January 01, 2022
I pretty much know how the world works. I just don't like the way it works. The world is its own darkness. But it disguises itself as clearest day. The way it is. The way it's always been. It's only you and I that just don't get it. Because we're damaged. The logic is seamless, almost beautiful. Almost. All it really needs is something like baptism, some kind of assurance that yeah, you're fucked, but it's not really anything you did. As long as you don't look back, into the darkness you crawled out of, the bad place that birthed you and left you hanging. Umbilicus, omphalos, whatever. Quick, pretend you're not stranded! Even though those strands are all you've got.
What I believe -- sometimes, on a good day, which this is not particularly -- is that I am healing myself of this madness. It is not real, but it's not a dream. Not something I can just roll over and wake up from.
What I believe about my writing -- sometimes, when it's not just flatulent exhibitionism -- is that it's a way to turn those headlights on myself. Not to shock anyone, but to cease ignoring, fearing, hating what I am. After half a lifetime doing that, one day fourteen years ago I stopped. And right before I stopped, I got truly angry. It wasn't anger born of fear, for once, but of understanding. Understanding how I'd been complicit with whatever it is we go along with, buy into, lay on ourselves and others constantly: the shameful guilty knowledge that we are licking our own secret wound in private, in the dark, and no one must ever see. No one must ever know.
Well, maybe not you. Maybe you're what they call well adjusted.
But others -- I suspect many others -- see this freakshow of crippled psyches every day, like some medieval Danse Macabre out of Bosch or Brueghel. Some work in mental hospitals where their patients perhaps see it clearest of all. The phenomenon is hardly limited to institutions though. Its sickened spirit haunts the laboratory and the stadium, the whorehouses and great tabernacles of commerce. It is welcomed outright in those cathedrals still offering salvation, not just Bingo.
Jesus died for your sins, the story goes. You wanted. You craved. You had this gaping need. And because you couldn't hold back, control yourself, he was nailed to a cross for you. Personally. It was very personal. You were involved. There was blood everywhere, not like they show it in the churches. It was ghastly. Visceral. Not something you'd ever want to look at really. Get out the incense and the flowers and the whitewash then. Shine your shoes and comb your hair and straighten your goddam tie!
Did it get off-track someplace? Or was Christianity always just fundamentally weird? Is there a mystery here we really don't, really can't comprehend? Unless we surrender, as they say? And who are these "they" who presume to comprehend enough to say it? Let them cast the first stone. Let them, after Einstein, dice with God.
What I was going to say about writing was... What? Something about art perhaps. I used to think art was just another trick. A crock. Another form of posturing -- just more clever, more obscure. Another pretense to cover up the fact you didn't have a clue what was going on. Now I'm not so sure.
Entropy is simple stuff at base. The stone once cast, rolls down the hill. It stops at the bottom. There is no perpetual motion, no friction-free anything; there's the rub. In a closed system, heat transfer is a losing game. All energic transactions are headed for absolute zero. Steep is the path; downhill the gradient.
But what's this about a closed system? The physicists always throw that in, like some kind of legal rider, some incantatory caveat. Here be dragons -- beyond this point we cannot take responsibility. The thing is, they don't really know, and this is the place they have to admit it. They're talking about the universe, you know. Isn't that great? Science is so cool. You get to say shit about the very fucking universe no less! Not like religion, which is so mysterious and all, so unnecessarily complicated by the things you get to know and the things you don't. Since the Enlightenment, we get to know it all. Except, of course, those bits we can't. Like, for instance, whether the universe is open or closed.
If it was all just energy and mass, it wouldn't really matter much. If it was all just suns and clouds of interstellar gas and light shifting red with nobody there to measure it anyway, I mean, who'd give a crap? It could be beautiful, in a theoretical sort of way I guess. It could be meaningless. Neither of those could possibly count for much unless there was somebody there. But suddenly there was.
Because something forgot to run downhill. Maybe it was some rogue carbon. We can find out what, but not why. Or maybe why, but not how come. There was DNA in the oceans one day that wasn't there the day before, and it was linking, headed somewhere. The fact of the matter, no matter how you cut it: it was headed for us.
Nature abhors a vacuum they say. Now, where the hell did that come from? What an anthropomorphic notion. Moreover, what a peculiarly Western, Northern European, adversarial form of anthropomorphism. Nature, whatever that is, looks around one day and says: man, I just can't stand this vacuum! Motherfucker! And I am surrounded -- no, worse -- I am defined by it.
Seriously, go outside, look up! Between all those stars out there, you know what that is? That's vacuum. And there's quite a lot of it. More than anything else. Of course, the scientists will tell you that's not something you can really say -- "there's a lot of vacuum" -- because it isn't anything at all. It's just "space." But the universe, which must be coextensive with nature -- you'd think, huh? -- and which is mostly space, supposedly hates this space. Abhors it. If you take just this one thing, you can see how a lot of problems get started...
