Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Matt! Damon!

I would like to add a note to an article I wrote about Matt Damon for GOOD magazine, an article that expresses the respect I have for this fellow "maker of stuff."

"I did not actually ask Matt Damon’s permission to use his name in this piece, so I think perhaps a small propitiatory act might be in order. The eighth of October is his fortieth birthday, and I think it would be swell if anybody who lives near one of his homes in Miami or Boston or LA were to go and chuck an apple over the fence into his back yard. He’ll know what it means." 

So seriously. Go. Read the piece. Spread the word. Throw an apple. 

Monday, September 27, 2010


you woke me, again, with a kiss...
like this

did you feel that? yes that
that, that, that
was a knife, blunt, to the gut
did you feel how I felt when you kissed me?



I don't mean it. I do. I don't. I do.
I love you.

I'm just having a hard time sleeping
with you creeping,
sleeping, slinking,
hap-hazarding my nights and

I love you.

but it's starting to wear so thin
so pretty (you're so pretty)
in my dreams
you're the girl in my dreams,
of my dreams
and i can't sleep
so pretty please stop

please do. don't. do.

I love you.

Friday, September 24, 2010

why I killed the electric car (that's right... it was ME)

I am extremely suspicious of electric cars, and never more so than when I recently watched the commercial for the new Nissan Leaf. In it, a depressed polar bear migrated to suburbia to give a big thank-you hug to some yuppie. The implication being, I suppose, that all the wild things are just tickled silly about Nissan's Automotive Creation, a creation which--if only we buy enough of them--will stop the polar ice caps from melting.

The problems with this theory are multiplicitous. Even if I could ignore the offensiveness of the fact that some advertizing schmooze in Los Angeles thought I would be oblivious to the sad irony of splicing together National Geographic footage of wild bears with shots of a captive, “trained” polar bear being man-handled into unnatural settings to market yet another “eco-friendly” product, the metaphorical fur on my neck is still standing straight up. 

I suppose it wouldn’t be so annoying if I really believed in the world-saving efficacy of the Nissan Leaf, but here is where my suspicion really kicks in: See, whenever anyone starts jumping up and down and screaming wild-eyed about how electric cars are the New Messiah because they use less gasoline, I start to wonder, “well, yeah… but where does the electricity come from?”

Not one to wonder for long when I have an abbreviated, probably-somewhat-inaccurate answer at my fingertips, I googled “sources of electricity in the US” and found that according to a 2009 study, 44.9% of the power in this country comes from coal.

This is fine if you like the idea of scraping the top layer off the earth and running it and all the living things on it through a garburetor and then vomiting it back out into a big, unattractive pile whilst creating tons and tons of noxious fumes and poisonous by-products. But me, I’m a little too fond of clean mountains with their tops on to go in for that sort of thing.

Our next main source of energy at 23.4% is Natural Gas; which, although it has “natural” in the title and is apparently less nasty than petroleum, is still pretty nasty stuff.

And how about nuclear? At 20.3% of our power generation, we are getting a lot of electron-juice by micro-slicing nature, and even though I’m not too fond of the idea that I live fairly close to another potential Chernobyl, nuclear power is pretty clean, right? Well, yeah… if you don’t care about your grandkids and all the still-toxic-for-another-bajillion-years radioactive waste that we’re forcing them to deal with, or the way the ecology of our waterways gets majorly disrupted by the massive amounts of water that nuclear power plants siphon off for cooling and then return to the ecosystem, super-heated and essentially dead.

That, of course, has nothing on the water-killing, ecosystem-destroying capacity of our next-most-prevalent power source (hydroelectric) – but who cares, right? It’s not like we need intact, living, healthy waterways to live. It’s not as though biodiversity is worthwhile for anything other than a little voyeuristic pleasure for a few hummer-driving yuppie kayakers, is it? I mean, geez, if we weren’t designed to find creative new ways to screw with the natural course of things, then what in God’s name are our brains for!?!

