Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘death’ Category

This week my 11 year old daughter asked if she could download and join snapchat. I immediately nixed that idea. I haven’t nixed her getting involved in much else technically where the EULA allows it. Snapchat touched a chord and got me to thinking (again) about identity – how we identify ourselves – who we think we are – and who others think we are. I think about this deeply every so often, sometimes becoming unglued when I think too hard about it. It’s a complicated concept.

Who?

So many things contribute to the patterns that are what we are. Our identity and sense of place in this world – undoubtedly conditioned by the modern world – is built around physical place (and now virtual places) and social circles (and now virtual social networks) and status within established networks of influence. This was probably not always the case when people were far more nomadic and identity wasn’t tied to a hometown or a home school or a 150 person social network. But now, more than ever, identity is a thing.

I personally have moved residences over 20 times in my life. 13 of them different cities (social networks) and 5 across state lines.

Non Existence -> Born (don’t remember)
Littleton, CO (don’t remember, sorta remember)
Colorado Springs (k – 2nd grade)
Aurora, CO Laredo Circle House (2nd grade – 3rd grade???)
Aurora, CO Laredo Court House (4th grade??? – 7th grade)
Miami, FL Kendall House (8th grade)
Miami, FL Baptist Hospital House (9th grade – 10th grade)
Aurora, CO Salsaleto House (11th grade – 12th grade)
Aurora, CO Some Apartment I Forget Where (Summer before college)
Chicago, IL Woodward Court/Univ. Chicago (Freshman year college)
Aurora, CO Buckingham Mall House (Summer between Freshman and Sophomore Year)
Chicago, IL Woodward Court/Univ. Chicago (Sophomore year college)
Chicago, IL 53rd Street Apartment (summer between sophomore and junior year)
Chicago, IL Blackstone Building/University Chicago (Junior year college)
Chicago, IL 53rd Street Co-Op Apartment (summer between junior and senior year)
Santa Monica, CA 9th and Pico (1999)
Chicago, IL Roosevelt and Michigan Apartment (2000 – 2002)
Santa Monica, CA 9th and Pico (2002 – 2005)
Playa Vista, CA Fountainhead Apartment (2005 – 2006)
Venice, CA Abbot Kinney House (2006 – 2010)
Austin, TX Travis Heights House (2010 – 2011)
Austin, TX Deep Eddy House (2012)
Marina Del Rey, CA (2013 – present)

My own children have now moved 5 times (the oldest one) and twice across state lines.

And these are just the residence moves – not all the jobs, schools, social circles, life phases and other changes that go into making up our context and our history. I have 692 friends on facebook, a couple hundred followers on twitter, tens of followers on instagram, one attempt at snapchat, fifty pinterest followers and so on. Sometimes I think of this all as an audience, which is quite insane to me as a concept but I doubt I’m the only one that feels like they have an audience online. I’ve done speaking engagements at conferences, I’ve written 8 years of blogs, somehow I authored several whitepapers, I think i have a patent or three, I’ve performed in 40+ live theater shows, I built hundreds of websites and mobile apps with between 1 and 50 million users a month…. WHAT THE F*** DOES IT ALL ADD UP TO? WHO AM I? and WHY IS THAT EVEN A QUESTION?

It’s a question because my daughters keep finding new ways to “express themselves” and “connect to others.” They “identify” with my wife or myself by saying “oh, i’m so like mom!” They intellectually get the ideas of genetics and art and fashion and learning and the delineation between it all.  They are very keen at telling me I don’t “get” them…. I keep waiting for the day when the TSA finally says they are full human identities and require proof of the case (driver’s license/passport).

It’s also a question because everyday the Western world bombards each other in ways such as:
“what am I worth?”
“tell me about your past.”
“are you this ism or that ism?”
“what party are you?”

and every other variation of class, job history, race, culture, language, outward appearance…

Anchors is my best guess at identities. Us, limited beings, pattern creating and recognizing beings find ways to lay anchors and say THIS IS ENOUGH – THIS IS WHERE I’M DROPPING ANCHOR and REMEMBER THIS. We drop these anchors – which are complex patterns we simplify – and label them as classes, races, job titles, cultures, state lines, political parties, etc. We drop anchors to save energy. That is, we hope the anchors keep us from having to remember all of the context and history that lead us to here when we are in the heat of the moment of making a decision. We want to save time when working out who we hire, with whom we partner, with whom we commune, with whom we war…

Unfortunately.

Identity is an illusion.

We are not the isms, the races, the classes, nor the anchors we drop. We all are ever evolving changing masses of organs, cells, and atoms that respond to the changes around them. We are connected – to each other, to the Web, to the world, to nature, to everything that passes gamma rays into us – EVERYTHING.

