Saturday, May 27, 2006

Making Love

It's been said that making love is like a pizza. When it's good it's great and when it's bad it's still pretty damn good. I'd take it a step further when it's good it's transcendental. Yeah, that's right, I'm gettin' spiritual on that ass.

If you've read some of my stories like "He Who Increases Knowledge" or even "Like Peyote for Pimps" you'll recognize a common theme. The vagina as the passageway to paradise, not just pleasure but literal paradise, Nirvana, Valhalla, Heaven. When you're inside a woman, the right woman, at the right time and you feel that emotional connection it almost feels like the deepest aspirations of love are possible. It almost feels as if it were literally possible to become one with your inamorata. As if your souls could touch on some other plane of existence and the individuals cease to be. It is like the world disappears and nothing else exists but you and your lover. As if the world begins and ends where you and your lovers flesh are joined.

This feeling has driven men to the greatest acts of heroism and the worst acts of villainy. For many it is the very meaning of life, the reason for drawing the next breath. When life is at its worst it helps to have someone to love, someone to make love to. There have been times in my life where the only thing keeping me from eating a bullet was the love of a good woman. There have been times when the absence of it has been the very thing that has led me to thoughts of suicide. It's that deep.

Like a junkie chasing the experience of his first high this intensely profound emotional/spiritual connection is what I have spent most of my life chasing. I have experienced this overwhelming sensation numerous times, enough to keep me hopelessly addicted. I feel it now with my wife. So now I am addicted to her too. Let me tell you about my wife.

She is the most intensely emotional person I have ever met, frustratingly so at times. She is far from a still water but she runs extremely deep. She has layers and texture more varied and contoured than a rocky mountain landscape. She cries at movies, songs, photographs, and the evening news. When she cries I hold her in my arms, cradled against my chest. I never want her to be sad. It hurts me whenever I fail to make her happy. I want to make love to her every time I see her eyes sparkle with tear drops threatening to spill. There is nothing more beautiful. And when we make love it is like the world is ending.

Those who know me and even those who don't know me but have read my books or short stories will probably assume that my wife is some sort of super-freak straight from the pages of De Sade's most depraved imaginings. In truth we have knocked the stuffing out of more than one mattress. Still, making love has nothing to do with pornstar theatrics. I don't love her for that. Even in missionary position we make magic and that has as much to do with what happens outside the bedroom as looking in her eyes and telling her I love her just before we reach that mutual climax.

One of the things that bothered me the most about my ex-wife was the fact that she never complimented me. Christie always tells me that she thinks I am beautiful, always tells me how much she appreciates me and how proud she is to be with me. I am proud of her too. I am honored to stand at her side. On Valentine's Day Christie made an entire book of photographs captioned with her feelings about me. It was the nicest gift anyone has ever given me. Exactly a year ago she gave me another wonderful gift, my beautiful daughter Isis. In six months we are having another child, another child of love.

I married Christie in a simple civil ceremony. A quick Vegas wedding. That was just to get the paperwork out of the way. Next year is the big ceremony, our dream wedding, with all the pomp and flair. It will be my second wedding but the first one I am taking seriously.

Her favorite Luther Vandross song goes, "I'd rather have bad times with you then good times with someone else." I have to admit, I hated the sentimate of this song. I never wanted to have bad times with anyone. I thought that when you were in love the sun was always supposed to shine. In the past my relationships lasted right up until the first argument and then I was gone. I didn't believe in working things out. I didn't believe that love was supposed to be work let alone hard work. This was my belief but my actions in the last three years have proven otherwise.

I have had the opportunity to live an easy life with women who would never argue with me, never fight, never fuss. I chose Christie. I had the opportunity to be with women who were less needy, less dependent. I chose Christie. I had the opportunity to walk away from all the heartache and pain and frustration and never look back. I chose Christie.

"I'd rather be beside you in a storm than safe and warm by myself."

Somehow, when I wasn't looking Christie and I had stopped having sex and started making love.

