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Jesus Loves Guinness

January 24th, 2009 No comments

The feeling that I have a social life hasn’t been stronger since I got here. I spent the last two nights out with people, and as fun as both nights were I’m looking forward to spending another night in the sweet comfort of isolation. But the feeling that I actually have some friends out here is quite nice.

On Thursday night, in spite of my strong desire to stay in, I decided to go out to Quiz Night with Alan and Amanda again. On Tuesday, we’d used the name “Jesus Loves Vodka” as our team name and lost horribly. But we really like the name, so we used it again, only changing it to “Jesus Loves Guinness” which we felt would be slightly less sacrilegious to the Irish Catholic woman who runs the quiz. She was quite amused by our name, musing about the idea of Jesus drinking Guinness on the microphone for all to hear, but she did say that it was in fact a sin. But the name proved to be good luck, because we actually wound up winning the quiz (thanks to a lot of Obama questions at the beginning and many others that fell into my areas of knowledge), and she said that we must have had help from Jesus. It felt cool to finally win a quiz, but it also meant free drinks, which wasn’t ideal because I really hadn’t wanted to drink very much due to the necessary early rise on Friday morning.

But on the third Guinness, after I had a significant buzz going, I found myself opening up and spilling personal details more freely than I ever have before. I told them about my theory on human sexuality, and how I consider myself a man who is mostly inclined towards same-gender sex between two women. I even let them know that I have no strong desire to penetrate a woman and I’d rather just pleasure them orally, and Amanda assured me that there are plenty of straight girls who aren’t into penetration who would totally go for something like that. The trouble is of course that I might get slapped in the face a few times before finding one. Not that I even intend to try, but it’s fun to imagine.

The next morning was quite shitty, but not as bad as it could have been. I struggled through my two beginner classes in Helmstedt, then came home and plopped back onto my couch for a little nap, looking forward to another nice night of watching downloaded TV entertainment on my computer. But only twenty minutes into my nap, the phone rang and it was Oliver inviting me to come to Celle—a town about 25 minutes away by train—to spend the night at his place. I almost didn’t want to go because I still wasn’t feeling too great, but I knew I should go and that after a meal and a few beers I’d be feeling just fine.

So I just threw on a jacket and hopped a train to Celle, arriving at the station at around 4:30. We drove around for awhile because he meant to take us to a restaurant but we found it didn’t open until 6, so we just settled for a half-chicken from a stand outside the supermarket and went back to his place to chow down. He lives in the downstairs of a very old run-down house in a relatively secluded area wedged between a forest and some fields. It looked pretty shitty but felt nice and cozy, a feeling augmented very much by the wood-burning oven that he uses to heat the house. We had to venture outside to fetch more wood a couple of times, which was quite fun.

Throughout the course of the night, we basically just sat and talked. He played some great music, almost all of which I intend to download, and we split a six-pack followed by a couple of bottles of wine, from which I drank extremely slowly and cautiously because I hate to mix different types of alcohol. Our conversations were all over the place, beginning with just telling some stories about some of our most intense life experiences (which for both of us usually involved LSD), and sharing our personal histories. I told him about my father abandoning me and the high school depression stuff, and he told me about how he became a father at 19 years of age with a woman 6 years older than him, and he has two daughters. They lived together for about 5 years but that didn’t work out so he left, but he still sees his daughters, now 13 and 15, quite frequently. I couldn’t believe I was hanging out and drinking with a guy who has teenage daughters.

I also told him about my writing at one point, and he seemed quite interested in my pet universe and wants to read some of it. Apparently, he’s into that kind of thing. But talking about that stuff led to deeper issues, and our conversation got pretty philosophical at one point. He enjoys thinking on a deep level and considering things like humanity’s place in the universe, but he doesn’t very often so he found my ideas pretty interesting, which felt quite good.

At around midnight when we were hungry again I helped him cook up a really delicious chicken salad with mushrooms, onions, and apples, drenched in a delicious Indian sauce. It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever eaten (because of the apples) but it tasted fantastic.

And when it got really late he started asking me about women, so our last topic of conversation was me once again trying to explain why I’ve never had a girlfriend, an explanation that seems to change slightly with whomever I’m with. I didn’t go into the whole male-lesbian thing with him. I just told him about how I would always fall in love with girls I couldn’t have and didn’t pay attention to anyone else so I never got any practice at picking up women. He asked me if I believed it was just bad luck or that it was all because of me, and I said I knew it was all me which he said was important. I explained that while I sometimes get very lonely, most of the time it doesn’t bother me. Not having a girlfriend gives me the freedom to stick with my plan of travelling the world and moving to a new country every year or so.

But he also told me that German girls are probably the most difficult girls in the world—that he’s never had a problem finding a woman anywhere else in the world except Germany. Just more confirmation that it’s just not going to happen for me here. And that’s perfectly fine. As I said, being single preserves my freedom. But he did tell me that I’ll eventually find someone and that woman will be very lucky, but I gave him my standard response that some people in the world will never have sex or a relationship, and I might be one of those people. “Maybe next life then,” he said. Exactly.

We finally went to sleep at around 2 a.m. and although I thought I wasn’t sleeping well, I woke up nice and late and found that I actually did have a relatively good night’s sleep. Unlike this apartment, you don’t have the nearly constant street noise at his place, although there was a really annoying water pump that kept me up for a little while. But when it was silent, I just laid there appreciating the absolute silence of it, and getting back to sleep was never too difficult. Then this morning he drove me to the train station and I came home. My head is still a little light from the wine and beer, and my throat is still a little itchy from all of that smoking, but my soul feels quite right and I’m really glad I went last night. Not counting Ichenheim, that’s the first time I’ve slept outside my apartment since I came back to Germany, and I really enjoyed it. I was worried that he might not find my company too thrilling but we got along really well. His English wasn’t perfect so there were a few communication problems but it was mostly okay. I tried to speak a little German but he could tell I was struggling so he stuck to English as much as possible, and language wasn’t a big issue most of the time. At any rate, we were able to have some good conversation which is really the only thing that matters.

