Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Big Ball of Irony

It feels like someone broke open the gates of Hell.

Wildfires have been ripping through California, killing at least 25 people and burning more than 100,000 acres.

California was the site of our latest Second Amendment massacre, which happened in Thousand Oaks, where a deranged gunman shot up a local bar on Friday, killing 12 people, including Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, who was planning to retire in a year or two.

The slaughter was committed by yet another loner psychotic with a gun who also killed himself.

There were all the usual elements of a mass shooting: footage of survivors and family members sobbing in each other’s arms; lines of police cars and ambulances streaking up to some blood-soaked location, and, yes, thoughts and prayers for the victims.

There’s also the mini-biographies of the victims, most of whom were so young and ready to start their lives.

Several of them had actually witnessed last year’s Las Vegas mass shooting and one of them, Telemachus Orfanos, survived that massacre only to die in this latest obscenity.

His mother, Susan Orfanos, furiously rejected the thoughts and prayers routine for the worthless bilge that it is.

"My son was in Las Vegas with a lot of his friends and he came home,” she told reporters. “He didn't come home last night, and I don't want prayers. I don't want thoughts. I want gun control, and I hope to God nobody sends me anymore prayers. I want gun control. No more guns.”

Even the killer was having none of that, as he made social media posts during the massacre.

“I hope people call me insane,” he wrote. “...wouldn't that just be a big ball of irony? Yeah... I'm insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is 'hopes and prayers'... or 'keep you in my thoughts'... every time... and wonder why these keep happening...”

Call Me Insane

You have to wonder just how bad things are when even the killers are calling bullshit on the whole thoughts and prayer schtick.

I should mention here that I actually do pray for the victims, even though the list gets longer every week. I don’t have any power to change what’s happened so often prayers are the best thing I have to offer.

But I also know that there are times when prayers aren’t enough and that God really does help those who help themselves. God didn’t give Noah the Ark. He told him to build one, warning him that the Great Flood was coming and that Noah should get busy with the hammer and the saw.

That’s what we have here, only instead of water we’re drowning in innocent blood.

But nothing will change. After the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Donald Trump said guns had nothing to do with the fact that all those people had gotten shot.

Who could argue with that kind of logic?

The orange goon is also peddling a right-wing fairy tale about the wildfires, blaming them on “gross management of the forests,” instead of climate change, and threatening to pull federal funding if California doesn’t “remedy the situation,” like some cheap hoodlum.

Today is Veterans Day, the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. President Bone Spurs is in France now, but he couldn’t drag his fat ass to Aisne-Marne American cemetery because of allegedly bad weather.

This is the “man” who spends more time on golf courses and attending rallies than he does on Pennsylvania Avenue.

My father was a World War II veteran and he told me that his platoon spent so much time training in mud-covered areas that they were dubbed “Lenihan and his Muskrats.” I wonder what he would have thought of Trump’s excuse for skipping a memorial service.

A century ago, politicians pushed this lie that the First World War would be the “war to end all wars.” It reminds me of the NRA fantasy that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and Trump’s own gem about climate change being a hoax created by China.

You could twist words anyway you like, but the fires are still burning, the mass shootings are still happening, and the gates of hell are flying off their hinges.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Eye in the Sky

There’s a scene in Martin Scorsese’s mob classic Goodfellas where Ray Liotta’s uber-paranoid gangster is convinced a helicopter is following him.

As the coked-up criminal frantically tries to escape the mysterious chopper, Harry Nilsson’s “Jump into the Fire” cranks up on the soundtrack.

I always loved that scene, but recently I got a chance to experience what that guy was going through.

I had gotten up nice and early one morning for my daily meditation. I’ve been meditating for a few years now and I am slowly seeing the benefits of this daily practice.

I set the timer for 20 minutes and do my very best to be mindful and present. And I think it’s helped me a lot.

I’m a little better at taming the anger and reining in the depression. It’s been an extremely slow process, but I’m encouraged by my progress and I want to continue improving.

Now some sessions are better than others and on this particular morning I was really nailing it—if I do say so myself. I was breathing so deeply and slowly that it was almost like an out of body experience.

In this raucous, crazy city a short period of early morning silence is solid gold.

And then a helicopter flew over my house.

All right, I thought, give it a few seconds and it’ll be gone. The pilot is just zipping overhead on his way to somewhere else. It was mildly annoying, but this is New York, after all, and you can’t expect to live in total stillness.

Only the thing didn’t go away. For whatever reason, the chopper pilot double-parked in a patch of sky right above my head and refused to budge.

I tried to ignore the noise and focus on my breathing, but that wasn’t working.

You Can Climb a Mountain, You Can Swim the Sea

Okay, then, I reasoned, since focus is an important part of mediation, I could focus on the helicopter’s noise and still achieve my higher state of consciousness.

But that didn’t’ work either.

I found myself getting angry, which is exactly what I’m trying to avoid when I meditate.

I thought of the old “black helicopter” conspiracy theories that were big in the Nineties, when the tinfoil hat crowd was convinced mysterious choppers were mutilating cattle or taking over the government or some other such conspiratorial chazzerai.

Only this was real.

The timer eventually went off and I was about as close to mindfulness as I was to the North Pole. And the helicopter was still there.

The whole meditation was ruined, I grumbled.

Of course, any yoga or Zen master would’ve gently dismissed such a pedestrian idea.

You can’t ruin meditation. Any attempt at meditation is better than no attempt at all and mindfulness is a lifelong practice, not something you do for 20 minutes in the morning.

I’ve been suffering from a nasty cold for the last few days and the negative thoughts have been roaring through my mind like the attacking helicopters in Apocalypse Now.

These enemy aircraft—anger, despair, resentment—have been buzzing around for years, but they’ve been hovering in my subconscious for so long that I've just tuned out the noise.

Meditation has helped me spot them sooner. It’s just tougher to fight them off when I’m sick though because my guard is down and I slip back into the old bad habits.

Okay. I know this illness will pass, I’ll get back into my routine, and I will continue to improve.

And when the helicopters come after me, the first thing I’ll do is jump out of the damn fire.