Archive for the ‘The New Hope’ Category

I’m back!

September 15, 2009

It has been about 8 months since my last blog post, but I am finally going to just write one and hopefully others will follow on a weekly rather than annual basis.  Part of my delay has been that I never think anything that happens to me or my various ruminations are worthy of a post.  This past saturday I had a rather odd yet insignificant encounter that I just realized, two days after the fact, has stuck with me surprisingly well.  Since I found it amusing at the time and still do, I thought it worth typing up to the best of recollection.


“The Spiritual Guru”

Ugggh!  Why did I agree to go into work on a saturday?  It will only be for a couple of hours, but still, I would much prefer to sit at home and waste my time playing decade old video games and watching some Netflix DVDs.  

That is what was going through my head as I stepped out my front door into the afternoon heat.  It may have been our final blast of 80+ degree weather for the summer, but I had no intention to enjoy it that afternoon.  I had been in a poopy mood the previous couple days and would rather it be overcast and 50 with a bit of rain, to make it easier to stay inside and watch DVDs and play video games of course.  Regardless, the sun was shining overhead and it was hot as I walked down my stairs and into the road.  “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.  You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  I had been watching a lot of LOTR and reading “The Hobbit” at the time, so Bilbo’s advice came to me easily as I set off on my own adventure, although I highly doubted anything of interest would find me on the way to work and back.  One thing I was excited about though was a particularly keen haul of CDs waiting for me at the library.  Waiting for me I had a Daft Punk album, a group called The Antlers (who I had never heard, but Pitchfork Media gave them a pretty good review) and several other goodies.  After picking up my holds at the Greenwood branch of the SPL, I crossed the street to bus stop for the #5 which would take me downtown.  It was sitting at this particular bus stop that I met the central figure of this story, my spiritual guru.

I shall call him Xenobus the Wise for lack of his real name, although I do not doubt that I am very far off.  He had long hippie-ish hair but a well trimmed beard, reminding me somewhat of The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” but wearing jeans and a T-shirt instead of a bathrobe.  In his oddly swollen right hand he held a lit cigarette, in the equally oddly swollen left he was taking a swig from his Deschutes Black Butte Porter.  I thought I had noticed him watching me before I even crossed the street, but figured I was mistaken.  I pulled out my book out of my backpack and just had time to find the page I was on before he called out to me, “Hey brother, what you readin’, man?”

Is it necessary to use both “brother” and “man” in that sentence?  I thought before replying, “The Hobbit.”

“What’s that, brother?” he asked while stepping closer to me to hear better and simultaneously cutting off any chance of my escape.

“The Hobbit, by Tolkien, you know, “Lord of the Rings”.

“Oh, hey man, have you ever read anything by Tom Brown?”

“No”, I replied, searching my mind for any recollection of an author named Tom Brown, to try and verify if this guy was full of shit or going to suggest a good author that I might like.

“Oh, yeah, he has this story “The Tracker” that I think you would really like.  You know all those people who like this stuff like “Lord of the Rings”, I think they just like it, you know, because it is about nature and people really like nature.  And Tom Brown writes about nature, and you just get such a better appreciation for it from his writing you know, and you don’t have to pretend you’re off traveling in this fantasy world, because it is our own actual world.”

I could see his point, but still I had a different opinion so I told him, “You know, sometimes it’s kind of fun to get away from the troubles of the real world and read about a fantasy world for a while.”

Smirking, he asked, “How old are you man?”


“Well, for your sake, I hope that doesn’t remain fun for much longer.”

What the fuck does he mean by that?  I was beginning to feel a bit irritated by this guy, but keeping things polite, I just said, “Well, I don’t know about that…”

And then he just got up on his soapbox of craziness and began to go off, “I mean, people can read what they want, I personally prefer Malcolm X’s autobiography, because it expands the mind and makes you think about how you identify with society and its influences upon you, but with all of these kids nowadays they just get reading this fantasy stuff and they don’t know anything about the world that we live in and they try to live meaningful lives, you know, and they just don’t even comprehend what that means…”

“Well I think it’s fine to read some fantasy on the side, as long as those aren’t the only type of book that you are reading” I managed to throw in while Xenobus was taking a breath.