So now I’ll spend the rest of the weekend alone (barring any unforeseen invitations by Alan or Amanda to come hang out somewhere) and relax in the peace of mind that I am in fact making good on my resolve to be more social and focus more on other people rather than so heavily on myself.

A Beautiful Now

January 21st, 2009 No comments

Life is still lovely. Although I was still sick today, I was productive in the morning and spent the afternoon on a nice long walk along the river and through the Georgengarten. It being a weekday, the paths were less crowded than usual, but nothing, even other people, was capable of bothering me. I was just putting my newfound resolve to practice, simply appreciating each moment as it passed. Not letting any train of thought get too far. Recognising that the meaning of my life is whatever I’m doing at the moment, so this is the meaning of my life—walking around a beautiful location with beautiful music in my ears. Right now, the meaning of my life is to write about what’s happening in it.

Yesterday, Barack Obama was inaugurated, thus bringing to an end the darkness of the last eight years. For the first time this millennium, George W. Bush has absolutely no power. His influence over world events has shrunk to almost nothing. Obama himself may be just another politician, but he certainly seems like the best leader I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. His speech was fantastic. It wasn’t just empty rhetoric, but a real sober look at the difficult times ahead, and a call upon the people to recognise that the only chance we have of getting through them is to take responsibility ourselves. Regardless of what kind of leader Obama ultimately turns out to be, that’s exactly the kind of message that should be reverberating through the world right now.

As for my own responsibilities, they are few. I spent the fall building a new life and now that it’s built all I have to do is figure out what to do with it. Part of that involves earning a bit more money and thus a bit more freedom, but I also need to be working towards a higher goal. Having finished A New Earth and reading the blurb about Eckhart Tolle at the end, it occurred to me that if this guy can be a “spiritual teacher” for a living, there’s nothing to stop me from pursuing the same thing as well. I’ll basically get to have the same kind of freedoms I have now, and the ability to travel and see the world. But rather than teaching the English language, I’ll actually be teaching something meaningful—helping people to see their lives from a deeper perspective—and contributing to the overall awakening of the human race. I even sent an e-mail to his website asking for some information or pointers on how to go about making that a career. It didn’t take much consideration to know that it would be absolutely perfect for me.

Regarding daily life, everything there is going smoothly as well. Last night, in spite of my mild sickness I went out to Quiz Night with Oliver, Alan, Amanda, and Natalja and had another pleasant evening. Oliver even invited me over to his place to drink and talk some time. So everything on the social front seems grand.

I haven’t heard from Petra, but I don’t expect to for quite some time because I doubt she even goes to the Planeo office. I only go there so often because I need to use their printers, but she can probably take care of that kind of thing herself. But I do have her e-mail address from some bulk e-mails Planeo sends out, so if I don’t hear anything after a week I’ll go that route, unless I change my mind. But I don’t believe any harm could come of it, so I fully intend to give it a try. If I really am beginning to master my emotions and take control of my thoughts, there’s no reason meeting with a beautiful woman once a week needs to be anything other than a pleasant and beneficial experience. I can’t think of any better motivation to work hard on my German, and as such she can even help me with specific areas of the language such as finding a new apartment or picking up beautiful women who might be sitting alone on park benches.

Sharing my life with a woman is the only thing I want but don’t have. It’s just that most of the time it bothers me so little that I have no motivation to go out and try to find someone. I don’t need a girlfriend—I’m perfectly happy without one—so I simply consider it useless to go out and try to find one. If love happens, that’s great, and I’ll be glad to let it happen. But I’m not going to waste any time looking for it. Not when I can deeply appreciate what I have without any thought wasted on what I don’t.

Lovely Grey Skies

January 19th, 2009 No comments

I can hardly believe that today is Bush’s last day. It’s been an incredibly fucked up eight years. Most things in the world have gotten a lot worse. Ironically, my life overall has gotten a whole hell of a lot better. I was in a mental institution on election night 2000. On Bush’s first inauguration day I was trying to discern the hidden message that the universe was sending to me via the colour of Aimee’s shirt. Eight years later I’ve never had more freedom and my mental and spiritual health feels at an all-time high.

I was sick this past weekend, but it turned out to be even more pleasant than I expected. It was the worst on Saturday, but I still managed to be relatively productive before I spent most of the evening and night entertaining myself. Yesterday I was über-productive in the morning, and in the afternoon I decided to head out for a walk through the Eilenriede.

I’ve been reading a book my mother sent me, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, and although I was a bit sceptical about it at first due to its status as an Oprah-favourite, it’s turning out to be quite a positive thing in my life. The metaphysical framework from which he approaches the problem of ego-driven consciousness is similar enough to mine for it to be totally compatible with my philosophy, and although I’ve been aware that I’m not the voice inside my head since a particularly psychedelic moment many years ago, just reading about it every day and focussing on it has helped me very much with the resolves I’ve already made over New Years’ such as to stop focussing so much on my inner self and to be able to appreciate beauty without desiring it. It’s odd that my decision to choose my own emotions came just before I began reading the book, but I can’t think of a book better suited to guide me in doing just that.

Anyway, I put my ability to feel my own “Presence” to the test during my walk through the forest, merely experiencing the beauty of each subsequent Now without letting my thoughts take control of my mind for a long period of time. I was extremely successful, barely allowing the voice in my head to go on for more than a few seconds without cutting it off, and although it was cold and cloudy the day felt like the most beautiful of the year so far. Of course I must admit that being sick helped a lot, not least of all because of the dextromethorphan in my “Wick Husten-Sirup” (Vick’s Cough-Syrup). But regardless of the chemical situation in my brain and body, the awareness itself was treated to an undeniably wonderful experience. Pure appreciation of life.

