Joseph Heller and Herman Melville are Laughing at You, Somewhere.

Tonight, I bring you PART I of my epic novel, The Sound and the Fast and the Furious, which is already slated for a major-motion picture starring none other than that exemplary thespian, Nicolas Cage, and will feature an exciting animated musical sequence:

tumblr_mq4aydwGq51s4jaw2o5_500

The following entry truly is a tale full of sound and bad attempts at nerdy literature jokes and humor, told by an idiot, signifying nothing.  No, seriously, you’ve been warned.  It’s actually nonsense.

***

CHAPTER I–THE MARSDENING

tumblr_n1qf16sOmR1rbgu1so7_r1_250

happening-34842

Some days at work, I am convinced I’m being set up on Candid Camera, and just as I reach my point of utmost confusion/exasperation/frustration, the camera crew is going to reveal itself and some James Marsden-from-Hairspray-doppelgänger is going to run out and say, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”  (And then I’m going to proceed to beat the crap out of that guy, but that’s going to be covered in the sequel–The Sound and the Fast and the Furious 2, or maybe I won’t actually get to it until somewhere between 5 and 7).  Oh, what homage I would pay to John Locke and his eternal optimism and faith in the capacity of mankind in the aforementioned scenario.

NOTE: In my attempt to find a funny image for my probably-not-so-funny-and-not-so-smart attempt to use hoity-toity smart people humor, I came across the following image of this man when searching for John Locke:

JohnLocke-orange-2it took a bit of research to realize that A) this is a character on the TV show Lost, B) I now have -50 points for living under a rock since that show only ran for about 454634 seasons and I never watched it and C) this fan-art exists:

john_locke_by_kekel-d34qmgg

You are welcome.

CHAPTER II–JANE AUSTEN’S CIRCLE OF HELL

Pride-and-Prejudice-and-Zombies

Catch 22 is probably my favorite book of all time, largely because it is 500-pages-worth of nonsense, and who doesn’t love a good read full of circular, satirical humor considering it basically mirrors the struggle dealing with other humans?  I first read Joseph Heller’s novel when I was an exchange student in Japan back in 2004, and since I obviously couldn’t speak Japanese and was required to sit through 7 hours of classes taught in a language I had no prior training in, I decided it would be worth my while to get a leg up on my summer reading for Senior Year.  Although Clueless contains some marks of sheer pop-culture and screen-writing brilliance, I couldn’t say the same for its basis, Jane Austen’s Emma, which I slogged through for a good week or so (and for the record, while I believe Jane Austen to have had one of the finest grips on the English language and an absolute master at subtle snarkiness, Emma just wasn’t doing it for me.  Trust me, when your only options are subtle satire on the 19th century English gentry or the monotone voice of your Classical Japanese teacher, it’s something akin to the 4th Circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno).  It was much to my surprise that Catch-22 bore ABSOLUTELY no resemblance to Emma, whatsoever, but regardless of that fact, I’m pretty sure my Literature teacher still had us write a paper linking them together or something equally ridiculous.

CHAPTER III-WHAT THIS ENTRY IS ACTUALLY ABOUT

Today, I sat through a meeting that went something like this (I’ve obviously given it a little Heller-istic flare, in the spirit of things):

Man 1: “We are in dire need of more bodies to fill the jobs in Office A.  We have been told by the higher ups that we need to figure out the solution to this problem.”

Man 2: “The same higher ups who are telling us that Office A isn’t a priority over Office B and Office C?”

Man 1: “Yes.”

Man 2: “But…the same higher ups who want the jobs filled, like, yesterday?”

Man 1: “You would be correct.”

Man 2: “I see…and ‘they’ realize that Office A requires much more trained and skilled workers and that the work is much more urgent and risky?”

Man 1: “Indeed.”

Man 2: “But, Office A still doesn’t get priority over Office B and C?”

Man 1: “No priority whatsoever.”

Man 2: “But this is a most urgent issue?”

Man 1: “The most urgent at the company.”

Man 2: “This is the same issue that we brought up and the higher ups said not to pay attention to a few months ago?”

Man 1: “The very same issue.”

Man 2: “And what do they think about it now?”

Man 1: “That you should have brought attention to the issue a few months ago.”

