Perspective, Restons Ouverts

4884006357_d59b65ec79_b

 

I often do wonder what the world looks like from your shoes; I might be introverted but I could never be accused of lacking empathy. I possess a fairly keen awareness of the fact that the world does not revolve around me and although I do not claim to understand why other people behave in ways that are foreign to me, I’m not going to wax superior to them for the fact that I think and act differently than they do. The one caveat is people who deliberately go out of their way to inflict harm upon others, whether directly or vicariously through legislation; in those cases, I won’t say that I’m superior to them, only that I find them to be bereft of any discernible sense of moral goodness.

Nevertheless, I do consider that in some ways the world would appear significantly different when viewed from the vantage point of another person’s perspective. That said, there are obvious things that I can only logically conclude that we would agree upon. The window with the chipped white frame to my left would not cease to be a window with a chipped white frame to my left; it would remain a window and it would remain chipped and white and to my left. We can all agree upon this. The passing cars would still be passing cars; the parking enforcement officer would still be out there creating financial headaches for patrons of the local brewpub who, through forgetfulness or inebriation, have lost track of time. The solitary Narnian lamppost with a hanging bouquet of pinkish flowers would still be there, the saltwater inlet beyond it would still be salty and flowing and the sky would still be an almost too perfect shade of blue. Taking into consideration the possibilities of eye-conditions such as colorblindness or outright blindness, as well as arbitrary differences in educational backgrounds and upbringings—for instance, a person who has neither read nor seen The Chronicles of Narnia would not describe the lamppost as Narnian because they would not have the formative literary foundation to do so—in nearly any other person’s shoes, what exists before my eyes from this perspective would look exactly as it does to me at this very moment. A thing is either the thing that it is, or it isn’t; and if you say that it isn’t, you take ownership of the burden of proving your case. Being obtuse is not an intellectual right. If you want to make a public case that a cat is not a cat, but rather a dog, you’re now responsible for supporting your case; if you choose not to, you have ipso fact stripped yourself of intellectual relevance; in essence, you’re a kook.

Why do we have such a difficult time looking at something as it plainly is and en masse, agreeing upon what we are seeing? It might be amusing to joke about “alternative facts” but the fact that anyone would sincerely allow themselves to give credence to such an inane notion is intrinsically lacking in humour;  contrarily, it is a bit unnerving. I am disturbed by how far down the slippery slope of doublespeak we have descended.  We cannot simply dismiss this behaviour as the mere rantings of a mad president and his legions of mindless supporters because we see very similar manifestations of it in our daily lives; corporate advertising techniques aimed at duping consumers into believing they need things that they don’t legitimately need and, in many cases, cannot afford; doctors prescribing medication combinations that are known to have adverse effects on patients simply for the sake of pacification, rather than healing or curing; perpetuation of myths and outright lies by authoritarian, political-minded religious leaders who pimp themselves to the highest bidders because they  couldn’t care less about saving souls, but are in the religion game solely to bring themselves power, money and attention.

I am not so much of an anarchist that I believe that we should be completely lawless; such thinking is irresponsible and dangerous. But the implementations of rules which exist solely for the purpose of fortifying the imposition of social conformity are, by their very nature, a form of institutional slavery. Restrictions on allowing people to look, dress and act as they wish are a form of exercising control over other human beings. This very concept is not only immoral, it ought to be illegal. The fact that, after millions of years of evolution, human beings still cannot get past essentially superficial facades is unfathomable. If Albert Einstein had looked like Marilyn Manson, would his style of dress and appearance have negated or diminished his genius? The world likely wouldn’t have known his genius because he would never have been granted the opportunity to exercise that genius; he’d have been turned away because of the shallow biases of some narrow-minded dimwit with a title and an inflated ego. Tattoo policies, piercing policies, restrictions on hair color and length, dress codes, even forms of remote censorship and the corresponding implementation of punitive measures such as policing peoples’ social media sites and lifestyle choices for the sake of terminating them from employment or academic standing. Can I place myself in the shoes of a business owner who imposes these restrictions on his or her employees? Yes, insofar as I can physically see the person with tattoos and piercings and tri-colored hair in the same way that the business owner can physically see that person. But our perception likely ends there; they see a person who might “frighten” potential customers who are as narrow-minded as themselves, thereby diminishing profits—aka their true god, whereas I see a person who is expressive, comfortable in their own skin and might be open-minded and free-thinking enough to offer new perspectives and opinions for the benefit of the business as a whole.