But even though I’m angry and cynical about how we have created almost all of our electric power with methods that seem expressly orchestrated to give a big middle finger to the health of the world I like to call home, it can still be argued fairly easily that the problem is not the electric car, but rather our methods of electricity production. If we simultaneously change those methods and develop the electric car, we’ll all come out better in the end, right?

Well, in a word: NO; because our problem goes much deeper than what type of car we drive or how we choose to power it. The problem, as always, lies right down in the core of things – deep down in the human heart. The problem is that we don’t care about the earth that sustains us. We don’t care about our grandchildren, or the people who live downstream. We are, in short, arrogant, selfish, narrow-minded and unloving people who are standing around peeing in the waterways, just because we like the sound it makes.

This makes NO sense, and nothing significant will change until we change our hearts - until we stop thinking that convenience is tantamount to survival. Until that happens, the electric car will be nothing more than another way to trick ourselves into a nice, warm, deluded sense of superiority.


Author’s Note: while mulling over the electric car, I came across a particularly apt quote by Wendell Berry:

“ The basic cause of the energy crisis is not scarcity: it is moral ignorance and weakness of character. We don’t know how to use energy or what to use if for. And we cannot restrain ourselves. Our time is characterized as much by the abuse and waste of human energy as it is by the abuse and waste of fossil fuel energy.”

daily quote:

The arrogance of worldview insists on filling gaps in knowledge with preconceptions. Humility lets the gaps be, and wisdom goes even further and enjoys them.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


The racking sobs have gone, you know: 
but in their place a dull, slow ache
takes me unawares when 'ere you find a way to slip into my dreams
and say hello.

And though it seems that this, too,
is bound to fade,
I think instead it's bound to grow more potent with the years.

For tears are a function of sweat, and eye, and blood;
but the dull, slow ache of love issues from
the very pores of the air:
an echo of all the words
I didn't care enough to say...

and now my dreams still speak them, anyway.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I think perhaps I am becoming less of a violent stinkpot - or more of an utterly bonkers extremist (depending on your perspective).

I was just in the kitchen washing dishes and reached for a towel that happened to be the temporary home of a small wasp, which did not appreciate the interruption and showed its displeasure by stinging me on the finger. As I was reaching for something with which to smoosh its little exoskeleton to smithereens, it suddenly occurred to me to ask, why? Why do I feel justified in killing this tiny living creature, just for defending itself? I mean, it's not as if it was one of those vampiric little she-mosquitoes, going out of her way to steal some of my blood. If I was that wasp, I'd have stung me.

So instead of demanding retribution I got a jar, trapped the wasp, took it outside and let it go. Namaste, little hymenoptera apocrita.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A New Lover

I have to confess that there are times when my bibliophilic tendencies push me to read (gasp!) textbooks. This is, of course, grossly embarrassing. Everyone knows education is just a gauntlet everybody's gotta run so they can get a job and so the government can feel it's done right by its citizenry.

Yeah, sure, you learn some random garbage along the way that theoretically expands you as a person and helps you sound smart at dinner parties - but you shouldn't want to actually read textbooks for fun, should you? I mean, that is ridiculous, right?

Nonetheless, I still end up reading textbooks from time to time. For example, I read some of my sister's business textbooks, most of my wife's University coursework, and a couple of months ago picked up a sociology book called "Uncoupling."

This, at least, makes a bit more sense, because although it is a collection of case studies compiled by a professional sociologist, those case studies are of people who have gone through the ending of long-term relationships - a process with which I am deeply (if not particularly willingly) involved. So when I found this "Uncoupling" book in a thrift store I was intrigued enough to shell out a quarter. As I began to read I decided it was totally worth the twenty-five cents, because in the stories of others I found endless commonalities with my own experience - similarities that helped me make sense of what has been such a senseless reality.

For example, the book said that the initiator of the breakup, struggling to construct an identity distinct from their partner, always finds some sort of transitional person. It can be a professional counselor, a buddy, or a lover - but pretty much every initiator finds a person who will affirm this decision and allow her to feel moored as she jumps out into the thrashing sea of identity-disturbance agitated by her decision to break her commitment and connection to her partner. Eventually, the book went on, the rejected partner - having resigned himself to the inevitability of his fate - likewise finds such a transitional person.