And this isn’t a ZEN kind of thinking i’m talking about. It’s a very simple, real concept that *WE* don’t EXIST. and the idea that WE EXIST is a major reason why “we” all end up fighting and destroying and gloating and taking credit and paying dues and every other manner of paying homage to an illusion. We do this because the delusion of singular identity is efficient in many respects. Capital markets reward identities. Democracies, despite their conceptual idea of the masses, reward identities. Social media and the internet reward identities.

And in all this efficiency created by identities we actually end up destroying things. Identities are the most efficient destructive concepts we’ve collectively devised. They shut everything down. They allow entire populations to be ignored. They tune our attention out. They tune our own senses out.

It makes sense this is so and that it persists.

Can it be resisted? *I* don’t know. Can we live without it?  I don’t know.

Read Full Post »

I did as I was told.

I did as I was told.

At the escape the pistons fire incorrectly.

She frowns at the sound of hushed murmurs.

Bound and silenced, his captors forget.

In an instant, bang, existence.

Swallow-filled woods hide the shadowy fleet of marching barbarions.

Billowing stacks fulfill the dreams of green-eyed titans.

Misfired, misdeed, mistake but still someone is dead in Ferguson.

“You lie!” from the commons it comes changing discourse discordingly forever.

“Hello [long pause] tell me your location,” the sleepy 911 operator sighs.

Dosed off, door unlocked, debts unpaid he sleeps perhaps too well.

The far off chirp and the slight drip of sunsoaked cicles warns us that he will arise soon.

Logic gates flip bits determined to ruin fortunes.

She blushes at the his left left foot.

A scream reaches out signaling another miracle.

Read Full Post »

I love Robin Williams.

Robin Williams is a hero of mine. But that’s not really a deep enough concept to express his role in my life. I have absolutely shaped my approach to life around what I perceived of him as a hero. I never met him. I never received fan mail back from him or did a stand up routine next to him. I don’t have any remarkable story about him – except that I stayed up late, rented, borrowed my way into every piece of work he put out. From Mork and Mindy to the Comic Relief stuff to all of his movies to every late night appearance… I took in all of it as some source-book of how to interact, how to think, how to absorb the world so fully you can be in all of those situations and BE REMARKABLE.

As a high school senior I thought deeply about the idea of Julliard because of him. I imagined a future in which I could go out to the world and say things he said… not because I rehearsed it but because I was speaking honestly in my synthesis of everything I was taking in. I wanted to be that good only better… even faster on my feet. Even quicker with my wit. Even deeper with my knowledge. Anywhere, in any circle, at any moment.

And make no mistake, I’m not delusional about Performance vs. Real Life. I read anything I could of his non-performance experiences – from his activism and social engagement to his personal struggles to his ideas about comedy to his appreciation of J. Winters. Robins Williams life, in all its facets, speaks profoundly to me.

For most of my life the person I’ve been mostly compared to in my approach to everything, even from my own mouth, is Robin Williams. (and I not only don’t hate it, I love it. I want to be that.) I’m drawn to this engagement with the world:

KNOW EVERYTHING YOU POSSIBLE CAN

LISTEN TO EVERYTHING (EVERYTHING!) and EVERYONE (EVERYONE!) AROUND YOU

SYNTHESIZE VERY QUICKLY

TRY ANY IDEA

10000000 jokes (ideas) is bound to deliver 1 GOOD ONE, SO KEEP GOING

ENGAGE EVERYONE SINCERELY and SERIOUSLY

WALK A BILLION MILES IN EVERYONE ELSES SHOES

SWEAT

Yes, Dead Poets Society is one of my top 5 movies. Good Morning Vietnam is also in the top 5. Good Will Hunting is such an important movie to me….. …. …. All these things are quite obvious. Robin Williams dealt with and engaged and seriously considered the entirety of the human experience. For me he is the ultimate synthesis of this absurd and beautiful world.

The vortex that is postmortem analysis will never change the strange loop that lives on through me and others. Posit what we want about mental illness and depression and comedy and hollywood or whatever else we will try to make it all tidy, it doesn’t matter. Robins Williams is a buddha. He’s one of those rare convergences of vitality that infuses many other souls with purpose. I love you, Robin. Thanks for helping make me, me.

Read Full Post »

“I’m saving a dollar a day to throw a party on the day he fries.”

This was whispered to me on my walk  between the witness room and the courtroom during the trial by someone hurting for a loved one of the 1993 Chuck E Cheese murders.

Gulp.

Was she wrong?   was she justified?  was she just saying that?  What did I believe?  Should we kill another person to make things “right?”  What is justice?  will this bring peace to anyone?

