The Lost Phenomenon

my 63n3r4710n l1v3d 1n 4 6l0r10u5 463 wh3r3 4 w0nd3rful, 4lb317 5h0r7-l1v3d, ph3n0m3n0n w45 b07h b0rn. l3375p34k w45 7h3 l4n6u463 0f 4 5ub537 0f y0u7h, 4n 4r71f4c7 0f 7h3 4d0l35c3nc3 b37w33n 7h3 63n3r4710n wh1ch cr3473d c0mpu73r5 4nd 7h3 63n3r4710n 7h47 w45 r4153d by 7h3m. w3 d1dn’7 51mply 7yp3 “b00b135” 1n c4lcul470r5, n0r d1d w3 h4v3 4cc355 70 7h3 v457 4rr4y 0f kn0wl3d63 4v41l4bl3 0nl1n3. n0, 50m30n3 51mply 0b53rv3d 7h47 50m3 l3773r5, numb3r5, 4nd 5ymb0l5 l00k3d 51m1l4r… 4nd w3 cr3473d 0ur 0wn 537 0f h13r06lyph5. 17’5 4 5m4ll 7h1n6, un1mp0r74n7 1n 7h3 6r4nd 5ch3m3 0f 7h3 un1v3r53. bu7 f0r 7h3 p30pl3 b0rn 1n 7h3 463 0f cd-r0m5 4nd d14l-up 1n73rn37, 1n 7h3 3r4 0f 41m 4nd my5p4c3, l3375p34k d0m1n473d 7h3 l4nd5c4p3.

[Translation: My generation lived in a glorious age where a wonderful, albeit short-lived, phenomenon was both born. Leetspeak was the language of a subset of youth, an artifact of the adolescence between the generation which created computers and the generation that was raised by them. We didn’t simply type “BOOBIES” in calculators, nor did we have access to the vast array of knowledge available online. No, someone simply observed that some letters, numbers, and symbols looked similar… and we created our own set of hieroglyphs. It’s a small thing, unimportant in the grand scheme of the universe. But for the people born in the age of CD-ROMs and dial-up internet, in the era of AIM and MySpace, leetspeak dominated the landscape.]

Butterflies and Bullies

First time I’ve talked about this in years.
 
I was bullied.
 
In first and second grade, three older kids would pick on me. They would slam my head into the monkey bars. They would push me in the mud. They would shove me, punch me, and kick me. They would laugh at me when I cried. Two of them were twins. Taller, white, short hair and lots of freckles. The other one was shorter with brown skin… Latino or Asian.

I was a pretty sheltered, innocent kid. I didn’t comprehend what was happening. I didn’t have the tools to stop it. I didn’t have the Psychology doctorate I have now. I didn’t understand the dynamics of power. I didn’t understand topics like intergenerational transmission of abusive behaviors. I didn’t understand compassion or empathy or mindfulness.

All I understood were heroes and villains. There were no heroes to save me from these villains.

I honestly don’t remember much more about the incidents. They would happen either at 10 am recess, lunchtime, or during after school care. Usually, it happened by the space-ship shaped monkey bars in the corner of the yard, by the red wooden fort that gave everyone splinters.

It leads to interesting thoughts about bullying. A dichotomous view of the situation.

On one hand, I sympathize with them. Something is going wrong in their lives, and they’re taking it out on others. Power, or abuse, or learned behaviors. Drug use in the family, or socioeconomic factors. I want to help them. I want to understand. I entered the field of Psychology because I truly believe that people can change. Heal. Grow.

On the other hand, I feel the need for justice that permeates through our culture. I feel hunger for the sick pleasure of vengeance when somebody receives their comeuppance. I feel the need to defend the innocent…

but aren’t bullies innocent too…

…victims of bullying. The kids who are shoved into lockers and have their money stolen and…

come home to broken families…

…get beaten…

they get beaten…

…for no reason…

no reason at all.

There are also bullies of privilege. Kids who grow up feeling superior because they were taught to be that way…

they were taught to be that way…

and have no reason to view the world in a different light.

One hand wants to reach out. The other wants to throw a punch. Yes and no, love and hate, vengeance and forgiveness… all these things swirl in my head. The movies and books and TV shows all taught me that it was black and white. Bad guy, good guy. Evil, providence. Bully, hero.

I wish it were still that easy.

I don’t know where those guys are now. I don’t care to find out. Part of me hopes they’re living happy lives, and teaching their children to love and care and foster friendships.

Part of me hopes they’re dead.

Life is complicated, isn’t it?