Making love is the attempt to unite two separate individuals into one. It is the binding of two spirits, two destinies. It happens in the bedroom when everything just fits and you and your lover are in perfect sync with each other. It happens when you bare a child with the one you love. It happens when you promise to share your life with her/him forever. It happens when you do something to show the one you love just how much you care even if all you do is say it. It can happen again and again over and over again. The two never really become one. The ambitions of love are impossible. But the love itself, the desire to unite, can last an eternity. It fades. It dulls. It rages at times and burns like a nova. At other times it is like teh flicker of a match, a dim light that sparks for a moment and quickly dwindles. But it smolders on. When it is real it never goes away completely.

Friday, May 19, 2006

What's It All About?

I'm sure that after reading many of my more nihilistic works many have wondered just what I believe in or if I believe in anything. It's obvious that I am an atheist of sorts. I doubt god's existence though I remain open to the possibility of some sort of creator and even the possibility of an intelligent creator. Though I seriously doubt that any of man's religions come close to capturing it. I don't believe in an afterlife. No qualifying statements here. I'm as close to positive as anyone who has never died can be that there is no life after death. This life is all we've got. So then what's it all about?

"Why are we here?"

Man has asked this question since he first discovered that he could use his mind for more than foraging for food and shelter and avoiding predators. The answers have varied over the millennia yet very few have sufficed. Most of the answers have appealed to our hopes and fears while leaving our intellect wanting, filling in the tremendous voids in our existential knowledge with pacifying fantasies. Science has faired no better in this area, appealing to our intellect with little regard to our emotions. The answer must fulfill both longings, our intellectual longing for truth and our emotional longing for purpose. Anything else misses the mark.

Why is this question so important? Why must it be asked at all? Because life does not come without a price. It is not all sunshine and roses. There is darkness and there are thorns. Every man or woman who has held a loved one in their arms as they suffered and perished has asked. Every sick, starving, bullied, and abused child has asked. Every scorned lover has asked. Every one who has ever experienced any vexation of their will has asked. Anyone who loves humanity and sees the wholesale anguish and death of which the world is everywhere full has asked. Life demands a toll, The toil and struggle necessary to acquire the commodities of existence and the pain of failure. Every moment of existence is taxed with some pain and what sane human being would not ask the worth and value of that which he struggles so hard to preserve, that which he has paid such a price to maintain? Yet, we pay this tax with no knowledge of the meaning, purpose, or value of this prize. I have my suspicions why this is so.

There are six major theories on the meaning of life.

1) Living to do the will of God
2) Living for the betterment of humanity (including one's family)
3) Living for love
4) Living for happiness
5) Living to leave your mark on the world
6) Living to learn lessons and advance to the next higher plane of existence

In my first year as a philosophy major I took on these theories in my thesis-length research paper entitled "Existential Malaise, The Case Against life". I don't have eighty pages here to devote to these arguments as I did in my paper so they will be greatly abbreviated, but I wanted to at least give you a brief synopsis of each. If you've read my work many of these ideas may sound familiar.

"The Will of God Argument"

This one is a long one but I will do my best to be brief. The biggest problem with this argument is that it is based on the unfounded assumption that God's Will and God's plan are good. In fact, it is based on the assumption that God's plan is great, so great as to justify all the suffering of the world, every innocent child that is murdered, abused, dies of disease, starves and every mother that has grieved for them. That's quite a plan. Wouldn't it be nice to know what this plan is and why it requires the suffering of innocents to bring it about? Shouldn't an omnipotent and ominiscient deity be able to fulfill his design without letting millions of innocent children die of disease, starvation, cruelty, and neglect? The faithful would answer that they know God's plan is good because God is good and I know God is good because it says so in the bible and God wrote the bible and if you're not dizzy yet I have more circular reasoning for you.

They say that God works in mysterious ways and all will be revealed at the day of judgment and that you cannot judge "The All-Mighty". As Marc commented on an earlier thread, "...I don't feel it is my place to judge God. I think that he is a lot smarter and wiser than me and he has his reasons for why he does things which may not be completely apparent to us now, but perhaps will be reveal to us later on. I basically think that God has calculus that none of us can understand. Further, he dwarfs the universe, so there must be aspects to him that are unattainable." But isn't saying that God is good a judgment? And if he can be judged good can he not also be judged evil? If we say that he is neither good nor evil but something beyond such judgment than why again would we submit ourselves to something that is beyond our understanding and therefore may not be in our best interest? Why would we assume that a being that "dwarfs the universe" and has "calculus none of us can understand" is necessarily acting in our best interest? I'd be more suspicious of such an entity not less. This falls under the classification of a leap of faith aka a gamble.

