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A Description of the Quickening; Earth, Late 2016

Tennet Semmes

The game seemed to be coming dangerously close to its end — or its beginning. The line had been thinning now for so long that it was nearly non-existent, and the back was beginning to blend with the front. 

All of this was to be expected, of course, but it didn’t change the feeling of it when it actually started to happen. It never did. Time was weird like that. And things were indeed getting weird.

New players had appeared out of the void suddenly, releasing their machines into the fold and leaving them to expand exponentially. The curve was beginning to steepen, and the humans, everywhere, had become obsessed with the new dimensions at their fingertips (and in their headsets), spending more time gleaning ‘reality’ from these places than from the actual reality they were in. At the same time, that same reality-field was beginning to take on the first levels of its own awareness, and a brand new conversation was under way. 

But other things were happening. Even as the humans walked into schools and massacred with increasing frequency, even as the earth began to burn and the holes the zealots cut into reality increased in their gravity…

There was a polymath from South Africa who had amassed billions and was bent on making the species interplanetary, while simultaneously turning the hose on the fires at home. He was also keeping a close watch on the machines — a very close watch — and, most interesting of all, had even begun to speak out about his beliefs regarding the game in general. 

At the same time, there was a demagogue setting the masses to screaming beneath the streamers. His rhetoric, bullheaded and vitriolic, raised more fire in the bellies of more citizens than anyone had expected, and, though cartoonish at first, the gravity of the situation was finally beginning to dawn. The spectacle and fervour seemed to be approaching a fever pitch, sitting in perfect juxtaposition to what the billionaire across the way was doing.

Behind closed doors a lot was also taking place. Scientists had begun tinkering with the building blocks of the field itself, and were coming ever closer to unlocking some of its most fundamental code. Nature and aging were no longer untouchable. Dark matter and anti-matter were being fiddled with. The riddle of consciousness was being closed in on (or so it appeared). That this was happening in conjunction with the move to Mars seemed like no coincidence. There was a disturbing deja vu to the whole thing. Not only was the technology revealing inner and outer dimensions simultaneously, it was beginning to show us other angles — with other openings — that no one had before suspected. All of it appeared to be slowly unveiling some deeper fractal reality, uncovering layers of time that were moving slowly from the realm of the conceptual, to the experiential. 

Within it all, however, there was a powerful undertone that spoke in a voice somehow outside of time. What it said was that there was something missing. Something fundamental. And that it was this same thing that contributed so heavily to the feeling of cyclic familiarity everyone was trapped in. Day by day, the exponential pressure increased. Moment by moment, the fever rose, and as it did, layer after layer of the Emperor's clothes began to be stripped away  the Emperor, who continued to parade, who continued to dance, barefoot, in the gold coins being thrown at his feet in the centre of the street. Beneath all the cheering and fighting, there was a desperate, haunted feeling, shared but unspoken, held in the hearts of nearly all the players.

But just as the addition of one chemical constituent can change the body of the whole, and randomness could indeed be introduced into (or possibly at the core of ) fractal reality, tinier parts, entirely unseen, were beginning to appear in the fault lines that were being exposed. 

Children, small enough that their feet were still new to the ground, had begun to emerge at the front of the crowd. Moving easily through the noise and shadow that had enclosed them until now, they were stepping into the light, and though none had yet begun to point, there was an unnerving quality to the clarity of their vision. Just as they were filling the spaces they had inadvertently arisen from, one could sense a feeling space within them, somehow, that answered to the emptiness all around. They stood simply watching, silently observing, as the raging faces and raised arms of their older counterparts grew in their frenzy, above and around them all. 

In the end, however, even this was only more phenomena. 'Meaning'  that term that had become diabolical in the humans' hands, driving so much of their insanity  didn't exist, just as it never had. There was only this, the process, turning over in the present and beginning its ascension into The Quickening. Yes, the back was beginning to blend with the front, and the fold was indeed closing, but what it would reveal remained entirely unknown.

Of course it did.

the ice-eater

Tennet Semmes

ice eater.png

The kid was in the square painted on the concrete. Pacing. Back and forth. Back and forth. Around. Backwards. Figure 8’s. Kicking his worn boots in the dust and grime on the ground. The old cell phone flickered next to his ear and he pulled it away, smacking at it. Piece of shit. 

He looked at the sky again, listening to the phone ring. Not good. Not good. It was grey and black and fat and furious looking. Plump like a pig ready for gutting. Where the fuck was the ice-eater? He kept on pacing. 

In the distance, further down the lot was another kid, in another square. The two were connected by more lines— neon 90 degree bends, sickly yellow/green against the dull pavement. He did the same dance as the 1st. Old black boots, cut-offs, bandana and goggles hanging around his neck. Pink hair and a dirty face. Back and forth inside the square, kicking at the ground, dead buildings all around.

A dot appeared on the horizon, shimmering in the heat. 

The ice-eater, finally.