I might as well admit that the reason I am posting is that a couple of days ago I realized that I had done it. After a few false starts, I have taken a lover. Her name is Art, and she is the most seductive temptress I have ever met. Not only does she demand every spare second of my time (although I've got to admit I do sometimes resist her on this) but she is also absolutely insatiable. Even everything is not enough for her. It seems I'm always either playing her a song on my ukulele, writing her these endless letters, or drawing pictures for her.

I known, I know... it's stupid; but what can I do?!? I am deeply, head-over-heels in love, and even though the "Uncoupling" book said repeatedly that transitional people don't necessarily outlast the transition, this relationship is different. I just know it. I am aware that right now I am having to work really hard to please her and that later it won't be so effortless, but I get so much pleasure that I can't seem to help myself.

Words fail me, as words always fail to express the inscrutable exhortations of the soul. My lover, Art, is inexpressible. To talk about her is to dance about mathematics: perhaps my words can give a glimmer, but they have nothing on experience.

I think my feelings are perhaps better expressed with a video I discovered on the internets. Go. Watch. Experience. Now.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

naked superpower

If I was a superhero, I think I would be that kid in the movie "Mystery Men" who could make himself invisible... but only if he was naked and nobody was looking. This is partly because any superpower that requires nudity is just awesome, and partly because I seem to have an amazing ability to set impossible goals where it is impossible to determine if I have succeeded.

Like say, for example, this one: I want to live a life that is completely consistent with my values.

Now, I know you might say that we all live consistently within our values because actions reveal what our values truly are, but I think this is too simplistic an explanation of the often paradoxical, mysterious intersections of mind, body, spirit and will. Also, it implies that I value being a lazy, selfish, arrogant poop-head, which is just not true.

As I see it, the real problem with my goal of life/value consistency is a little more complicated. While my actions do reveal my values and (in a somewhat ironic twist) change those values into something else, the problem I have is that although I generally think I am doing things for noble reasons, I often discover after the fact that not only was I driven by an amalgamation of bizarre, misguided notions - but also the actions these notions inspired did not actually accomplish what they were meant to.

I realize that I'm getting off into esoteric Josh Barkingreed La-la land here, so let me bring it down to the practical land of yogurt. Or, to be less specific, my hap-hazard attempts to become the savior of the planet by walking a little more lightly over it.

I was talking to my Nova Scotian surfer-dude/social-worker friend Leland about this a couple of nights ago, and he brought up the matter of yogurt containers. Like me, Leland tries to buy food that is natural and organically-produced. He does this not only because he is trying to minimize the amount of chemicals accumulating in his fatty tissues, but also because he wants to do his part to stop strip-mining the soil of the nutrients of life. He was getting annoyed, however, that even eating health-conscious food didn't really seem to do the trick.

"It's so frustrating,' he said, "I've got like thirty of these stupid plastic yogurt containers under my sink. I know it's all about marketing and shipping and all that, but it's so frustrating that even the good yogurt is packaged this way - and recycling does not fix the problem."

There was a pause as he stewed on this.

"I know," I replied. "That's why I don't buy yogurt anymore. Don't get me wrong - I love me some good bacteria-infested milk - but I decided that I had to start considering not just the content of my food, but the packaging as well. Even my quasi-hippie friend JJ thinks I'm a bit nuts on this one. He says I can just use the containers as my tupperware; but I still can't seem to justify all that unnecessary plastic. I know, I know, I'm a crazy extremist... "

"No... No, I don't think so," Leland cut in, "I think that that is a radical form of protest... the sort we really need more of."

I gotta tell ya, it sure was good to hear something like that from an intellectual guy like Leland. I'm used to hiding these socially embarrassing behaviors of mine - like the fact that I won't wear antiperspirant because I don't want aluminum sulfate in my liver, or how I only ever buy other people's old clothes (and even that only after my old clothes are more hole than fabric). It is embarrassing to admit the way I turn off and unplug appliances, or how I don't have a cell phone because I can't really justify spending an extra bajillion dollars a month on another piece of landfill-bound plastic I absolutely do not need.