***

Excessive bureaucracy seems to erode the ability to make rational decisions, or at least this is something I have noticed during my time in the Machine, thus far.  Joseph Heller wrote Catch 22 to describe the absurdity of living as a sane individual in an insane world.  All I could think about today was one quote from the novel:

“Insanity is Contagious.”

Right now, I’m making my way through Melville’s titan, Moby Dick.  I plan on doing an entry once I am finished, but I can honestly say the most shocking thing about the novel is that it’s, well, modern.  Believe it or not, it is written in a relatively modern fashion (which also happened to be the reason why it was a flop at the time),  Both Moby Dick and Catch-22 are social commentaries that deal with the theme of the absurd; whether it is portrayed by the means of arbitrary social hierarchy and prejudices, the insatiable quest for the meaningless and the struggle of facing the indifference of the universe, or the irrational thought process that seems to so easily take hold of man.  Published almost 100 years apart, the similarities exuded by both novels only prove that human nature seems to remain the same, and that we may always be plagued with certain challenges (that is, until L. Ron Hubbard descends from the heavens to enlighten us all–or at least those of us who paid the entrance fee to his wacky club of wealthy lunatics).  This entry has already gone on long enough, so I’ll save the summary and more in-depth commentary of Catch-22 for now.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

Oh, and as for Melville, his 500 page epic that countless high school students are subject to torture by, you know what it’s really got going on underneath all that Victorian Prose?  Fart jokes.  Yeah, that Melville guy was a real asshole.

***  

bmPuLO7

Stay tuned for Part II of The Sound and the Fast and the Furious: CAGETANIC!!

-KP out!

Advertisements

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

Recently, I started reading Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, and, as always, he doesn’t disappoint.  What I like best about Murakami’s writing is that it is filled with philosophic, historic, artistic, and musical references.  Somehow he is able to take things that have struck a chord with him in his own life and apply them to his writing.  His works are also usually laden with psychology woven into them, and subsequently open to interpretation.  Sometimes his concepts are strange, but he is able to showcase the human experience very well, and in my opinion it is by the open-ended aspects and the non-definitive.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking recently, reflecting on my experiences the past year up till now, and a certain part of the book really resonated with me.  One of the main characters, a boy who calls himself “Kafka,” is staying at his friend’s isolated cabin, which is filled only with survival necessities and books.  Kafka begins to read a book about a Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann, who was tasked to find the “final solution” for the Jews.  Eichmann was very systematic about it, considering financial costs, the cheapest methods for the transportation and disposal of human bodies.  He was given a situation and mapped out the best possible, practical way to complete the task.  The shocking part is that Eichmann never questioned the morality of any of it, and when he was tried as a war criminal he was lost and confused.  He was just following orders; he was just being a good officer.  The boy, Kafka, finds a note his friend has penciled in the book.  It reads:

“It’s all a question of imagination.  Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine.  It’s just like Yeats said: In dreams begin responsibilities.  Flip this around and you could say where there’s no power to imagine, no responsibility can arise.  Just like we see with Eichmann.”

I thought about this and I realized this concept is a major part of understanding the human condition.  Not everyone shares the same reality.  Our reality is shaped by our own consciousness; this may very well explain the source of all human suffering.  With regard to relationships this can be expressed as: Not everyone views love the same way.  We can beat ourselves up time and time again, we can cling to the past and think of the should’ve-would’ve-could’ves, or we can cut ties with those who have hurt us and accept that the way to heal is to just leave and move on.  Because people experience reality in different ways, we can not expect them to suddenly see and understand our reality.  There are people who will never see things from our point of view.  There are people who will never know how cruel they have been to us.  And it’s not our responsibility to tell them time and time how they hurt us and expect them to magically turn into someone else.

10455823_10152787018968707_5563325809132777942_n

 

In Kafka on the Shore, the concepts of God and Karma are very present.  They tie into everything; our relationships included.  Two quotes that have struck me are:

“If you think God’s there, He is. If you don’t, He isn’t. And if that’s what God’s like, I wouldn’t worry about it.” 

“Even chance meetings are the result of karma… Things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence.” 