The other problem with the assumption that God's plan which we suffer and die for is so great as to merit all the pain and misery of life is that nothing about life indicates that the force, entity, intelligence, or whatever you believe that created life is capable of doing better than he has here. There is nothing to indicate that the creator is capable of creating a paradise. In fact, our lives here on earth would actually lead us to surmise that the force of creation is completely incapable of creating anything greater than what he has on earth. And to believe based on the evidence that we have, that this creator would be capable of a reward so great as to excuse all the evils of this world from famine, disease, and natural disasters to war, oppression, serial serial killers, and child molesters is completely absurd. The most reasonable thing I ever heard anyone say was that to know God you must examine his works, his creation, and not look to what man wrote in some book. I agree. Of course most of the people I've heard say this weren't talking about famine and disease and lions murdering other male lions, taking all the female lions and murdering all the children they fathered with the deposed lion. They were talking about his good works. Anything bad they say was caused by the devil, which doesn't let God off the hook because he created him, or freewill, which would only work if God were not omniscient or not particularly intelligent at all since a reasonably intelligent human being could predict the behavior of most people after one semester of Psychology and a few self-help books once he knew their background. It also doesn't explain children dying of diseases and natural disasters or why animals seem to display all the same behaviors man has decreed sinful from child abuse to necrophilia and they aren't supposed to have free-will. If we were to judge our creator based on the behavior of animals alone, which are solely instinctual and thus programmed directly by our creator to act according to his will, we might conclude that the creator was a sadistic lunatic.

The same force that created the sunrise created the man that invented the nuclear bomb. The same force that created children created the diseases that kill them and the people that abuse them. The same force that created the ocean and the sky created tsunamis and hurricanes. So, based on what we know for a fact about our creator as evidenced by his works, whatever force that created this world of ours would not be capable of or perhaps not even interested in creating paradise.

Living for God's will thus is pure self-sacrifice without justification or reward. This would not satisfy any reasonable search for meaning.

"Living for the betterment of humanity"

Emotionally and politically I like this one. I really do. But it still does not do it. Let us assume for an instance that every human being from the most benevolent and altruistic peace activist who volunteers at orphanages and cleanses the wounds of lepers to the lowliest criminal scum who rapes babies, pushes drugs to school children, and robs old ladies of thier social security checks is worth saving, and that in itself is a leap of faith. Is it even possible to save them all? Even if we say the value lies not in saving all but in even bettering the life of one person how does this work? What makes that one person's happiness such a valuable thing as to excuse the pain in your life? It's great to say that your life has been worth while if you've helped even one person to live a better life but what if that better life still sucks? And forget what I said about assuming the intrinsic value of every life, what gives that one life so much value that saving it gives your life value? It's a circle. You can't say, "My life is valuable because I saved his life and his life is valuable" without answering the question, "Why is his life valuable?" This leads to the question of why is any life valuable, which puts us right back where we started.

What if that one person whose life you saved grows up to rob old ladies and sell drugs to school kids? What if he invents weapons of mass-destruction that lead to extinction class catastrophes? If this person grows up to be a saint and touches the lives of a hundred people who touch the lives of a hundred more and then they all die like an ever widening ripple in a pond that eventually dissipates, what have you accomplished? When everyone that ever knew you and whose lives you ever affected directly and indirectly dies it will be as though you had never existed. How does this justify your existence? There are few whose influence live on eternally. Blaise Pascal affected the lives of countless millions by curing Polio. Now they die of Cancer and Aids and Heart disease and stroke and automobile accidents, drug overdoses, gunshot wounds, surgical complications, malpractice, etc. etc. We save the cat from drowning so that it can be eaten by the dog. What have we accomplished?