"What? Do you think I'm working this hard just to heat the whole outside? Shut that friggin door!" This is how Dad first explains entropy and the closed universe. It must be closed. Space must be contained by something. Otherwise, there would be -- my god! -- no borders, no boundaries, no Heavenly Kingdom! Bummer.
But it isn't all just energy and mass. Look again at your animal in the headlights. There is something else. Intelligence in the eyes and that purple electricity. There is something awake in there, some urgent purpose. Look closer. This is hard, yes. You're not supposed to even notice it's there. It's not polite to stare. But if you do, you might realize that the animal is not eating its own entrails as you first thought. It is chewing its leg off. The leg that binds it to the trap.
What trap, you say. What animal for that matter. What in christ's name are you talking about? You must be crazy. There is no trap, no animal, no look in its eyes you thought for a second that you might have recognized. It's all just a bad dream. An open and shut case. A shut universe. Go back to sleep. Tomorrow we're taking you to DisneyWorld!
Then what is this pain in here, Mommy?
Don't kids just say the darndest things? They've got that special light in their eyes too. Until it goes out. Until they stop asking those innocent America's-Funniest-Home-Video-type questions, like: Who am I? Where did I come from? How am I connected to those stars up there? Will someone please tell me what this is all about?
We've got to protect our kids from the facts of life. The dirty little secret of how they were conceived. Well, the chemistry is OK maybe, the molecular biology. But you take it to its natural conclusion and -- whoa! -- it's all attached to that thing down there. Nevermind Billy, nevermind Sally, run along and play! And such nice kids, too. But oh, the blood and sweat of it, the awful want. The longing that's never satisfied. The horror, the horror... (June turns abruptly from the disturbing reverie to complete her household chores, knowing Ward will soon return from work to play baseball with the Beaver.)
It's not just the Catholics, either, and their virgin mother who never got laid. The embarrassment runs much deeper. It's there in the whole Big Bang thing too. Funny how they call it that. There couldn't be any, like, Freudian overtones you don't suppose? Just for the hell of it, try asking sometime what happened just before that. Just before everything came slamming out of that singularity 14 billion light years roughly to the north. And the answer is -- ta-da! -- it's all Mind-of-God stuff, kids. Don't ask; don't tell.
That's one edge of the box. The others are a bit more iffy. In fact, it might be open or it might be closed. We're not sure. We are uncertain. But if it's closed, then the energy is running down, running out. Must be closed then, right? Because it's late now and we're getting tired. Because love never works and everyone dies. Because... well, because nature abhors a vacuum, that's why! And the trap closes. The light goes out.
While this has the advantage of not being messy, like the reprehensible agenda of DNA, and not as outright spooky as religion, it's still just too depressing. What are some other options, then? Well, we can remain outside it, we think. Though quantum physics suggests otherwise, we can opt to be observers. After all, what's a little denial between friends? We can separate body from mind, then prove that mind does not exist. We can use logic. We can be objective and precise. We can make fine distinctions. We can be professional about it.
Or we can just shoot smack. One path seems about as legitimate as the other. There is no pain, you are receding...
December 30, 2021
Of all the tributes to Chris Locke so far, Steve Larsen’s comes closest to capturing the Chris/RageBoy I knew. It’s so good I keep returning to it. Steve knows what it was to experience being hit with idea bullets from Chris’ machine-gun brain, and then riff and co-create the next world-bending or stupidly hysterical (but always catchy) concept. To be one of his co-imaginators of meaningful and meaningless things was a gift I will take forward with me always. When someone truly informs your voice, that’s what happens.
The last exchange I had with Kat Herding/Chris Locke was a chat shortly before he was hospitalized. I was trying to encapsulate how his obsession with infectious disease disaster movies was another example of how he’s always ahead of his time, given our current global, viral predicament.
So, I called him “Pre-relevant”.
“PRE-RELEVANT LOL!! Made me laff more than once!”
I can’t think of a better final exchange.
Two pieces of Steve’s tribute are ways of describing Chris and RageBoy that I could not have said better myself if I tried for the next 20 years:
First, what the ride of being his friend was like:
“How can I tell you about that conversation/monologue? Mix up a vat of hard information, coffee dregs, healthy contempt, real world pragmatism, mashed Toxico cigarette butts, visionary eloquence, trailing-off-in-the-haze 60s enthusiasms, pure rage, a sense of mission, Thirteen Ways of Saying Fuck It, a highly-tuned bullshit detector with wires and lights and everything, democratic zeal, arcane rock and roll, a dollop of Howl, a cloud of menthol smoke and a driver with his head in and out of the window, trying to breathe, at ninety or so, bearing down on the Hanging Gardens of Newark”
And second, what it was like for him to get off the ride:
“If Chris had a problem, and this is just my opinion, it was this: given the brain space and time spent in the future, a place he needed to go, sometimes arriving back in the here and now was difficult and disconcerting. In his trips to the future, Chris figured out a great many things. He had a clear picture of how certain things would be, what would continue to exist and work, and what things would be discarded. He used these insights to formulate ideas, products, services, and life in general to describe what life in the future might look like and how it would work. When Chris ‘came back to earth,’ he was troubled to see things around he’s discarded in his head as ‘dead men walking,’ and learned he couldn’t do some things he wanted as they hadn’t been invented yet.”