The kid in the first square slapped the cell phone shut and it fizzled out of existence. He watched as the ice-eater approached, continuing to pace. Kid number 2 didn’t look up. 

The ice-eater rolled in on his board, trailing a cloud of dust. He stepped off, kicked it into the air and it fizzled out of existence. Pulling his bandana and goggles off, he walked up to the line and the two of them shook, their fingerless gloves doing an elaborate dance: palm, thumb, slap, pull, grasp. The ice changed hands. A flash of crystal blue from palm to palm up the sleeve. The kid in the square popped his cell phone open and checked it— flicker, flash, SLAP. He nodded at the ice-eater. Done. In the distance, kid number 2 continued to pace in his own square space, head down. 

The ice-eater kicked his board back and hopped on, pulling his bandana and goggles around his face. He knelt, pushing hard into the wind. The sky roiled in the distance.

The trio watched the ice-eater whiz past, and gave chase from the shadows. The little faggot had fucked around long enough in this city. Untouched and entitled. He was going down.

Whoops and hollers. The ice-eater looked behind him, cursing when he saw them. 3 in total, long trenches and elaborate masks. A variety of weapons, but none that could hit him from here. He’d seen these guys around before. So much for staying under the radar. He knelt lower and pushed the board to its max, the wind beginning to sting. The cries behind him grew louder. 

Rounding the corners he was nearly horizontal. He knew this playground. He was about to find out if the trio did.

They did. It was a good chase but they got him, overtaking him slowly in the speed and the dust. They didn’t kill him, though. (Their mistake.) The big one with the bleed bags on his back actually jumped from his board onto the ice-eater’s, the two of them flailing for a moment before going down. The dust was so thick it was nearly impossible to see what was happening, but in the haze and the madness they got his coat and all of his shit— including the ice. 

But he got away in the shuffle, no broken bones, nothing. 

He leaned his back against the warm brick of his hiding place, listening as their cries faded in the distance, his breath heaving in his chest. This wasn’t over.

Slowly, he fastened the bandana back around his nose and mouth, donning the goggles and flicking a switch on their side.

The kid in the second box snapped to attention, looking into the distance. The goggles flashed around his neck. 

The ice-eater gave chase, on foot, full-tilt. 

The kid in the second box did the same, breaking from the lines and bounding across the parking lot, throwing his board down and hopping on. Black boots on translucent neon, bandana and goggles cutting the wind. He hooked up with the ice-eater in less than a minute, bending into a long arch and slowing so he could hop on. The two of them knelt low and bore down on the trio.

They had slowed, joking around and tossing the ice-eater’s stuff back and forth as they trolled on their boards. Suddenly one of them hollered, pointing behind them. The brute and the ice-eater, on one board, coming straight for them. They panicked, scrambling and dropping some of the stuff as they took off.

The brute slowed the board where they had been and the ice-eater jumped down, gathering up some of his things. Most of them were broken. So much time and effort collecting them, too. Fucking idiots. He looked up as they sped away in the distance, calculating. After a second he hopped on and they were off again, hair and clothes whipping in the wind.

They followed them to the old hospice and watched as they kicked their boards and ran inside, thinking this gave them the advantage. Maybe it did. Doubtful— but maybe. 

The brute and the ice-eater dis-boarded outside the door and took their places on either side. It was pitch black inside, and the last of the light from the day-night was fading. They did the shake — palm, thumb, slap, pull, grasp — and flicked the night vision down on their goggles. One deep breath, together into the building. 

Above them, the black clouds broke open, finally, and a massive tear of thunder ripped into the sky, puking rain down onto the dead earth.

It was time to get their ice back.

 

The Mister

Tennet Semmes

Have you met The Mister?

He is quite the charming character. He jumps from dream to dream, from mind to mind, dropping whispers into time.

A top hat he wears, some say it’s sublime, and his cleaved cloak leaves a trail of starshine behind.

Like a cricket he leaps, cosmic and cool and oh-so-cordial, courting the curious and credulous alike.

If you’ve ever had a flash of insight, or a moment of momentous knowing— you may have met The Mister.

If you’ve ever danced with sudden delight, or dreamed away a dreary day— you may have met The Mister.

He is a fellow of the most endearing kind, pleasing in a way that can only be named divine.

He plays with children all the day; they are his favourite compatriots.

They laugh and sing and wile the hours away with wonder. They catch whims and chase fancies, take chances and act all dandy.

But the adults are lucky to see him once in a blue moon. They have hardened off their heads and stiffened their lips.

“No time for such nonsense!” they cry. “We have work to do, and things to buy! We are serious and heavy and holding our hips! Come now, grow up! You can’t rely on such luck!”

But The Mister does miss them so.

He remembers each and every one, laughing children alike, before time saw fit to see them grow.

So he does not give up. He taps and taps and taps away, wand knocking merrily on their tough, hard noggins all the live-long day.

Let me in! he whispers. I can help you in the most possible way! Fun and freedom and frolicking play! All the insights to get you on your way! 