Then there is the fact of our own finite existence. In many ways man is an island unto himself. Our pleasure and our pain is ours alone. Others may empathize, sympathize, experience some vicarious emotions, but the real experience is isolated and exclusive. Your pleasure cannot ease my pain in any real sense. It may justify it somewhat because I value you as a loved one or even as a fellow human being. It may be a sacrifice that gives me a sense of satisfaction that is greater than the pain I experience as a result but the problem is that the majority of the pain you experience in life is not of this type. The majority of the pain we experience in life arise from the needs and necessities required to maintain our lives. And when we die we no longer experience the satisfaction that comes from sacrificing ourselves for our loved ones. We may experience it right up until the moment of death but then there is nothing. I still find this one extremely appealing emotionally because if you value another's life above your own than it is theoretically possible to derive a pleasurable sense of satisfaction regardless of how much pain you experience in life just by the knowledge that you are doing good and helping others. The problem is that like religion there is no more logical reason why you should value another's life so highly than why you should value the will of god. It would have to be an a priori value, something valued just because and excepted without reason, which will only appeal to a few. We could say that we should value other humans because we are humans and thus should have an interest in seeing that all humans lead good lives but since it is possible for some humans to lead good lives while others do not this argument falls flat. You would either have to love humanity or not. No one could talk you into it anymore than someone could talk you into falling romantically in love with someone. As I said, this argument holds great emotional appeal but logically it fails.

"Living for love"

Love is the desire to unite with the love object. It is an impossible ambition because individuals will always remain individuals. You can never feel another's sensations or emotions or even know another's thoughts but can only trust them when they tell you about them and make inferences and comparisons based on your own behavior when feeling or experiencing certain stimuli. We don't really know if everyone experiences pain or pleasure the same way but only how we experience these sensations. But love is not the act of uniting but the desire to unite and like all desires were it capable of being fulfilled it would be destroyed just like the desire for food is quelled by eating or the desire to rest sated by sleeping. Love is valued not for it's promise but for the desire itself. The problem is that this desire fades when it is not realized. It goes from the burning maddening passion of being "in love" to the content, docile, and domesticated feeling of merely loving someone and too few ever even experience this let alone the former. But for me only the former could be great enough to negate all the pain and frustration of life. When you are "in love" the sun is always shining and everything smells like roses when you merely love someone you remain aware of every minor vexation and annoyance let alone the major catastrophes that seem so trivial when you are in love.

The other problem is that Love is even more fragile and impermanent than life itself. People fall in and out of love constantly. And if love is a reason to live does the opposite then hold true and getting your heart trampled under become a reason to die? If your life is loveless should you then end it? If your love ends in heartbreak, tragedy, or betrayal should you play the tragic hero and fall on your sword?

The romantic in me loves this one but the reasonable part of me finds it wanting.

"Living for Happiness"

This one suffers from the same problems as love and even more so because it is far easier to love for long periods of time than it is to be happy for long intervals. In general happiness is just a brief respite between periods of disappointment and pain and, as Arthur Schopenhauer pointed out at the beginning of the last century, pain is a far more immediate and intense experience than pleasure and leaves a much more lasting impression. Even now I bet it would be easier for you to recall the most painful moments in your life than the most pleasurable. And, as noted before, pain is far more likely to destroy a wonderful day than pleasure to turn an otherwise horrible day into something glorious. You may have a few memories of wonderful days that started badly, but I bet you have countless examples of good days that were ruined by some tragedy or minor crisis or disturbance. Happiness is neither powerful enough nor constant enough to justify the pain of existence.

"Living to leave your mark on the world"

This is one of my favorites but the hardest to defend. To express themselves and leave an everlasting impression on humanity's collective consciousness is the goal of every great and minor artist and I am no different. I want to live forever and I want my art to make that happen for me by transferring my thoughts, ideas and opinions to others so that it can live and grow beyond my death. Despite the awesome odds against this happening this is still what gets me out of bed everyday. Still, this idea suffers from the same flaws as "Living for the betterment of humanity" in that your mark on the world will only last as long as those who choose to remember you. There are Gods who were worshipped by hundreds of thousands for thousands of years that have now been forgotten. It would be hard to ensure that your legacy would hold greater permanence than the legacy of say, Huitzilopochtli, a God once worshipped by thousands of Aztecs, now no one even remembers his name and those who do can't pronounce it. Sorry, but when it comes to leaving your mark on the world we are all dust in the wind.