The Hearth and the Expanse

It’s 2 am. I wake up in five hours. I should be asleep, but I’m hooked on the website KickAssFacts.com. It’s a trivia website, the type of site where you learn pieces of irrelevant yet interesting information that will in no-way serve a purpose other than the temporary rush of endorphins the brain releases when it learns something new. In a way, I’m binging on my favorite drug: Knowledge.

One of the pieces of information is about Bob Hope.

"Surprise me" were the last words of the 100 year-old, legendary comedian Bob Hope, responding to his wife's question regarding where he would like to be buried.
[Image from Kickassfacts.com]

Like most things I encounter at 2 am in the morning (internet memes, cockroaches in the kitchen, odd noises in the parking lot), it made me think about my life. I wondered… where would I like to be buried when I die? Eh. I don’t think burial is for me. I wouldn’t want an embalmed burial because I don’t like the idea of being stuffed with sawdust and formaldehyde. I’ve been to various open-casket funerals, and the bodies are just too artificial. The face isn’t quite right, either because it’s collapsed slightly… barely noticeably unless it’s a face you’ve looked at every morning since your birth. Or it’s the coloration, a place where the make-up covered up an all too familiar blemish. Plus, I don’t like the idea of being dead and naked in front of a stranger shoving tubes into me and draining my organs.

I’ve entertained the idea of a non-embalmed burial. That I would return to the Earth from which I came, my corpse a multivitamin of various organic compounds to be recycled and turned into… I don’t know… soil that grows a crop that’s eaten by the future generation. It’s an idea both romantic and macabre.

Cremation is how I’d like to go. I understand that, with cremation, your ashes are often accidentally mixed with a few remaining particles from past cremations. My ashes will have a little bit of Bob and a little bit of Sally in them, along with the cardboard coffin they use to contain the body before its fiery disintegration. I kinda like that idea. The afterlife might be lonely, and it would be nice to have Bob and Sally along for the ride.

Yeah, we’ll go with a cremation.

The next order of business is the final location of the ashes. A lot of people keep them in urns… but I’ve seen far too many sitcoms to know I’ll end up in somebody’s chocolate milk. No, I’d like my ashes spread somewhere. Maybe over the ocean, or over a forest, or in a hearth as a fire roars and warms the family as they remember my life. Again, romantic and macabre.

A dominant portion of me wants my ashes to be launched into space. I have this weird quirk, in that I look at the moon and I promptly become sad. You see, the moon is something I have looked at every night of my life (except for New Moons, obviously). I know it’s there. I’ve seen pictures of its surface. I see it affect the tides and, rather subjectively, my mood. But I know I can never set foot on it. I will never, in my lifetime, obtain even a slight chance to visit. I can’t say that about other places on Earth. Most locations, no matter how remote, are a plane ticket or cruiseline away. But the moon… she is forever just out of my reach. And the same for the stars. And the planets that orbit them. There is so much in this vast universe to see, more than is comprehensible by my limited mind, that is just saddens me.

Ah, but if my ashes were sent into space… oh the things I would see! I imagine myself, as particles of carbon dust, drifting in a million different directions. Part of me might land on Saturn. Part of me might pass through to another galaxy. Part of me may burn up in the atmosphere of an alien planet light years away, entering another ecosystem that human beings will never set eyes on. What a thought! The ultimate adventure for a life after death, to wander the great expanse as a formless vagabond.

And yet, as I think about it… and write about it… now, at 2:23 am in the morning… I have tears in my eyes.

Because it would be so lonely.

Wandering the universe… floating in every direction… leaving a life I’ve cultivated over years of existence. The freedom of it is alluring, but also frightening. Human beings might search for their entire lives looking for a home… and here I am, wanting to leave whatever home I may have created at my time of death.

I ask myself the question now. A question about my values. Do the ashes stay in the hearth, close to the ones I love and knowing that they continue my legacy? Do the ashes spread across the planet, allowing me to return to the ecosystem that birthed my ancestors from the deep, primordial sea? Or do I launch into the Great Expanse on a lonely but breathtaking adventure?

I suppose that’s the beauty of ashes.

I can do all of that.

1/3 of me can warm the family. 1/3 of me can return to the Earth. And 1/3 of me can fly into space, seeing the things my mind wouldn’t be able to comprehend if it were still alive.

I like that idea.

Legacy Insurance

I’m lucky enough to be a full-time employee at a county-funded institution. They take good care of us, and in return I like to thing we provide a valuable quality service. A few days ago, I was sent a reminder email that my insurance benefits needed annual renewal.