Over the last 19 years this is just one of many contradictions I hold in my head.   It’s like some sort of gnarly moral entanglement that is so often the source of the anger, guilt, distress I feel at times like this.

After an event like this your world is very quick to attempt to soothe away the gnarliness.  It’s God’s plan.  It was fate.  Everything happens for a reason.  Memorial services.  Vigils.  TV specials.  Therapists.  Help lines.  “Get back up on that horse.”, Why Bad Things Happen To Good People readings, commemorative T-Shirts.

Some of these sentiments and activities are temporarily helpful. However, what was in my head and still hangs about there sometimes in the darkest ways…

nothing matters.  it’s all random.  why bother.

After I stew on that for awhile I usually flip over to…

everything matters.  make it matter.  live like you are dying.  get after every moment.

Obviously after 19 years the more positive outlook that making it matter has won out more times than it’s lost.  By no means though do I have resolution.   You almost feel forced into the positive.   If one goes all in on nothing matters, why bothers, you get your answer clearly.   Unfortunately, it feels, if you go all in on everything matters, make it matter you may not get a clear “yup, this is right.  it all does matter!”

I think the easy resolutions of these big questions is what leads to the profound loneliness I feel occasionally.   Hanging on to one of these resolutions like “it was all part of the plan” despite everything in your experience suggesting otherwise makes you afraid to be upset, to disagree, to wail against this comfort.   To this day I’m very upset at the idea that 4 of my coworkers should have been killed because that was part of some grand design for my life or the greater good.   That always sounds so good in abstract when it’s not you having to live with this unknown plan or your not related to one of those that died.   Want pressure?   that’s pressure.  having people tell you and make you believe that your life is somehow worth more than someone else’s and then you go on living without some obvious sign that it is.

I didn’t go to the memorial service, didn’t go to any vigils, could barely speak to Bobby.  Maybe I didn’t want to feel the implied pressure or the pressure I was putting on myself.

Everyone’s life is worth the same.  Whether that’s everything or nothing, I don’t know.

Read Full Post »

Shadows

I’ve told some of my story to friends and family in my life, but never really publicly and certainly no one knows this internal dialog I’ve had with myself for 19 years. When you write something down and/or tell a wider audience about it it takes on a whole different level of real. should I tell my story? should I put down the never ending stream of questions and failed answers for others to read? is it grandstanding? is it helpful? is it selfish?

Like most of my questions, I don’t have a good answer for these so I’m just going to DO.

First, I don’t think I’m unique. People die. People are murdered. All of us will experience people die around us and we will die ourselves. I don’t know the horrors of war, haven’t seen someone die in the ER, have not been in a gang fight and have only see one dead body in real life, and it was at a distance. Hell, I haven’t even been to more than one funeral I think.

But.

When I was 17, a month removed from an appendectomy and having finally earned the white-shirt for Employee of the Month, 4 of my coworkers were murdered and another one shot on the night of December 14th 13th, 1993. I worked at Chuck E Cheese in Aurora, CO. The murderer was Nathan Dunlap, the brother of a classmate of mine.

I often had the closing shift in the kitchen having been revoked of the mouse costume because I had too much energy and we needed that energy in the kitchen. On that night I had a conversation with the lone survivor of the shooting, Bobby. He wanted extra hours as he had a family and needed some cash. I wanted to get out early that night for a variety of teen ager reasons. So we agreed to switch shifts.

Random coincidence? fate? divine intervention?

Bobby came in and I was out the door around 9:40p ish after having made a rare last late sandwich orders. Turns out that was Dunlap’s order I made.

I clocked out, took off my apron and said good bye to all the closing staff. On the way out I noticed Dunlap, who i did not know. It was definitely strange to have someone hanging out at a chuck e cheese late at night. Then again sometimes our friends would wait for people to finish their shifts.

I drove home. It was pretty late so I started my night time routine. And then the news started to break. In the time between me leaving and and brushing my teeth my coworkers were dead. Bobby managed to somehow escape out the kitchen exit bleeding from the shot to his face. I’ll spare any other details as I really don’t know the full story, only what I’ve heard.

That was my shift. Bobby saved me.

Bobby and I spoke only one other time after that, at the trial 3 years after that night. It was a brief conversation. Again, words fail. I thanked him.

Immediately after realizing what was going on my mind started to fill in details. I tried to remember everything. And I was imagining what happened inside that store. What would I have done? How did Bobby do it? What was everyone doing? Thinking? Feeling? How could I have stopped him?

I went to school the next day. I did a tv interview in the following days I briefly talked to the police. I met up with friends and talked about it. My brain became a swirl of information, memories, imagined memories. Shadows of events that could have happened.

After 19 years these shadows still follow me.

