Archive for April, 2010

Untitled

so much depends on
my having something to say
I have nothing to say
So I say nothing,
see?
How long can I keep it up I wonder
before my readers get bored.
I’m bored.
This is me bored
with my inability to say anything.
It feels like
like
when you’re sitting on the toilet
groaning for dear life
but nothing comes
so you curse the guavas you devoured
pull up your pants
and prance around
uncomfortably
like this poem, which has
somehow
sunk to discussing bowel movements;
honestly, what passes as art these days!
Such a shame.

April 24, 2010 at 6:39 pm 2 comments

Awakening

piece by piece
limb by foot
the tingle spreads up
my legs toes arms
sifts through muscle
slips past organs and swims
straight into my wide open heart
pumping thump thump thump
the rhythm of the universe
right here hidden behind ribs
too brittle to break
too strong to lie
only the weak stay young
and only so long
then they weave their weakness
like armour around boney cages
they split open their mouths
and sing
do you listen or do you cry
and if you listen does your heart know
when to fall
silent?

April 24, 2010 at 6:34 pm 4 comments

Anger Management

I click on the TV
flip the channels like pages
in a jumbled book
land on you like an old friend
or lover
you remind me of the man
I knew only as my father
he laughed uncomfortably
at Sandler’s humiliation
my father had a sense of humour
hidden behind sad eyes

I remember thinking
how feminine his mouth looked
not because he had luscious lips
or silky smooth skin
— he had neither —
but it contained echoes
of his mother
a memory imprinted in his skin

April 24, 2010 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

In praise of mediocrity

It doesn’t get enough credit in our modern world. All these people chasing after creativity, innovation, purpose. What for? What’s wrong with just living every day, small step after small step? Great things have been achieved in small, incremental steps. Just don’t ask me what. And anyway, who needs great things. There are too many things in the world as it is.

But seriously. In a bit of trivia I overheard (so it must be true), the military apparently teach soldiers that when entering battle, you don’t want to be in the front, and you don’t want to be in the back. Edges are dangerous, coz they’re exposed. Much better to hie yourself to the middle. Chances are if anyone’s going to get shot, it won’t be you. Seems to me that’s a good life philosophy. Let other people bear the brunt of the praise/punishment. Invisibility is the key to a comfortable life.

Problem is, it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re merely average. I think most of us would like to think that we’re really good at at least one thing. Or, if we can’t be good at something, we want to be special in some way. Standing out is a social necessity. It allows us to attract a mate, get laid, and procreate. Maybe that’s all this drive to stand out is about. Maybe success is just one big mating dance.

How can we rebel against this evolutionary drive to success and yet remain comfortable in our own mediocrity?

First and foremost, we’ll have to find a cure for boredom, as it is the one characteristic that prevents ordinary people from staying that way. Maybe that’s what the pharmaceutical companies should pour their energies/money into. What’s wrong with developing an opium for the masses? The war on drugs is dumb anyhow. And while they’re at it, maybe they can develop a drug that makes us fall in love with each other, no acts of extraordinary courage necessary in the process.

Maybe there’s no reason to be a rebel or think for yourself. Who says that makes you happy? Who says making your own choices, free from undue influence, will render you any more satisfied than those whose choices are made for them? Just asking.

April 17, 2010 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment

Giving change – is it selfish?

I understand how little separates me from those who are homeless and poor. Just shy of four years ago I was very close to ending up there myself, no joke. I’d recently lost my father a continent away, and was pushed away emotionally by the rest of my family for daring to cross the gender divide. I’d decided to transition from female to male only shortly before my father became fatally ill and it was all too much for them to digest. We became estranged, I left my job, had the obligatory mental meltdown. I spent a month barely able to get out of bed or brush my teeth.

I got out that funk by the sheer grace of a higher power. Or something. Honestly, I don’t know how. Some people helped me along the way, stood by me as I wobbled onward, and with time I began to eat again. Had I fallen in with a self-destructive crowd, or had I had the energy to dive into the world of illicit drugs, maybe I would not have made it. Lucky for me I avoided people – good and bad – and I was too busy swallowing legal drugs to pay much heed to the illegal kind. Point is, change a detail here or there and I am no different from that broken man nursing his bottle of rum in a paper bag on your corner.