Finally there's the idea of, "Living to learn lessons here on earth and advance to the next higher plane of existence."

Oh, but if only this were true. Sadly, if you go back and read my post "The Myth of The Afterlife" you would realize how terribly unlikely this one is.

So what does that leave us with? There is simply no one answer. I live for a combination of some of these ideas, namely Love, Happiness, Family and Humanity, and to leave my mark on the world for as long as it may last. Sometimes it's enough and sometimes it isn't. The reality is that you are here. You are alive. So perhaps asking why isn't really even an issue. Once you are born it may already be too late to ask why. Once you have suffered for even one day you have invested too much in this life to give it up without a fight. So the question perhaps is not "why?" but "how?"

"How do I make this life worth while for me?"

And while this is a personal question with answers that will be unique to the individual I don't think it can reasonably be answered without considering some of the things I have mentioned above. I think that this is one of those discussions people should have with themselves at the beginning of every day. It is a question that should be asked at the onset of every major undertaking and before every major decision.

"How do I make this life worth while for me?"

Don't take the easy answer. Look for it. Search yourself for it. The answer isn't in a book and regrettably you won't find it in this blog either. Though, if I had the answer I would certainly share it with you. The answer is in you. Question everything. Doubt everything. Believe nothing. And whatever is left after you have questioned and criticized it to death is your truth.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Don't Worry. Be Happy.

I have often been accused of not caring because I don't worry about things over which I have no control. I don't worry about things over which I do have control for that matter. If there's something in my way I move it. If there is something hurting me I endure it until I can fix it. When life gets hard I just get harder. I am accused of taking things too lightly, not taking anything seriously. All of this is true. I don't sweat the small shit and to me everything is small shit. What will it all mean when we are all dust and stench anyway? And why worry about what you cannot change and if it can be changed than there's even less reason to worry. Just get off your ass and change it. Worrying is a pointless waste of time.

"A coward dies a thousand deaths but a brave man dies but once."

These are some of the wisest words ever spoken. I have never understood those who worry and fret about what terrible things may happen or even what terrible things will happen or have happened. What is, is. What was, was. And what shall be shall be. Such is life. Deal with it. Worrying never solved a thing. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and don't spend time worrying about it either way.

I have had a great many obstacles in my life. My mother left my father the day I was born. The man I grew up calling Dad for the first five-years of my life turned out to be an abusive asshole and my mother soon left him as well. My mother, sweet as she was, was a bit of a stress case who yelled and screamed over the slightest thing. I grew up in a crime-infested, drug-infested slum. Even for the ghetto we were considered poor and I was teased for not having designer clothes or sneakers and being big and awkward and too dark all through elementary school and junior high school. It got so bad that at age twelve I almost committed suicide. I fought almost everyday of my life from age five to age fifteen. I have beaten more men than I can recall. I have been beaten up more times than I can recall. My first girlfriend left me because I was Black and her parents were racists. After I took her back she cheated on me. My next girlfriend cheated on me with the same guy my first girlfriend had. He was my bestfriend. My other bestfriend got hooked on drugs and disappeared fifteen years ago and I have never seen him since. My newest bestfriend disappeared four years ago. I have no bestfriend now. I have had a gun pointed at me three times and a knife put to my throat twice. I have been homeless. I have struggled to hold onto women that I have loved only to watch them slip away despite my best efforts. I have been unloved. I was married for ten years to a woman who never complimented me and rarely showed me any affection at all. The woman I love now is an argumentative, manic depressive, emotional cripple. I still love her. I have been a sex addict for all of my adult life and have ruined several dozen viable relationships because of it. I ruined my career as a fighter because of it. I lost my one shot at the World Title because I was fucking all night the night before and gassed out after three rounds. I work from 7am to 4pm then I teach kickboxing from 4:30 to 7pm then I come home and write. I work this hard not because I want to but because if I didn't I would not be able to afford to live. I live from paycheck to paycheck. These are all the big things. The small things aren't even worth listing. In my opinion anything that you won't remember in ten years isn't worth tripping over today. And to be honest, even these things which I do remember are not worth tripping over.Because stressing and worrying over them won't change a single one of them, past, present or future. I never get depressed about any of it. I use it all to make me stronger.