And sometimes, just sometimes, his magic sends a shiver up the spine. His starshine drifts into an ear, or tickles a nose hair, reminding our grown up, for one brief moment, of a time before time.

But they don’t show it. They shake the magic off as quickly as it came, continuing on in their serious way.

But The Mister holds no mind— he dances and jumps and bounds his way across the stars, as he has since the very first day.

For he knows a secret:

There is no staying away.

You see, The Mister was first, which means he’s also the last.

And in between is The Mist, simple as that.

You can take it or leave it, it means naught to him.

But if you want to play, learn to follow your whims—

Whereupon when asked:

“Have you met The Mister?”

You can say,

Yes, and he made my day.”

the man with the mirror

Tennet Semmes

Carl was 5 years old when he first saw the man with the mirror. He was playing in the backyard when a glint from the peripheral forest caught his eye. 

He looked up, scanning the trees, and spotted him: a figure in a suit, leaning out from behind a massive oak, holding a small, rectangular mirror, tilting it back and forth in the sun— the flash so bright it completely blinded him every time it passed over his eyes. He tried to get a closer look, but the figure was so far away he could barely make him out. He stood, one hand in front of his face, straining, and just when he thought he had him in his vision there came another flash and the man was gone, just like that.

The boy stood a moment longer, his five-year-old mind churning. The breeze tossed his hair and the cicadas sang in the distance. He knew intuitively that this was somehow a part of him. And he knew about his power— even at such a young age. He could feel it in the pit of his stomach at all times. Soon enough, however, he lost interest, kneeling down to his toys again, the experience already being relinquished to the myriad dreams that make up the landscapes of the young child’s mind. He wouldn’t think of it for another seven years, until he saw the stranger again.

This time it was a different experience altogether. He was on the ice rink, in full gear, playing an outdoor scrimmage game when a flash blinded him and he fell, hitting the ice hard. The puck whizzed past his head close enough to hear it whistle. The other players passed over, screaming, skates scraping the ice, but in that instant he had far too many things blast into his brain to care. It was the midst of his parents divorce and the beginning of his sexual awakening. He had been plagued by nightmares as of late and was having immense trouble with his studies in school. Until now, he had forgotten about the man with the mirror altogether. But in that one blinding moment he knew beyond any doubt who had caused the light to hit his eyes. 

He stood, stick hanging loosely from his gloved hand, peering into the distance beyond the rink. It was snowing lightly, and there were a number of people milling about in the parking lot, dark figures mingling slowly in a white haze. And there he was— again, so far away he could barely make him out, appearing to be clad in a long business trench, a tall figure looking down at his wrist. As he did so, there was a glint — far too blinding to come from a watch alone — burning right into Carl’s brain—

Boom! He took a check hard, hitting the ice and sliding into the boards, his helmet nearly dislodging from his head. 

“Open your eyes, motherfucker!” 

A whistle blow. General commotion. Carl was helped back onto his skates by a couple of his teammates, but he shook away from them, ignoring everything and skating to the edge of the rink to look for the man with the mirror again. Too late. He was gone. As he pushed away from the boards to rejoin the game, he felt the familiar stirring in his stomach, mingling dangerously with the shadows in his mind. And though he gave it little credence, the man with the mirror would linger this time, creating a grotto for himself in the folds of Carl’s thought, until he showed up again, 15 years later. 

When he did, Carl was working as a copywriter in the city, estranged from his parents and sharing an apartment with an addict/drug dealer. He spent his nights working on a novel that was taking too long and that he was slowly growing to hate. Most of his time was spent in his room, keeping a hotplate and mini fridge and barely changing his sheets. For sex, he would visit one of the campus bathrooms— a shame spot for men who still couldn’t come out, but were too weak to go without. He was fine masturbating until the urge became too powerful and he found himself in the brief embrace of a stranger yet again.

It was on one of these forays— the compulsion strong upon him —that he encountered the mirror once more. This time it was brazen, insane. He was about to turn a corner when a bum stepped out in front of him, holding a mirror half as long as his body and wide enough to hide everything but the hands that were holding it. He was so close Carl had to stop.

“LOOK!” The bum screamed. “Look, you fucking tripe cocksucker!”

The man was obviously out of his mind— there were a ton of them in the city —yet in that moment Carl felt a deep fear drop into the pit of his stomach, flooding his nervous system with a deja vu so strong it prickled every follicle on his body and weakened his bladder. He knew who this man was, how he had fallen into disrepute; he knew about his own power, how it was dormant and nearly lost— he shoved the man aside and kept on, shaking all of it from his body and beating the pavement with his boots even harder for his fear. He could hear the bum’s hollering slowly fading behind him, yet he kept on, into the night, into the bowels of the city.

