Sunday, June 29, 2008

Didn't Sleep Lastnight

Surely it is the question--not the statement--which defines me.

Friday, October 5, 2007

And I Feel Fine (The End of the World Blog)

I was thinking about the end of the world. Which is stupid, I know. Weird, definitely, I know. Depressing, at least. I know. On the other hand, I've come to think, maybe it's good for me to think about those things every once in a while. Not to get sucked into that whole mess of thought; but to graze it, maybe, just enough to get a cross-reference for where I am in life, and for where I want to be.

When I think about the end of the world, the apocolypse, the second-coming for some, a lot of things come to mind: Movies for one (Land of the Dead, On the Beach, and of course everyone remembers Armageddon. The epitome of shameless blockbusters. With Liv Tyler. She's hot. And Ben Affleck. He cries. Which is weird. And Bruce dies. Which should've been sad.). I think of all the Bible stories I was told as a kid (People disappearing, mass destruction, a dude called the Anti-Christ being the biggest punk... EVER.) I think of popular songs (I can only remember two right now: The classic It's the End of the World As We Know It by REM and the latest tried-and-true radio-friendly hit from Matchbox Twenty, How Far We've Come). The last couple days has also brought thoughts of a certain video game (I think you might've heard of Halo 3? What better way to experience mankind's last days than to do it kicking ass?)

What most of these things have in common is their unwavering portrayal of mass chaos, things blowing up, people dying, etc. Don't get me wrong; I'll be damned (pardon the pun) if I don't get at least a few good explosions and someone maybe getting knocked unconscious or something, before I die. But really? The scariest moment in history is going to be the same thing we've seen (albeit on a smaller level) in human history for thousands of years? Something maybe only a little worse than what some random geek at Bungie Studios could simulate with the latest in consumer technology?

I mean no disrespect for those who have seen and known the horrors of war (or for that matter, the geek at Bungie), but somehow it seems a little anti-climactic that our final moment is going to be the "same ol' same ol'," just on steroids and everywhere.

I had a couple near-death experiences growing up. One was a close call with a drunk driver speeding down the wrong lane in the dead of night. Aside from my friend squealing in the seat next to me, the most distinct memory I have of that moment is me thinking, "God. This isn't as scary as I thought. Maybe dying's not the worst thing that could ever happen to me." Yeah, it'd suck. But if you're a Christian, you get the whole eternal life basket, complete with unending euphoria and long discussions with the likes of Gandhi and Moses. If you're an atheist, you get the tricky prize of nothingness. That is, you lose everything you've ever loved or worked for or enjoyed on some level; but you also lose the ability to regret that loss, or in any way reflect upon it. Really, the worst part about dying is who you leave behind; and if everybody's dying, what's the big deal?

I know, I know. I'm belittling something that that is very serious and very inevitable and very difficult to deal with if you're the one left behind. I know, because I've lost friends and grandparents, too, and it blows to lose something that you never again have the choice to even try to get back. Death, in that sense, is not something for the dying to experience, but rather for the living (is that a quote?). Even still, we recover. There are worse things, I think.

Pain. Suffering. Yes. But still, psychologically, we find ways to cope.

So what's the one thing that trumps everything else, that's so vital to each of us that it makes the apocolypse more terryifying than anything we've ever known? Our soul.

"Armageddon is inside of all of us." If that's not a classic rock lyric already, it should be. The worse thing that could be thrown at me isn't a hurling ball of flame, or a bullet, or an asteroid the size of Texas. It's something that tears at who I am, that disintegrates my desire to be human. Something that gets under my skin. Something undefinable.

That, to me, is the end of the world. All the chaos and mass destruction, but focused inward. And that, to me, is more terryifying than death.

So live well. Don't be a punk.

Right, so now I've either bored you or depressed you or both, and I apologize. Sort of.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

This One Involves Four Freshmen (Or the Nighttime Tale of the Four Ghostbusters)

Earlier today I had an exchange with Peter that was completely innocent and playful but also, perhaps, a bit of entrapment in retrospect. He asked me today if I "wanted to go," and I said, "Yeah, let's go. A duel." He was still acting the mock-tough-guy, and challenged with, "Name a time and place." And I replied, "Tonight. The stroke of midnight. In the potato patch. I gotta go call my posse from Minnesota first." "I'll be there," he said, to which I turned serious again with, "You better not be, Pete. Seriously. Because you really don't want to get caught out and about after curfew at this point." On second thought, he would be the type up for a late night adventure.

