28.5.15

(Farcical) Stories from the Radical Anarchist Underground: "Jon Inselton"

Jonathan Ernst Inselton (Born: 25/11/1974; Gaylord, MN)

     

   Deep down, Jon always wanted to be cool. Jon, sadly, was not very cool, at least he never felt that way.  To give an emblematic example from his childhood, his mother, to his eternal shame, insisted on shrieking “Joooonnathaaaan,” in her atrociously thick New York accent (however withered by Minnesotan winters), always at the worst time, which seemed to be every time anyone else was around.  Jon didn't ache to be accepted within the social scene that made up his small town, which he often described as "vapid and depraved." On the contrary, he always felt that acceptance by the "in crowd" at his school or at the local hang outs would have secured his eternal "lameness," but that didn't make it any easier.  His attitude toward his peers is largely what made him such an outsider, though he could never understand how his disdainful sarcasm and open mockery of others would be so unappreciated.

As a preteen, growing up on Penn Avenue, by the southeast corner of Titlow Lake, he would spend whole weekends alone, in the graveyard across route 22, brooding in his (mostly) self-imposed solitude. A few years later, though he could have sworn he had felt decades, he was doing pretty much the same thing, only at that point he was usually smoking.  What else was there to do, really? I mean, it’s not like much happened in Gaylord.   Either you like hockey, TV or something else that Jon thought was lame, which he didn’t, so he spent most of his free time (which was limited by his parents' authoritarian "family management plan") getting high on the crap he got from the old “radicals” who lived in a mini-socialist camp/squatter settlement—“undiscovered since the 60’s”—or so they said; they had a few tarps stretched between trees with some well worn tents in the woods that separated the cemetery from the lake.  Bear in mind that this “mini settlement" was really just the three of them—Randy, Horace and “Tulip,” as he demanded Jon call him.  It was entirely unclear if they had ever really been radical in any way, though Horace was still pretty good on a skateboard, if that counts.  Thing was, it didn't matter to Jon: they didn’t make him feel uncomfortable, so he preferred their company to just about anyone else. It seemed like a win-win to him and the feeling was mutual: he listened to their stories and they fed his disgust for humanity with subtle gestures of contempt, as well as flippant (and very stoned) rants about their pet peeves of the week—Pederast Priests and their pervert friends in city hall; all those damned kids drowning out reality with their Walkman-CD players; professional sports....ESPECIALLY the (FUCKING!) Twins general manager trying to force all good Minnesotans to commit suicide just so he can cash in on his coffin investments, etc.. 
Jon would have ignored their nonsense rants all together were it not for the occasionally semi-coherent (faux) philosophical diatribes about capitalism and the flaws with society in general, which—despite their being decidedly half baked in these barely plausible iterations; all in all their grudges helped soothe his angst by justifying his disdain. 

   By the time he was ready to either drop out of high-school or shoot himself he ran into LSD and everything changed; with each psychedelic "breakthrough," which everyone else called psychotic episodes, one of which was even legally classified as an overdose, his level of scorn grew, while his ideas pushed him toward a radically post-Nietzschean and hyper–Machiavellian incarnation of Diogenese of Sinope in the late 20th century.  He was a soul reveling in the nihilism of his derision, not unlike a dog at his dish full of cheese; his ferocity was basking in hatred, hoping that his thirst for carnage would eventually, not to mention profoundly, be sated.  All of this before the age of 16.


It’s unclear whether Randy, Horace or Tulip were aware of what they were doing to the tender soul that was Jon Ernst Insleton, but even if they were it wouldn’t have made any difference; by the time Jon left Gaylord it was already far too late for reform. Reason be damned, he was going to light the match and watch the world burn.

  Almost everything people did irritated him, to the point where—even as a 38 year old, mind you—he all too often acted like some 16 year old prick with a drunkard for father and a whining bitch for a mother: (that’s right) a nervous man-child, hiding behind a chip on his shoulder, all the while smack in the middle of a shit storm.  He couldn’t stand the way the weather girl on the local TV was so cute; how people paid extra money for “doggie bags” to clean up after their freakishly cute pups instead of just using newspaper bags; or how all the girls talked about were the boys, and all the boys talked about was how the girls didn’t like the sports teams; he knew it was shallow, but he couldn’t change how it made him fume.  At the top of his list, though, unquestionably highest among all of (the many) other things that pissed him off, something that literally could not have bothered him more, was the way that everyone (it seemed)—whether during casual or professional conversation—with men and women alike—would make some weak effort not to stare at his lazy eye, but would inevitably go back to it with their gaze (in a way that he was convinced conveyed “a malicious and sadistic sneer of condemnation and shame,” or so he admitted, once, in an A.O.L. chat-room for “outcasts and misfits” under the screen name “EatPoopDude”). The unexpressed, and yet unequivocal embarrassment seared into his ego as surely as a cattle farmer’s brand, every time burning a deeper scar, one that he would use nourish his distaste for humanity.   He officially started his personal campaign to destroy, if not at the very least disrupt and severely inconvenience, the status-quo on May 1st, 1988:
While on a campout with his neighbors cousins at the lake: while they sat around a fire, with the (drunken) older kids “droppin’ knowledge” on the younger family members and associated  “youngins,” a hodgepodge of crap which was so awful that the twelfth comment about “keepin’ it real” put him over the edge, not merely because of their pre-pubescent idiocy, but really due to the stink of their farce: the adopted mannerisms, lifted from their rurally sheltered, shockingly white-supremacist-leaning distortion of hip-hop, was so nauseating that he literally vomited a gulp of the financial-light garbage (aka, shit American beer, which—in this case—was actually called “Red, White and Brew”) which they had so graciously supplied, and he simply couldn’t take it.  He made up some excuse and snuck off into the woods to smoke a joint. 
  While sitting out on the water he realized that putting up with such abominations of human intellect was tantamount to complicity and in an epiphany of self-awareness (unlike any he had ever experienced) he finally admitted that he was unwilling to play that role.  He waxed aimlessly over how it was precisely this passivity that The Man (as Randy and his dodgy cohorts had always referred to any authority figure, whether a police officer or a school teacher) so desperately needed him, and the rest of the herd, to swallow--hook, line & sinker--for the rest of their lives--in order for the status quo’s “illuminated idea of perfection” keep itself afloat. In his newly adopted discordant role he found himself empowered and was enthralled.  It was the first time he had felt such a decidedly sexual attraction to a concept, or anything for that matter.  He actually wanted to fuck his own ideas about the way he could, and would, tear down the common-nonsense delusions of “taboo” and “good-taste,” and it made him wet in a way he had never experienced; it was border line mystical.  
The joint burned his fingers as it went out, along with with Jon, next to his tent to the side of the rabble.  But make no doubt,  his mind had been made up: he was a “revolutionary” now, whatever that meant in his post-modern age of Reagan and Yuppies and cocain.
 That said, by the time he was a card carrying member of what would be a sad collection of “asocials associated” kind of groups, he had already begun to realize that he was unlike many of his perceived co-conspirators and that his salvation was no nearer. 