The problem, however, is again my understanding of the dubious value and effectiveness of my superhuman actions. As amazing as they obviously are, these tiny, itty-bitty, indistinguishable actions accomplish pretty much nothing at all; and as much as I try to live consistently with what I at least want my values to be, I inevitably fall just a little bit short. There is always a weensie bit more I could have done.

My friend Leland might say that I should not let it bother me - that guilt is a horrible motivator and that I cannot possibly bear the weight of the ecological sins of the world... and he would be right. I don't want to spend my life feeling guilty for things that are out of my control - but that still doesn't change my values or my failure-awareness.

Victor Frankl once said that people are like airplanes flying into a crosswind. To get where they want to go, he said, they have to fly off course, into the wind. Then and only then are they capable of arriving at their goal and achieving their potential. I will not clean up the oceans and I will not solve the drinking water crisis and I will not by the sweat of my brow become a messiah for the new generation. But I will attempt with every bucket of yogurt I do not eat to remember to live in greater and greater awareness of the fact that things are not all right and that I can make a difference, however small.

Therefore, I will say nuts to everybody who notices how nuts I am being and I will live on in my impossible dream... even if no one ever notices my billowing, invisible cape.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Tale of Two Circles: Revisited

I have a literary crush on Wendell Berry. I love the way he arranges words and the things he makes them say. Shortly after I first read his essay "Why I am Not Going to Buy a Computer" two summers ago, I decided to act on that crush. So I stalked him down on the computerwebs and wrote him a letter, asking if mayhaps when I was in his neck of the woods visiting a friend I could pop in for a visit. It didn't work out that summer, or the next, but his responses were always kind and grace-filled. 

This inspired me, in a fit of expansive presumptuousness, to mail him the following bit of writing in hopes that he could spare me an opinion or two. He could and did, and although I will not violate his courtesy by quoting his response directly, I will say that he was characteristically kind and encouraging. What is more, he did me the favor of throwing in a word of constructive criticism, absolutely free.  

When Wendell Berry gives advice, you follow it, so I sat down to re-write and have decided to post the results of this edit. The last time I slapped it on here, someone was kind enough to suggest that I was most likely on drugs when I wrote it. I offer it again, therefore, but with Wendell Berry's approval. 

So there. 

A Tale of Two Circles


First Circle
In the old days of The Land of Cowboys, things were simpler. There were only two types of hats: white and black. If you wore a white hat, you were a good guy. If you wore a black hat, you were a bad guy. If there were any questions, all you had to do was listen to the music.
Time kept on trudging, however, and black and white were left behind as the world gradually turned to color. The soundtrack faded and everyone began to notice they were living in a world where things were complicated. They became aware that there were cultures different than their own, whole groups of people who believed in things like, say, “modesty of dress,” just like they did, but who did not happen to believe that there was anything particularly evil about the female nipple. These people were not only refusing to wear the appropriate hats, they sometimes wore no hats at all - or anything else for that matter! Sometimes all they wore were gourds.
There was one group, in a place called “The Church,” that up until the color change had been totally in charge. They had created complex hierarchical structures that discouraged diversity and maintained strict definitions of right and wrong, good and bad—down to the tiniest details. But now that the world was becoming colorful, people began to have opinions of their own. They began to wonder if they, perhaps, could decide for themselves what was right or wrong. This produced the sort of results you would expect, but although The Church reacted strongly by attempting infiltrate the power structures that were gradually replacing their own, in time they lost the clout necessary to be able to lovingly convince folks of the error of their ways with pointed words and a well-placed, red-hot poker. This was absolutely terrifying for The Church. The truth was at stake, after all, and it was getting hard to tell who were the good guys.