Everyday I am faced with a new obstacle and everyday I recall all the obstacles I have overcome in the past and I laugh it off. MY past has convinced me that there is nothing I cannot endure, nothing I cannot overcome. I have far more wins than losses in the game of life. Nothing has broken me so far there is no reason to think anything will break me any time soon. If I have ten dollars in the bank and the mortgage is due I don't worry. I get out there and make money and I always manage to get it paid. If I have a story that has to be written, fighters that have to be trained, children that need to be taken care of, a woman that needs my attention, and I still have to get up early for work in the morning, and I am already exhausted, I don't get all stressed out and say self-pitying shit that serve no purpose but to depress myself like, "Why is this happening to me?" or "I wish I could just go home and sleep?" or "Nobody else has to work this hard. Why me?" None of that shit matters. It's happening. I have to deal with it. So I do. Asking why serves no purpose unless I am seriously going to change it. Saying I wish it was this way or that way is just as pointless. As the saying goes, wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first. It's stupid. Why do it. And trippin' over who may or may not have an easier life than you is the crowning act of idiocy. Unless you intend to take some tips from them on how to make your life better just comparing your life to others for no other reason than to convince yourself of how screwed up your own life is serves no purpose. Other people are not you. They have their lives and you have yours. Deal with your own life and don't worry about theirs because even after you are done with all of that "Woe is me" crap, you still have your own life to deal with. And most people's lives are not quite as perfect as they look from the outside looking in anyway. Everyone thought I had the perfect marriage even while I was fucking every other woman that glanced my way.

Self-pity is one of the most disgusting of all human qualities. You choose your life. Every decision you make influences what will happen to you next. Asking your imaginary friend in the sky for help or asking him why he's testing you so much is absurd. The great overseer above didn't make you a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or a shitty lover, or a lazy employee, or a bad parent. He didn't make you drop out of college or decide not to attend at all. He didn't make you get some useless Liberal Arts degree instead of a business degree, or a law degree, or a doctorate. He didn't make you marry that asshole that cheats on you and kicks your ass everytime he gets drunk. He isn't making you stay with him. He didn't make you get pregnant by that asshole who left you and refuses to pay child support. He didn't make you knock up that chick you don't love but who was great in bed. It was your decision not to use a condom, not your imaginary friend's. He didn't make you crash your car. He didn't make you lose your job. He didn't make you prefer pizza and ice-cream to diet and exercise. He didn't make you unhappy with your body when others who are heavier and in worse shape than you love who they are. That's all you. He didn't make any of the bad decisions that have fucked up your life. You did that, all by yourself and you'll have to fix it, all by yourself. And if you choose not to change your life than stop trippin' over it. Accept it and move on. The rest of us are tired of hearing about it.

No regrets. No remorse. No fear.

At one time I was going to get that tattoed on my chest. It is my mantra.

Repeat this with me now.

"Don't be worried. Be prepared."

Say it louder for the guys in the back who didn't hear you.

"Don't be worried! Be prepared!"

Don't be worried. Don't be afraid. Don't be stressed. Plan and prepare. Plan for the win and plan for the loss. Plan for how you will dive through that window of opportunity when it opens and plan for what you will do if you miss it. But make your plan B something that you can still be satisfied with and proud of. But above all don't just sit there pitying yourself. That's just weak and disgusting. Self-pity is more disgusting than smoking and farting in a crowded room.

The easiest way to lose is not try at all

The Twelve-steppers have a saying, "Give me the strength to change the things I can, accept the things I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference." If we all lived by this rule we would all be much happier. At the beginning of the Special Olympics they say a prayer, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." Put those two things together and you have the answer to why I seem so infuriatingly calm and nonchalant about everything. I change what I can and accept what I cannot because I have been through hell in my life and have always survived it. Life can do it's worse to me and I will always survive because I always have. Winning and losing are up to me and me alone. I don't blame anyone else or sit around pitying myself for my failures. I accept them and move on. My goals are lofty so even my failures are spectacular. I face defeat with bravery because I know that no matter how far I fall I will rise, no matter how hard the climb, and if I don't I have no one to blame but myself.

Look over your life and count the number of times that life has beaten you down. Look at the times you have been utterly defeated by circumstance. If you are reading this now I would suggest that those times have been few. If you have a computer in front of you and a roof over your head than you are not a loser. Losers are the guys by the freeway with the "Will work for food" signs.

We spend too much time comparing ourselves to others and bemoaning our own petty misfortunes, our trifling inconveniences that we let so utterly devastate us, and not enough time celebrating our good fortune. So what you don't have a significant other. Stop crying about it and go out and get one. So what your job sucks. Stop bitching and get a better one. Just because we haven't become millionaires or movie stars like many of us thought we would by this age doesn't make us failures. All of us have more victories than defeats. And how we accept defeat is purely a matter of perception. The only thing you can control with one hundred percent accuracy is how you will react to life's trials and tribulations.

Every day we achieve small victories that we do not give ourselves credit for. If your monthly bills have ever been larger than your paycheck yet you have still managed to keep the utilities on in your home then you've had a victory. If your man has left you with kids that he doesn't support but you still manage to keep them fed and clothed then you've had a victory. If you grew up in the ghetto and you don't have a criminal record or a drug habit than you've had a victory. Check your own win/loss column and see which one is greater. I bet you have far more checks in the win column than the loss column. So why worry about what life will throw at you next? You have proven yourself capable of handling the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune come what may. So don't worry about what happens if you fail. If you fail you can go back to the drawing board or you can sit there crying in your beer while your life spirals the drain.

In the fight game we never take a young champion seriously until he's had his first defeat because anyone can be a front runner. It's easy to be happy and confident when you've never lost. A true champion is the one who can rise from the ashes of defeat, who can come back from a loss stronger and more educated. Because if he steps back into that ring filled with worry and insecurity you can bet that he's going to get his ass kicked again. If you approach life filled with worry and insecurity I can assure you that you too will get your ass kicked. Fear is the enemy. Coward = loser. Every last one of those guys you see begging for food were guys who did not have the courage to face life. They ran from it into a bottle, a crack pipe, a hypodermic needle or a bottle of pills or they just ran right onto skid row. They let their fear and self-pity defeat them. Giving up the fight is the only real defeat.

When Spartan parents sent their kids off to war they had a saying, "Come back with your shield or on your shield" To win or to die trying was equally honorable. All that mattered was the bravery you showed on the battlefield. So don't worry. Be calm, be patient, be prepared, be confident, and be happy whether you win or loose. All that matters is that you were brave in the attempt.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

We're Slippin'

Look, despite what many may think, I am not the most racially sensitive guy in the world. I enjoy racial jokes as much if not more than the next guy. In fact, I've got one for ya.

"Why are Black people so tall?"

"Because they're Knee-grows."

See, even I think that shit is funny. I don't trip over some benign stereotypes. I've even been known to encourage a few. Like the one about Black men having larger penises. I have no problem at all with this stereotype. I like chicken and watermelon too. But if I were coming to your house for dinner and you served chicken and watermelon just because you knew a Black guy was coming for dinner then we'd have a problem. Why do I bring this up? The Shane Mosley Fernando Vargas fight.

I was sitting in my living room with my buddy Brian and his wife. The fighters were in their dressing rooms warming up. Max Kellerman walks into Fernando Vargas' dressing room for a pre-fight interview. Everything is going rather predictably. There's the usual questions about fight strategy and his feelings about the significance of the fight then Max asks Fernando about whether he and Shane are friends and if it will be difficult fighting a friend. Fernando answers that he knows Shane but they aren't really friends. He says, "It's not like I'd call him up and ask him if he wants to go out for sushi." at which point max Kellerman interjects with, "Tamales." He actually pulled the microphone away from Fernando right after the word sushi left his mouth to correct him.