Judgment is not and should be a dirty word; pre-judgment, that is, prejudice is something entirely different. If I meet the person with ink and facial hardware and that person is a complete buffoon, I can now judge that person as being unworthy of filling whatever role I as an employer might need filled, in the same way that I could judge a person who was conservatively dressed to the nines, clean-shaven with close-cropped hair combed neatly who might prove to be incompetent in an interview. But from my own unique vantage point, a guy in a suit is just a guy in a suit until I’ve had a chance to speak with that person for the sake of getting to know who they are and what they have to offer; similarly, a girl with a punk rock motif is just a girl with a punk rock motif until I get to know the unique person that she is.

The window with the chipped white frame to my left is what it is; regardless of who is sitting here in this grey chair with four plastic legs. The chair could be replaced with a black leather chair on wheels or a metal folding chair, but the window as it exists at this moment is just a window with a white chipped frame; no more, no less. It is entirely within the realm of possibility, however, that if one was to dig deeper, they might find that the chipped paint was a sign of internal rot or termites or the use of poor materials. They might also find that it has been there for 200 years, still going strong and the chipped paint is just a sign of its longevity and resilience; is this not precisely the point I’m trying to convey?

Condemned To Be Free (My Obituary)

HZX1NPp

The quest for deciphering the purpose of life was not lost on Joseph Michael Di Marius, who died last week at the age of 90. An avid adherent to the Kierkegaardian model of Christian existentialist philosophy, Di Marius was prone to standing on the edges of cliffs and tall buildings, inducing a sense of smallness and disorientation. He would ponder the fear and anxiety that would rise within him and the fact that his free will could easily lead him to throw himself off the side, but for his faith in a God that he could neither see, nor touch, yet whose presence he was ever-aware of in his life all the same. He sought meaning in everything and found it in nothing, save for his unwavering understanding that he was the creation of a Creator and that the only true meaning of anything would be revealed to him only after his time in this world was over.

Born Giuseppe Michele Caracciola, October 2, 1980 in Brooklyn, NY, Di Marius was keenly aware of his status as a pilgrim passing through this world from an early age. At once deeply in tune with his surroundings and obstinate in his opposition to the boorish status quo of Italian-American family life, he began planning his path out of mediocre tedium at the early age of 9. By the time he was in sixth grade, he was sending away for college brochures. His first course of action upon entering high school was to visit with a guidance counselor to see how he might go about graduating in three years. He spent his high school years writing and playing music, excelling in Music Theory and Creative Writing. At 17 he left New York to attend college in Arizona where he found a world not dissimilar from the imaginative conjurings that had consumed his every waking thought for years prior. He became politically active, began writing for the school newspaper and started to lay a foundation for the radical Catholic anarchist that he would become.

The ensuing years would bring about a veritable cavalcade of travels and encounters including a very brief stint in the Air Force, studies at five different colleges, a variety of careers and residencies in ten states. Upon completion of his Bachelor’s degree, he married his best friend Jessica and they each embarked upon graduate studies at Fordham University. It was due largely in part to their mutual Jesuit academic formation that they chose to leave behind six-figure careers in San Francisco to minimalize their lives and radically buck the trend of American materialistic consumerism. They made it their mission to reduce their earthly possessions to only what could fit in one plastic bin per person. Upon completion of their Master’s degrees, they moved into a “tiny house” near the Red Lake Indian Reservation in north-central Minnesota where Di Marius worked as a social worker, specializing in youth counseling and Jessica taught high school philosophy. Di Marius wrote heavily during this period and eventually published two books; a memoir entitled There’s Nothing More to Say: Conjectures of a Militant Pacifist and a best-selling novel entitled Dream House of Our Demise, which was translated into 14 languages and remains the single highest selling work of fiction in Denmark.