Nothing stirs the existential anxiety quite like renewing insurance benefits. There’s health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, and life insurance. Paying money into these things begs the question: What happens if I get sick? What happens if I die? Obviously, my biggest concern is for those I love. The heartache and turmoil of those who depend on me for emotional and financial support. But also, what happens to my memory? What happens to my footprint?

It’s rather humbling to know that billions of people currently exist. Billions more have existed before us. And yet, we only remember a handful of them through the ages. As generations fade, we don’t remember even those in our bloodline. I know the name of my great grandfather… but I don’t know his hopes and dreams and fears. I don’t know if he was happy with his life, and what he did to cope if he wasn’t. I don’t know if he would be happy with where his lineage ended up… with a chubby man typing on a blog and eating Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies. Hmm, maybe it’s a good thing I opted-in for that life insurance.

You know what I’d like to see? An option for Legacy Insurance. I’d pay quite a bit of money to encapsulate whatever it is that makes the holistic me, and have it available to my progeny. A guarantee that your work in this life… the long nights, the stressful days, and the calloused hands… was worth something. That it benefited not only your children, but also your grandchildren. And their grandchildren. And so on. Insurance that, years from now when humanity is exploring the farthest depths of space in galaxies I can’t even begin to comprehend, they can look back at their Great Ancestor Billy and appreciate that he worked so hard to continue the family tree’s growth.

Yeah, I’d check that option. Legacy Insurance. It would come with an option for Domestic Partner, too. And if I click that option, it costs more money, but my descendants can also see how much my wife and I love each other. They’d appreciate the arguments we resolved, the pride we surrendered and the compromises we forged, in order to grow this family tree’s canopy. They’d know that their Great Ancestors cared for them before they were born… before they were even an idea.

I’m scrolling through the benefits page again. No Legacy Insurance. It makes sense, after all. We’re human beings. We mostly concern ourselves with the here and now. We’re a few steps in the future, a few steps in the past, but mostly planted firm in the present. I suppose that for now, my Legacy lives in whatever genes I’ve inherited and whatever values I pass down, no matter how they morph and adapt with the ever-shifting modern thought.

Still, it’s not a bad idea to consider.

Of Rot and Love

In the wake of the recent election, I have seen a war begin to brew. Not in the streets, nor in the air or the sea, but rather on modern estates of ownership: Facebook.

I fear I have witnessed the end of our civilization. Not by war, by bullets or bombs, nor factions and violence. But rather, by a fungus that threatens us from our very core. After all, a society isn’t a physical thing that can be destroyed. They bombed London, but she still stood proud. They took out our towers, but we still stood strong. Our modern materials are strong enough to withstand the greatest blast, but our hearts and minds are still vulnerable to the primordial rot of fear and non-sense. A rot that spreads to others. A rot that grows stronger within us. A rot that eats at our logic and destroys our sensibilities until we no longer seek to be community, but instead prey on each other for validation.

And the inoculation to this disease? Compassion. Understanding. Love. Even now, I can see you recoil, not unlike the way bacterium recoils when it is attacked by your leukocytes. And I understand. You don’t want love. You want safety. You, the war-worn and cynical reader, whose mind is riddled with wounds of confusion and whose heart is riddled with scars of betrayal. You, the reader who has grasped so tightly to your reality and its facts that it dismisses the simple notion of love as a bygone fantasy best left in the literature of a high school English text book.

Instead of understanding the other person, the other human soul who stands before us (if not in our very household, under the branches of our family trees), we justify our hatred. We set rhetorical traps, flaunt our ideologies, and taunt their responses behind an impenetrable armor of righteousness. All this is enabled by an incomprehensible amount of factors, varying in reach and severity, of which include: A media driven by profit and fueled by advertising time, philosophies which have taken to swords and shields in lieu of scholars’ caps, promises by charlatans with laurels on their head and the feet of vagabonds, and our very own insecurities.

We (the collective “we” including all my brothers, sisters, and variations thereof) are not soldiers on the battlefield. We are soldiers marching to it, dehydrated and parched and yearning for nutrition. Should we be flanked, the enemy will win because our core is compromised. How can we stand and fight for our beliefs if our own legs are weary from the journey? If the left leg and the right leg are at war? How can we expect this frail human form to house this precious soul if the very cells that make up the body squabble and bicker over their position in the body!? We are dooming ourselves before we even lay sight of the enemy, because it is this rot which has taken hold and made us nothing more than a self-loathing mass ready to self-destruct at the mere mention of an opposing view!

