Monday, January 25, 2010

A Letter to Jupiter Concernin My Future as a Starchild

Dear monkeys way beyond using tools,

I think I can confidently say that I've spent the majority of my life alone. I don't mean to say that I have never had family or friends or a wife. What I mean is that I have spent most of my life in a room where there were, physically, no other people. That if you laid out all the moments of my entire life as pictures on a table and closed your eyes and picked one at random, odds are it would be a picture of just me.

I've gone through steep social peeks, don't get me wrong. Half the time in high school I was around people all the time, because they used my house as a drunk tank. After I dropped out of college, and had an apartment with my wife and best friend, there was always someone around when I was home. But that's just what those points are: peeks. They are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Even a lot of my jobs have been me, in a room, with no one else. Evening shift computer lab technician at LSUS. Evening to close tech support at an internet provider down town. At my last job there was a lot of office work where I was with one or two other people, but when I traveled I was by myself. And, now this job, where on my regular shifts I only pass the guy I'm relieving, and have about a half hour with the woman that comes in the morning. That's maybe 1 hour out of a 10 hour shift.

Me working graves also means most of my time off is a night at home filled with old movies and video games and rum and coke. Wife is asleep, no one's up to talk to, nothing's open to go to, so I pull on all that old experience I amassed as a child in an empty house, and I just learn how to sit and be with myself all night. It sounds lonely, and it is, but it gives me time to think. And I really love to think.

A byproduct of this solitary lifestyle is a deep connection I make with books or films about total isolation. Books like The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson, which is basically a sci-fi twist on the real life act of a lifestyle pulling you slowly away from those who matter. Or, another Matheson book, I Am Legend. I'd love to meet Matheson, really. I want to know what happened to him that allowed him to capture that feeling of being completely cut off so well.

The movies hit home even harder. Movies like Castaway, The Pianist, the more recent Moon. And, the all time pinnacle of isolationism: 2001. 2001 sinks into my skin like a humid breeze. It rings almost every bell on the subject I have, most of all, the quiet. It's so accurate it's almost haunting to watch that movie. At night, alone, when I can think, it's so, so quiet. The only things that make noise are things that imitate the hum of the silence. An air conditioner, a server fan, the compressor on a refrigerator. It's all so quiet. Even when it's deafening, it's quiet. And when something breaks the silence, you can almost see the ripple in the air.

When it's that quiet, and you have that time to think, you'll try anything to pass the time mentally. Most of the time you can distract yourself. It's not uncommon for me to watch one or two movies a night. Play games for hours. Write when the inspiration hits me(although the effort given to writing and the effort given to gaming really should be switched). But that only lasts so long. Weeks, maybe, or a month before one night you sit down and all of my entertainment options just seem so unappealing. It's those times that I start to walk around inside my own head. It's those times that innerspace, the life of the mind, becomes my own personal rec room. And, once a person goes down that path, I think it starts to change their reality a little bit.

One morning, a few months ago, I got a terrible headache. Not quite a migraine, but close. One of those bigguns, that just presses on the inside of your skull and makes you realize why people used to think that there were demons in your head trying to get out. Worse yet, it came just as I was laying my head down on a pillow to sleep, about two hours after the sun had come up. I can ignore the daylight when I'm tired and comfortable, but this throbbing pain was promising a day of guaranteed insomnia.

I got up and briefly hunted for Tylenol, knowing that even if I found it, I'd have to take 6 and then, maybe, an hour later it would work enough that I could sleep. I briefly considered the rum, but passed on it since I would have to be up in 5 hours, alert, and ready to get things done. I didn't want to risk the haze left over from the amount of alcohol my substantial frame would need to pass out. So, having run out of practical options, I opted for something less pharmaceutical. I decided to try something I'd been reading about in some of the Buddhism crap I have lying around the house.

I'll be the first to admit that I am about the most half-assed Buddhist that ever walked the Earth. A few months ago I even tried to argue that buying a giant tub of cheese balls from the Dollar General was very Zen. Granted, I was just trying to defend my decision to pay money in exchange for horrible diarrhea, but, I still think my argument was valid at the time. The point I'm trying to make is that I use Buddhism as more of a guide line, and usually bypass the practices and just focus on the moral lessons.

But, it felt like a "scanner" was trying to kill me that morning, so, I decided to just try something new. Something totally of the mind. I mean, pain is just electrical impulses to the brain anyway. It's all just a machine. So, there's not really anything supernatural about it. My first adult attempt at serious meditation followed that rationalization.

I pictured a black oblivion. In that oblivion there was a hand, my hand, and in my hand was a small pebble. I started to mentally gather the pain in my head. The pain was a grey smoke filling my skull. I gathered it in a spinning mass and I pulled it down into my hand. And the more the smoke filled my hand, the larger the pebble grew. It grew to stone, and then to rock as the last of the smoke was absorbed. I focused on the rock. Smooth and grey with flecks of white and black. Like a heavy robin's egg. I pictured it lighter, almost weightless. I told myself that this rock is my pain, but this rock isn't really here. This rock is empty like I am empty, just like everything is empty. And I closed my hand around the rock, and it crumbled into a thin dust that blew away. My headache was completely gone.

The next thing I thought was, HOLY SHIT! This, of course not being the most Zen of thoughts, caused all the pain to rush back into my head, but, the point was that I did it once, and when I tried again, I was pain free again. The only thing I had to concentrate on was holding that state, and that distraction alone was enough to put me to sleep. Kind of like counting sheep, but way more awesome.

Since that day I have had many successful "mind over matter" experiences. I've pictured a system of hooks and ropes to silence the hiccups. I've pictured a hard leathery skin to let the cold wind blow right over me without effect. And, of course, I still use the rock for pain.

All of this combines in my brain to one end alone. Somewhere near my house there is a monolith that is changing my thought patterns to get me ready for the next step in evolution. There is some serious Tycho Magnetic Anomaly shit going down in Greenwood. I am truly better at being human now. But, for real this time, not just like how I tell people I'm better than them when I meet them for the first time.

It's all so clear now. I'm being prepared for something. Something wonderful. I've been improved so that I can handle the violent and traumatic journey that awaits me when I finally locate the monolith. It's probably down at the Loves truck stop. Everything else is.

I can't wait. It's going to be awesome. Me armed with my new way of thinking, dipping my foot into the rectangular abyss, and getting whisked away on that crazy ass Space Mountain ride through reality. A journey completely separate, in every way needed to be legally, than going into the VGER cloud from Star Trek: The Movie. Moving beyond the speed of light in my 1999 Buick Century, until both car and I suddenly arrive in a beautifully furnished apartment, complete with pork chop dinner and awesome Michael Jackson Billy Jean floor lights.

There I will both witness and experience every stage of the future of my life. Current Me, bewildered and still sitting, shaking in my Buick. Thirty something Me that's written two unpublished books. Middle Aged Me that has 5,000 extra copies of an unsuccessful, self-published book that I give away as Christmas gifts, every single year. Me in my sixties that has decided to master something easier than being a novelist and decides to take up painting. Decrepit Me on my death bed, surrounded by unopened art supplies still in their Hobby Lobby bags. I reach out to a monolith. Starchild.

Trumpets will play, I'll be surrounded in this wicked glowing shit, and later I'll get to meet Roy Scheider. It's going to be freakin' bad ass.

Chiggie Von Richthofen

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