   The other "agitators," activists, REAL patriots, or at least many of them, espoused a deep seated discomfort with the main stream, and many of them plotted to "enlighten the masses" through half hearted civil disobedience campaigns, pamphlets and sticker bombing (remember, this was before the emergence of the blogosphere), but their "rage" was so hollow.  Most of their "schemes" never got further than a few pages jotted down in their loose-leaf notebooks and—at their corniest—plans for a group tattoo to “bring it all together, man.”  Despite all the talk and a few good times, deep down he knew that, yet again, he was apart, but this time it was even worse than before: when he was younger he had always felt hated, but nonetheless, or maybe therefore, superior. His disdain was justified by the banality of what he witnessed from the masses.  This time, though, his frustrations were no longer due to qualities that he could defiantly take pride in, without the burden of anguish, for now even those who he looked up to thought he was a weirdo and the things he despised were the same things he was saying, only he was "the real radical." This time, even though it was the very same contrarianism that had brought him to these people, it was the “partners” who he had so hopefully believed were on board with the program who had broken his dreams and this pain and dejection went straight to his core.  In their actions he saw nothing less than betrayal. Violations of the very spirit of the movement as he so clearly perceived it, and he was devastated by their shallowness and egoism. Their rejection of his radicalism as "creepy," of all things!, wounded him severely and-- despite their pleas--this only strengthened his resolve. 

He resented how it was just a game for many of these sniveling little turds, or worse yet another notch in a series of popularity contests for some trust-fund babies from the Upper West Side. He came to loathe them as much as the brainwashed masses that the “revolutionaries” on the ultimate-Frisbee team had once professed to be steering to the “promised pasture,” which—of course—was nothing more than a new field filled with the same old bullshit. The fact of the matter was that Jon had never naively convinced himself that his beliefs and actions were aimed at an improved lot for the world.  His (former) “friends,” if diagnosable sociopaths like Jon Inselton could be said to genuinely have friends, really thought they were going to immanentize the eschaton of communist revolution and save humanity from itself; Jon, on the other hand, was bent on destruction and chaos at all levels: an hypocrisy-hating, order-loathing iconoclast of monumental proportions.  That’s how he saw himself, at least, and that’s all that mattered.

  

   His personal war against society raged from protest march to pamphlet pandering, mostly taking place in already gentrified neighborhoods that were amused by his antics until he didn’t leave a big enough tip at the coffee shop.  He moved around the central and northeastern parts of the United States, once going to Canada before being officially asked to leave and not return, and he attempted to sew dissent until he was killed on March 14th, 2012, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The events recounted here (as they were originally described by Walter Mintner, the man who shared a holding cell with Insleton in the 18th Police District headquarters at 55th and Pine in the hours leading up to his death and was the last person to see him alive), cannot technically be verified due to the sensitive nature of what transpired, but this is--apparently--what happened:


In Walter Mintner’s own words: 

“(Insleton) must of really been on some kinda heavy shit, or at least he seemed like he was, ‘cause he looked fuckin’ crazy, with his eyes all poppin’ out’a his head and shit, and he would not shut the fuck up! I mean for real, he just kept going on and on about how “the Man was to blame” –this, and “the damn Jews were running everything in Washington”-that, how he “killed those bastards, stashed their shit and called the cops just to fuck with their heads and get away clean” and shit.  I don’t know if it was really like he said, but it was a crazy as fuck story and I’m glad to tell it; wait, hey, you gonna put this in the paper or some shit? If you is, just don’t say it was me in here with him or my ol’ lady’ll flip the fuck out when she find out I was booked, again.  Anyway…”



“So, yeah, (Insleton) says he knows this guy that sells weed and dope and shit, maybe some fucked up hippie shit too, you know, like that acid or ‘shrooms or some shit, I think he said DMT, whatever the fuck that is, and that he’s some big shit dealer for the rich kids from (the Univeristy of) Penn(sylvania).  He said that he had had this plan all made up for a minute before he finally went and fucked them dudes up, and he was all fucking proud of himself for coming up with this BIG idea. Man, I think he was full of shit, like he was completely fucking sure that he was gonna get away with it and go get that “shit load of loot and shit,” even though he was sittin’ in lock up with me.  To be straight with you, I bet it was like $50 and a bag a wet, but I wouldn’t a told him that—cause’a how he had that crazy fucking look in his eye, for real, and I do NOT mess with crazy mother fuckers! At least not no more. Anyway… 

(Insleton) said he had been over to this guys house a few times to buy shit and that this mother fucker always had a Glock-9 sitting on the table at the top of the stairs, “ready for action—you know, just in case.” (Insleton) says he got this dude to trust him by buying a bunch a shit, but you know that fucking dealer didn’t trust shit…I mean, come on!, he kept a fucking piece sitting out so he could quick grab that shit and cap mother fuckers if shit went down…you know that mother fucker was on his own shit, and trust was not a part of it.  Anyway…  


He (
Insleton) says that he goes to this dudes house to pick up and starts chillin: he’s all like, “yo I smoked a fatty and drank their beer and shit, and when I thought they were all mellowed out I went to take a piss, which was up stairs, and I came down with the gun and shot the two dipshits on the couch so that the head dude would come after me, which—of course—he did, so I could shoot him right in his fat fucking head when he was at the bottom of the stairs.” He says it like he was all fucking proud, cause he thought it was all genius or some shit, cause this way he could tell the cops that the fucking dude flipped out and shot his two dumbass friends on the couch while he was taking a piss, and that he came down and just, you know, all Jackie Chan like and shit, took the gun from the mother fucker and shot him in self defense. I mean, like the fuckin’ cops would ever believe that kind of shit, right? 
But (Insleton) was fucking straight laced, like he was all on his own dick and shit, and that’s when he says he started a little fire of some of the dude’s shit (money and drugs) in the sink so that the cops think all the shit is done and he could, like, stash the rest of that shit under the back porch and pick it up when he got out, and he thought he best part was that the smoke would get the cops all types of fucked up and shit, you know—“just to fuck with their heads” he kept saying—but I think HE was the one that was all fucked up and shit.  He was talking like a fuckin’ nutter, and I swear his fuckin’ eyes were gonna pop the fuck out a his fuckin’ head.

Anyway…

(Insleton) says he did all this so that he could kill a fucking piece of shit dealer, steal his cash and shit, fuck with the cops and get away scott-fuckin’-free, but the cops pro’lly didn’t believe a fuckin’ word of his cracked ass story and they locked his ass up in here with me—and I ain’t even fuckin’ did nothing but try to get my dick wet! Whatever… Anyway…

Fuckin’, (Insleton) won’t shut the fuck up while he is in here.  He’s all yelling about the fuckin’ Jews and shit the whole fuckin’ time, I don’t even fuckin’ know what the fuck he was on about, and after a couple of hours or something the cop on duty just couldn’t take that shit anymore and started yelling back at him, like “shut the fuck up in there or I’m gonna come a shut you up!”; I bet he was fuckin’ Jew cop or something and that’s why he got a fucking stick up his ass and shit, but man he flipped the fuck out. After they was yelling at each other for a bit the cop gets the other mother fucker on duty and drags him, (Insleton) I mean, out of the cell and down the hall, screaming like a fuckin’ maniac and shit the whole fucking time; I couldn’t see or nothing, but I heard them beatin’ the shit out of him, and finally I see that other mother fucker walk past and get the American flag that they had out in the bookin’ room and come back, smiling like a mother fucker and shit, and after a minute or so it got all quiet and shit. 