Unless…

Unless we inoculate ourselves with love.

San Diego Chargers

I had been a Chargers fan since some members of the team lived next to my family when I was a child. My mom tells stories of how they would play with me, or how she would talk with their wives about the massive dinners they would eat. I cheered for the Bolts through rain and shine… and the team had a lot of rainy seasons. But for the last few years, Spanos has alienated me from my team.

I understand the decision. In the end, the Chargers are a business. Spanos doesn’t own the Chargers for pride. He owns them for profit. But maybe that’s the problem. Maybe their revenue would have opened up if he appealed to the die hard San Diego fans. Maybe San Diego would have invested in a new stadium if Spanos had invested in San Diego. If he thanked us for our unwavering devotion, instead of scolding us for not approving a stadium. Maybe we’d have the SoCal version of the 12th Man, Raider Nation, and Cheeseheads… instead of everyone mocking the decision to leave.

Look, it’s no secret that San Diego doesn’t have the best sports teams. But we attend games anyway. We attend because we love our beautiful city. We’re the ocean, the beach, the mountains, and the desert all in one wide patch of land that makes the best damn California Burritos in California.

Chargers, I hate break-ups. I cheered for you. I cried for you. I sat in the seats of Jack Murphy before it was Qualcomm. I remember the hype in ’94, when I was in third grade and we had Chargers’ themed arts and crafts (we made lightning bolt decals). I’ve been there for Humphries and Brees and Rivers… and yes, even Leaf. I’ve watched LT run, pass, jump, and fly. I’ve stomped my feet with Merriman after a sack while screaming “Lights out!” I’ve watched Seau make ’em say ow… while eating Hawaiian-themed burgers at his restaurant in Mission Valley.

And I always marked out at the powder blues.

The last few years were rough. I had lost faith. But we can’t put it off forever. Move to a new city. It’s a beautiful city. I was born in that city. I lived for a year in that city. It’s a city of hope and promise. I hope you treat it well.

For the last thirty years of my life, I was charged up.

But now, it’s time to power down.

Thank you for the memories.

#SanDiegoChargers

The Rock

I just watched The Rock’s “Year in Review” on Instagram. I don’t have an Instagram. I don’t understand Instagram. Instagram is like Facebook without words… just like Twitter is Facebook lite. Maybe it’s an artifact of my age, but Facebook is the gold standard for me right now. Well, Facebook at this blog (I only said that to not hurt this blog’s feelings).

The Rock had an amazing 2016. Movies, performances, and promotions. Meanwhile, I’m sitting at a messy desk contemplating if I should do my whimpy 15 minute workout (which consists entirely of Just Dance on the Wii U), or buy groceries (we need butter to make cookies, which is in direct contradiction to my whimpy 15 minute workout which consists entirely of Just Dance on the Wii U).

2017 just rolled around, and I filled myself with optimistic promises. I would come out of the gate swinging. I would charge forward and make this year a better one… a more successful one… the Year of Billy. But here I am, watching The Rock on the internet and contemplating what type of butter I should get. I like Land o Lakes, but my wife likes Kerrygold.

It all makes me feel so… unaccomplished. The dreams I had as a kid are remaining dreams as an adult. I blame a lot of it on “peaking early.” 2013-2015 were an exciting time for me. I traveled the world. I got published for the first time. I achieved my doctorate. I was on top of the world. I was popular… a veritable Rock in my little circles. But now what? I need to pull a Robert Downey Junior or a Shawn Michaels… come back and be bigger than before.

It’s hard to do that when you’re contemplating butter.

Well, I need to get to the grocery store. The people-taking-our-parking-spot to people-being-civilized ratio goes up as night falls. I really want to end this post with some sort of optimistic send-off… that I’ll make 2017 my bitch or something.

Instead, I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m going to buy butter. I’m going to come home and do my whimpy 15 minute workout which consists entirely of Just Dance on the Wii U. I’ll sit at my computer and write a few chapters of a novel or screenplay… not for success, but to push away the creeping thoughts of inadequacy. Of Not-Being-The-Rock. Of everything being downhill and never achieving the modest level of notoriety I once had.

I’ll go to sleep.

I’ll wake up.

I’ll go to work.

Then I’ll repeat the process again.

(Except the buying butter part. We don’t need that much butter).

 

 

2016

The many celebrity deaths in 2016 serve as inspiration. When I go, I want to be remembered just as fondly. I want them to say I inspired them. Made them laugh. Made them cry. I want to die knowing that the human specie is better for having had me in it.