At this point, someone had a wonderful idea:
“Let’s circle the wagons. We’ll make an encampment here and we’ll grab those red hot pokers they won’t let us use anymore and we’ll brand the words ‘Good Guys’ right across our own foreheads. We won’t have to worry about the fact that nobody is wearing their hats anymore—we’ll be able to tell by the brands!
“If anyone wants to add their wagon to the circle, we’ll gladly brand their faces and invite them into the club. It may get a bit cramped in here, yes, and we may have to ignore some pretty obvious things—like sanitation and the hunger pangs in our bellies—but that’s a small price to pay for certainty, so it’s worth it. Besides, if we get too short on food, we can just eat the children.
“We can sit here inside these wagons and throw rocks at anyone who rides by and refuses to join the club and take the brand. That way we’ll never get corrupted and we won’t have to notice our tattered clothes, stinking facilities, and the bone-strewn, grassless circle of land we are living in.”
They talked it over and decided it was a good plan. There really didn’t seem to be any other way to ensure that they would always know that there were good guys, and that they were them. If someone was going to be telling people what The Church was all about, they had better make darn tootin’ sure it was the good guys. So that is what they did.
They discovered, however, that the branding did not last. There seemed to be something in the air around their camp, a sort of insidious balm that, despite their best intentions, caused the marks they made to heal. As the pain of branding faded, so did the scars; and in only a few short days you could not tell at all that they had ever been there. The people in The Church were therefore forced to brand each other repeatedly, and so lived their lives in nearly constant pain. In time, though, they began to get used to it. They forgot what it was like to live without the branding.


Second Circle
A little ways off –within sight but out of throwing range—there was a second circle: a drum circle. Like all drum circles, this one had no outer boundary. Instead, it was a loose arrangement of people gathered around a blazing fire, having a wild and crazy party. All day long, they would sing and dance and enjoy themselves. They loved this, and were so grateful to be alive and to have a sense of the joy of life.
From time to time they had to go back to tend to their work in the surrounding countryside, but they always took that joy with them and always felt like they were still at the party. They had a tendency to smile, and to whistle while they worked. Because they were happy and having a good time, they liked pretty much everybody who came by their fields and gardens and were thrilled when new people passed their way. They smiled and waved and said howdy—which seemed a bit strange to these travelers, considering that the last people they had passed had just thrown rocks at them. Often this made them stop, and they would ask the gardeners why they were so happy.
The drum-circle gardeners were so joyful about their party (and so sure that the more dancers and revelers there were, the merrier it would be) that they would point towards the sound of the drums and say, “Just head towards the party. There is lots and lots to eat and drink and it’s so much fun! Do you drum? That’s fun, too, if you want, but you are welcome to just go and enjoy the company.”
Gradually, the drum circle got bigger. It grew and grew and grew, until it was hard to tell where it started or finished. It was still open on all sides, except for one area near the middle, where a large circle of beautiful, flowering trees had sprung up. When the children would ask why they were there, the adults would just laugh and say, “because.”