Like I said, I couldn’t really see, but I heard the cops like gruntin’ and shit, like they was lifting something, and then I see them walk back with a bloody fucking flag pole that ain’t got no flag on it, and they was smiling like a fucking bunch a' bitches.  When they was gone I got over to the edge of the cell I was in and, shiiiiiiiit!, I could fuckin’ see a reflection in the window of the door at the end of the hall—I was like “Oh shit!” I mean, I don’t know for sure, but I swear I saw him hanging by his fucking neck from the American flag, with his fuckin’ pants off and fuckin’ blood and shit dripping from his fucking legs.  It was some nasty fucking shit, yo, real talk, and you know ain’t nothing gonna be done about it neither, right? Bullshit, if you ask me.

Crazy as he might a' been, ain’t nobody deserve nothing like that.”

The local media reported the death of Jonathan Ernst Insleton as the “much appreciated suicide of a traitor to the American way of life,” willfully ignoring the coroner’s report of rape and the obvious signs of battery, which would have undoubtedly lead one to assume, correctly, that it should have been treated as a homicide; needless to say, no criminal case was ever filed.   

   Jon Inselton was an anarchist of a rather crude sort. His flame burned, albeit not all that brightly, and--sadly--which is to say, much to his dismay--too much escaped the fire.

21.3.12

Freestyle Stone Skipping

(At "the Creek" in southern Maryland, USA, circa 2005)

I am a certifiably staunch supporter of stone skipping; I do it as often as possible, which is not often enough, and I hereby heartily encourage you to do the same.  It can be done almost anywhere in the world, it is free (except for time not spent doing potentially more lucrative things), and it is one of those simple pleasures in which all people could share, were they so inclined.  I have a funny feeling, though, that I am all but alone. Yes, I have convinced a few into coming with me to the creek from time to time and I have even managed to enthuse a still smaller few to the point where we now enjoy it mutually, but despite the fact that so many seem to enjoy it, I continue to struggle against the stream in my efforts to immerse people in the pleasures of which I preach: (Freestyle) stone skipping is easy to do, as it is to enjoy, but-- nonetheless--simple pleasures of this kind are hailed as "out of sync" with the current of our age, tending to sink rather than skip upon suggestion. (I'm sorry for all the horrible puns, not to mention those to come; I can't help myself.)  The following discourse, or diatribe, depending on your opinion, is this skipper's humble attempt at clear the waters and offer a better understanding of Stone Skipping and its merits.
***
I believe that people so often scoff at "the pleasure" of stone skipping, at least in part, comes from a set of misunderstandings about the "what" and "why" of a deceptively complex act. The "what" of stone skipping seems simple (i.e., throw a stone so that it skims across the surface of the water) but the totality of the act, including searching for suitable stones among a wide range of rocks, focusing on the task at hand and getting said stone to skip instead of sink, and--above all--judging the merits of the aforementioned skip in a consistent way, is decidedly more complicated than most realize or admit, and not just because they couldn't skip a stone more than three times if their life depended on it.  Indeed, there is a wide range of deceptively complicated activities that combine into the graceful simplicity of skipping a stone, but once you get the gist, it becomes as easy as 1-2-3(-4-5-6-7-etc).
-------
The "what" of stone skipping seems simple (i.e., throw a stone so that it skims across the surface of the water), but the totality of the act... is decidedly more complicated than most realize or admit, and not just because they couldn't skip a stone more than three times if their life depended on it.
-------
The "why," on the other hand, is decidedly more complicated, albeit as simple as "for fun," involving meditative practice, aesthetic and phenomenologically grounded concepts of enjoyment, and, to a certain extent, what can even be thought of as a spiritual embrace of "Buddah Nature" (बुद्ध प्रकृति {Bud'dha prakr̥ti}, or tathāgatagarbha, referred to here as represented in the Ratnagotravibhāga (5th century CE), which uses the term to refer to "an ultimate, unconditional reality that is simultaneously the inherent, dynamic process towards its complete manifestation,[1] whewrein mundane and enlightened reality are seen as complementary.[2]). I raise these esoteric notions not to scare away the feint of mind, but rather because many people have said that stone skipping is "pointless" and I strongly disagree: the pleasure of stone skipping in its fullness is a prime example of play, lauded for ages by sages, as well as what I call the "pleasure of concentration" (or what I have also heard talked about as Flow)--and since when has pleasure needed "a point"? Isn't pleasure, to a great extent, an end in and of itself? (I digress; I will save these questions for later so that I may adequately cover the topic at hand, namely that of Freestyle Stone Skipping.) The "what" of stone skipping is simple, the "why," in a profoundly significant inverse relationship, is complex, and the practice is an exercise in humility, grace and power.

Though some would say it is a stretch to talk about something like stone skipping in this way, clearly, I disagree. I have gone so far as to develop a set philosophical considerations (e.g., epistemological concerns, a complete ethical system, political/social philosophy and metaphysics, etc.) that will be addressed in a subsequent piece (The Philosophy of Freestyle Stone Skipping (still in the process as of June 2015)).

B
efore going much further into these notions about Freestyle Stone Skipping, it is important to point out that I
recognize and celebrates the full variety of what a stone can do when skipped, as well as the dynamic relationship one has with the river when skipping stones, which adds to the act of stone skipping to the point where it is no longer merely "kids' stuff" or "grandpa's favorite thing to do at the lake while camping."  This piece, however, while not delving as deeply into the (quasi)intellectual  side of my interests on the topic, will consider the significant aspects of Freestyle Stone Skipping as it contrasts with the more conventional sort, and sing its praises.  The act of skipping a stone, when done with a whiff of whimsy and creative contemplation, is as profound an act as any, and my enthusiasm is not meant to add value to it, but rather to reveal what is always already present under every stone gathered and with each stone skipped.


The following will go through the process sequentially, mentioning the significant aspects in each step of a stone being skipped, in the hope of both explaining and encouraging, and any references listed or implied should be followed up at your own discretion. 

******* ******* ******* ******* ******* ******* *******
Searching for Stones

The act of selecting stones, the first thing one does as a stone skipper, is an exercise in meditative focus and, with but the slightest embrace of Zen sensibilities, can be a useful tool for enlightenment. To be standing amidst a pile of stones that can number into the hundreds of thousands, looking for stones with very specific characteristics among the tumultuous and ever changing mass of a river bank, seems like it could be a prohibitively arduous exercise with which to begin. But, like many things in life, with patience and practice the search for stones becomes as enjoyable and gratifying as skipping those rocks turned stones shortly thereafter.* In time one learns to peruse the stones with such a precise sense of purpose that you only bend down for the best of the bed.


*- All stones are rocks, but not all rocks are stones: A rock in the bank of a creek is much like, although often smaller, than the stones that make up walls, bridges and homes. The difference between them is that rocks that have been chosen, and therewith given purpose, are metaphysically converted into stones. Therefore, each time you pick up a rock and think,"this will work well--I choose it," you have transformed that rock into a stone.


