Dream catcher (a short philosophical essay)

[Note: the writing of this essay began back in the fall of 2017, intended originally as a “poem” and was completed within a year’s time and now ultimately takes the form of a short essay)

Fear of dying in my sleep…of dying in poverty, no career I climbed up to reflect on… just a plethora of aspirations and thoughts racing like a flock of thousands of birds headed south…while America’s democracy and rule of law corrode…gin and prayers fail to relax me…

But I am like my grandmother.

She used to listen to talk radio late at night as she fell asleep, sometimes not until three a.m.…

I watch the news on my laptop…

…five splits in the screen so we can see the face of each expert on the news panel… strikes my eyes like the rays of a plasma ball, the dendrites of a neuron under a microscope, octopus arms, jellyfish tentacles inside an aquarium…

President Trump called NFL players “sons of bitches” for kneeling during the singing of the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality.

Nuclear North Korea threatens the inevitability of violence…

Even on Friday, at 11:30 p.m. when one could be doing anything… many, like MSNBC’s Brian Williams analyze our Earth’s environment and community- its well-being or lack thereof.

Caretakers indeed abound: bureaucrats, military, police, fire fighters, hospital workers, and nocturnal intellectuals, with integrity.

Thank you.

It helps me sleep…

On moving some place better (part 3)(Vlog #42)

The developing complexity of my psychology, my determinism, my nihilism, and my marijuana obsession, as I transfer from Kean University to Florida Gulf Coast University (From Elizabeth/Union, NJ to Fort Myers/Estero, FL) between 2004-2006

*My desire to drop out of college and emulate Jack Kerouac, hitchhiking America

*Moving to Fort Myers/Estero, FL to attend Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) felt like a miracle, an artist’s “dream come true.”

*The irony of feeling “liberated”– falling into the depths of determinism & nihilism

*WHY was I really even attending college? I didn’t know…I was just waiting for riches and fame because I was convinced that was simply my fate. Bob Dylan put it so well when he sang:

SOONER OR LATER ONE OF US MUST KNOW

THAT YOU JUST DID WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO

Bob Dylan; Sooner or Later

*Trying marijuana for the first time and falling in love with it

*The place you live and the philosophical ideas you develop when you live there and come to thereby associate with your time spent living there

*My addiction/obsession with marijuana

-I believed I “needed” marijuana to be a “good” poet or become “one with the universe”

*second time I tried marijuana I suffered extreme paranoia and panic attacks, yet I kept smoking it…

On moving some place better (part 2)(Vlog #41)

From my childhood obsession with the Caribbean Sea while living in Robbinsville, NJ to my frustration with urban Kean University in Union/Elizabeth NJ in 2004-2005.

*The role of memoir/autobiography/personal essay/introspection in philosophical contemplation

*Falling in love with the Caribbean Sea & “the beach” in general

-a love poem I wrote about the beach when I was 18 y/o back in 2004

**ah the naivete of youth!**

*18 y/o @ Kean University, not standing up for my love of the beach

-loved the people but too urban for me (Union/Elizabeth, NJ)

*I’m very sensitive to geography/ picky in my taste

*Kean University: disgusting dorms/ felt like a prison cell in contrast to Florida Gulf Coast University dorms in new, beautiful apartment with my own room

*Ignoring my dream & happiness: that had to change

SEE RELATED: Geographical preference: a philosophical flash fiction

On the Confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh

[Note: this essay was written during a very psychologically complex time in my life. First of all, this was happening around the time my grandfather passed away. Secondly, in the midst of my final semester of undergraduate studies I was in a state of profound confusion concerning what my next step in life ought to be. Though it seemed clear I ought to do all I could to break into the opinion-writing scene within the journalism world there were two very particular things troubling me: A) I honestly didn’t know initially what to make of the Kavanaugh hearings, especially after we learned that he had been accused by multiple women– and without evidence– of sexual misconduct. No matter how much I read on the subject I didn’t want to end up saying something or thinking something biased or blatantly demonstrating how little I know about legal nuances. In a word, I felt unqualified to “think” about what was happening; B) I felt confused about the aesthetic questions behind how one ought to write a political commentary. Moreover, I felt two competing impulses: one was to be completely detached from this rather fascinating but unpleasant period of U.S. history and the other was to in fact record my thoughts on what it was like to “experience” the occurrence of such a dramatic span of political events transpire. Spiritually and philosophically I thought, as someone who loves to write, it seemed there might be a kind of ethical obligation to document how this historical crisis within the Senate and Supreme Court permeated my mind, not as a mere political analyst or commentator, but as a human living in the country where this was happening.