My jaw dropped. I looked over at my friend Brian to see if my ears had perhaps deceived me and I'd somehow misinterpreted what the commentator had said. Surely he hadn't pulled the microphone away from Fernando Vargas on world-wide pay-per-view to correct him for suggesting that a Mexican would be eating sushi instead of tamales. I just knew that I hadn't seen that. But that's exactly what had happened. What was even more surreal was that no one else seemed to notice including Fernando himself. He skated right past what to me was an obvious racially biased remark and continued the interview as if nothing had happened.

What's even weirder than that was that Brian and I could not wait to get on the internet to see everyone flip out about what Max Kellerman had said. For weeks afterwards we checked, we checked the sports threads on and Black Voices. Not a peep. Are you kidding me? I'm not even Latino and I was offended.I was waiting to see if he'd go into Shane's dressing room and ask him the same question and when Shane answered that it wasn't like he and Fernando went out for martinis he would interject with, "Shlitz malt Liquor". Or if Shane were to say that after the fight he'd invite Fernando over for some of his wife's meatloaf if Max would correct him with "chittlins".

I tried to think back to another time in history when that comment could have sailed past with so little notice and had to go all the way back to the seventies. If Max had spit some garbage like that in the nineties he'd have wound up being murdered in effigy in a Public Enemy video. If he'd have tried it in the eighties Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Minister Farrakan would have called for a nationwide boycott of boxing and set up a picket line on his front lawn. Or at the very least Bill Cosby would have done a show about it with some nice little moral about not judging a book by its race. In the new millennium it's no big deal. Have we conquered racism so utterly that we can afford to let little stereotypical comments like that slide or are we just slippin'?

I hear white people laugh about Dave Chappelle's "Nigger Family" skit and actually use the word nigger when relaying the episode. Could you imagine one of your co-workers relaying something he heard on an Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor album back in the eighties and actually using the word nigger as he did his Mudbone impersonation without getting his ass kicked like he'd slapped your momma? White boys say nigga this and "My niggaz" that like it was cool or something and no one seems to trip. I don't care whether they are talking about themselves, one of their homeboys they grew up with who happens to be black, or just reciting rap lyrics, saying that shit around me will get your ass kicked as well it should.

White house press secretary Tony Snow called racism "no big deal" and intimated that it was little more than an ugly memory. Just because we aren't getting lynched every day and we can vote and use the same toilets as white people doesn't mean that we have suddenly become equal. There are still more Black people in jail than in college. We still make up a disporportionate number of the death row population. Most of us still don't have health insurance. Those of us with solid careers are still banging our heads against the glass ceiling. And don't even bother naming the exceptions. They are so notable because they are exceptions. Name the number of Black or Latino CEOs on the fortune five-hundred list and if you can get past Oprah and the CEO of Pepsi without Googling it I'd be surprised and even then you'd probably only add another two or three names to the list.

We ain't equal folks. Not yet. Racism is still a great big fucking deal. I still get stares when i walk into a nice jewelry store or clothing store and White people still come up to me to ask if I'm a football player or basketball player in search of an explanation for why I'm buying a thousand dollar ring without applying for credit and why I don't want the bigger one with the bagget diamonds "Just like P-Diddy wears."

The stereotypes are still there and they are still damaging. Just because 50 Cent has the top selling album in the country doesn't mean he won't get harassed by the cops for driving while Black in an expensive automobile that uppity-negras shouldn't be able to afford without selling drugs or car-jacking it from some fine upstanding white person. Just ask Wesley Snipes and Blair Underwood. Driving a nice car while Black is still a crime in this country. Watch your ass Fitty.

But I'm straying from the point. We as minorities are getting so timid due to the white backlash against charges of racism and the fear of being accused of playing the race card that we are starting to let too much slide. What if every time a woman filed a sexual harassment suit we accused her of playing the sex card or every time a homosexual cried foul for not being aloud to adopt a kid even though he had a nice home, a good job and a clean record, we accused him of playing the sexual orientation card? This is all silly. Racism does exist. It is alive and well. And every minority, racial, cultural, sexual, or otherwise, should feel free to point it out whenever and wherever they see it. If I see Max Kellerman any time soon I will definitely call him on that "Tamales" comment and if he has anything to say about it I'll kick his lily white ass. In the meantime I'm calling up Fernando Vargas and Shane Mosley. The sushi is on me boys.