In order to process all that you are seeing as you scan the stones of of the riverbank for skippable specimens it is not only helpful to clear your mind of all extraneous thoughts, when one is fully focused on the search there is no room for thought and the mind is cleared. One enters into a trance-like state that takes over your perceptual powers--you often don't hear people call your name, or notice the cold (or heat) as much, and hours seem to pass in minutes--and the mind is cleared of all thoughts by the concentration necessary for the search. Focusing intently on something that seems so radically unrelated to the life-world that spins wildly around us, like skipping stones for no reason other than to see how well you can do it, is not only relaxing, but also gives us a chance to take a break from our lives and return to them anew having allowed our emotions and thoughts to settle before re-engaging ourselves as it exists away from the creek. I not only metaphysically change rocks into stones, I change myself when I skip stones--as we all do--and enter a world where rocks bounce on water and all is forever well. I re-immerse myself into the eternal tranquility of existence for the time that I search the stones. As I focus on my search I find something that was not sought after--or perhaps, something finds me. When I reduce my world to a bank of stones all that matters are the rocks, and in that time my mind wanders unconnected to "reality," free from worry--clear.
Some may be unwilling to accept that staring at a pile of rocks in the woods qualifies as a meditative experience that helps us realize our place in the world, but even if that is true, it still involves being out in nature, near the running water that assembles the stones and is the skipping surface, and can only be done with daylight. Since it is hard to see the stone skip in rain, and they won't skip on ice, stone skipping can only be done in fair weather, when it's not too cold, and the experience of being in nature is a wonder that never gets old, or at least I think it shouldn't.
*******
That we are allowed reprieve from life's unwanted stress, giving ourselves a chance to stop think about things while searching for impossibly subtle differences in stones, by default in nature on a nice day, is enough of a reason to satisfy a "why?" of stone skipping, but in addition there are morally and spiritually nourishing analogies to Freestyle stone skipping that take it from the kids game you remember having done with your Grandpa and turn it into something fresh.

******* ******* ******* ******* ******* ******* *******
Skipping Stones


With each stone skipped across the water we have an exercise in the acceptance of those things different, for no two skips are alike, and we also practice an impractical approach to life--which can be useful as a respite from stress. Unless everything has some kind of value, sometimes simply because it exists, there would be nothing to make spinning stones across water worthwhile. Freestyle stone skipping encourages us to see how everything, no matter how unconventional, has something that makes it special in a way that nothing else in the universe will ever replicate. Though we take something that is worth nothing, do nothing but spin it vigorously with our hand, and leave it in its original (worthless) state, we derive tremendous pleasure from a process with no product.



Freestyle stone skipping is often confused with it's predecessor--what I call Conventional stone skipping, which does not have the potency or profundity of freestyle. Though the difference between the two is very subtle and most will scoff at my distinctions, the power of freestyle stone skipping lies not only in how you spin your stone, but how you approach the river, the stones...yourself.

******* ******* ******* ******* ******* ******* *******
Conventional Stone Skipping


In Conventional Stone Skipping there are very few kinds of stones that work well and only one thing to do with the stone you choose: take a flat, skinny stone and throw it at the right angle, spinning the stone off your finger, so that it skips across the water as many times as you can.
::Check out --http://www.prostoneskipping.com/--for more info::
(This is the stone skipping you might remember from when you were a child.)


Though I am drawing a line between Conventional and Freestyle stone skipping, the difference is extremely one sided: Conventional stone skipping is all but the same as its Freestyle cousin, the only difference being that it does not value a short skip which changes direction, bounces off a tree and flips backward at the end with a "plop!" as any more than four skips (whereas Freestyle recognizes and celebrates it for having turns, ricochets and interesting sounds.)

******* ******* ******* ******* ******* ******* *******
Freestyle Stone Skipping


Freestyle stone skipping distinguishes itself from conventional stone skipping on several levels. The first difference between the two schools of stone skipping is primarily related to the location: Freestyle can only be done in a (relatively) narrow creek-bed with plenty of obstacles, whereas Conventional stone skipping works best with large areas of open water. The reason for this is at the core of the disparity and is the cause of all the other differences.

The confined creek bed makes Conventional skip counting all but impossible and leaves only Freestyle for the stone skipping enthusiast.



The open water leaves space for Conventional stone skipping but makes Freestyle uninteresting.



Freestyle stone skipping is essentially Conventional stone skipping with a detail-oriented twist: while the number of skips and distance traveled is significant, the most important element of a skip is how it interacts with the river.

The skipping station, aka: whichever bend in the creek or bank of stones you find yourself at when you skip will determine what kinds of skips are possible. Each station will also have different types of stones that, naturally, affect the way that the stones skip.


There is only so much you can control when skipping a stone: Once it leaves your hand it is the shape of the stone that dictates where it skips. Elongated stones very regularly skip strongly and then turns dramatically with big splashes; extra thin stones can be made to fly through the air with grace before skipping lightly across the water; heavy, balanced stones can skip so fast it's hard to count how many there are. Freestyle uses the control you get choosing from many different kinds of stones to create new challenges and games. At the end of the day, it's all about pushing yourself to achieve all that you are capable of...much like life.



Because of the different types of desired skips the types of rocks used are very different, which also dramatically affects the stone search: instead of only using one type of stone a Freestyler can use just about anything in the river bed, and different stones will produce predictably different skips.


Like the other freestyle sports (e.g.: skateboarding, rollerblading, skiing, snowboarding, Parkour, &c.) the only opposition is your limits (and gravity), so when you're in the river skipping stones, you are free to experiment with what is possible. As with all the other disciplines there is a blend of power and finesse when you spin your stones. Because freestyle is usually done in a creek or river, if there is only 25 feet of water you can't throw your stone as hard as you can or it will just hit the bank and fall into the water; though conventional stone skipping is impossible in the creek, the freestyler is free to use spin and style to skip the stone over and off obstacles, under logs, and over water falls.
Our style really is free.

17.1.10

The Pyramid of Virtue

(This was originally composed on Friday November 7th, 2003, while living in the Black Forest and studying Philosophy & Science at Albert Lüdwigs Universität, in Freiburg am Breisgau, Germany. It has been slightly edited and updated to better reflect my beliefs and goals on Sunday January 17th, 2010, while living in the Thar Desert and working as the international program coordinator of the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India.)


ᅀ ᅀ ᅀ ᅀ ᅀ ᅀ ᅀ
The Pyramid of Virtue

The N.R.G.--The Next Reign Group

"We're not trying to take over the world…just change it."



We are building an army of intellectual guerrilla warriors and such patriots of freedom and justice are not in short supply. Nevertheless, there is need for more and All are welcome. We, those who strive to spread this positive energy through time and space, are bent on helping every person -- man and woman, young and old, light and dark, slow and smart -- in summoning them to open their minds, hearts and eyes. We are eager to embrace the madness that surrounds us and even to add fuel to the fires of change -- cultivate a constructive cultural chaos and from it mold a better future, not for us, but for the myriad to come. (This does not imply a disruption of the lives of those involved, whether revolutionary or revolutionized; On the contrary, our aim is only to lighten the unbearable load of being and show that the "open-society"-- place of light, laughter and love--is within our grasp.)