And I wasn’t even there. But in an infinite number of imagined memories I was there. I process my own mortality all the time, constantly. My own death over and over.

How does Bobby feel? How do the families of my former coworkers process this?

I’m not a depressed person, wasn’t a depressed person then. In fact I went on to work at another chuck e cheese in the area with my buddy Scott within weeks. The rest of high school was great and I went on to college.

In the middle of my freshman year at the University of Chicago I had to fly back to Colorado as a witness in the trial. 3 years later I had to retell everything I knew and in front of Dunlap.

How does a person remember important details after 3 years? I felt so disoriented. Was I making stuff up? Was my memory being altered by the weird ways in which the media and lawyers and trials play out? Can I please stop thinking about this?

Senior year of college included the unfolding of Columbine – not too far from Aurora. 6 years later my brain yet again went into overdrive chasing shadows of the past.

And so here we are one day after yet another massacre in the suburbs of Denver. So much sadness and distress fills me because it will never make sense to the survivors, the families, the friends, the family of the killer. Yes, I’m sure folks will find some peace in some explanation or some belief system. But in those quiet hours of the night, every July 20th, and with a million other cues their brains will run wild with shadows.

Again, I don’t think I’m that unique. We all grapple with death and the seemingly meaninglessness of it all.

I have a great life. I play and work hard. By all means I am functioning human.

I treasure every moment as much as I can. I love my family and my friends as hard as I can all the time so if the randomness strikes they will know I loved them.

And

The shadows still haunt me.

I am really alive?
Did this really happen?
How will I die?
Have a lived a life worth surviving that night?
Had I been there would it be different?
Should I talk to people about this?
Am I defined by this?
Does anyone care about my internal struggles?
Should I even try to get rid of the shadows?
How much of my behavior is shaped by this?

So here I am.

Maybe I’ve come to believe that all of existence is information and computation because it’s the only explanation I’ve come across that accounts for people brutally murdering other people senselessly.

I’ll never be at peace with this stuff. And I’m ok with that. In some ways it helps me live and love more.

In the end I decided to post some essays on this because there’s now another 100+ people out there with shadows looming. Maybe they will come across my story and find some peace in that were all connected and we don’t have to face the shadows alone. And maybe this is selfish in that now there are others out there for me to connect to that know aurora, co, that live with these shadows.

I’ve long believed that the worst kind of pain is loneliness. Even worse than death. I don’t think I can offer any grander help or relief or purpose than telling a story that leaves me and a reader or two less lonely.

Read Full Post »

Here’s another article about how the machines will take over and make everything better.

It could draw on huge amounts of data effortlessly. It wouldn’t even take breaks to play Farmville.

Funny, but seriously…
Who’s to say the evolution of “intelligence” doesn’t involve the evolution of play… in fact in might be necessary.
not quite sure why every contemplation of a super smart singularity future simply involves bigger problems being solved.   history doesn’t suggest that’s how it works.

it’s plausible that other systems in the universe have already passed a singularity.   and perhaps we’re their little toy.  and what they did with their super intelligence was set up an experiment to see how things develop.   their own farmville.

it’s also plausible that ever increasing intelligence in the human sense doesn’t amount to squat in the multi verse.   Maybe the multi verse just does what it does and intelligence is a side effect that burns out like a super nova…  maybe it’s common, maybe it’s rare…

the problem with chasing the singularity is we probably don’t have much control over how things evolve.   Can’t say I want the machines to take over or not.  I’m pretty sure I won’t know the difference when and if they do, just like I didn’t notice how The Internet changed us and I couldn’t really prepare for it.    Other generations could say that about birth control, electricity, the printing press, telescope, the wheel, whatever.   Again, things happen.  we behave.  then occasionally we notice, “Gee, looks like something changed”.

 

Read Full Post »

MOON is an extraordinary movie.  A slim 90 or so minutes, 1 main actor, minimal sets and effects and one gut punch of a concept.

Duncan Jones and everyone who worked on this movie deserve a real high five for keeping this subtle and letting the eerie realizations of Sam Bell take center stage.   SciFi/futurism/philosophical benders tend to go over the top and lose their power by setting everything in such a bizarre environment with over the top characters.  MOON does not.

What’s really disturbing about MOON is that this is a plausible future of some sort.  It’s not flying cars, light speed, terminators nor brains in vats powering a super computer.  It’s a future of clunky cloning, functional energy technology, and AI that isn’t all powerful.

I don’t want to ruin the story for folks so I’m not going to go into much detail.  If you at all wonder about what we all think it means to be alive, be a human, be self aware and be free, you will really enjoy this movie and probably be really unnerved by it.

No conclusions.  more questions…

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »