An Absurdly Beautiful Day


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the ruined temple next door to our house

 

The weather is perfect. There’s a soft drone of crickets and insects who live in the grass. The Goldfish have already gobbled the food I gave them.  It’s late enough in the morning that the roosters have calmed down. A lone dog barks in the distance. A few cars pass by on the road outside.

 

If I can’t be happy today, when can I be happy? I’m not under criminal investigation. Nobody’s suing me. I don’t owe anybody money. I’m in good health, after a breakfast with friends I’ll probably go swimming and then get a massage.

 

 

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No Regrets


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What do I really enjoy doing? Writing and Acting. Why don’t I do more of it? Because it’s hard and nobody’s paying me to do it.

How much time do I have left in this lifetime? Dunno, maybe fifteen or twenty years. Why don’t I spend that time writing and acting? Because it’s hard and nobody’s paying me to do it.

How absurd. People who work in hospice say that just before death, almost everyone tells whoever is within earshot (and it may just be a whisper) that they wish they had done what they really wanted to do with their life rather than what other people expected them to do. It’s a continual lament by concert pianists who ended up working in offices, oil painters who worked in department stores, poets who taught school.

I guess if ever there was a time to do the things I really want to do, it’s today.

“Waking up to who you are involves letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” – Alan Watts

Gone and Completely Forgotten


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I will not be remembered long after I die, for my Facebook posts will cease, and that is the way most of the world knows me. Where I am, what I’m doing (or not) and most importantly, what my political views are. I’ve never had many strong views about politics, other than a lingering bad taste in my mouth caused by Nixon and a general distrust of those who profit from war, a category that seems to include almost everyone except me. Facebook, on the other hand, seems to thrive on political opinions.

But as to the real me, the whole me, the me that doesn’t translate into social media posts, I don’t expect my legacy will linger long. If somebody doesn’t tell Facebook or Google that I’ve passed, I suppose my blogs will linger for a few years while my Facebook pages continue to accrue likes, until someone realizes there’s no money to be made off me any longer. No, I will never pay to boost this post. Stop asking.

Then, when my pages are hacked and over run by those who copy identities in order to sell copies of Ray Ban and Oakley sunglasses online, a bot somewhere will close my accounts. No servers will store my data for free. My entire electronic library of silly stories and goofy pictures will vanish in a wisp of electrons.

Ex Libris Dan Coffey. My profile picture will go dark. My electronic wallpaper will curl.

Vegetarian Rip Off


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The street outside is swarming with people, locals, backpackers, privileged youth who are drifting around the world on their parents’ dime, and none of them realize at this moment that I’m the most important person out here. Sure, they think they are, but that’s merely delusion. It’s me.

This is Khao San road, the Haight Street of Southeast Asia. I thought I had seen a dense population of massage and tattoo parlors in other cities, but nothing comes close to this. Within a kilometer of my hotel there may be two hundred of each. They’re open twelve to fourteen hours a day. Probably two thousand people, mostly women, make their living here in this way.

I stopped into the first vegetarian restaurant I found as I left the small alley that connects my hotel to the main street. We have plenty of vegetarian restaurants in my home city of Chiang Mai, and they’re always very inexpensive. I didn’t even bother to look at the prices when I sat down and ordered.

Fortunately, I had enough cash in my wallet to cover a Thai iced tea and a quesadilla. Almost nine dollars. This is about nine times more expensive than it would have been in Chiang Mai. Looking around the room at the other diners, mostly European young people, I could tell I was the only one who noticed.

Everything in Bangkok is a little bit more expensive than in other cities, but this won the extortion prize.

Inconvenient Truth Meets Manufactured Consent.


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Nobody wants to hear about who killed Kennedy or who did 9/11. Not current, not sexy. Tin foil hat stuff.

Surely no one believes the official narrative, right? I know I don’t. Even so, nobody wants to hear about it anymore.

My attempts to encourage debate on social media end up getting nowhere. No new evidence means no debate, simply people in entrenched positions calling each other names.

The only points I can score with anyone who disagrees with me are that the Invasion of Iraq was contrived and misguided. People will grant you that. Beyond that point, all debate ends because there isn’t a common ground of agreement from which to proceed. It would be like trying to get an atheist to debate the proposition, “are we saved by grace or works?”

It seems that we aren’t simply bored by the questions but afraid of what the answers might obligate us to do. We might have to change everything. We might have to hold trials of rich and powerful people who are still alive and active. These might make waiting for Trump’s impeachment seem quick and easy in comparison.