We are not locked in a conflict, nor are we struggling to force change on those who do not welcome it. Our aim is to create a new foundation, the pyramid of Virtue. The pyramid is a structure of unparalleled greatness and stability, which has proven around the world that it can hold strong through the test of time. The four bases, which represent the four elements of the human world-- Philosophy, Politics, Pedagogy, and Production– we aim to open a dialogue that will serve as a road map to the open society. When ready and able we will turn our theory into practice – into movement toward the light – then we will see the elevation from the foundation to a higher, fifth point of this new foundation--the fifth element--the poet, the voice.
The establishment of this 3-dimensional paradigm for socio-political and socio-economic change will be the beginning of the end for the status quo. The climate of chaos, this atmosphere of apathy, is approaching its end, and the rise of this new energy will be kindling of the fires of change. This will not be the end of history — far from it! — but the beginning of a new chapter, the next reign. There there is no inevitability here--we are not bound to victory and the path will be long and hard. Simply finding those to make up the four basic elements, to take up the call of cultivated change, need not happen. The fifth and all important facet of our group, the voice of reason in a time of regression, will be even more difficult to manage. We may never succeed in opening the pathways of progress to the masses, but that is never a reason to give up, especially not when the campaign is only just begining...

The Pyramid of Virtue will be structured around its 5 (i.e., Philosophy, Politics, Pedagogy, Production and Poetry ) but there will be still more encompassing the whole: the inner workings of this cultivation, the mechanism of our march, must eventually be comprised of every element of society: laborers – lovers --intelligentsia -- artists -- activists -- mainstream -- underground -- EVERYONE WHO IS WILLING!! -- and we will all share the two specific points that bind us -- love and light, both of which are manifestations of the unspeakable, which, to some, is commonly referred to as "the divine." With these seven points -- those that make up the symbol of The N.R.G. -- the intellectual guerrillas will strive to expose all those who come in contact with our work. Some will refuse, and those who are shown our light and choose not to join, with a smile shall they continue on their chosen paths, where ever they lead. However, those who are shown the light and choose to obstruct our purpose of progress, who choose to create division, opposition, and struggle — which we, The N.R.G., do not commit or condone — with mental thrashing they will feel our wrath. Those who have accepted liberty and love, those who choose to join our movement toward the open society, they have always had a spot amongst us and will be received with open arms.

We do not shy from difficulty, it only serves to make us stronger;
We do not shy from defeat, it makes us all the more resilient;
We do not fear hatred, something change is always faced with, it only serves to prove the existence of love.
This campaign for hearts and minds is a long and laborious one--do not back down in this time of darkness.

The ranks are steady swelling, and the time will one day be upon us--let us be ready and able.

Train hard.


ᅀ ᅀ ᅀ ᅀ ᅀ ᅀ ᅀ
(In response to questions and comments from friends and fellow members this shorter commentary on the nature of the neural guerrilla revolution was formulated.)

Subject: ranting
Date: Sat, 08 Nov 2003



There is no formal membership in terms of simply working toward the improvement of social relations, but there is a framework we could follow in terms of policy planning, methodology, analysis of results, moral-ethical questioning, and other such administrative necessities.

What we are really trying to do here is wage an intellectual guerilla campaign against normalcy and conformity. We want to wake people up through basic shocks to their social system: random acts of silliness, kindness and even simple insanity can serve as the basis of that, but the method is up to the maker. Making people do a "double take," give further thought to any single thing, even if it's just for a second, breaks their train of thought and allows for the introduction and absorption of new and sometimes strange concepts. The transitional time between thoughts allows for a brief but all important recognition and heightened awareness of what is going on in the world around you. (This has been fought by the culture industry with the introduction of everything from i-pods, to outdoor advertisements) and the period of reflection and enjoyment created by a surprise is very important in enabling people to see our message, “our light.” Eventually such acts of "shock therapy" will be accompanied by intellectual stimulation in the direction of openness and liberty and this step is an important evolution for our campaign and will be developed and deepened by those 5 elements of the pyramid and the people who stand alongside them, supporting them in their effort to support the campaign.

Until my next communiqué all you ought to do is recruit new members, always bearing in mind that this is a low profile engagement of the enemy* (normalcy, conformity, and the status quo) and it MUST be done anonymously—there is no place for ego in this effort. Find those who are with us and bring them into the fold of intellectual guerrilla warfare (i.e., leaving GOOD quotes in interesting places—like on the bottom side of tables, on crumpled pieces of paper, or on toilet paper that has been re-rolled in a public restroom; acting strangely in public and then doing nice things (picking up trash, helping someone, laughing expressing thanks) once people have started noticing your craziness; being good for the sake of it being good; saying random, albeit nice, things to random people; smiling A LOT; “madlib theater/comedy/music/” with a message; street corner philosophy; writing graffiti with quotes from Kafka, Kierkegaard of the Koran/ Bhagavad-Gita/ Bible/ or, better still, all of the above; asking someone for a favor and saying “have a wonderful day” and giving them a flower to show them how appreciative you are of them being them; etc. etc. etc.)

train hard and practice what you preach.


*- The original conception of this campaign as a “war” has been changed because this is not a time for struggle, for “us vs. them.” This is a time to come together, for everyone to join in achieving an open society. To assign positions like “enemies” or “opponents” only further divides the society that we want to bring together.

28.9.09

Dawn has yet to break and I feel as if I am truly alone as I eagerly await her arrival on this dark and silent morn. As I sit here in the dark trying to find words to express my situation I meander aimlessly through my thoughts as though I might accidentally stumble upon that which I seek, but an(other) accident is precisely what I am trying to avoid.
Some days come and go without but a whisper, while others make such a spectacle of themselves that it is impossible to ignore their arrival, presence or departure. The darkness and silence of this early hour may not be extraordinary, but it is strangely awkward, as if this day has yet to decide whether it will fade calmly into the endless cycle of life or "rage against the dying of the light." Perhaps it is because of what happened on this day last year that I am having such trouble, for to set this morning against the backdrop of its predecessors makes its arrival all the more imposing.
Today is the day of reckoning in my father’s house: On this day, we, as individuals and as a group, are told to offer our case for being written into “the book of life.” By joining together and, simultaneously, retreating to our personal space, the task is first to know, and then to show, that ours is an energy worth sustaining. Last year, in order to delve deeper into my inner being, I charged heedlessly into the mysterious void within and, in my blind scrambling to “know myself,” I crashed violently into the lives of those near and dear to me. In my attempt to better understand who I was, where I was going, why and how I needed to continue, whether on the path which I found myself on or a new one of my design, I set in motion a series of events which made abundantly clear to me that my role in this drama is not entirely inconsequential, albeit only on the limited level of my limited life.

Ah…the dawn is come! As the light creeps steadily across the threshold of my entryway I can see now that this will be a beautiful day. Last year’s bout with introspection was tainted with juvenile and selfish indulgence; this time around (the sun), as I find myself in such a different place—mentally and physically—there is no doubt that the results will be dramatically different, as opposed to merely dramatic, as they were one year ago this day.
I need not revisit the particular goings on of last year’s debacle. I was sustained in my prolonged stillness, not by the light of life that I had hoped to assure myself, but rather by machines of life whose touch I never wanted to have known. I was seeking the reigns of my spiritual half and in that process all but gave up control of my physical being. If I had died before I woke it could have been said that I had already lived, and yet, having been to the edge of death and back, I can see how much more there is before us all.
In the aftermath of my calamity I remained calmly aware of the fact that all which lay ahead of me—from that point forward—would have a new light shed upon it by the specter of that which could have been. While I pursued the age old adage "know theyself" I ran smack into another one, “be grateful for today as tomorrow may never come.” It was thrust upon me with such force that it is impossible to ignore the simple truth that this may be the last day. We can’t go calmly into the dark night. I have no qualms with procrastination, but I have developed on overactive unwillingness to compromise my beliefs, desires and intentions. This has irrevocably changed the way I interact with others, just as it has undoubtedly changed—for better or for worse—how they understand who I am.

Another result of my experience at the end of last year’s Days of Awe is undeniable: I couldn’t care less about what others think of me. Today’s task, however, is not about deciphering what others understand me to be, nor to better know the role that I play in the performance that is life in this plane of existence; I sit here, plodding through the inner workings of my self-awareness, my doubt and my hope, all in pursuit of a truth that has evaded me since I woke in that strange and sterile room last year. "Know thyself."

Unlike last year, when I was surrounded by everyone who loved and cared about me, today I find myself 10,000 miles away from the nearest familiar face. This doesn’t change a thing, though, because even then—as I lay, motionless, in a foreign bed…just as I do today—one great truth remains: No matter where we find ourselves, we are alone in this life. When our last light fades to black the only thing we have that can keep us sound is ourselves. To some this may seem a discouraging reality, but the only thing daunting about the independence implicit within this is the veracity of its responsibility.
Today, exactly one calendar year after my greatest trauma, I am half way around the world, hailed by many as “one lucky guy.” Luck has nothing to do with it! (This is not to say that I am what kept me alive—that would be absurd…but luck?) True, I know of people who had similar things happen in their lives and they are no longer with us because of a similar accident, but that does not excuse me from the inescapable dialectic of cause and consequence. Many people said that I must have had a “guardian angel” watching over me, but that is just a veiled way of saying that something else controls our “fates,” and that the course of my “destiny” is not under my control. Just as I am unwilling to allow anything else to take credit for my successes, so will I forever stand up and claim responsibility for my failures.

       It is impossible to know precisely how that which came before us determines that which stands before us, or to make out from that what will come as its result. It is in that uncertainty—though it may be but the blink of an eye—that we can find our freedom. Sure, there is no denying that equality before the law is nice and justice is wonderful, but it is freedom that is of supreme importance. Freedom, the fundamental feature of human life, that which makes us human, is what guarantees that each new day will be worthy of attention and action, and ensures that each individual in this life is unique and full of promise.
The wake of my accident has shown me that I cannot hide from my mistakes, nor run from the consequences thereof, as it is precisely those things that I have erred in doing which make me who I am. I have also learned that there is nothing meaningless in this life, even if it is frivolous beyond a doubt, for no puzzle is complete with even one piece missing. Mistakes are an essential part of who we are, because it is mistakes that help us form the questions which populate our lives with meaning. I can’t guess at what will follow from this day, but I can deduce from my actions what got me here, and if I want more of the same then I must follow that which has guided me up to now. Does that mean I will unabashedly risk my life in pursuit of knowledge when stagnating contentedly as I was one year ago yesterday? To do that would prove I paid no heed to what there is to be learned from my mistakes. I have fulfilled a dream in the year since that tragic day, which, in a way, transforms that tragedy into a triumph: I sought control though awareness, and now I am aware that I was in control the whole time.
I have said it before, but I need to say again: I am sorry to those who suffered because of my actions. I am also sorry that I cannot promise that I will never wake up in such a condition again, for tomorrow’s script is yet unwritten, but I am no longer the same person, so concerns about that "happening again" are not worthy of serious speculation. Everything I do is done in light of the past, just like you, I hope, and it is that same light which makes the future seem bright. Gloriously bright it is, truly. To my family (and friends): thank you for having had faith in my ability to come back from what happened: without your love and support I may never have achieved anything more.

One last thing I have learned from this whole experience, and the year that followed it, is that, despite the fact that we are ultimately alone in this life, we are nothing without the bonds that tie us together: In the fabric of life we are each our own thread, existing entirely on our own accord when removed from the whole, but it is the knots that bind us which form the whole of our existence, our culture, our world of meaning in a universe of blind being: without each other we are all nothing but useless threads floating in the void, where together we are that richly woven tapestry which keeps us safe and warm in the cold darkness that surrounds us all.

2.9.09

7/17/2008 3:00 a.m.

(Page 3)

Why can't we, instead of talking endlessly about trivial things, talk trivially about endless things.

*******
*******

(Page 9)

I would say,
"Speak to me about the world without you in it. Tell me if what you put in is equal to what you take out. Not only do most people take out more than they contribute, but most of what is put in is filth--waste. The world needs more than greed ridden refuse in order to thrive. If you can't stop consuming, at least, then, try to add to the world around you -- even if it is just a kind word to a stranger.
If you need someone to tell you something, to tell you what to do, then you haven't been listening. Don't ask me what you should do, ask yourself...

*******
*******

(Page 4)

We are all but shadows of ourselves. The cave we have been led into is not the world that we have been told it is. There is so much more that each of us are capable of, and could become a reality, if only there were a muse for every pair of hands. There are projects to be undertaken, words to be spoken, thoughts to be heard. We, finally, have been given a set of circumstances that beg for rebellion. Our time is one of epic proportions--just like the time before ours, and the one that will come after us. There is nothing banal about existence!

If you are bored it is your own fault.

There is absolutely no limit to the full potential of your imagination. Nothing is impossible. There is always something. Nothing escapes you except that which you let freely evade your senses. The world we live in lives with us, breathes as we breathe, in flux to the point where -- in order to function communally -- we have developed the cultural illusion of consistency, which is what has duped us all into civility.
There is no constant but the inconstant.

We are at the whim of our own creation until we are ready to be free. The key to freedom is in your hand. No one else holds the secret to your happiness. How could they? The only wisdom that exists has been and always will be, forever. To become aware of it requires only that you be receptive to its presence. The knowledge of life exists in everything; we are living vessels of knowledge, as are trees and mountains and animals.
Knowing anything starts with having a sense of what question is suited to the situation, not what answer is sought at the end. ALL of what we are is a series of questions. The answers accumulate into the balancing weights of a scale, but it is the questions that shape and sustain us.

The consequences of our choices are the knots in the fabric of existence; the questions, the eternal quest for knowledge, make up the colorful strings that weave the patterns of the infinite realm.

*******
*******

(Page 3)

When a fish moves through the water it has no sense of up or down the way we do; Isn't it it is as easy/difficult for a fish to move upward toward the surface of their realm as to move down toward the bottom? If so, then they exist free of gravity's burden.

Does that make fish special?

*******
*******

(Page 7)

::CURIOSITY IS TANTAMOUNT TO FREEDOM::

How can freedom, once attained, ever be taken away from someone while they still breathe?
Death, even , is not a restriction of freedom--no, it frees us from the tyranny of the senses! We are free in death to enjoy pure existence, without all the glitz and sham, crash and ahh, that we have come to know in life. We will have peace.