You would think that I would care more, then, about giving change to those who beg as I walk home from work. I resist. Maybe because I feel like I don’t know whether the money I give will go to a good cause or if I’m simply feeding an addiction. Or maybe, and I think this is more accurate, I don’t want to be callous about it, don’t want to make it easy on myself. Maybe giving a loonie here and there is just a way to look the other way on the larger issue, a way of pretending that you’re doing something for another human being when actually you’re doing the bare minimum so that you don’t have to do more. Then again, maybe doing the bare minimum is better than doing nothing at all. No easy answers. Not an easy fix. But giving, I think, can become its own addiction.

April 17, 2010 at 8:22 pm Leave a comment

Apocalypse soon?

Of late I have been feeling anxious about the future. I’m not just speaking about my own prospects. The world in general feels to be careening toward its own destruction at lightning speed. What will it be? A nuclear explosion, a meteor or earthquake, a terrorist attack the likes of which we have never before encountered, a new Black Plague? So many choices for how the world will end.

I catch myself thinking that things used to be so much better “in the good old days” of my childhood. Of course, that’s hooey, especially in my case. My teen years unfolded in a country drenched in racial injustice, political unrest and violence. I am speaking of my birth country: South Africa. For a time I thought we were destined for civil war. Fear of the outside world was inbred in us Afrikaners from a young age – it was a means of survival. Trust no one and you still might get hurt.

So why now, this notion that today is worse than yesterday and tomorrow will be even less OK than today? Is it because the news stories themselves are more upsetting than in the past? Or has my threshold for hyped-up blood and guts gone down?

With the internet, we have access to breaking news instantly. It’s hard not to notice things when they’re constantly, unavoidably in your face. Maybe that’s all it is. Maybe the downside of instant connection is that there’s no escaping the horrors that surround us.

In an age before the internet the world experienced some pretty hefty calamities. I mean, a mere 60 years ago a German tried to wipe out an entire people and take over the world. Frighteningly, he almost succeeded! Not to mention the cold war and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation that reigned over the 50s and 60s. And anyone who has read their Roman history knows that millions upon millions of people died during the age of the Roman conquests. Julius Caesar killed more people than all the Jews who died under the Third Reich.

Is the world really scarier? Or we just more tuned in?

Age might have something to do with it too. Maybe thinking the world is going down the tubes is a rite of passage, an entry into the grown-up world of responsibility – a realization that we build the world, each of us, every day. The trick is to hold onto enough of the hopeful child we once were to withstand the steady onslaught of the awful present. Hope is the antidote for fear. It inspires us to want to make a difference.

But you need to grow up to actually make that difference a reality. Question is: what difference do you want to make?

April 11, 2010 at 7:29 am Leave a comment

Time to (dis)agree

Being liked, I’ve decided, is not a worthy goal. I am reminded of an unusually funny CSI episode where a suspect, a member of a cult that believes that it’s more important to be agreeable than right, is brought in for questioning. The interrogation goes round in round in circles as the suspect admits to everything the police accuses him of, in a vain attempt to be agreeable.

Interacting with people who don’t hate your guts is nice, but at the end of the day, you can’t control what triggers other people. And chances are, if you try to make them like you, you’re more likely to alienate them, eventually. It’s just the way things go. Part of growing up is realizing that people not liking you is a-OK. That’s not always an easy thing. When people find fault with you, or they’re cruel coz they’re tired or grumpy or just plain mean, your knee-jerk reaction might be to blame yourself. Usually it has absolutely nothing to do with you.

Even harder is not taking it personal when people are cruel because they really, genuinely don’t agree with you. Deep down, I think most of us believe that if people just tried hard enough, they’d, well, end up seeing things our way. But – news flash – we aren’t all alike. We are shaped by divergent life experiences, childhoods, biologies, cultures, realities, beliefs. We have different goals. And that’s OK. No, really, it’s OK.

I still don’t quite understand people who thrive off of conflict. Put me in an awkward situation and my obsessive compulsive tendencies to “fix” said situation emerges pretty darn quick. But I think those other people, those people who understand that disagreement doesn’t equal dislike, they’re onto something. The world’s a big place. The universe is even bigger. And we all have a place in it.

We don’t have to spend every waking moment agreeing with each other, or trying to persuade each other of our position. We don’t even have to agree to disagree. We just have to listen to each other’s truths, sincerely and willingly. We may still end up disagreeing, vehemently even, but at least we’ll know why. This is what I believe. Whether you agree with me, or not.

April 10, 2010 at 6:01 pm Leave a comment

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