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A Note in the Event I Get Sick Again

I am diagnosed with schizophrenia. Although I haven’t been able to keep a regular job since I was diagnosed, I only get sick once or twice a year. My episodes rarely last more than two weeks.

When I am sick, I lose contact with reality. I may post odd things and email weird stuff. I have been known the do that.

What I haven’t been known to do is be violent. I have a 10 year history of mental illness at the time of this writing and never once have I been homicidal or suicidal.

I do everything known to man to prevent from becoming ill again. Yet, sometimes these things don’t work. So, I am writing this to let you know that if I do odd and bizarre things, alert me and my family, but do not immediately see me as a threat.

So far, when I am ill, I lack insight. This means I often do not know I am ill. Letting me know, in a gentle and caring way, that I am sick is your first course of action.

As I said, in 10 years, I have never been violent. Past violence is the biggest correlate with future violence. When I am ill, I truly am insane. The insanity plea would work for me. Yet, I have never had to use it.

When I am healthy, which is the majority of the time, I am fine and normal. I regret that I even have to write this. But, alas, life for me–and for you–is complex. I can understand, I suppose, why someone would see me as a threat. However, in all honesty, the world is probably more scary for me than for you. People with mental illness are highly likely to be victims of abuse and violence. More than the general population. They are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence. We even have to fear the law enforcement and other officials with power.

I am working on trying to have insight when I am ill and lowering the likelihood of becoming ill. But even in the best circumstances, my symptoms may flare up.

Please just know that I am working to be well and that, if the past resembles the future, I am harmless. I wish I didn’t have this affliction, but I do. Most of the time, I live my life just as you do, attending to my health along with other daily cares. However, there have been incidents in the news of people like me being victims of homicide by police and other unjust things. This note is just to say that I’m probably more afraid of you than you are of me and that being kind and caring during my periods of illness is the best route with me.

Creepy Book October: Horror Writer Dathan Auerbach

Sometimes you get the urge to look up old pals from your past. That’s what I did several months ago with my old pal Dathan Auerbach. Lo and behold, he’s a stellar writer now.

Back when I knew Dathan, he was a fellow TA with me at the University of North Florida. We both TAed for Introduction to Philosophy.

So when I saw he’s a writer now, I thought I’d look into that.

If you’re into creepy horror/thriller novels this October, be sure to check out his books PenPal and Bad Man. Because I like to celebrate the creepy season, I ordered a copy of his first novel, PenPal. I wanted to share the wealth, so I asked my daughter if she would like to read it, as well. She will.

If you’re like me, these days you like to be sure that your money is going somewhere worthwhile. Despite the toxic reputation of the philosophy culture, Auerbach was always a wonderful, creative and decent human being. He treated me with respect as a colleague. We got along great and I’m glad to see him succeed.

This October, get your horror on with some novels by Dathan Auerbach.

Poem: Hold the Milk

I’ve been sick for so long that feeling well is strange.

After the surgery, everything has been clear.

My mind, like a steel trap.

Things got even better the other day when I stopped putting milk in my coffee.

I am a poor Viking. I’m lactose intolerant.

They say, more than 500 years ago, the Norse were the first Europeans to arrive in the Americas.

How, I often wondered, did that meeting go?

Legend says the Norse were trying to play nice, but they offered First Nations people milk.

Native people fell ill and, as the story goes, they thought the Norse were trying to poison them.

That misunderstanding led to a fight which First Nations people won.

My first memories are of a dairy farm not far from my house.

Back when there were still small, family farms.

Could we ally ourselves together, I ask, during this period when we hope of decolonization?

I’m asking for millions of post-op Euroamericans.

Bernie is Speaking My Language

I discussed the Democratic candidates for several hours today with my family. All things considered, I put my support toward Bernie Sanders.

I fully realize that identity politics is the language some people speak, but when it comes down to it, the inequality we see between the sexes, between races and classes is all about economics. Thus, I need a candidate who has solid economic policies. It’s the economy, stupid.

Like many Democrats, I supported Bernie last time he ran. I was disappointed when Hillary got the nomination. Recently, I was taken by Andrew Yang, but I think the tipping point for me was when I heard about Bernie’s recently released housing plan. That, plus his other excellent economic plans, tipped the scales for me.

We need a president who will work to make a fair and just economy. After discussing these things, I think that Bernie has the best economic plans.

My First Poem

I have, mostly in private, penned thousands of poems. I have written poetry seriously since I was 13. My very first poem, however, was written as an assignment when I was about 8. It’s entitled “Shoes” And it goes like this:

Shoes are what are on your feet.

Some are nerdy. Some are neat.

If I had none, I suppose

I would walk on tippy toes

To keep the rocks from underfoot

Cuz that would cause my feet to hurt.

So Summer, Winter, Spring or Fall

I guess I’ll wear shoes after all.

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday. I am now 40. Middle aged.