Today, I decided to push this resolve even farther. I had to go into Planeo anyway to print something out for this week’s lessons, and I dropped a note in Petra’s mailbox offering her the job of teaching me German for an hour a week. Her mailbox was completely empty and I’ve never seen her in the office anyway, so I don’t expect to hear from her for awhile if ever, but I went ahead and put it out there. I unlocked the door and cracked it open. Perhaps nothing will come through. Perhaps a fresh new hopeless love will fly in. Or perhaps something altogether unexpected. The point is, I’m not going into this under any desire to torture myself or pine over something unattainable to reaffirm my life-story as an endless victim of circumstance. I’m going in with my eyes wide open and a firm resolve to just appreciate whatever happens. An hour a week with a beautiful woman is something I’d like to be able to just appreciate without having to crave something more. Besides, to just be able to have nice, casual conversation with a woman I’m terribly attracted to and have it not be a big deal can only be a good thing in the long run. The only way it could go wrong is if I let it go wrong and choose to react to it as something worth agonising over. If I do agonise sometimes, I can damn well appreciate the agony. But as long as I fully intend for only positive results to come of it, then only positive results will come. Plus, it’ll help me improve my German.

It’s another cold and cloudy day in Hannover. The walk back from Planeo was fantastic. I thought of nothing but the feeling of the wind blowing through my hair, of how I’ve got the rest of the day to spend however I choose, and the majority of the rest of the week, the rest of the month, the year, and in fact my entire life as well. There’s nothing but grey skies ahead!

My Mind This Week

January 17th, 2009 No comments

The article I used this week for Frau Suhr and my advanced class on Thursday was called “The 10 Most Awesomely Bad Moments of the Bush Presidency”, as I figured this would be the last chance I’d have to talk about Bush while he was still president. I thought I might get a few interesting responses to this list of Bush blunders to write in this journal, but not really. Most of the conversations consisted of me explaining this or that and us agreeing that Bush is an idiot who made bad decisions pretty much 100% of the time. Andreas, the only one to show up to my Thursday class, said at the beginning that he didn’t judge Bush as a bad president because he didn’t know as much about him as an American would, but even he with his conservative values didn’t disagree with any of my opinions. So there’s really nothing I could write here that hasn’t been written a million times already about Bush, other than my personal observation that when confronted with the pure facts, any objective listener no matter how conservative could possibly feel that Bush was a good president. The only people who still feel that way must be hardcore religious wingnuts who have been saying prayers for him every night for the last eight years.

The events of the week itself were pretty much routine. I saw Alan and Amanda again on Tuesday night when we went out to another Quiz Night. This was the first time I initiated the get-together, so it felt good to do that. I also called Oliver to invite him out, but he didn’t answer his phone. The next morning he called me (waking me up from a dream in which I was being beaten by bullies and about to be thrown off a moving train as I kept telling them I wanted them to do it) and said he’d left his phone at work, so I invited him out next Tuesday and he agreed.

For the first time in many months, I’m genuinely sick. Not that weird, psycho-somatic bullshit I was feeling periodically all last year—it’s a bona fide cold. At least it happened at a relatively opportune time, as I’ve got jack shit to do for the next three days other than plan two lessons. It sucks a little bit that I was waiting all week for the weekend and then as soon as it comes I get sick, but it’s better that it happened now because if I had to cancel classes I would lose money. We’ll see how long it lasts though. I might have to cancel some of next week’s classes anyway if I don’t get better. But today all I have to do after going out to buy some food and medicine is re-fucking-lax. If I’d gotten sick in Ichenheim that would have pissed me off, but to have to spend the weekend doing nothing doesn’t bother me. The only real unfortunate thing about it is that today is Alan’s birthday and I could have gone out to get nice and trashed but now that won’t be happening.

Finally, I should mention an idea I’ve been toying around with. I want to improve my German so I’m thinking about finding someone to give me German lessons in the same sort of way that I give private English lessons, and I’m seriously considering dropping a note in the lovely Petra’s mailbox at work to ask her if she’ll do it. The positive side would be that I’d get to spend an hour a week with a beautiful woman. The downside would of course be the risk of developing yet another hopeless infatuation, seeing as how she’s married and has kids. But hopeless infatuation is nothing new to me, and there might be a few positive aspects as well. For one, she’s older, so it might help me to break this spell whereby the only girls I’ve ever fallen in love with have been teenagers (I haven’t fallen in love since 19). And for another thing, unrequited love is gold as far as inspiration and motivation goes. There may be a lot of pain involved, but I’m always at the top of my game spiritually when Love is an active part of my life, even though it has always been hopeless.

When I mentioned I needed a German teacher on Tuesday night to Alan and Amanda, she actually suggested Petra, but when I told her I’d thought about that she said it wouldn’t be a good idea. I basically agreed with her then. But just yesterday as I was sitting in the train station in Helmstedt waiting for the ride back to Hannover I was sitting by a woman who instantly reminded me of Petra. She didn’t seem to recognise me at all so I assumed it wasn’t her (my memory of her face isn’t all that clear after all these weeks without any sighting), but after a few moments some guy came and sat next to her and I overheard her saying something to him about speaking in English. I began to suspect then that it really was her, and that this was her husband or maybe a student. It’s not far-fetched at all to assume that she also has courses in Helmstedt. We work for the same company after all. But anyway, I wasn’t in the mood to experience such a strong level of desire at that point, especially after she started talking and smiling and laughing, so I removed myself from the situation and tried to put it out of my mind.

Then last night I had a dream involving Sara, whom I haven’t dreamt about or really thought much about in a very long time—possibly years—but in it I felt the desire for her just as strongly as I did way back when she was 13 and I was 12 and I loved her badly. In the dream we were at an amusement park or music festival with a bunch of other random middle-school/high-school acquaintances, and I kept trying to talk to her but she wasn’t paying any attention to me and eventually I heard that she’d left and flew home. I spent the rest of the dream brooding over the fact that I should have been more aggressive in my approach while she was still around. But when I woke up, still feeling the deep love for Sara and wishing I’d tried harder to win her back when she was in my life, I recognised that the dream had been sparked by Petra (or that look-alike of hers) because Sara is who she most reminded me of. And right now I’m thinking that maybe I would like to draw her into my orbit for awhile, just to see that beautiful face and that beautiful smile on occasion. To really put my “appreciation without desire” resolve to the test. And I suppose if it ever gets to be too much for me, I can break it off. But meeting with a beautiful woman one-on-one every week would be the closest thing to a relationship I’ve ever had anyway. I would kill to meet with Sara once a week even if it was purely on a professional level and she was totally inaccessible to me. To just be able to appreciate her beauty—wouldn’t it be worth it?

So that’s where my thoughts are at right now. I’ll probably change my mind a hundred times before coming to a firm decision, but the very real possibility of falling in love again is a hard one to ignore.

Teen Suicide

January 11th, 2009 No comments

Throughout my high school and college years, there was always one kid my little brother would hang out with at our house, and last Sunday he hung himself. I got a call from my mother last night who had just returned from his funeral. The kid—Graham—had become more and more of a delinquent as he aged, getting my brother into trouble on several occasions, and she’d banned him from the house. As a result, he and my brother weren’t as close as they once were over the last year and a half, but they were still a part of the same circle of friends, the kids I met over the summer.

Nobody knows exactly what triggered it of course, but according to my mother he was just a very angry kid and had been threatening to kill himself for years, to the point where nobody took him seriously anymore. Then a week before his 16th birthday his mother went to wake him up for school and found him hanging in his room in the finished basement. He’d put himself out of his misery, and condemned his mother to a lifetime of pain and grief. And he sure showed all those other kids at school…they’ll certainly take him seriously now. It’s only a shame he couldn’t be alive to see the looks on all their faces, although those of us who understand the suicidal notion also like to believe that perhaps our disembodied spirit gets to witness these things and derive satisfaction from them. Causing pain to those who didn’t take you seriously is a major part of the appeal.

And he certainly succeeded in that. My mother was very upset from the funeral, as she’d never been to a teenager’s funeral before. For all these young kids, they were finally being confronted with death for the first time. Scumbag boys were breaking down and crying. Shallow slutty girls were bawling at his grave. Graham really did them all a favour—a big fat fucking dose of reality is just what these kids need.

It surprises me that he did it. He lived a very sheltered, privileged existence, a product of the American Dream. A giant house in the country. Plenty of money for video games and other such distractions. A group of idiot friends to drink and do drugs with. On the outside, not the kind of asshole you’d expect to off himself. Apparently he was a bully at school, constantly picking fights and causing trouble. He’d even been banned from the bus for starting fights. There was just so much anger in him for no discernible reason, and it finally boiled over into one last giant “fuck you” to the world. The kind of world that on the surface doesn’t seem like something so difficult to endure. This was Hunterdon County, New Jersey, for fuck’s sake.

Of course, I was perfectly willing to kill myself too, but that wasn’t out of anger so much as desperation and the perfect clarity in my mind that as I rounded the corner towards adulthood I was turning into the kind of person who would never be able to be in a loving relationship. I was completely right about that, but I hadn’t seen how there are other things that can make life almost worth living—at least enough to keep things interesting until natural death finally comes about, though not necessarily as intrinsically valuable as love. Yeah, my mother pissed me off at that age but my suicide attempt wasn’t a “fuck you” to her or even to any of the girls who wouldn’t give me the time of day. It was simply a desire to remove myself from the world in order to spare myself a lifetime of misery and isolation.

I suppose on one level that’s what it was for Graham too. Well, he succeeded where I failed, and now he doesn’t have to endure an entire life as his angry, miserable fucking self. It feels strange, but I just don’t feel any compassion over it. He must have decided he deserved to die, and then took it upon himself to carry that conviction to its logical conclusion. Good for him. It was the bravest thing he’s ever done. It’s supposed to be this big tragic thing but I just don’t see it that way. He made a conscious decision. It doesn’t matter that perhaps he could have been “saved” or that if he’d just hung in there life might have gotten much better for him. They’ll say his mind was clouded with all that teenage angst, but I’d say the pinnacle of teen angst is when you see things most clearly—when you finally see the world for the bullshit cesspool it really is and all the people in your life for the empty, pathetic, egocentric fucks that they really are. I don’t know how clearly Graham saw all of that, but whatever his perception of the world was, he rejected it. And I respect his decision.

There were a few deaths I had to deal with in high school. The first was the worst of course, because I knew her best. When Val died it profoundly affected me. Then the following year when a kid I didn’t really like very much, Greg, died of a drug overdose I hardly felt anything at all other than sympathy for my friends who actually did know and care about him. Then at some point later on another kid I knew named Craig also died of a drug overdose, and by then it hardly had an effect at all, even though I did like Craig for defending me against some of his asshole friends when they tried to fuck with me. But each of those deaths brought a little more reality into the little bubble-world of high school and forced people to think more deeply about what all of this shit really means. To be sure, a whole fuckload of pain goes along with it, but that pain always makes people stronger, teaches them something that school or parents could never do, forces them to acknowledge things that simply must be acknowledged.

Another teenager killed himself about a month ago. A senior whom nobody in my family knew. I’m sure all the attention he got is what made Graham decide to finally go for it. But just thinking about all these deaths from a larger perspective, you have to wonder what the fuck is wrong here. This is just one high school, and in spite of all the wealth and natural beauty around it, all these kids are dying of drug overdoses and suicide. The blame obviously lies with the kids themselves most of all, but a big fat finger needs to be pointed right at the heart of American culture. I wonder how many suicides and drug overdoses take place in Ichenheim every year. Next time I go, I’ll ask, but I doubt it’s as common an occurrence as it is in my little shit-town in New Jersey. Everyone is so cut off and isolated from each other, everyone living such a plastic existence dominated by consumer products and shallow acquaintances who never see past the surface of anything. Nothing meaningful at all. A civilisation so fat and pampered where the soul is sucked dry for the sake of small comforts and simple pleasures. Everyone trying to live the life they believe they’re supposed to live, to play the roles they believe they’re supposed to play, sleep-walking through life until every now and then something like this provides a temporary wake-up call before they explain it away in whatever fashion suits them best and go back to the show.