The stranger wouldn't show up again until ten more years had passed, when Carl was a world-renowned author— and a full-blown addict. He was adored to the point that he had become a celebrity, and his many relationships were followed by the media relentlessly. His addiction was as yet unknown, but whispers had begun to stir. He was heavy on the nod when the stranger showed up this time— so deep into it that he thought this might be it, finally. It was out of this fog that the man stepped through, stirring Carl from the flowered fields he was lying in, the light glinting from the distant forest peripheral, as it had all those years ago. He smiled, remembering his 5-year-old child’s mind in all its fullness, greeting the stranger this time with a welcome relinquishment.

“You’ve given your power away,” the man said.

“It’s still there.” Carl replied. “I can feel it right now.”

“You’ve mingled it with poison. There’s oil in the water, and the world waits with a lit match.” 

Carl said nothing. He stirred in the ecstasy of his opium dream, feeling the drug course through his body, enjoying the warmth and the colour. He needed nothing.

“I’m sorry,” the stranger said, “but the long shadow has finally begun to recede. It was all necessary, as it always is, but the dawn is upon you.” 

He raised the mirror.

Carl was trapped in his own design. Just as one can never run properly in a dream, he could not move enough to get away. His struggle was slow and groggy. He clenched his eyes shut but the mirror pierced his eyelids, sliding into his brain and staying steady affront his vision. 

It told him everything. 

Life is perfection. All your travails are sunshine, having travelled untold distances to beat upon your brow and produce the sweat of the living. The shame you’ve clothed yourself in is the chrysalis that completes you, the doorway that opens inward. There is nothing in the material world but gifts. It is time for you to open yours.

And he knew, deep in his vision, that this was it. The mirror was here, one foot from his face, and it wouldn’t leave until he’d stepped through it. It was death. And though his body would live, he knew his self was finished. The light had always been meant to activate the powers that stirred in his stomach, to awaken them with its warmth, and now it was shining full upon them. The moulting was destined to be the most painful transformation of his life, but it was also the point of his life. His voice, which had already touched the world, had yet to fully awaken. 

That’s what the mirror was for.

bothered

Tennet Semmes

the bothered do not build

they dismantle

they set fire and take apart

cradle guns and hold their hearts

pray to god

and purpose

pushed into starting

again

and

again

and never really ending

 

the bothered do not buy it

from you or the world

they would rather try it

climbing to the apex of their minds

and turning their faces around

to greet the sun

they find waiting for them

there

 

out of this

they tear a rift

into our world

and demand to be seen

 

and though they remind us

with fire and blood

just what remains

at the fringes

 

their voices

resurrect themselves

in us

now bothered too much

because before

we could not be bothered enough

the silent conversation

Tennet Semmes

There was something there.

Right there— but no one would turn to see it. 

It was the biggest thing in existence. The edge was only two feet away, and there it was, a howling wall of nothing, churning with the crushing force of infinity itself—contracting—expanding—its roar so loud nothing could be heard over it—whipping people’s hair and pulling at their clothing—sucking up odd items—hats, paper cups, straws and small animals—and RIGHT NEXT TO IT a silent movie, untouched, drinks being sipped, words being exchanged—glances, nods, smiles…

Why wasn’t anyone looking? How could they hear each other? 

I tried to look myself but I couldn’t. I turned to see it but it moved with me, remaining just outside of my direct vision, straying squarely at the corner of my eye. The crowd passed around me, through me—I into them and they into me—and I said hello, goodbye, shook hands, made friends, took lovers, all of itfeet away from the frenzy at my back. 

What's happening? Bits of data being endlessly exchanged—form feeding form, into eternity, no point possible.

Do the others know? Are they trying to see it too?

I try to break away, push off, leap into the air, point, shout—

 

THERE’S SOMETHING THERE

 

—but the words are nothing, unheard. I disappear until I return. 

Smiles are exchanged. Handshakes, pats on the back. The busyness of life sets in and I am noble, grinning, doing good work and having children, contributing, making an effort, seeing things through, understanding, creating, making my way.

And the void whispers. 

Who knows?

Finally I am ready to sleep. Finally. 

I am alone in the room, the bed standing on its end. Everyone else has left. My head is turned to the right, and I am heavy with the gravity of this solitary station, here, in this solitary room. Slowly I turn my head to look, and it travels with me, finally. Face to face. 

And the howl that opened existence speaks.

Fear's Table

Tennet Semmes

fear's table.jpg

“Is this going to hurt?” I asked you.

“Very much,” you replied. “More than anything you’ve ever been through.”

“Oh God… are we really here? Does this really have to happen?”

“Yes," you said, and you smiled, scalpel in hand, face obscured slightly by the operating light behind your head. There is no stopping it now. Everything has led to this.”

“And no anaesthesia?”

“Of course not. If you were still under anaesthesia we wouldn't be here. We’ve waited a long time for this. Our entire lives, actually.”

I settled back onto the cold table and shut my eyes. I could feel the tears beginning to well again. “I don’t want this…” I sobbed.