*******
*******

(Page 1)

Out upon a midnight, weary, the hour's hands are quietly touching as the rest is brought to bare. The crest is broken on the sand, the rocks lay still and moved. Without but a whisper the wave builds itself from the foundation of its own ruin, only to crash again, and again on the same, moved sand.


*******
*******

(Page 8)



*******
*******
(Page 3)

The point of philosophy is not seeking wisdom, but loving it.


*******
******
*****
****
***
**
*



(Gabriel Garfinkle)

21.5.09

Without Hesitation (Chapter Two)




As time passes and life rambles on, good friends sometimes manage to slip away and get lost in the maze of our memories, especially when the force of life's current causes their path to move in a different direction from yours. When this happens, a touch of serendipity is often required to make possible a reunion of fates, but--with my new approach to life--I would no longer allow my future to be dictated merely by chance and circumstance; I was determined to take an active role in sculpting the shape of my future.




When an old friend told me she would be coming to Europe from South America for a medical conference, and asked if I would come and stay with her in Paris, it gave me an opportunity to act on these new impulses: I would go to Paris to reunite with a woman who, though I had only known her for a matter of days, had several years earlier left me on a train platform in Munich completely captivated by her confession of love, which happened to come--inconveniently-- on the eve of my departure for the United States...but that is another story all together.



In the weeks leading up to this chance at a Parisian tryst I remembered that part of my desire to visit France came from the fact that someone who I had promised to visit, but who I had not been in touch with for so long that I did not even have contact information for him this point, had been living in Paris the last time I heard from him. Years before this took place, when I was but sixteen years old, one of my best friends—Hugh—went through some familial upheaval and was forced to move to France in the middle of our sophomore year of high school. We tried to keep in touch, but, what with my aforementioned tendency to completely consume myself with the clamor of circumstance, and the fact that our paths had been so far removed, we lost contact completely.



By the time I was living in Europe, however, what with it having been more than seven years since we had traded words in any form and my having no way to get in touch with him, I very highly doubted that I would be able to find him in only two weeks. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if he’d be interested in seeing me even if I could find him—especially not on such short notice. Nevertheless, I ventured what I thought would be a futile query on the World Wide Web for “Hugh E____, Paris.”


Low and behold, Google™ got a hit! Someone named Hugh had, at some point, run the American University of Paris’ music club and their website even had his email posted as the contact information for the group. My friend Hugh was a musician and, for all I knew, he could have been a student at AUP. I couldn’t believe it! I immediately sent an email detailing my studies in Germany and my upcoming trip to Paris. I waited eagerly for signs of life from my old friend, but instead I got an automated message saying that the email address was no longer valid and could not be delivered. Damn! With only ten days before my trip to Paris I was running out of time. As a last ditch effort, I then sent a formal email to the registrar’s office of The American University of Paris. The letter inquired about the status of Hugh E____ and if he was by chance a student at AUP. I asked simply if they could put me in contact with him, or at least give me his last known contact information; They sent no response.


Only a week before I was to arrive at Gare de l'Est train station in Paris to meet my friend from Brazil, I got an email from Hugh himself! The office at his school had sent him some seemingly banal message that, once he finally got around to looking at it, gave my email address and said I was looking for him. His response was nothing short of epic: he went over all that had happened with him over the years, what he did in high school and college, and how great Paris was. He lamented on how he had always planned on coming back to the United States to see me and our friends and to go to college in the States, but wound up falling in love with France and had resolved to stay. He asked about all of our old friends, most of whom I was no longer in touch wtih, and—though he was convinced of it being totally impossible—he even invited us to visit him in Paris, assuring me that we could all stay with him if any of us ever made it to Europe.

------- ------- ------- ------- ------- -------
Here is the text of the actual email Hugh sent me that I conveniently have saved:
Von: Hugh E____

Gesendet: Dienstag, 4. November 2003 07:25:24

“WHATS UP MUTHA FUCKA!!!!!!! I've been trying to get a hold of you guys for ever! I've been to the LMHS website and everything and couldn't find anything. That's fucking great to hear from you man!! what's up?! what's happened to you? do you still see any of the old guys anymore? dave, pete, darrin, greg, zohar, shana etc (and anybody else i forgot)?? are you still in Narberth area? shit, it's basically been since 10th grade right?? I have been so pissed cause the past years I've lost COMPLETE contact with everyone back there and I haven't found any info on anyone. shit what's up??

Here's my story: I'm still in Paris. yeah, I was expecting to get out of here as soon as I finished high school or whatever, but guess what I fucking loved it here, so I've stayed and I'm graduating this spring from the American University. Wow. let me tell you my life has changed since I left. I'm still the same, but I've gotten used to life in France. It's mad cool here and Europe is surprisingly totally fucking
awesome. I speak basically fluent french now. I went to an international high school, so that, like AUP, is filled with people from all over the place. even though I'm in France mostly everyone I know speaks english and is not actually french. after high school I was like it's cool here, I'm gonna chill for another semester or two at college, which has turned into the past few years at school. I'm doing a french major (just because it's easy and i can do it) and a film minor.

as you can tell, I'm still into music. i'm running the music studio at school and I have a band wiht some good friends that i've been playing with for the past 3 years. it's totally chill. I'll have to send you a cd. I really don't know what I'm doing after this spring, it's all up in the air. I might stay here, might go somewhere in the states, who knows. I'm seeing this girl right now, she's mad cool, from South Africa. Europe is mad cool man. they're so chill about drinking and chilling and shit. I'm 22 now, and have vague ideas, but nothing concrete whatsoever about what I'm doing next. has everybody stayed in the Philly area? what's happened to everyone?? you have to give me everybody's email that you have. man, you seriously have
to get your butt over here and make a trip to visit me and party. free room + board etc. seriously. guess what, my parents are totally down with chillin now, so I chill with them every so often. what ever happened wiht you and Morgan? I thought you guys were gonna get engaged in like 11th grade or something.

shit, it's awesome to hear from you man. I can't believe it's been like 5 or 6 years right?? keep in touch and tell me whats going on.

Hugh”

------- ------- ------- ------- ------- -------
Needless to say, this was good news…


Sure, I could have written back with a quick note outlining what I was doing in Europe and how I was planning on coming to France in a few days, but that wouldn’t be much fun. Instead, I set down a very long and involved letter, detailing exactly what had happened with each and every one of our friends Dave, Pete, Darren, Greg and Shana since he had been in France, and even even mentioned Zohar, who had died a few years earlier.


Naturally, I saved my story for last and only started discussing my studies and where I was living after three or four pages of densely packed pieces of information about everything from our childhood memories to what my favorite band was. Only after having put his memory through a work out of phenomenal proportions did I sneak in the fact that I was at that time living in Germany, that I was already planning on coming to Paris in ten days and that I could not wait to see him.



You know that feeling you get when you see an old friend for the first time in too long? Sometimes that nostalgia hits so hard that it is difficult to accurately gauge (and control) your emotions and act normally; other times, however, the overwhelming sense of wistfulness yields to evocative moments of happiness. I wasn’t sure what would happen, but when I finally met Hugh on the platform of the train station in Paris, where he greeted with a serious hug and a salubrious smile, it was as if no time had passed between us! True, we didn’t look exactly the same after 6 years, and we didn’t know the same people anymore, nor did we really even know each other at that point, but it didn't matter. I mean, a lot happens to a young man between the ages of 6 and 22, but whatever it was that had brought us together in the first place was clearly still there.