Well, at least two kids this year didn’t feel like putting up with it any longer. I didn’t want to put up with it either, but I stuck around and now I’ve found another way. Maybe their lives could have gotten better too, but I often feel that they got it right, that the only proper response to this world is to reject it, and that I should have done that too. But as for me, even if I still don’t love the world or even myself, I still find them fascinating, and I plan on sticking around and analysing them until my time is brought to an end by outside circumstances. But I wouldn’t mind if that day came sooner rather than later. No matter how satisfied I may be with my life right now, I don’t think it could possibly be better than death.

A Convenient Inconvienent Truth

January 9th, 2009 No comments

Planning English lessons for the week doesn’t have to take much time if you can use the same materials for more than one class. This Sunday, I found an article for my lesson with Frau Suhr on The Huffington Post called “The Top 10 Global Warming Stories of 2008”, which provided enough material, after the grammar review, for the remaining hour and ten minutes, and I knew I’d be able to use it for other classes as well. The article was about the biggest stories of 2008 related to Global Warming and how although we can allow ourselves to be slightly more hopeful because of Obama’s election, it still doesn’t look like we’re going to act in time to avert catastrophe, thanks to all the “deniers” out there.

On the day of the lesson, Tuesday morning, I found another article, also on HuffPost, called “Mr. Gore: Apology Accepted”, which gave a very thorough scientific argument as to why human beings have virtually no effect on the climate at all. This is stuff I heard a little over a year ago, and for a long while afterwards I remained quite sceptical about manmade global warming. But after many months of hearing nothing but the standard reports about how every scientist in the universe agrees we’re fucking the atmosphere up royally, my scepticism was buried again. This article, however, tore it right back out of the ground. The climate, as it points out, is always changing, and periods of rapid increases in temperature have in fact happened in the past, just not in the extremely brief historical period in which exact measurement have been diligently recorded. Most carbon dioxide comes from evaporation of the oceans, which release their carbon into the air as they get warmer, like boiling the bubbles out of mineral water. The rise in global temperature over the last thirty years has been due to the ocean cycles, as warm El Niños have caused the rise that the cold La Niñas will now mitigate over the next three decades. Furthermore, the giant star in our near proximity goes through cycles as well which have much more of an impact on global temperatures than carbon dioxide, which makes up only a tiny percentage of the atmosphere and most of which comes from the sea. Finally, and most interestingly, there is only so much heat that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can absorb (it follows a logarithmic rather than a linear curve) and it’s already absorbing the maximum amount. The effect that carbon emissions have on global climate is so infinitesimal as to be statistically irrelevant.

All of that may be completely wrong. I don’t know—I’m not a climate scientist. But it sounds like science to me, and all I read from proponents of drastic action to stop global warming is how everyone who still denies it’s manmade is a complete fool. Honestly, I would like to believe that we’re causing it—it’s much easier to be angry at the human race than natural processes—but I just don’t see the science. Okay, so carbon dioxide traps heat, and we’re pumping it into the atmosphere. Therefore…what? Is it really that big of a deal? Maybe so, but show me the arguments to back it up.

Anyway, Frau Suhr had also read some articles casting doubt on the manmade global warming theory—one in a conservative source and one from a liberal source—so although I hadn’t printed that article I talked about it a lot with her as we picked apart the “Top 10” article’s points, which really amounted to little more than finger-pointing and name-calling.

Then on Thursday I had a crazy long day because I agreed to do an extra substitution in Helmstedt on top of the two 2:15 lessons I already had. It was from 8:40 to 10:55 with just one guy, and he too didn’t believe global warming was caused by man. So having come prepared with both articles I began with the “Mr. Gore” article and we gave it a very thorough look, and we both came out more convinced than before that all the hype about human activity causing global warming is mostly bullshit. We didn’t even get to the other article.

Then came my next class, which ended up being a group of four men, including the conservative Andreas, the one who believes in the death penalty, less gun-control, and is against gay marriage. Surprisingly, he believed that man is responsible for global warming and we ought to be acting more aggressively to stop it. Two of the others agreed with him, and only one of the men there (the one who is critical of affirmative action) was somewhat sceptical, believing that humans merely augment rather than cause the problem. So we read through the “Top 10” article first and had some good discussion. Andreas was able to get on his high horse a little bit and talk about how anyone who still denies that global warming isn’t caused by man is ignorant.

Then I busted out the “Mr. Gore” article, and Andreas’s tone began to change. At first he just made fun of the guy. The second paragraph traces global climate and human history, showing how times of cold temperatures (such as the fall of Rome and the Dark Ages) are usually marked by a great deal of suffering and strife while warmer periods (including the Renaissance and our current day and age) are times of great flourishing. Andreas didn’t think this was such an important point. And indeed, we all know the climate changes naturally so there’s nothing too convincing about simply pointing that out.

But as we got deeper into the article and the real science behind it, Andreas got quieter and quieter. I couldn’t help but feel a slight sense of schadenfreude at having shown him something to make him question a belief he had been so sure of only minutes ago. At one point he said, “Now you and this article are responsible for everything I do in the future,” which I guess means he’s going to start personally filling the atmosphere with as much carbon dioxide as he can simply because he no longer believes it’s harmful. By the end of the lecture, he was so upset he didn’t want to read anymore.

I did my best to sympathise. I was also quite angry when I first heard the opposing side of the global warming debate, and to think that we’ve been lied to for so long and that now even most of us go on believing in baseless propaganda pisses me off to no end. We’re being told that this is the most important issue of our time, when really there are so much more important things to worry about. All the extra money we pay for electricity due to cap-and-trade systems, all the money wasted on “carbon capture” technology—simply for politics and nothing more. It’s become politically unpopular to deny global warming, so we get all of these useless measures that wouldn’t even stop it if it was coming from us.

And yet, of course, there still is an energy problem. We can all still agree that even if coal and oil aren’t causing the ice-caps to melt that these resources will run out and then we’ll need things like wind and solar to power our beast of civilization. Personally, I’d rather it just die but that’s not something I want to argue with a bunch of German energy-industry workers. Not yet, at least.