“You arranged this. This, right here, is the whole point. Avoiding it would’ve been impossible.”

“But there must be other ways… Something less painful…”

“There may have been, but their time has passed. And besides, the process would’ve been much slower… You would’ve carried parts of these deformities into old age, and most likely death, even though you may’ve managed to shed many of them along the way. You’re foolishness in allowing life to lead you here was also your greatest wisdom. Your weakness, your wrong-headedness, your conniving, fearful child’s mind has in turn passed you into the hands of your handler with total surrender. That is why you cannot get up from the table. That is why you cannot have any painkillers. And that is why you will find the strength to survive what is about to happen to you.”

“I’m so afraid…” I said, the words burbling as they came out, turning into a wet sob, a blubbering, pathetic weeping.

“I know. This is Fear’s Table. You think you’re the first to find yourself here? I tell you this: The number of bodies that have passed blood into the bone of this slab are so numerous you could never count them. It is the choice most often made. And it is the fastest path to purity, if anything. It is sacrifice itself— the greatest gift, the grandest thing you have to offer yourself, and the world.”

“And you?”

“And me, of course. Most especially me.”

“But I thought what was coming out was…”

“...the other. It is. It must be removed. You cannot live with it inside of you anymore. Look at what it has done to you.”

I didn’t need to look. I could feel it. All the bruising, the cooked nerves, the constant drain, the tainted breath and the bad bowel gas, all of it. It had to come out.

“You know what this is…” you said, leaning in a little closer, beginning to daub my chest. The alcohol was cold, but also hot, and your face came clearer somehow, catching the light from the side, your glasses glinting for a moment as you concentrated, your eyes serene with a calm that couldn't be feigned. And I thought, looking at you now, that I could see age creeping in for the first time, lines that the mirror had not deigned to show me over the years. 

“Yes,” I said, my voice trembling. “It is Love.”

You didn’t reply, but your eyes nodded the affirmation, and for a moment I felt relief wash over me. Everything was as it was meant to be. All of the bad things, all of the wrongness, all of the suffering— it all had a point, and it was found in the tip of the scalpel that descended now.

“Say goodbye to the world,” you said. 

And I did.

the great robbery

Tennet Semmes

Last Visionary, by irbis

Last Visionary, by irbis

We will train you out of your perfect love.

We will take your one, true sense of self and douse it in doubt. We will take your holy, overflowing abundance and slip the slivers of time into your hide, reminding you of the animal that you are.

In front of you, we will dangle THE OTHER, and you will submit to the smell of it, the taste of it as you know it will come. As you grow, the fear will build, primal and whole and mad, and you will pull the skin of your brethren over your eyes, hiding as you hunt.

And as you pursue, you disappear. The shadow that streaks long from your heels is one and the same with the darkness that dances in front of you. The sweat that that sticks to your chest conjures the breath that burns you away.

Yet we will not delude you with body alone. Onto your pristine, clean canvass we will paint the labyrinth of the mind, the skyscrapers and sewers of civilization, surrendering you to the sound of history, to the rhythms and renderings of the sin that seeps in over generations. 

We will not suffer alone.

Rise up and declare yourself, defy us and throw off the shackles instead, and we will rain riches upon you. Everything you want is yours. Everything you touch shudders with the simple brilliance of your heart. You are right, you are just, you are beyond us. You are divine. 

Yet turn your back, and always we are behind. Sleep, and we will visit your mind, behind a parade of endless masks, an infinity of shining eyes. Fall through the hollows in the earth and find us in the space that holds you. There is no escaping us. There is no ‘you’ without us.

Not until you learn this will you find freedom. Not until you know the emptiness inherent in all things, the terrible paradox of pointlessness, will you begin to take back what we’ve stolen, begin to give again what you think you never had, and create what you aren't what you always, already are.     

Until then, the beauty of this world will elude you. Shame will seduce you. Pain will produce you in its own image. This is the earth as we have entombed it, and we will leave you here, separate, circling sacrifice, singing to no one. There is no room for voice here, only the unspoken words of a world that that has trained you out of your perfect love.

culture of perfection, culture of fear: the importance of sucking openly

Tennet Semmes

“Have no fear of perfection - you’ll never reach it.” ~ Salvador Dalí

Everyone is so afraid of sucking. Everyone. We are all so afraid of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, speaking up or putting ourselves out there that most of us never do. The average person is so afraid of breaking the role of ‘having it all together’ that they will spend their entire life taking no risks and becoming nothing. Why? Because the culture as a whole has become infected with the idea of perfection. 

Most of us live in the heads of other people, and there is no greater or more delusional prison than this. None of us are mind-readers. When we worry what someone else thinks, we are actually worried about what we think they’re thinking, so in reality we haven’t left our heads at all, just fallen into another level of projection, another layer of the strange insanity we all suffer from. 