It’s midday and it’s already been a great day. I woke up to fresh made “Birthday Brownies” made by my brother. I went to the doctor and then–and this is the best news–I spoke with poet Terri Witek about Stetson University’s MFA in Creative Writing. We spoke for about 30 minutes about the program. I have to finalize my application and when I do that, I will start the program in January 2020.

Creative writing has always been a “side project” for me. By that I mean I have rarely thought about turning it into something beyond a serious hobby. Witek had great things to say about my poetry and said they are prepared to accept me into the program. This is great news! How often does one get to turn ones passion into something serious?

Beyond that, they seem very supportive and welcoming. That’s a breath of fresh air. Going into a program that is supportive where I can explore my creative passions is very appealing!

So, for my birthday, I got wonderful news: At 40, I can be a serious poet.

The Left/Right Dichotomy in 2019

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not voting for Trump. At the moment, I haven’t narrowed down who I’m going to vote for.

There’s problems on the part of each of the Left/Right Dichotomy, though, and that’s what I wish to discuss.

As a member of the Left, I have witnessed a certain movement: We used to look kindly upon, say, minority religions and make sure they had equal footing. As time wore on, this has turned into hating dominant groups, like Christianity, on the whole.

It’s not just religious groups, though. Any dominant group is generally hated most of the time. And call-out culture can be very toxic.

Too often, too, I’ve come across people who pay lip service to social justice and will speak vehemently against systems injustice. But these same people wouldn’t let you stay with them if you found yourself homeless.

So, much of the Left Wing rings hollow.

At the same time, however, the Right Wing has become more racist, bigoted and hateful. The majority who say they are Christian fail to embody Christian virtues of, say, charity and love. Too often, the Right Wing calls for The Ten Commandments to be placed in front of a courthouse instead of being the living embodiment of the beatitudes. Sure, they may help you. But if and only if you tow the line for their conservatism.

This leaves people like me socially homeless.

I do not lament this fact most of the time. Sure, it would be nice to have friends who are like-minded. But keeping my own integrity and self-respect is worth much more than simply being a part of a social group for the sheer purpose of being in a social group.

Whatever your background, I hope you aim to be a shining light in the world. It’s easy, really, to denigrate and destroy an opponent. It’s harder to move beyond the noise of the world and create something beautiful, unique and edifying.

Challenge yourself. Be a shining light. Lord knows we all need it.

Things Around the House: An Essay

I bought a new digital camera and the hunt began: find the right light and the right objects to photograph. Soon, it turned into a mission. Around I went, taking photos of objects around the house.

There was a theme: Very few of the objects I photographed were what anyone would call beautiful. They were dirty. They were grimy. They were used.

As I shopped for images, I began to think about the importance of this theme. They were very unlike the pictures we are flooded with on a daily basis. I took photos of the things we hide from others; the things we hate to see in others. Yet, as pieces of art, these are things I wanted people to see and embrace.

Soon, my artistic theme emerged strong. So did the philosophy behind it.

Ever since I was an undergraduate, over 10 years ago, I have thought of Martha Nussbaum as a friend. Granted, we do not know one another, but her work is so engaging—and often so intimate—that I feel as though we have a friendship.

In one of my favorite books by Nussbaum, Hiding from Humanity, she argues, among other things, that disgust does not necessarily track harmful things. Instead, it often tracks what we hate to see in others (and hide about ourselves) because it reminds us that we are vulnerable beings who get old, sick and die.

Confronting our humanity in all its grit is perhaps the most difficult thing we can do. It is also one of the bravest. While feelings of disgust and shame may seem natural and harmless on the surface, they have historically given rise to things like arguments against marriage equality. Thus, tempering our disgust and shame is not only brave—it can give rise to a more equitable world.

My photo project may not cure all the ills of the world. But I fully believe it can have an impact. Each of us can examine ourselves, the arguments we give and reactions we have. We can choose to embrace our own humanity and be comfortable with the humanity of others. Moving in this direction is radically different than what we are used to. It means we have to admit that we get grimy, dirty and not everything we own is brand new and shiny.

The wear and tear I photograph, along with the dirt and grime, allow us, if we accept them, to be courageous beings and create a more just world. That doesn’t mean not to strive toward health. It doesn’t mean to never take a shower. It means that it’s simply part of the human condition to get older, to get sick and to die.

Be brave. Embrace it.

John Frusciante’s The Empyrean is 10 Years Old!

I noticed the other day when I went over to John Frusciante’s website to see what’s new that The Empyrean is 10 years old.

Ten years ago, I was among the first to purchase this album at a little music shop in Deland, Florida. It’s a musty, dusty old music store. In other words, the best! They always have new releases like Frusciante’s.

I bought the album, drove back to Jacksonville listening to it, marked the songs I thought were great and promptly gave it away. I should not have given it away because I miss having it now and I may just re-purchase it.

Me in my Chili Pepper shirt.

Frusciante is selling a re-done vinyl record of The Empyrean now to mark the 10 year anniversary.

If you’re not familiar with his solo work, I do encourage you to give it a listen.

In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite covers by John Frusciante: