d like to address here. I missed the Web 2.0 make money with your blog memo, but there seem to be tons of people who didn’t, and there are all these new blogs out about how to do things.

This is caused, I guess, by the “find your niche” thing. Be an expert on something, and they will come.

Do those guys who do this really make money?

This, too, will pass, I guess. The nabobs will be all nattered out eventually. Because, eventually, it all boils down to getting into your car, and chasing Buddha down the road.

It’s not called self-help for nothing.

I read this article on How to be Independent yesterday. I read it by accident, I wasn’t googling “please tell me how to be independent” or anything.

It boiled down to popping a cap in Buddha’s ass. Pack your own lunch, stuff like that.

That’s my New Year’s resolution right there. Be less of a jerk. Pack my own lunch. This Car Does Not Break For Buddhas bumper sticker.

You should see the bumper stickers on Beta’s car. I drove it to work once when my car was in the shop and my co-workers now think I’m a maniac.

Here is my advice to all of you new bloggers who want to write killer blog posts: learn to play backgammon, and do that instead. Fuck. No one cares what you have to say. Some of us have been doing this for ten years now, or more, and we are much better at it, and no one cares what we have to say either.

Do some push-ups and sit-ups instead, and cut down on the refined carbohydrates.

Learn to play a musical instrument.

Fuck, I don’t know.

Why do you want to write a killer blog post, anyway? Who cares about blog posts? Blog posts are stupid.

Also: write something every day, to something-something with all those people who subscribe to your DNA feed or whatever it’s called.

Be independent, basically.

By “independent,” I mean “you”.

There are days you will be cranky and of the view that blogging is stupid: write a post about that! Maybe it will make you famous or something, and Amanda Palmer will play you a Radiohead song on her ukulele in her underwear.

Remember that less is more. Write, then cut everything out again. After ten years at this, it is easier. So keep it up, too.

Also, get a muse. I have several. Gamma was giving me good advice the other night. I was telling her a bedtime story about the Mayan prediction that the world will come to an end in 2012, and she said, “see, that’s the difference between the stories you write down and the stories you tell me,” (she finds the latter superior to the former). (In the story I was telling her, a little girl had heard a strange noise and was searching her darkened house.) “You would just write, ‘she looked everywhere,’ but when you tell me the story, you say, ‘she looked in that room, and then she looked in the other room, and then she went around the corner and looked in the next room, behind the cabinets…’ and so on. And I like that better.” So, remember to include lots of details and don’t cut out too much.

Also, give away free e-books for some reason.

And have contests!**

*except yours

** that reminds me, Valentine’s Day looms, doesn’t it.