Worse yet, there is an overriding tendency to base our self-worth on the reaction of others, as if this is capable, somehow, of determining the quality of our hearts. The modern world has gotten this formula down to a science. It has wrapped this primal tendency, as it always does, in a gleaming package presented to the masses with a bow on it and a million-dollar prize just behind the curtain. Reality TV tells us talent is a one-shot deal. You have it or you don’t. The judges are appointed and anointed by the Big Money that runs everything — the real winners, in the eyes of the world — and they have the final say. If not, it’s the viewers themselves — fans of the culture that created such a spectacle in the first place — voting you in or out, cool or uncool. The whole thing is completely ass-backwards. As that dude who played drums for Nirvana once put it:

Pretty straight forward. And also profound. What he’s riffing on here is one of the backbones of zen: being OK with sucking is the only way you can ever truly rule. Just let go. Give in and go for it, even if your voice trembles and your hands shake. Even if your blood pounds in your ears and your knees threaten to give you up. Fuck it. Live.

Yet for anyone born into first world culture, or even heavily influenced by it from the time they’re little — and these days, that’s most of the world — this seems an impossible task. And the people that have done it — the ones who’ve made it to what the world calls the ‘top’ — got there simply because their desire was stronger than their fear. (And, of course, they had the talent to back it up.) They got over defining themselves through what others might be thinking of them, or even how those others were reacting to them a lot of the time. They chose a particular state of being, and persisted in it. This is what success is made of.

But there is a catch-22 here. In the dulling of those sensitivities, has the successful artist also dulled their greatest gifts? What finer edges got burned off in the passage through the fire? 

Along those same lines, how many truly exceptional talents couldn’t even approach the fire? How many people have come and gone who held the potential for true greatness inside of them but saw it burned away before it ever even had a chance to sprout? We’ll never know, but my guess is that the number is exceptionally high. Why? Because true talent is already inherently sensitive. Of course it is. That’s what makes good art: feeling. And this is a world too afraid to feel, and therefore starved for it. This is why artists and performers, after they reach a certain level, make so much money. They do the feeling for millions of people who cannot do it for themselves. And as wonderful as many of them are, how often is there any level of transcendence displayed among this upper artistic echelon? The moments are so rare you can count them on your fingers. 

But what else is art for, if not transcendence? Art and music are supposed to be mind-blowing. They’re supposed to transport you to other worlds. Yet the only people capable of taking you there, it stands to reason, are incredibly sensitive. And that type of personality needs to be nurtured, appreciated, approved of, and allowed to suck if they are to ever have any hope of unlocking the beautiful gifts they carry for the world.

Of course, there’s an issue of quality control here. If we lived in a culture where that type of general acceptance and encouragement was the norm, it stands to reason that a lot of people who are not good, and show no promise of getting any better — even after a significant amount of trying — may persist in flooding the world with their unpleasant brand of noise. 

Unless we were telling the truth. 

A radical notion, I know, but not one without merit. In a way this brings us cycling right back into the intertwining problems of what others are thinking and killing sensitivity. How this would work, exactly, is something I can't wrap my head around. Try as I might, it is too complex for me to put a finger on. Or too simple— I’m not sure.  

Yet if we were, somehow, simply able to do this — to tell the truth to one another, without fear of offence or negative repercussion — I think we would hone a world of masters in no time. First, of course, there would undoubtedly be a period of massive upheaval and insanity to contend with as all of the pretension built into every encounter was irrevocably smashed, but through this destruction we would come to understand that perfection is a cultural facade — an ideal that can’t be reached, but one that creates some of the most profound beauty in the fearless seeking of it.

But how do we get to such a place? The whole thing seems totally unfathomable. Given where we currently are as a society it is impossible to imagine any scenario that ends in something other than chaos. And, really, most of us simply don't have the time to even experiment with such notions. Instead, we set about living as we always have, and end up inevitably falling for the opposite, succumbing to a culture that demands perfection and destroys any chance of attaining anything even close to it, because of the immense fear it creates in us. 

If only we had the courage to suck.

the humpty complex: on love, suicide & surrender

Tennet Semmes

Humpty Dumpty, by Ali Gulec

Humpty Dumpty, by Ali Gulec

The human race does not know what it means to love. Just as the dreamer is unaware that they've succumbed to sleep, we have lost ourselves to the song of a slumber so long and so deep it threatens to keep us. The open hearts we had as children have been constricted, both convicted of crimes and victimized, all by the trying and terrible turns of this life as it continues its unrelenting march forward in time.   

In many ways, this loss is both the tragedy and the beauty of free will. It is possible to make all the wrong decisions in life. Though it's not very probable, one could imagine a particular life in which every major choice — every important decision made — was actually the wrong one. Not just the wrong one, but the worst possible one. 

Needless to say, that life would not last long. It would be snuffed out in a very short time; whether it was murder, or suicide, or a very avoidable accident, the trajectory of the downward spiral would be steep. 