This complex reaction led me to wonder if I should perhaps experiment with approaching the current political events from more of a “poetic” perspective, or “artistic” or “humanistic” or “personal” perspective– though I was not sure exactly what that should ultimately mean.

As a result, this essay was initially conceptualized as a “poem,” and one composed in a very complex intellectual-psychological-aesthetic frame of mind.]

Don’t fret 

Warriors will keep alive in the blood

-Simon Ortiz

The fight for justice…hands stretching, muscles tearing, reaching for the sky- daunting, tempting to surrender, and submit, assuming futility, but people walked on the moon, made a vaccine for malaria, polio, and other diseases.

I contemplate my White Privilege, resenting every remnant of it, and scowl at America’s White Supremacist bigot bullies…oppressing…Native Americans, African Americans, Arabs, Jews, Women, the non-heterosexual, the poor, the vulnerable, the non-Christian, non-Caucasian and it disturbs me, makes me drink my whiskey with a little extra intensity…

I fear that nothing, not a single atrocity, would have moved Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s supporters in the Senate to oppose his confirmation (not that we know whether he was guilty or innocent… “the allegations fail to meet the more likely than not standard,” Senator Sue Collins said in her speech, explaining her vote to confirm him…but the way Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations were “investigated” in a rush- “More than 40 people with potential information into the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have not been contacted by the FBI, according to multiple sources that include friends of both the nominee and his accusers,” NBC News reported…and what about Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick who also made accusations of sexual misconduct…ignored by the Republicans in Senate, the F.B.I., President Trump ((outright misogynistic deference to Kavanaugh, it seems to me))– a “sham” as many Democrats in the Senate called it!)

Even months later, Trump says he knows acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, then says he doesn’t know him, adding to the reeking junkyards, and mountain chains of venom filled sewage lies, poisoning our politics, government, law enforcement, rhetoric, relationships, and the Republicans– not a…flinch…

A NIGHTMARE AND AN OUTRAGE!

But hope…hope…hope…look at things like New England, where the snow seems to grace with its elegance as it falls- the homicide rates there, among the lowest in the nation…look at the gentlemen like former F.B.I. Director James Comey, and the ladies like newly elected Congress woman of Kansas, Sharice Davids…

More Americans voted for Clinton than Trump.

More Americans voted for Clinton than Trump.

More Americans voted for Clinton than Trump.

Geographical preference: a philosophical flash fiction

Jewel and Israel were on their third date, driving from East Windsor to Ocean Grove in Israel’s new, red 2015 Volkswagen GTI. He lamented letting go of his dark green 1997 Saturn S Series SW 2. What an irrational attachment to that vehicle he had—even to the name, “Saturn”; like the Mercury cars, it made him think of outer space and this felt more exciting than the names of most other cars. How strange, Israel thought, that both Saturn and Mercury ended up defunct within years of each other. The Saturn was his first car and he didn’t want to get rid of it—he liked holding on to relics: a couple of nine year old t-shirts, his VCR for example, a record player his grandparents had given him, their old plasma ball, their copy of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment… but alas, that damn Saturn, it cost him, on average, a thousand dollars plus, a year—sometimes as much as three thousand dollars a year– in repairs. A year earlier he had to replace the catalytic converter, the oil pump, and needed air conditioning repairs. In search of a reliable but cheap automobile he scoured consumer reviews online and stumbled upon a February 2015 US News and World Report article on the Volkswagen GTI which claimed the vehicle was the “best sports car” for the money in 2015. A year earlier the GTI had been ranked by the US News and World Report as the best “upscale small car” for the money. Perhaps not the most “attention grabbing” but the bright red color was. He actually would have preferred a sky blue car, but he didn’t have so many options, and anyway, he liked how red pierced with ambition and passion in his mind so Israel, ultimately, was pleased.