But the whole thing was rather interesting, and I got at least one other person to feel as pissed off as I am about global warming. Now I have to deal with the fact that on this issue, I actually agree with more republicans than democrats, and that I even share the same view as Sarah fucking Palin (i.e. we don’t know if man is causing it but we should prepare for the consequences). I don’t like that one bit. Hopefully I’ll come across something that will refute the refutation I read this week, and I can return to my comfortable far-left position that we’re destroying the sky just as much as we’re destroying the earth, and that evil Big Energy industry (whose success is ironically now paying my bills) is to blame.

Back to “Work”

January 6th, 2009 No comments

Things are just about back to normal. After my long e-mail accepting Corey’s “decision not to be my friend anymore” he wrote me back and apparently he never made such a decision. He was just angry. We cleared things up (I hope) and now we’re in touch again and he’s probably still the only person reading this.

As for life in Hannover, I had my first day back at “work” yesterday. I had to get up early yesterday for a couple of substitution lessons for Alan. The secretaries at Planeo had screwed up the meeting room so I wandered around from room to room and building to building for a good half-hour, calling the office several times so they could call the woman who was waiting for me and we finally found each other. She was the only one there out of three people, and apparently this is usually the case. A very nice woman named Sabine who doesn’t use English for her job but likes to take lessons anyway just to keep her skills sharp. Apparently she speaks four languages—German, English, French, and Dutch, which is what she speaks at home because her husband is Dutch. I could tell she used to be incredibly beautiful, but luckily it’s been at least two decades since I would have fallen in love with her. Anyway, I didn’t really have anything planned so I just busted out the issues list and a discussion about global warming (everyone’s favourite topic) turned into a much deeper conversation even venturing into the topics of religion and spirituality. She thinks religion is responsible for every war. I didn’t say I disagreed, but devil’s advocate that I am I defended the principles at the core of religion and blamed the wars on people’s ignorance rather than the religions themselves.

It was a pleasant exchange, and then I went to my second lesson to which nobody showed up, which means I get paid for nothing. So I walked out of there having made 68 euros for basically just having a nice conversation for an hour. It feels wrong somehow, but I can’t complain. If the energy industry wants to share some of its abundant supply of money with me, I won’t refuses.

I went to the Planeo office to hand in my bill for last month, and I practiced my newfound German speaking ability on the secretaries there, who were extremely glad to not have to speak English to me. That went well.

Then at night I had another “date” with Frau Sen, who wants to change our meeting time from Monday night to Thursday afternoon, right after my lesson with the apprentices, which would make for a really long-ass day for me every Thursday, but would completely free up Mondays. We agreed to give it a try, but not until two weeks from now at the earliest. Most of that lesson was spent on the thrilling subject of “contract remedies” but when neither of us could take any more of that I busted out the issues sheet and we had the global warming conversation as well. She doesn’t have much of an opinion on the issue, so I just talked about an article I’d read that morning that says humans are not responsible for it. There are some powerful fucking arguments that raise all kinds of doubts about man’s impact on the climate, like the fact that carbon dioxide levels have always historically risen AFTER the earth’s temperature rises (due to melting icecaps) and that the giant fusion reactor in the sky has WAY more of an impact on the earth than a trace amount of gas in the atmosphere, but when all is said and done I think we should still try and minimize our impact anyway. Fuck the coal industry and automobile manufacturers.

The next topic was more interesting—separation of church and state. She said that they are completely separated but I pointed out that even if it’s not explicit, religiously-derived morality is still behind much of the laws today—it’s just harder to see in Europe than in the U.S. Prostitution is the perfect example. It’s not illegal for any practical reason—it’s just seen as immoral because the Bible says so. She tried to tell me that it’s not the Bible that makes people believe it’s wrong, that plenty of non-religious people think it’s immoral too, and I asked her where they get their morals from. Education. Okay, so the teachers decide what’s right and wrong? No, it’s…some German word that doesn’t translate…the culture. Society. Okay, so where does socially-constructed morality have its roots? Religion! Tell me I’m wrong. No? Okay then. Check-mate.

And she’s the lawyer! The one who’s supposed to make arguments for a living. Can’t even tell me where morals come from if not from God….Somewhere buried under a hill in France, Camus was laughing.

Changes

January 3rd, 2009 No comments

After doing some deep thinking last night, I came to several new resolutions for the new year and my new life. Most importantly, I decided not to be angry over the Corey thing anymore, but to let our friendship end if that’s what he wants it to do. Going without him in my life will force me to look elsewhere for friendship and to write for an audience of someone other than him. It’s just one more element of the chance for a new beginning.

The other resolutions have to do with my website and basically how I should be approaching the world in general. Most of my journal entries from 2008 were deeply introspective, and I think that was appropriate for such a transitional period of time in my life. It was important to self-examine and know myself as well as possible in order to find out the best way for me to be living right now. And I think I’ve found that.

So in 2009 I’m going to try and turn my inward focus outward, to do less self-analysis and more analysis of the world and deeper philosophical issues. What that means for this website is to divide everything into the three categories, the three lenses of the prism through which to look at life: personal, political, and spiritual (or philosophical). When I began this website my focus was mostly on the political, but when my life began changing drastically my writing became almost exclusively personal. Now I have to get more political and philosophical again.

The fact is, I’m a thinker, which means I furiously attempt to put all my ideas into words and write them down. But the very act of putting something into words and writing them is something done for the sake of others, to be able to communicate these ideas to other people in the hope of making them understand something. So I have to return to the original purpose of this website which was to put my ideas out there, in a form both interesting and accessible to more than just a small circle of people, in the hopes of having as big of an influence over the entire collective consciousness as I can.

That also means making myself comfortable enough with the things on this blog that I can direct anyone I meet to check it out and read it. And so I will be keeping the most personal thoughts of mine private, to be shared only with a few close friends whom I can decide to let read the private posts. The rest of the posts should have a significance broader than myself, and they should be something that other people would actually want to read.

And in my personal life, I plan to do my best not to dwell on the personal bullshit, and to actively meet new people and really get to know them as opposed to slowly just showing them more and more of myself. To continue filling my life with unique experiences and learning as much about the world as possible, so that my opinions will hopefully become increasingly informed and relevant.

So get ready for the new Kemstone.com—it’s not just for Kem Stone anymore.