Once we boarded the subway—which, by the way, are incredibly treacherous in Paris, what with how hard the doors slam closed—and made our way toward his place, which I half expected to be a dump the size of a shoebox. We broke into such a natural banter that it seemed like we were still back in Philly, and, though we reminisced for a few minutes about what had happened to all of our dearest friends back in the United States, it was no time at all until we started talking about funny things we had heard that week and interesting ideas about what to do over the coming weekend.





Having finally made it to Paris, after hours on the train from Germany engaged in deep philosophical conversation with a lovely young German woman, Hugh took what could already have been described as an idyllic situation and made it truly magical when he lead us back to his place in the center of town to get settled and go out for some culture.


Now, when I say the “center of town” I could be talking about any given neighborhood within the city limits and relatively close to the interesting areas. Not in this case. Here I literally mean the exact geographic center of Paris!


Most people who have been to Paris, whether they are there on vacation or for business, at some point pass by the Cathédrale Notre Dame; very few people, however, get to actually spend their nights within a hundred yards of its gates!

Turmoil had sent Hugh and his family to Paris in the first place, but the move did not solve all of life’s’ problems; A few years earlier both his mother and father decided to leave Paris in favor of Belgium and Switzerland respectively, which meant that my slacker friend was, at this point, the sole tenant of two beautiful apartments in the spectacular city of Paris, which fully lives up to all the hype that surrounds its legend, and the apartment that he lead me to was actually on the Ile de la Cité in the middle of the Seine. It's not every night that you get to sleep on the island where Paris was originally founded over 2000 years earlier.



Needless to say, the atmosphere was charged with history and culture. It was so wonderful to see my dear, old friend again after so many years; it was like a dream come true: after six years apart, in the dead center of Paris, was extraordinary enough...but it was only the beginning.

18.5.09

Without Hesitation (Chapter One)




Without hesitation, or anxiety, I embark now on of tale of lucid madness. Fraught with foolishness and frivolity, adventures of (yet) untold decadence transpired under exotic suns and bohemian stars. If you will but suspend your pragmatic impulses and loose yourself on a whimsical flight of fancy, you will be whisked on a journey that crosses oceans, mountains, deserts and dreams. As I marinate in my nostalgia, try to take from my tale that which made these moments so delectable, disregarding the unpleasantries, and - if at all possible - enjoy what you can, for pleasure is pleasure, whether first hand or vicarious.



The suffocating humdrumery of life at home lit the fire in my furnace and set my sights on distant horizons. The crashing waves of the tropics and wandering dunes of deserts called to me from afar, but, before dancing wildly on moonlit beaches and meditating on misty mountain tops, our story begins in the depths of the Black Forest, nearly frozen and half blinded by blizzard gales, nonetheless not in seek of shelter.
While meandering through the frosted forests of southern Germany’s fabled Schwarzwald
I trudged, knee-deep through snow, in search of what could not be found. The nooks of the mountain, veiled under a blanket of swirling mist and snow, hid that which I sought: respite from the predictable reality that lay ahead of me.


*******
I was studying at Albert- Lüdwigs – Unidversität - Freiburg and living quite well. Having earned a spot on the Baden-Württemberg international fellowship/exchange I was welcomed to the storied university and given full access to its extensive academic catalog. I was also set up to share a flat with a motley international crew: Ziyad, from Lebanon; Mi, from China; Irma, from the Republic of Georgia; Kyung, from Korea, Hannes, Catherine, and Florian from Germany; and myself —the lone American of the group. Among our ranks were forestry students, engineers, mathematicians, musicians, computer programmers and—in Hannes and myself—students of philosophy.


(Solidarity—
NOW!—Against Thoughtless Politics)


A student of philosophy stands in a unique position at the precipice of adulthood: instead of seeing the world merely as a venue for success, usually judged by bank accounts or bulging muscles, life is to knowledge seekers an infinite playground to explore, question and comprehend. I studied Gadamer’s hermeneutical methods
(φ), read Nietzsche’s brilliance captured in Zarathustra’s words(η), and even made exploratory jaunts into the practically insurmountable enigma of the Tractatus Logico Philosophicus(ψ).

I was adrift in a universe of curious enthusiasm that was piqued by everlasting doubt.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

φ Hermeneutics is essentially the art of understanding. Hans-Georg Gadamer established philosophical hermeneutics in his magnum opus Wahrheit Und Methode (1975); to him, hermeneutics is not a method for understanding but an attempt "to clarify the conditions in which understanding takes place" (Gadamer 1975: 263).
η Nietzsche was one of the most subversive and controversial thinkers in Western philosophy, and Also Sprach Zarathustra (1885) remains his most famous and influential work. It describes how the ancient Persian prophet Zarathustra
descends from his solitude in the mountains to tell the world that God is dead. With blazing intensity and poetic brilliance, Nietzsche argues that the meaning of existence is not to be found in religious piety or meek submission, but in the all-powerful energy of life: passionate and free. Although his ideas were often harsh and uncompromising, Nietzsche’s main purpose was not to crush the reader’s spirit into the same mold, but rather to spur each individual to rise above the much-loathed mediocre conformity that plagued society then, as it does now.
ψ Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is
the only book-length philosophical work published by the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein during his lifetime. He wrote it as a soldier and a prisoner of war during World War I. First published in German in 1921 as Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung, it is now widely considered one of the most important philosophical works of the twentieth century.
Though Wittgenstein's later works were less austere, and contained notably different philosophical ideas, all of his writing had the same basic writing style of short sentences or paragraphs rather than narrative exposition. It has also been noted that Tractatus contains almost no arguments as such, and is instead comprised of statements that are meant to be self-evident. It is, in essence, an ambitious project to identify the relationship between language and reality and to define the limits of science, but at the same time delves into the nature of spirituality and its place in philosophy.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Unsure whether to follow flights of fancy down a path of epicurean indulgence or to undertake more ambitious activities, I found myself caught between responsibility and respite. I would oft
en seek escape from the streets of scholarship in the forests of the surrounding mountains. In the silence of the shadows there lay profound truths. I sought perspective with open eyes and an open mind, but my horizons were frequently muddled by distractions ranging from mundane financial concerns and international travel arrangements to social sensualism and calamitous carousing.



As paradoxical as it may seem, the moment of clarity that would eventually lead to my deliverance from a pigeonholed sense of purpose did not come until I was, for all intents and purposes, completely lost in the mire.
When the last rays of reason seemed to have retreated—once all hope of finding happiness in the humdrum had been lost—only then was I ready and able to acknowledge and accept the new possibilities on the distant horizon.

It took a genuine condemnation of conventions, an enthusiastic embrace of eccentricity, and an absolute acceptance of the ceaseless change that is the cornerstone of life.


*******

I was gradually enlightened to the value of life’s details—I began noticing the beauty, appreciating the significance and understanding the nature of the phenomena that fill our lives, and I also began to grasp the fundamental structure of how I understood everything around me—it was as if the sky cleared and the sun began to shine on a world full of fresh opportunity!