Circles Collide

The circle of trees annoyed the people of the first circle very much. They told their children (the ones they hadn’t eaten) that it only looked like it was made of flowering trees, but that they were actually big, pointy hate-machines that killed small children. They threw a lot of rocks at the trees and the trees were hurt by them, but they always grew more blooms. This seemed very suspicious and ugly and anti-Church to them, and only made them believe their hate-machine story all the more.
One day, a young man named Frank, who had just had his face branded, was sitting under the wagons, looking outwards and trying to catch a whiff of clean, blossomy breeze. He knew he shouldn’t, but his head hurt and he thought it might make him feel better. As he peered through the thick trees, he saw what looked like flickering lights. Because he was in more pain than usual and wasn’t thinking right, he got up and walked towards them. He walked right up under the big, pointy hate-machines and right through them and out into the middle of the circle, where someone promptly said “how-do” and handed him an enormous hamburger.
It was the juiciest, tastiest burger he’d ever eaten. He started to smile, and as he did he noticed that the pain in his forehead was almost entirely gone – had dissipated, in fact, as he had walked towards the second circle. Then the same person gave him a goblet of something cool and sweet and bubbly to drink, and he warmed right up inside as all the rest of the pain vanished without a trace. He found that for the first time in his life, he was genuinely happy.
Suddenly, a wave of guilt swept over him. He had forgotten all about The Church! He looked around and saw that there wasn’t a “good guy” burn mark in sight. The only person with anything similar looked to be the guy who had handed him the burger and the cool/warm drink –and all he had were some weird scars on his hands and feet and back, which were all bare naked. The man was only wearing a pair of flowered, knee-length Bermuda shorts. Frank knew that exposed skin was a terribly bad thing and that he ought to run back to the circle of the wagons as quickly as possible. But he was very scared and lonely and a little bit curious, so he asked the man what his name was.
“Joshua,” he replied, “you want to come join my party?”
“Oh,” Frank said, “Is this your party?”
“Well, mine and anyone’s who is willing to enjoy some good food, drink, dancing and drumming. Check this crazy beat!”
And with that, he grabbed a djembe and began to play such a dizzying, intoxicating rhythm that Frank could not help himself. He ripped off his shirt and started flailing it around in the air, dancing like a man possessed. Somewhere in the back of his mind this worried him—this sense of possession—but he was having so much fun that he soon forgot all about it, and he danced and ate and sang and danced and even drummed a little himself.
As time went on, he began to notice something strange: while this Joshua fellow seemed to be setting the rhythm for the whole, wide-ranging party, each of the partiers was adding to that rhythm his or her own little piece of music, and the end result was a glorious, throbbing aural environment. It filled the air and it filled the earth and it filled Frank so that he wondered how he had never heard it before.
During a restful pause in the music, he asked Joshua about this, and Joshua became very sad. “Well, he said... you could. It was always there, but the circled wagons were muffling the sound, and the pain from the constant brandings made a ringing in your ears, so that you could barely make out the slightest hint of my rhythm.”
Frank was very sad about this as well. He thought about all the fun he had been having the last while, and he began to wish that the people back in the circle of the wagons could experience it as well. He looked Joshua right in the eyes and he said, “Joshua, what do I need to do to make those people able to come enjoy the party.”
Joshua just smiled a sad smile and said, “There really isn’t anything you can do to make anyone enjoy the party. The only way a person can enjoy the party is to let the brand fade and disappear. Everybody is welcome at my party, but no ‘Good Person’ will ever come. They have to decide, as you did, to walk outside of the circle of wagons and eat and drink at the party. Then the brand will fade and they will be able to see that they are just like everybody else.”
Frank was very sad... and a little bit confused. “But, Joshua” he said, “I didn’t decide to come to the party. My head was just hurting really bad and I thought I saw something flickering through the trees.”
At this, Joshua laughed. He laughed and laughed and laughed. And then he picked up his djembe and started to drum with reckless abandon. Frank wasn’t sure why, but this made him very happy. It also showed him what he needed to do. He walked back towards the circle of trees and then through them, carrying a djembe of his own. As he went he sang. It was a joyous song, a song full of Joshua’s laughter, a song that rode the rhythm of the party. This time as he left the circle of the trees, he could hear the sounds of the party all around him, and he called out to the good people of The Church to come and join the drum circle with everybody else.
Even in their pain, they heard him. They came to the edge of the circle and they saw someone who looked like someone they had once known, hitting on something that made no noise. They called out to him, asking him to come and be branded, but he just kept singing and hitting and dancing. They tried and tried and tried, but nothing worked. He was off in his own little world, completely unable to hear the good news they were proclaiming to him. He seemed to be crying.
Pretending to be sad themselves (but glad, if the truth be told, of a little excitement), they took up their stones and, calling out blessings, stoned Frank to death.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

a love story

Once upon a time there was a man who had everything. He was tall, broad-shouldered, cleft-jawed, and really, really intelligent. He was talented at anything he tried and even stuff he didn't. His teeth were straight and so was his shooting, and although he was powerful and rough and could bake you a gourmet cake in the dream kitchen he built with his own hands, behind his granite exterior he was also very sensitive and felt that something, somehow, was missing.