The drive—straight down New Jersey Route 33– took about 45 minutes. Route 33—at least the eastern portion of it– was one of the few nearby highways Israel enjoyed. He liked passing through communities like Manalapan and Howell which leaned more rural—more open fields to gaze at from the corners of his eyes (because he prided himself on focusing on the road)—in contrast to suburban East Windsor—where he lived all his life (Jewel lived there now too); the open space always relaxed him; for him, it symbolized the free and undeveloped, uncharted terrain of consciousness, ripe for discovery and cultivation of new thoughts. Israel told this to Jewel as they were driving, and she told him she also found a deep, personal connection to certain aspects of the environment. Then she brought up her love for mountains and her desire to live in a community where views of them were ubiquitous.

“I fell in love with them back in 2008,” Jewel said. “It was my senior year at William Paterson University. I thought Clinton and Obama running against each other that summer in the primary, and then Obama winning general election was just so amazing.”

“Yeah, it was. I remember that night too,” Israel said.

“Yeah! So…it literally gave me this, like, natural ‘high,’ and…with the university happening to be on mountains, this theme of…you know… of interconnected elevation… and… that was the night…” she paused, and Israel, who had been falling in love with her, was falling deeper now, and feeling even a touch turned on (and a touch guilty about it) by her passion, the volume of her voice increasing, her hands moving to accentuate her words and expressiveness…“that I decided I was going to be a history professor, and that I could get a spiritual high out of history…these events of such significance! And so the image of mountains are kind of like a memento of that, like a reminder of my purpose. Does that make sense?”

On President Obama (a short essay)

[Note: This is a one of a short series of essays which had originally been conceptualized as a “poem” at a time when I lacked a firm notion of what it was I really believed a “poem” to be. This piece is also interesting because I spent years not only writing it but furthermore I had spent a number of years wanting, in general, to write something about President Obama as such, or as a topic, as opposed to something very policy specific, which had been excruciatingly challenging for me. No doubt, if I compare exactly my approach to writing about a topic now to what my approach was when this essay was completed, in December of 2018, it would be somewhat different however not so much in sentiment or substance.]

January, 2016: I see President Barack Obama crying.

Small splotches of white salt under his dark brown, snowy night eye seem dabbed on there by a paint brush; of course, it’s just the light reflecting off his evaporating tears.

The photo was taken by Jim Watson for AFP/Getty Images when President Obama was giving a speech on gun control.

November, 2008: I was 22. It was my second time voting for president.

I voted for Barack Obama.

Just the past month my father had died because his colon exploded.

After he died, I thought I lived in some other universe.

The yellow, red, orange, and brown leaves falling from tree branches seemed to be all that could comfort me, reminding me of my father’s book of Van Gogh paintings that I inherited.

On occasion, when those trees shook, and threw their leaves in the air, especially when it rained, I thought maybe my father’s… ghost… was trying to tell me something.

November, 2012: In my naiveté, I betray my fellow Americans, voting against Obama and for Romney– my… Republican phase… failing to notice things like, say, the nature of my own poverty, and the poverty that surrounded me and my coworkers in the retail industry.

I failed to realize the exploitation.

I was a college dropout then, holding false assumptions.

Example: if people fail to “think and grow rich,” blame their skepticism, not their exploiters.

Less government, more optimism.

Mix errors like that with tornadoes of panic attacks… (extremely low… serotonin level…a doctor and I later hypothesized) almost deafening, blinding, throwing me all over the place, meddling with my thought process…

I returned to college, combating my anxiety with knowledge, learning to think and analyze more critically…as I reflected on President Obama over the years, I came to miss him.

On a Romantic Evening (A philosophical, personal “micro-essay”)

[Note: This piece was originally written in the summer of 2017 as a poem. Over the past few years it has been revised and re-conceptualized to its current form as a very a sort of personal micro-essay on romantic love]

Things we do not desire, which I do not prefer to list, do exist in this universe but not in here, where our hands are touching like water touches the surface of the Earth as we float a little, on a black, leather couch and watch a fictional cop and a criminal shooting bullets at each other, on the television screen, or is it congress versus President Trump’s corrupt conspirators, or jeez, is it a shielded window through which we see countless episodes of good versus evil- life’s most basic theme? Now my wife’s hand slips away, innocently, like a leaf on a branch would shift in the wind, so she could grab her glass of water from the small table in front of the couch. A little while later we turn towards each other and lean in for a long kiss. After that we both smile- our lips spreading like a sunrise, bit by bit, pushing out night’s darkness, diplomatically exiling it, and we continue watching the TV.