Mark Twain said “it’s easier to fool people than to convince them they’ve been fooled.” He lost a fortune investing in a complicated pants-pressing machine, and had money problems until the day he died. A lot of his public speaking tours late in life were by necessity rather than choice. So he knew what he was talking about.

How does a nation come to grips with its past? Stalin is still popular with some elderly Russians, members of cult religions that are convinced the world is ending keep their faith even after the fateful day passes. Women stand by men who beat them and molest their children. It’s hard to admit you made a wrong turn a long while ago and you’re simply going to have to retrace your steps and start over.

But what’s the alternative? To live a lie is to court perpetual disquiet. It gets worse over time, never better.

Nations and people need to have a certain degree of integrity in order to avoid cruelty. Deception leads to violence because the lie must be defended at all costs. If our country is allowed to keep its secret lies, then for decades, maybe centuries, it will have to defend those lies. It will become neurotic, then psychotic, and not know why.

We are the stewards of our democracy. There’s nobody else who can take the job. We the people. If we’re afraid to face the truth, then we will be complicit in our descent into the hell that awaits those who are afraid to get and stay real. We will act out in all sorts of ways, none of which will seem to be connected to our self-deception.

Save Your Nostalgia


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There’s a Facebook meme out there about Walter Cronkite, reminding people that there used to be programs on TV where a grandfatherly character (white, non-Jewish) read news you could believe in. This is nostalgia for a time when roles were clearly defined. Yes, Walter was a professional journalist. He was paid a salary to do his job. He had a support staff.

Today we get the news from each other. It’s a vast rumor mill that shares and likes memes, photos, and fragments of text. There are a very few “content providers” who actually write their own material. Most of us simply share, copy and paste. Some link to legitimate news sources, but most of us would rather argue with each other than cough up a subscription to the Times.

Remember, the same people who gave us the Vietnam war and the Invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan were complicit with the networks. I never saw Walter Cronkite interview Noam Chomsky. It was a square world back then, and we brought democracy to the rest of the world one bomb and a time. We dropped so many bombs on Laos over ten years that it surpassed the total explosives used in World War II. It averaged out to one B-52 planeload of bombs every 8 minutes. I don’t remember CBS news reporting that when it was happening.

Today, even though I live on the other side of the globe, I subscribe to the New Yorker. They send me my magazines, albeit a week or two late. It’s a lot smaller than I remember it, as it’s continually shrunk over the fifty years I’ve subscribed. Now I have to use reading glasses and sometimes a magnifying glass to read the small type font. I have to use a bright reading lamp. Still, it takes me four hours to read an entire magazine. There’s real substance there. And no, it doesn’t make me want to return to the States.

Euphoric Recall


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Euphoric Recall is the nostalgic version of Wishful Thinking. Only remembering the good parts is an understandable survival mechanism, but it doesn’t lend itself well to realistic decision making. It does a better job setting goals, but tends to minimize the difficulty in reaching them. It’s a great way to motivate a crowd, but a bad way to get through hard times, because the person who was once so enraptured now tends to fall prey to disillusion.

Who wants to grovel in world full of tedious reality checks when one could skip among the clouds? When Coleridge was having his opium dream about Kubla Kahn it took someone knocking on the door in order to convey a mundane message to spoil the whole fantastic vision. I’d rather be damned for being an enthusiast than praised for being a pragmatist.

The first explorers took to the seas with a minimum of technological support and a lot of wishful thinking. It’s hard to navigate when your map contains fanciful drawings of imaginary beasts and the text “here lie monsters.” They left port anyway, and even though half the crew often perished before the ship found its way home, everybody was in high spirits on the day they took off for parts unknown.

We are all doing this every day we’re alive, but we don’t realize it or admit it to ourselves, because it would be too upsetting.

I’m living in Thailand, a country with the highest motorcycle road fatality rate in the world, and yet the only vehicles I own are motorcycles. I like to think I’m well aware of the risk I take every time I leave home, but I’m not really, for habituation makes me drift into denial. “Sure, maybe it will happen someday, but not today,” I tell myself, or better yet, I simply don’t think about the possibility of dying at all.

I’m like Captain Cook heading toward Tahiti with a crew of drunks and enough provisions to last a few weeks.

In fact, no matter how much insurance we think we have to guide our actions, we’re all just flying blind. As Helen Keller said “The reason no one experiences security is because it doesn’t exist. Life is either an exciting adventure or it is nothing.” If a woman born deaf, dumb and blind can say that, I suppose I can, too.