Categories: Personal Tags: ,

Endgame: Ichenheim

January 2nd, 2009 No comments

Well, I’m back in Hannover and it does appear that my weird-as-hell landlady spent some time here while I was gone. Oddly enough, it doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. For one thing, the living room is nearly exactly the way I left it, and it certainly seems that she hasn’t gone through any of my shit. She probably just slept in the bedroom and used the bathroom. For another thing, the place is much cleaner than when I left it. It actually looks like a respectable apartment again. Plus, she seems to have installed a new shower head which is way better than the last one. Strange how the pros can sometimes outweigh the cons, even though I’m still a little freaked out by the whole general idea of it.

Anyway, as for the last day in Ichenheim, it was another very interesting experience, not really going at all as I expected in any way. For one thing, I had thought I would be seeing Elena again, but that didn’t happen. We were at so many houses over the course of the day that we missed her by a few hours. But beforehand I’d decided to see if I could just appreciate Elena’s beauty without getting all weighed down and bent out of shape over wanting her. The ultimate goal is appreciation without desire.

As it happened, I was able to test this out on a different girl. The first house we went to was Tanta (aunt) Brunhilde, who already had a couple of guests, a young couple and their new infant baby. The mother had such a lovely face that I thought it was going to be her that my focus would be on, but very shortly after we arrived another family came, an obviously-gay man, his wife, and their two kids—one of them 9 and the other 19. The 19-year-old looked like every typical teenage asshole in the world, and he was there with his lovely girlfriend who of course drew all of my attention for the entire time.

This girl, apparently named Lara (what is it with that name? it’s like the German version of Sara), had a body that was exactly my type, small and petit, lovely black hair and one of the most adorable smiles I’ve ever seen. Her face was by no means goddess-like, and the blue eyes were a strike against her, but she was cute enough and that smile of hers made up for everything. I wouldn’t mind sleeping next to that body every night and waking up to that smile every morning. So the desire was there.

Time to put my new resolve to the test. I came up with the dorkiest way imaginable of analysing my emotions, a sliding scale from +5 which was pure appreciation without desire, down to -5 which was pure desire with no withdrawn sense of appreciation. As I drank my first of what would ultimately become about twelve million beers, I started off doing rather well. Aside from my thinking her boyfriend looked like a complete jackass, there were very few negative emotions going on. I gave myself about a +4. As time went on and I grew more accustomed to her face it only dropped to about a +3. And when I learned more about her, about how she wants to be a schoolteacher—I asked her how long it would be until she finished getting certified, the only two words I said to her the whole day—it got just a little harder but I remained on the positive end of the spectrum.

I accomplished this mostly by telling myself that she wanted me. She was definitely stealing every glance at me that she could, just as I was doing with her, and it was oh so easy to imagine that she was wishing she could be with me instead of her asshole, just-like-every-other-guy boyfriend. We made eye contact very frequently, usually while smiling or laughing at something, so even though I only said two words to her it felt like we’d been having an intimate conversation the whole time.

Anyway, after about an hour and a half we left and went to my Tanta Sophie’s house, where luckily it was only old people and I was able to focus on other things. Sophie had some very old pictures of my grandmother and her family, like my Aunt Cindy’s wedding photo from when she was my age and my mother was in her mid-teens. Fucking bizarre to see that kind of thing. It was hard to believe they were ever that young. She also had a black-and-white of the other side of the family from even earlier, showing three of my aunts and uncles from when they were just kids, and they all look uncannily like the children they all currently have.

Our next stop was Tanta Fannie, at the house where I stayed during my first trip to Ichenheim back in 2004, and I got to see that whole family again including Gabi, her husband Werner, and their son who I can’t stand, Marius. Their daughter Melanie, who I really like and was hoping to see again, wasn’t there. But Gabi thought it was great that I was an English teacher, as apparently she’s in one of the same kinds of classes at her business that I teach. She even had the same exact textbook that I’ve used for my beginner class in Helmstedt. So she practiced her English on me for a bit. We drank more beers, ate more salty snacks, and then went on to the last stop.

This was where Elena would have been had we got there earlier, but things had taken much longer than anticipated (as at each house we went to they kept offering more drinks and we had to keep finishing them before leaving) and she had been gone for awhile. But guess who was there now? Lara and company! Anyway, this was where we’d been planning to eat dinner, and as ridiculously self-conscious as I am about eating in front of girls I find attractive, coupled with the fact that they’d already eaten, I was at least drunk enough to say “fuck it” and just go ahead and dig in, though not without feeling mildly uncomfortable.

But the alcohol had the added advantage of lowering my inhibitions to the point where I could crack a few jokes every now and then (surprisingly easy to do in that town—just about anything I say seems to be funny) and make her smile. Although I didn’t say anything to her, her boyfriend was horsing around with his little brother and I actually spoke to him, asking him how much older he was than his brother and saying that mine was 8 years younger. So I remember also having complete dominance over a little brat of a brother who somehow doesn’t realise he can’t hurt you but keeps trying anyway.

We got out of there much later than I would have liked, and walked out at the same time as Lara and company. They just walked down a different street when the time came and said goodbye, so I didn’t personally say goodbye to her or anything. There had been plenty of eye contact and smiles exchanged between us, but no more words. Once she was gone I lit up a much-needed cigarette as we walked the rest of the way back. I’d fallen to about a -1 on the scale over the course of the evening meal.

It was now 8:00, and although I wanted to get to bed a little early because I’d have to wake up relatively early the next day, and I had been drinking since 2 p.m., when Dieter suggested one last beer I couldn’t refuse. This was, after all, my last night there in what might be several months, and it was early enough anyway.

So we cracked open some more beer and sat around the kitchen table, all six of us just like the first night. The radio played “Wish You Were Here” and for a few moments I wasn’t paying attention to anything but the song, which they then followed with crap after crap after crap.

Then for the first time all day, the conversation actually got interesting to me. It began simply enough, with Frederic informing me that the farmers in town are only allowed to sell 50 litres of milk even though the cows produce 100 litres, so it all goes to waste. A classic example of the government (this being the EU government) fucking up ordinary people’s lives for the sake of big industry. Meanwhile people are starving, but the farmers in Ichenheim have to throw away food because of government regulations.