Also once upon a time there was a woman who seemed to have everything. Her teeth were straight and her neck was lovely. She was strong, in her womanly way, but was also very soft and delicate. She had flawless skin and a body that only grew hair at the top - everywhere else was as hairless as one of those ridiculous Mexican dogs. Her waist, ankles and eyebrows were narrow, her legs were long, her perfectly-matched, fawn-like breasts were gravity-defying, and her eyes sparkled like there was starlight in them (or vizine) - but there wasn't any starlight or vizine, she was 
just that way. Despite how Mary-Poppins-Esque she was, however, she too was convinced that something was missing.

One day, the man and the woman who had everything met and realized that what they did not have was each other. They realized that they were 
perfectly suited in every possible way, and although they had their little tiffs (as lovers do), things were really, really great. Sex was effortless, wild, and always mutually fulfilling. They had to compromise on a lot of things, sure, but never had to make any major sacrifices because they mostly wanted all the same things. Neither of them ever, ever thought about what it would be like with anyone else. They fulfilled all their dreams, had the exact number of children that they each wanted, and lived happily ever after.


As you may have guessed, that was a fairy story. It is not real and did not happen, but is more or less the exact story that has been educated, pounded and bamboozled into the head of every man and woman in North America - even the heads that think they are too full of brains to be taken in by such drivel.

Let me tell you a different story - a true one. It goes like this:

Once upon a time there was a man who was first a boy, a mix of all that is good and evil about humanity. As he grew and his body changed, he looked at what the men around him were like and tried to copy them because he wanted to fit in and be loved. This man saw men who were violent and men who were gentle, so he stumbled around vacillating between the two. He acted tougher than he felt, and was embarrassed by this. He desired women, and in time came to believe that he ought to have a woman like the one in the fairy story - a "perfect" female who would fulfill all the ludicrous fantasies he had been taught to believe a woman existed to fulfill.

Somewhere else, a little girl grew up being told how to be desirable - how to get men to want her. The implication in this lesson was that men did not already want her and that she would have to learn how to earn that desire. So she learned. She watched closely and imitated all the bizarre, self-mutilating behaviors of older, more experienced women. She wanted to be loved by men and by the other women, who seemed most interested in being around the women that men wanted most - the ones who looked and acted most like fairy-tale women. As she grew older she liked to think that she knew better - that she did not need a man's approval to feel worthwhile. But still...

One day, the man and the woman met. Because everything about their meeting was 
just right and because they both believed in the fairy story, electricity and pheromones started to crackle and arc between them and it occurred to both of them that this was IT. The fairy story was happening at last! And to them! 

The power of this story and (perhaps more importantly) their belief in the power of this story overwhelmed them and they rode for a while on the wave of it, as giddy as a couple of surfers who had just caught the perfect break.

Then something happened. Perhaps the wave went under a pier, or around some rocks, or over a reef that because of its shape shifted the flow of sub-currents. Whatever it was, one and eventually both of them got a sense that the narrative wave was about to crash and boil. In that moment, they understood the story for what it was - a fantasy and a lie.

The story was powerful, though, and jealous. It needed characters to live and would not go gently back into that broad sea from which it came. It kept right on tumbling the lovers, bouncing them off pier-pillars and rocks, scraping them across razor-sharp coral until one of them said, "You know what? Screw this! I know I wasn't promised a rose garden, but this is 
ridiculous. Nobody said anything about bloody cuts and plate-sized bruises - I'm out of here!"

This person left the story to try to find another narrative, one that would follow its proper course. And the abandoned person, seeing no other options, did the same. 

On and on this process repeated for both of them until one day, one of them woke up and said, "Wait a minute... maybe the problem isn't my piss-poor ability at picking co-protagonists for my perfect story. Maybe, maybe, maybe... well, maybe the solution is just to recognize that the whole story is screwed top to bottom, and the only way to begin to heal it and to stitch the narrative strands back together is to stop believing in the frickin' lie and start loving another broken person just the way they are!"

And at that point - right then and absolutely no sooner - there began to be a love story.