Ignoring my comment, however, Xenobus continued on at a frenetic pace and his oddly swollen hands began to get increasing excitable, “…see with getting a job, especially with the economy bust and all, you know how they said it was going to be another “Great Depression” but thats just it, you know, it, like with Michael Jordan…(Ok, that is kind of a big jump he just took)… he just got up on the stage at the Hall Fame, and was saying how everyone is searching for the next Jordan, but that is just it, things are different, there can never be another “Jordan”, he was just somebody that did fantastic things on a basketball court, so with the Great Depression, there were so many particular things about that financial crisis that it makes it so it can’t happen exactly the same way again, you know its like say I lose my job, because I’m a drunk or something, I mean, I can’t just rely on these stories of the past to help me think about how I got to where I am at and how I can change that in the future so that I have a job, you know, I mean all these stories of the past, people want them to continue on the same, but they just can’t…(I’m kind of following you buddy, but you are starting to lose me)…but an old story I do like is “Star Wars”, you know why that was always so good man, because you know Joe Camel, (Joe Camel, the cigarette mascot?) he was writing these stories that influenced George Lucas, and Joe Campbell..(Joe Campbell? Or Joe Camel?  What is going on?)… he was like including all of these Tibetan Buddhist symbols in the Star Wars series, which is why it is so good, you know like when Obi Wan is fighting Darth Vader to help Luke escape, and Obi Wan lowers his light saber, he was doing this Buddhist symbol which is called the Rainbow Spirit Cross (or something like that, I can’t remember exactly what Xenobus called it) where he was essentially saying, you know, you may destroy my body but you are never powerful enough to take my mind, and you know there are all of these Tibetan aspects of Obi Wan, where he is like, you think it is just coincidence that you are on this desert planet and Obi Wan just happens to be there too, and you think that it is a coincidence that you grew up shooting Sand Rats when that is the perfect training to help you destroy the Death Star at the end?  No, all of this has a purpose and a meaning…(Alright, this Star Wars talk IS pretty interesting, but you are still talking way too fast and jumping around a lot and I have a hard time following)…because you know there are a lot of Llamas that have that ability, a spiritual connection with…(woah!  What are we talking about now, llamas?  As in the Dali Lama or South American mammals?)…a teacher and a pupil will study together in seclusion…(OK, I’m seriously lost now, where is my bus?  I wish this guy would just realize that I want to read “The Hobbit” in peace and no longer be lectured at.  There is no way to get away though…hmmmm…..what have I got in my pockets: my keys, ipod, a bit of paper…does he still think I am paying attention…If only I had Bilbo’s magic ring!)…so, you know, that is what the Corporations are always trying to do to you man…(Oh God, he’s into stereotypical stoner talk now, hatin’ on The Corporations or The Man always trying to get you down, maybe I will just zone out for a bit and think about something else…butterflies ARE nice, I was noticing some the other day, I like the colorful ones, but I saw some white ones and they were also quite nice, I liked the way two of them were fluttering about together.  Fucking?  Fluttering is a much prettier word, I will stick with that….Uh oh, how long have I been zoning?  Does Xenobus know I am zoning?)…so, you know, whenever you gets thoughts in your head, and the thoughts come in as words, and sentences, that is a guarantee that those words were put there by somebody else, trying to brainwash you, or at least that is what my llama taught me…(I still don’t know what kind of llama, but I am guessing not the South American kind)…so you have got to resist the messages that people are trying to influence you with, but shoot, I mean, really, I, I, I don’t even really know man…”

And with that he was done.  Spent.  Exhausted.  He sat down and took a drag off his cigarette and another swig of the Black Butte Porter.  All I could do was smile at him and then pick “The Hobbit” back up and try to start reading, unsuccessfully however as my mind was swirling with thoughts of our “conversation”.  While much of it made no sense to me, there were some were thought out ideas mixed in there.  I thought about the videos games I had been wasting my life playing way too much of the previous week, controlling imaginary characters as they hoisted overly large swords and smote vile foes, which is fun, but I am at a point in my life where I need to start moving forward.  I have been goofing around the past 6 months since I decided I no longer wanted to pursue a medical doctorate, watching way too many netflix movies and spending too much time performing routine that doesn’t make me happy, yet is comfortable and doesn’t make me unhappy.  These are all sorts of thoughts that I had been having off and on for who knows how long, but they all came flooding me at once and so strongly at this moment that it unnerved me.

“Oh look, the bus is here” I said as I saw the large green box come rumbling up the hill.  Xenobus, having finished his cigarette and his beer, picked up his backpack and started walking towards the slowing bus.  But apparently, our journey would not continue together, for he continue walking past the bus and around the corner.  Perhaps he decided that he didn’t want to ride the bus with someone who wasn’t a good listener, or maybe he just liked smoking and drinking at bus stops, or he just might have sensed some other young adventurer in need of a llama (Either kind of llama, for advice or simply to carry packs in the Andes).  Was it a coindence that we were at that same bus stop at the same time, or will that encounter some day help me destroy my own Death Star?


A two-party system, for now and for always?

December 22, 2008

Snowstorm ’08 has made this a rather slow week for me, with a lot of time spent indoors by myself.  It has been good in that it has given me plenty of time to read, watch movies, study MCATs (although I haven’t actually done any studying, I have had the time to do it if’n I were so inclined), and to contemplate the workings of the world.  Some of the main themes that I have been musing about this past weekend include multiple universes, time travel, heavy cream vs. whole milk (and how that could be responsible for my failed sunchoke gratin experiment), and the incoming presidency of Barack Obama to name a few.  

I know that in the blogging world news is supposed to travel faster than light, but this morning I got to  thinking about some older news from earlier this month. On December 2nd, the Georgian Republican incumbent, Saxby Chambliss, defeated Democrat Jim Martin in a run-off, thus quelling Democratic hopes for a 60-40 filibuster-proof senate.  This was really no surprise with Martin no longer having the Obama-factor bringing black Democrats to the polls as in the general election, but many Democrats were disappointed nonetheless.  While I consider myself a staunch liberal, I was relieved to see that a Martin victory (and potential Franken win in Minnesota) wouldn’t deliver the entire Federal Government into Democratic hands.  

Chambliss’s victory was important in preventing too much power from falling into the control of a single group of individuals.  While I find it amazing that we still rely on a 221 year old document and 25 subsequent amendments (not counting 18th and 21st since they just cancel each other out) for the basis of our law and governance, I do definitely respect the Founding Fathers’ idea of checks and balances to divide power between the three main bodies of the Federal Government.  Along similar lines, it is necessary that no particular party gains too much power.  The United States is an incredibly diverse nation and it is important that our leadership in someway represents that diversity.  

A disconcerting trend that has been occurring as of late is the disappearance of third-party politics in the US at a federal level.  Ralph Nader went from receiving almost 3% of the vote in 2000 and possibly costing Gore the election to a paltry amount in 2008 (approx. 700,000 out of over 130 million total votes cast).  Ross Perot got about 19% of the vote in ’92 as an Independent, but still was not awarded a single electoral vote.  In fact, the last time a third-party candidate received any electoral votes was George Wallace  from the “American Independent” party in 1968 (as Lynard Skynard did sing, “in Birmingham they love their governor”) and 1848 (Zachary Taylor-Whig) was the last time someone other than a Democrat or Republican was elected president.  That is not to say that the parties and the people they represent haven’t changed in the past 160 years, as recently as 1976 the Democrats were very much a Southern party, but rather it is discouraging that at any one time there are only two possible political ideologies that you can subscribe to (or just decide that you don’t care either way).  I don’t think that Nader, Bod Barr (Libertarian), Cynthia McKinney (Green Party candidate in 2008), or anyone else was a stronger candidate than Barack Obama this year, but it is nice for the people to have more options to choose from.

I am not completely writing off the two-party system as being evil, I just find it surprising that it has been as enduring as it is.  This past year has seen an attempted minority coup in Canada, a third Prime Minister in as many years in Japan, and no less than five acting PMs in Thailand as it has transitioned from military rule back to civilian leadership; “democratic” elections in Africa has been even more of a mess this year with turmoil at the polls in South Africa, Kenya, and especially Zimbabwe.  Other countries tend to see new leadership fairly often, whereas in the US whenever we get bored of one party, we simply switch back to the other one.  That is probably due in large part to our enormous wealth and resources: while we are a nation of haves and have-nots, the have-nots have enough to get by.  

I for one am very excited to see how the Democratic Obama administration handles the tough challenges ahead.  Should they fail to ease problems for the average American, we can probably expect a change in leadership in 2012, but you can guarantee it will be to Republican candidate (be it Bobby Jindal, Charlie Crist, Mitt Romney, or other) as opposed to a truly new way of thinking.  We are currently locked into a two-party system and I don’t see a change on the horizon.