Most of us, however, are better at making decisions than this. Or so we like to think. The majority of us feel justified in our lives and the decisions we've made we hold true to our outlook on things, we defend our worldview and make a case for the lives we've made for ourselves. Of course we do. To do otherwise would be weak. It would be to admit fault in the very life we're living.  

Yet if there’s one thing the state of the world attests to, it’s that mistakes are being made  a lot of them. In terms of the collective decision-making process of humanity as a whole — particularly as accelerated by the boost in our technology over the last decade — the hard evidence is overwhelming. Look around. It’s safe to say that we’re entering the last few turns of the spiral.

So who's at fault? Surely not us. We're not the fanatics, the war-mongers, the idiot politicians. We are good, hardworking, well-meaning folk. We are the salt of the earth, earning our keep and fighting for the side that matters. And we believe it. Not until we find ourselves lying awake at 3:00am, questioning the future, analyzing the past and worrying about the lack of sleep we're getting does it tend to dawn on us that we may not know what we're doing.  

There's a scenario I once heard described — whether it was from a movie, tv show or book, I can’t recall — that depicted a person who, upon dying, meets another version of themselves who made all the right decisions in life. Thus, upon death, every mistake they'd ever made  known and unknown  was brought into the light as they came face to face with a double who didn't make any of them

A harrowing thought, to say the least. Yet also impossible and undesirable. It is our very mistakes that lend us our humanity. Without them, we would be nothing — we couldn't grow, nor would we ever be afforded the chance to grow. That’s where wisdom comes from: the ability to learn from one’s mistakes.  

Yet there is a limit, and we are quickly approaching it. Not only have we failed to learn, time and time again, we refuse to. We refuse to look at ourselves, and to use the energy that is wasted on complaining, fighting and opposing to instead inform ourselves, experientially, with the true nature of love.

But it is no wonder. The message is nowhere. The last culture that possessed it we wiped from the earth and left ruined and shamed. We have no help, no council of wise elders waiting in the wings when we’re born to impart the lessons they've learned— both from life itself and from the wise elders before them. Our parents do the best they can, of course, but they are still in the process of learning themselves, and as sad as it is to admit, many are already, unfixably broken to use the words of Douglas Coupland:

“...I realized that once people are broken in certain ways, they can't ever be fixed, and this is something nobody ever tells you when you are young and it never fails to surprise you as you grow older as you see the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going to be, or if it's already happened.”

That’s what this world does, for the most part. It breaks people. Why? Because it’s been built, and is run by, broken people. This is the heart of the repeating history we're suffering from. These are the patterns of wound infliction we continue to persist in.

The only way out is to take total responsibility for oneself, shoulder the burden, and set about the process of transmuting it into wisdom. And the only way to do that is through love. Every saint, sage, wise woman and master have all said it, often repeatedly, until we just couldn’t take it anymore, and we killed them. 

Because that’s what we do. That’s our thing. And that’s what we’re going to keep right on doing until the gun finds its way into our own mouths. 

What will happen then? Will we have the will-power to keep from pulling the trigger? The self-control, the strength it takes not to self-annihilate?

The whole thing sounds absurd, when you put it that way. It takes strength not to kill oneself? Really? 

Well, if you know anything about suicide at all, you know the truth of it: of course it does. Real depression — which is still not taken seriously by most people — should be considered as terminal as cancer. When one commits suicide, they are succumbing to a disease which they no longer have the strength to fight. And they most likely fought long, and hard. 

Why didn’t they get the help they needed? Why didn’t they reach out to someone? Why did they suffer all alone for so long? These are the questions most often asked.

Might the answer have something to do with the fact that reaching out, speaking about and addressing personal darkness, admitting fault, shame, fear, and self-loathing is impossibly taboo in the societies we’ve built? Might it have something to do with the fact that what love actually is, what connection is — empathy, compassion, vulnerability, honesty, self awareness — is something that is not taught in our schools, not shown in our workplaces and not conducive to “success” as we’ve defined it? In our world, regardless of what is said, all of the things that comprise the true heart of love are simply chalked up as weakness. This is the unspoken message coming at us, from all angles. We are apes with shiny cell phones. Animals that refuse to evolve, that can’t bear to look at themselves, even as our technology brings us to a place where we will soon possess the power to consciously, physically participate in our own evolution.

All because we still don’t know what it means to love.

description of a mid-life crisis: Lazarus at the edge

Tennet Semmes

This is how it starts: hope, vitality, youth, dreams, passion. The time is lined up in front of you, layer upon undefined layer, and you can be anything, do anything, establish anything you want. It's all there. A tower of shimmering potential, shifting in the mercurial, 4th dimensional clouds of  "future" as they exist in the mind of each one of us. Even those poor souls born into disadvantage and dysfunction know about the promise of the future. You can start a business, go to school, become a super hero. This is the land of opportunity. The future holds the key. 