Pre-relevant. That’s our guy. And it’s only an iota of his legacy. Just wait and see.
Addendum: My estimate is that Cluetrain and Gonzo were 25 years ahead of schedule. Somewhere in the back of Chris’ brain there was an intricate choreography between the power of connected hearts to cut off capitalism and oppression at the knees, and his obsession with deadly viruses and narcissism. All we needed was one well-placed disaster to set off the powder keg. Here we are folks!
December 24, 2021
We’re living in a bad dream
They've forgotten all about mankind
And you were the one they backed up to the wall
All those years ago
And you were the one who imagined it all
All those years ago
More respect I have for you than any writer of hearts under the sun. I will miss you my friend, my brother, my caped crusader, my Clientology CEO, boss of Jeremy Outterbridge, tamer of the mystic bourgeoise, founder of the town of blogaria’s 2001 homestead, our Uncle RageBoy-Chris Locke-Kat Herding.
I’m not sure what it means to be in this loosely joined online world without your presence. I’m not sure we should be. But for today, we celebrate the words, the laughs, the ripping out of hearts, the incredible brilliance of all we lit up and burned down.
“Spark to flame, ignite.”
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: Web without end.
From Chris’ classic Chapter 1 in the bestselling book that kicked business righteously in the ass, The Cluetrain Manifesto:
You will never hear those words spoken in a television ad. Yet this central fact of human existence colors our world and how we perceive ourselves within it.
‘Life is too short,’ we say, and it is. Too short for office politics, for busywork and pointless paper chases, for jumping through hoops and covering our asses, for trying to please, to not offend, for constantly struggling to achieve some ever-receding definition of success. Too short as well for worrying whether we bought the right suit, the right breakfast cereal, the right laptop computer, the right brand of underarm deodorant.
Life is too short because we die. Alone with ourselves, we sometimes stop to wonder what's important, really. Our kids, our friends, our lovers, our losses? Things change and change is often painful. People get "downsized," move away, the old neighborhood isn't what it used to be. Children get sick, get better, get bored, get on our nerves. They grow up hearing news of a world more frightening than anything in ancient fairy tales. The wicked witch won't really push you into the oven, honey, but watch out for AK-47s at recess.
Amazingly, we learn to live with it. Human beings are incredibly resilient. We know it's all temporary, that we can't freeze the good times or hold back the bad. We roll with the punches, regroup, rebuild, pick up the pieces, take another shot. We come to understand that life is just like that. And this seemingly simple understanding is the seed of a profound wisdom.
It is also the source of a deep hunger that pervades modern life — a longing for something entirely different from the reality reinforced by everyday experience. We long for more connection between what we do for a living and what we genuinely care about, for work that's more than clock-watching drudgery. We long for release from anonymity, to be seen as who we feel ourselves to be rather than as the sum of abstract metrics and parameters. We long to be part of a world that makes sense rather than accept the accidental alienation imposed by market forces too large to grasp, to even contemplate.
And this longing is not mere wistful nostalgia, not just some unreconstructed adolescent dream. It is living evidence of heart, of what makes us most human.
November 13, 2021
How many times you put me
In your back seat,
Listened to me chatter down
On our way to the park or
The music store.
This time it’s a dream.
You are the passenger
In the car ahead of me.
In a dream, everything is real.
Turning the corner,
Some familiar landmarks.
Lined leather gloves,
Wool caps and winter coats
Pump gas at the Mobile station.
Across the street
Regulars line up for a fish fry.
Eyes forward now,
blinkers offer a sign
Of what’s ahead.
You turn right
Onto South Clinton
I try to keep pace
To stop you
Into what’s next.
Next door, I wait for you
Inside a neighbor’s house
I’ve never seen.
Rick is there.
From the bay window
Why isn’t she home yet?
You left so fast.
I never took my eyes off of you
Until I did.
Moving the curtain aside
Headlights rounding the corner,
Falling sleet dulls their beam.
The faceless driver
Pulls in to your driveway,
Turns on the brights so you
Can find your way.
Through quickening flurries,
Look how your smile
Lights the night,
Snow turns headlights into halos.
As if you had never stopped,
Climb your porch steps,
Turn to the waiting car,
Wave a thank you, goodbye.
With a twist of the knob
You are home.