Somehow this led to a big political discussion about the way things are headed in the world at large, at how everyone is living beyond their means, there’s not enough energy to keep things going, and civilisation might just collapse very very soon. They didn’t go so far as to say they expected it—they said they’re more optimistic than most Germans—but they do consider it to be a very real possibility and they’ve given a good deal of thought as to what they would do if and when it does crumble and fall. Apparently, Ichenheim can survive as a self-sustaining community. They’ve got all the food and firewood they need to keep everyone in the village alive should the rest of the world go to hell. The only danger would be protecting their land from city-dwellers who wouldn’t be so lucky and would have to go out searching for food. At any rate, I’m welcome to come to Ichenheim if civilization collapses, so if I’m in Germany when it does I’ll be very lucky indeed.

The talk wandered into more philosophical stuff about what’s wrong with human beings today in general, how kids have no appreciation for the work it takes to survive, that they go to the supermarket and everything is there so they assume it will always be provided for them. How nobody looks to the long-term future anymore and everyone is just focussed on the day-to-day pursuit of pleasure. How if everyone understood the serious danger of the current global situation we might have a chance of avoiding a catastrophe but most people are either too stupid or too busy to think about it. How the media not only targets the lowest common denominator of intelligence in disseminating information, but that business motivates them to actively make the masses even dumber than they already are.

So I was very much in my element for that conversation. I hadn’t thought my German was good enough to have an actual interesting conversation but I managed okay, although I did have to frequently look to Myriam or Frederic to translate something I wanted to say. Yet I understood everything they were saying perfectly. Before we knew it, it was quarter to twelve and we forced ourselves to stop talking and go to bed. Frederic asked if he could come outside with me for a cigarette, and I finished the conversation by talking to him about the same things for awhile. He said he didn’t know if he’d be able to survive if civilisation went down because he doesn’t know shit about working the fields, but I said if he had to, he’d probably learn how to do it. I know I would. I said that I had enough confidence in myself to know that if I could do anything if I had to—except find a woman. We finally agreed that there was not much we could do about it now but keep our fingers crossed and try to enjoy life as best we can.

Then I went to bed, and somehow even with all of these other things floating around in my mind, it just went right back to Lara and how badly I wished I could sleep next to someone like her. The crushing loneliness I’d expected to feel the other night after Europa Park finally caught up with me that night, and I crashed to a -5 on the scale as I tossed and turned for a good hour and a half or so just feeling completely miserable that there are so many goddamn beautiful women out there and I’ll never have one. Again, I really hope it’s karma for something because the idea that I’m being punished is the only way I can really handle it. Otherwise I’m just the unluckiest bastard who ever lived.

Somehow, I managed to fall asleep, and in the morning I felt slightly less shitty than I assumed I would but still shitty enough. A nice long break from alcohol is in order. But Dieter, Ursula, and Frederic drove me to the train station and said goodbye when my train arrived, and then it was a good long trip back to Hannover in my first-class coach, a few seats down and opposite some girls with whom I practiced my resolve to a surprising degree of success. I’d say +4 on the scale, as I was mostly admiring their cuteness as opposed to indulging in fantasies about caressing them. I’ve still got a ways to go but the situation is not as bleak as it seemed just a week ago.

Finally I got back to my apartment, unpacked everything, and sat down to write this long-ass entry. So that was my week in Ichenheim, which I now assume will be the place I spend most of my life if civilization really does collapse.

New Year, New Resolve

January 1st, 2009 No comments

Well, it’s the first day of 2009, and I’m sitting in the living room in Ichenheim watching the New Years’ Concert live from Vienna on the television, which sounds delightful. All in all I’m in pretty good spirits right now—not a bad way to start the year.

New Years’ Eve last night bore almost no resemblance to the madness of Karlsruhe four years before, roaming the streets with a bunch of drunken Germans I’d never met before and lighting off crazy amounts of explosives. It was just a pleasant little evening with Myriam and Ralf in their apartment upstairs playing games until ten minutes were left in the year, when we went out on the street and watched the fireworks that were going off all throughout Ichenheim—not nearly as many as Karlsruhe but still a lot more than you’d expect in such a small village.

The neighbours across the street came outside just as we did, and we went over to them and wished them a “Gutes neues Jahr” as they did the same. We poured ourselves some glasses of Sekt and they chatted in their village language, then another couple of people came by, a guy who lives just down the street and his daughter. They both shook everyone’s hand and wished them a “Gutes neues Jahr” and wished me a “Happy New Year”.

After a short time outside while the neighbours lit off some fireworks of their own, we went back inside and played another card game. Dieter and Ursula got home around 1:30 and wished us a Gutes neues Jahr and went to bed, then we finished our card game and I remembered I should call my grandmother because being with her was always kind of a New Years’ tradition and although it hasn’t exactly been very frequent the least I could do was call her.

She was glad to hear from me, and we exchanged a few pleasantries before handing the phone off to my cousin Stephen, whom I haven’t talked to in years, and we exchanged a few pleasantries, exchanged internet contact information as though we’re actually going to start keeping in touch with each other (not that I wouldn’t like that, it just seems highly unlikely), and then he handed the phone off to my grandpa. More pleasantries exchanged, a few wisecracks about Obama, and then a question about whether I’ve found a girlfriend yet. Apparently Stephen was there with his girlfriend Tara so he said he’d ask her if she has any sisters. Ha ha. I told him years ago that I’m never going to get a girlfriend but he didn’t believe me then and he still doesn’t understand why women aren’t constantly throwing themselves at me so the only reason I don’t have one must be because I’m constantly turning them down. But whatever. If he wants great-grandkids, he has plenty of other grandchildren to provide them.

After that I went out for my first cigarette of the New Year and maybe my last because the pack was then empty (highly doubtful), then went to bed. Today we’ll be dropping in on a few more relatives of my grandfather, I’ll have my dreaded close encounter with Elena, and then tomorrow it’s back to Hannover and the sweet sweet comfort of isolation.