I don’t know if I believe that everything is fated, or even what really exists within the universe, but I know that if we shape our realities from our own consciousness, while I have the faculty to see what would be poor choices for my physical and mental well-being, I am going to try and make the wisest decisions I can.  I am not going to worry about the choices of others.  Maybe my suffering in this life is caused from some karmic debt, maybe not.  Regardless, when it comes to people who treat me poorly, I will do what I know to be the wisest decision in this life I live now:  I will let them go completely.  

If a person treats us poorly, it is their karma, not ours.

how-people-treat-you-1

Murakami and a Storm

And because I think right now, Murakami explains everything in this:

Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

An you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

The Secret is Conviction

-1

I wrote a post awhile back on the way we attract things to ourselves; not only people but jobs, money, etc.  On success in general, a few things stick out from my childhood in particular.  One was a saying my grandfather used on me quite often:

“You can’t just WISH to play the piano well; you have to spend the time practicing every day.”

The other is a line from the book, Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson, which is a novel about two sisters who mirror the relationship between Jacob and Esau.  Caroline is beautiful and talented while Sara Louise is awkward and unsure of her place in the world.  When a family friend leaves a large sum of money to Caroline instead of Sara Louise (who was under the impression that she would inherit said money), the gentleman says:

”Your sister knew what she wanted,” said the Captain, ”so when the chance came she could take it. Do not tell me no one ever gave you a chance, Sara Louise. You can make your own chances. But first you have to know what you are after, my dear.”

I have not read Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Secret, because I’m on the fence with regard to her intentions in publishing it.  I think the “law of attraction” is nonsense; the universe is composed of a series of random occurrences and trying to make up silly ideas like that kind of puts me off; there really is no secret behind what she’s talking about.  When people REALLY want something they go after it, and that goes for a type of career, all types of relationships with people, etc.  Success without or with just limited connections is achieved through sheer will, discipline, and desire.  It goes back to the piano saying; it’s not just enough to “wish” to play it well, in order to do so a good deal of time must be invested in practice.  And with regard to people, a relationship (family, friendship, romantic) is only as solid as what both parties invest; it is up to us to determine what we want to put in and get out of a relationship.

I think the reason I have been relatively successful so far in my life is because I live with the conviction that I’m working toward a specific end goal, and I fully believe that I can make a difference with regard to that goal.  I’ve had a vision of what I’ve wanted to do with my life for about 10 years now, and while I don’t believe in any magical abilities we have to make things suddenly happen because we “thought about them,” I DO believe that a driving vision is a fully rational way of paving the way for personal success.

The Lifeboat

So I’ve been back in Japan for almost a week now just getting back into the swing of things and have been quite busy.

I love going home to America because there are certain things you really begin to miss living in a foreign country. Walking into a bookstore with English books is one of them for me, and I can easily spend an hour or so perusing the aisles in Barnes & Noble. I recently purchased The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, which has so far been captivating.

The story is set in 1914, and the main character is crossing the Atlantic from England to the United States with her husband on a luxury liner. The ship is destroyed with a sudden, mysterious explosion and the main character is thrust into a lifeboat by her husband with almost 40 others. Although they believe an SOS message to have been sent and rescue imminent, the days begin to add up and the riders in the lifeboat begin to die from exhaustion, suffer psychosis, illness, dehydration, and the beginnings of starvation. All the while reading there is a terrifying undertone to it all: we are all animals underneath it all, and in times of absolute extremity, the decorum and the masks come down and we see ourselves for how brutish we all truly are (just as in Hobbes’ “State of Nature”). When survival is threatened, what we consider in proper society as “murder” becomes something else entirely–“survival of the fittest.” Perhaps in us all there lies the capability to commit certain acts normally deemed as atrocious. Also the concept of discerning meaning in chaos and the idea that there in the middle of the dark, unrelenting sea, undiscovered by any passing vessel, the little boat is pathetic and meaningless and completely at the mercy of nature. There may be no greater meaning, man may try too hard to believe that his existence has meaning when in all actuality it is completely void of any meaning with regard to the universe.

It is a beautiful and haunting metaphor for life, the “what-ifs” of the human condition. I have yet to finish the book, but so far it really is phenomenal and I recommend it to anyone looking for an unconventional thriller.