They would eventually relocate to Orcas Island, in remote northwestern Washington state where together they managed a bed and breakfast during tourist season. They spent the winter months in a small cottage on the island of Foula, in Scotland’s Shetland Island archipelago. Di Marius continued writing in his advanced years, though after the publication of his two books, he became reclusive and refused to submit any of his work for further publishing. Having majored in History, he was asked by a number of publishing houses to consider writing an historical account of the downfall of disgraced American president Donald Trump and how the United Nations temporarily lifted their moratorium on administering the death penalty in order to implement the verdict of Trump’s conviction for crimes against humanity, which carried with it a sentence of death by urine-boarding at The Hague. Di Marius declined, offering only a short response via email which stated: It would be best if the world simply forgot about the mere existence of such a charade of a man; he isn’t worth my time or effort.

Di Marius is survived by his wife Jessica, 87, their adopted daughter Amelie-Maëlys, 46 and their cat, Cat III, age unknown. His headstone reads: If You Can Read This, You’re Wasting Your Time; I’m Not Here, And Neither Are You.

A Thank You Note to Good Catholic Friends

CST.jpg

As a rather introverted person, I often delude myself into thinking that my world would be better if I simply found myself in a Jeremiah Johnson-like situation; alone in the mountains, just my wife and I, finding our own food, building our own shelter, in a state of blissful solitude and silence. And yet, the wisdom of my truest friends has always found a way to keep me grounded. “And what happened to Jeremiah as the story unfolded,” a wise man once asked me? Touché.

I have always enjoyed taking life slowly. I love taking leisurely drives, preferring county roads to highways. I love sports but I would much rather shoot a basketball alone on an empty court or skate on a frozen pond and shoot a puck around by myself. I’ve surfed since middle school and while my friends–young and aggro as most teenagers are–preferred larger waves and short boards which are much quicker and more maneuverable, I always opted to ride longboards on small wave days, enjoying the slow, gliding rides. I love empty churches, cemeteries and crypts. I have an almost fetish-like enjoyment of hidden nooks in libraries and bookstores. As a freshman in college, I found a room in my school’s library that was seemingly forgotten. It was a glorified storage closet and to this day I’m not sure if it was open to the public, though there was no signage indicating otherwise. What I loved about this room was that I never saw another person enter it and there was a window in the back that overlooked the entire campus where I could actually sit in the window on cushions. In that window, I first read Descartes, Kierkegaard and Ginsberg as well as books like Ishmael, The Prophet, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. In many ways, literal and metaphorical, that became my window to the world.

My mind never turns off. I’m sure this is not a unique trait and perhaps it is indicative of some sort of latent mental illness. I am hyper-perceptive which has frequently gotten me into dilemmas. I analyze everything and because I have a very keen sense of justice, I tend to see issues in very black and white terms. Those who know me know that I do not mince words. I use the written word in a manner which can best be likened to bringing a nuclear weapon to a knife fight. I have always been turned off by hypocrisy so the notion of being chummy with one’s adversary for the sake of personal gain is a foreign concept to me; I see that as a form of prostitution. Despite the many bridges I’ve burned over the years—and Lord knows they are indeed many—there have been a select group of people who have not only stood by me, but have inspired me to be a better person. I am not perfect. I have never tried to dispute that fact. I try to be humble. But my sense of indignation can make it very difficult for me to remain calm or accepting of things that I cannot control. My relationship with the Catholic Church is—and probably always will be—contentious. And yet, thanks to these aforementioned people, I’m able to find True North when my compass goes fucking batshit. The Church sure as shit doesn’t need people like me—though they would argue that the Church does need people like me to challenge it, and perhaps they’re right. Regardless, the fact remains that despite my criticism and ire, I need the Church.