So, around 11:57 pm I decided to take a walk, as I sometimes do at this time of night, and found myself perched on the upper half of the hill above the varsity soccer field. I had remembered my exchange with Peter, but had finally determined he wasn't foolish enough to actually be exactly where I told him not to be, exactly when I told him not to be there. The purpose of my walk, in fact, was not that at all, but to merely get some fresh air without the distraction of my room.

After about ten minutes, my thoughts began to lie on the mist and the pale moonlight that stretched out over the hill, randomly entwined with the shadows of apple trees and other unknown objects, and it came to my attention how eerie the whole scene was. And my imagination began to churn. I remembered something Mr. de Sousa Costa had told me about another student dreaming of my untimely demise in the potato patch, and I made a mental note not to venture too near the place after dark. At that moment I heard a noise from somewhere down near the soccer field. My first impression was that someone had broken into the equipment shed.

I waited another few minutes, quiet and absolutely still, peering through the darkness toward the source of the "sound." Eventually, I began to make my way down the hill and across the field. Several times I thought I heard a rustling of movement or hushed whisper, but I likened all of it to the general noise of my imagination. I reached the shed, checked the lock, and briefly searched the perimeter, but saw no one. A little embarrassed at my apparent ability to synthesize noises in my head, I turned back and retreated up the hill.

Upon reaching the point where I had heard the noise before, I turned around and peered once more into the darkness, if only to be sure I had not been duped by a couple of adolescents. Moderately satisfied, I turned once again to finish my walk, but the noise came a second time, exactly as it had the first. Throwing aside the possibility that I might be going crazy, I stood and watched and began to devise a plan of drawing the late night adventurers out into the open. It wasn't hard to think like a high school student, as I had been one just two years prior. I deduced that, if they had indeed seen me walking down the hill towards them, they would wait until the first moment I was out of sight, then make a break for Bertha, using the edge of the woods as cover. I moved to counter.

The road leading to St. Mary's and St. Fidelis' Halls reminded me of a scene right out of Sleepy Hallow, which did little to soothe my nerves, especially since I was so concentrated on interpreting all the creaks and groans and rustling in the shadows as being either the wind or perpetrators. I stopped only once, and looked back out over the half of the soccer field that was still visible, to see if they had gathered their wits and doubled back around me. It looked like they hadn't. So I continued to the top of Bertha and found an ideal place for waiting, tucked away in the shadows of the south east entrance to St. Mary's. I was gambling on the idea that their haste would bring them right to me, or at least past me, as there was a possibility they might be upperclassmen going to their own dorm across campus.

Before long the rustling started to become louder and more distinct, and less like the product of my imagination. Soon the commotion was punctured by the ill-contained excitement of voices. I slunk further into the shadows. Finally the group had grown close enough that I could make out words and phrases; one student was exclaiming that he knew he saw something and that he was going straight back to dorm. A few others were responding to this simultaneously, though I could not decipher any of their individual responses. By then they were passing only a few feet from where I stood, continuing up between St. Mary's and St. Fidelis'.

At that point something strange happened. My heart began pounding heavily in my chest with the "excitement of the chase," and I worried fleetingly if I was going to make a complete fool of myself when I had finally executed the final strategy. I pondered briefly if this was how Mr. Lou felt before a big bust, or if I would ever be worthy enough to attain his mantle of "campus Ninja." Embarrassed once again, I pushed these thoughts from my head and prepared myself. Another student was acknowledging how close they had come to getting caught. The moment seemed right.

I casually moved out from where I had been hidden, placing myself immediately behind the group. "Gentlemen," I spoke solemnly, to their utter horror and amazement. They turned. I recognized all of them as freshmen, and sure enough, before his presence had even been know to me, Peter was gushing out an explanation of "ghost hunting" and briefly something like "Well, we were waiting for you in the potato patch." A stern look rescinded that comment, as I told him I hadn't thought him to be so foolish. "How did you find us?" they asked, to which I replied with a chuckle and a grin. They were quite apologetic from then on. I took them immediately to Mr. Sauceda, and the rest is--as they say--history.