What I mean when I say that I need the Church is that I need these people. They are no more or less representative of the Church than anyone else. Their progressive, ecumenical views do not diminish their Catholicism—or mine. It is not always easy to remember that, especially when confronted by the conservative blowhards who think their abrasiveness and loudness make their views more representative than ours. These friends of mine have remained consistently committed to gentleness, kindness and compassion toward all people. They have been critical of me when criticism was necessary. At times I’ve gone off the rails in fits of knee-jerk reaction to things that I hadn’t adequately researched and they were always the first people to call me out on my foolishness. Again, I’m not perfect. But they practiced the forgiveness that our Lord commanded us to practice and they welcomed me back with open arms. For this, I am eternally grateful. For this, my eyes remain open to the fact that the Church is many things and that even if the Church is crowded and noisy and seemingly full of people that I would prefer to get away from, there is always that small window in that remote room where I can escape to and gaze out at the madness, safe in the comfort of the wisdom of wise and good-natured people.

An Honest Witness Tells the Truth…

c93cee3c9b380d6a0a991d14837565f8

 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the type of person who speaks and writes in an unusually direct manner. That is not to say that I am callous. I don’t go out of my way to try to offend or hurt people, but I have always sought to be a transparent person. Those who know me know exactly where I stand, for better or for worse. This approach to communication can be jarring for most people, given that our society has long promoted the nonsensical virtues of politeness and facades for the sake of positive appearances. I don’t buy into that line of thinking. I prefer to speak my mind openly and before I’m accused of spouting off a la our orange-faced Fraud-in-Chief, please know that my opinions are always supported with an abundance of evidence and data. I will not speak about or write about any topic unless I’ve conducted extensive research on it.

While I certainly believe in nuance and diplomacy, I also have very little—if any—tolerance for opinions that are inherently bigoted, vile or cold-hearted. On those opinions, I am very quick to pounce and I do so with literary guns blazing. I’ve been asked by friends and family members if I’m afraid or concerned that my public opinions regarding public officials might get me into trouble. First off, I know which lines I can cross and which ones I cannot. Furthermore, my response has always been consistent: what’s the worst thing that could happen to any of us; we die? I have absolutely no fear of death. I know you’re probably thinking to yourself, c’mon Joe, you can’t possibly mean that. Let me reiterate, I have absolutely no fear of death. There are only two possibilities when the last breath escapes my lungs: something happens or nothing happens. Either way, I’ll either know that I’m moving on to something else–which my faith inspires me to believe–or I won’t know anything because there will cease to be an “I.” So while I remain in this current state of being, I am not going to live every moment obsessing over merely surviving for the sake of survival. I’m not going to live in fear of kooks, terrorists, government henchmen, cops or any other kind of boogeymen. I have but one life to live on this earth—unless the Buddhists are right–and it is in this life that I will speak the mind I currently have.

My commitment to being honest and transparent in my opinions also applies to reporting what I hear and observe in my inner circles. As a side note, understand that I would never intentionally betray anyone’s confidence, provided that the individual in question is speaking to me in a setting and with words and sentiments that are conducive toward confidentiality. In other words, if you are kind and benevolent, our conversations will never be made public. I also would never speak to anyone about anything that my wife and I discuss privately and that is absolute. Beyond my wife, I am only willing to maintain confidentiality if what is being discussed is not offensive, ignorant or hateful. Once you’ve crossed any of those lines, it doesn’t matter to me who you are, I will likely out you. Family, friend or otherwise, if you think it is funny to crack jokes or express political opinions about “niggers,” “kikes,” “towelheads” or “fags,” (or any other various epithets) I’m no longer beholden to any kind of confidentiality and you are now fair game for my writing pleasure. I might or might not conceal your identity, depending upon how generous I’m feeling. Then again, I might refer to you openly as my uncle, cousin, sibling and even use your name. Why? Because I can and legally, there is nothing you can do to stop me. As for any ethical betrayals, well, fuck you; don’t be such a fucking bigot and you won’t have to find yourself in that position.

There are consequences for actions. We learn that from a young age. I have never done physical harm to anyone, nor have I intentionally sought to harm anyone with my words. However on many occasions I have used people’s words against them and in those scenarios, I have no remorse because the harm committed is self-inflicted; I’m merely reporting back to the individual–and to others–what they said. If the truth hurts, they might want to consider changing their opinions—or at very least be mindful of who is present when they express those opinions.

41c53b0ae6a3ff7c268357be48dec0d5