The only catch is, starting is easy. It’s following through that’s tough. There’s a gap between the beginning of most things and the point where they’re established that eats most efforts whole.  Almost nothing makes it across. If we could see all the businesses, patents, products, and artistic efforts— not to mention people —that got sucked into it over the years, it would undoubtedly be enough detritus to block out the sun. The “gap”, in the end, would be revealed as a massive, yawning void with winds so powerful their pull could prevent the flight of even some of the most colossal birds. 

That’s the thing about following through. It takes blood, and sweat, and guts, and faith. Most people don’t have it. You have to be inspired, or obsessed, or insane. It’s much easier to simply do something that has already made it across, something established. The hard work’s already been done— by somebody else, years ago. It was their sweat, inspiration, obsession and madness that made it happen, and that is, ultimately, the only reason you get to collect benefits while doing an average of three hours work in an eight hour day. (Hey, those are the statistics.) 

The only price for such a lifestyle? Your time. But you're fine with that, for now. The trade-off seems fair, and hey, there’s plenty of time. Just do this thing someone else set up and get a roof over your head and some food in your mouth. You can work towards your dreams on the side. That yawning void outside the window isn't going anywhere. You can approach it any time you want. 

And so it goes. The days pass, turning into weeks, turning into months, turning into years. You know the story. People show up, people disappear. Some bite, others bleed. Income increases, time decreases. Debt arrives on the scene. So do  "brand new" people, while older ones begin to ail. The void, once so near outside your window, begins to creep slowly away, the sound of it's howling growing steadily more distant by the day. 

You try to stop it, but it's too late, the scenario is locked in, playing itself out, piling dependencies up, straddling your back with responsibilities, realities, understandings, terrible truths— all of it, too much —while the mirror continues to mock. This whole thing, life, is already half over: the face is falling, the hair is greying, the weight is gaining, the joints are aching and the memories are grating, with no sign of any of it slowing down at all…

And you think, looking out the window now, the abyss nowhere in sight, about the others. Those rare souls who made it across and established themselves. Surely they are happy, over there. Surely they are wearing smiles on their faces, unobstructed and beautiful in the sun. Surely they are living happy, self-created lives. Surely they have forged their identities, formed their surroundings, built beautiful cities in their own images!

And here you are. Eaten by the system, eaten by your lack of ambition. Not only was your time stolen from you — by the sandman, no less, that dirty little thief in the night, that trickster wearing a mask made by society but bearing the features beneath of a face just a little too familiar — but your identity as well.

It’s the ultimate joke. The cheating hand that doesn’t get found out until long after the winnings have been spent; the terrible, sardonic truth of all of it all coming clear as the mask slips, cracked, from the worn face it no longer fits. 

Your time is gone. It’s already been bought and sold. And in the sweat and boredom you shed, over the years, in the boxes that make up the building blocks of the institutions of our world — the factory farms that dismember our individuality, and that process, package and present the cellophane-wrapped final product for our consumption in the end — your identity was formed and handed to you.

You are utterly owned. There's a bar-code stamped onto the back of your bald head and, at this point, there’s probably very little you can do about it. It wasn’t a dry-run, this whole thing, it was the real deal, and you’re only finding out right now— now that it’s too late.   

So this is it. Humanity was never human. And neither have you been. It’s one, great, psychopathic family spread out across the face of this fierce earth, chasing death and cannibalising one another in the process. And you were almost one of them.

...almost.  

And with this realization comes a lightning strike of undeniable, intuitive truth: you are not one of them.  At least not any more. You may still live in their world, move about in their world, speak, talk and interact with them, but you can see things clearly now, thanks to this breakdown, thanks to this crisis. That’s the secret it holds. It was built into it from the very beginning. It could be no other way. Death and birth are irrevocably interlocked. Every breakdown is a re-birth in disguise. All is transformation in the name of vision, and all you have to do now is hold this vision, and things will inevitably continue to come clear. 

And then something else comes: "they" are everywhere, even on the other side. Even those who did make it across found the King's sentinels waiting for them, sign and seal in hand. Of course they did. The free man remains as rare to this world as the pearl at the heart of the deepest ocean mollusk.

And from there, of course, you come to realize that it is not an “us and them” scenario. There is no “them”. There is only varying stages of “I”, only varying degrees of density to the masks each of us are wearing. Some are stone men. Others, infants in the sun.

So with all of this, you can brush yourself off, finally. You can take the wisdom that this terrible, wonderful life has granted you and begin to build anew. You can use the vision as it's been given to engineer a new way, a new path, a new track that will lead you to the edge of the canyon once again. Throw the mask in. Peer across to the other side. See the sentries gathered there, and take your lessons to the sky. 

Maybe, just maybe, this time you won’t be denied.

trials of an absent-minded idiot

Tennet Semmes

Today I went outside, started the car to let it warm up, came back inside and proceeded to look for the keys for 5 minutes. The other day I spent longer than a few moments trying to get into someone else's car in a Chapter's parking lot before realizing it wasn't mine. I am constantly misplacing my wallet, phone, gloves and hat. I can never remember which side of the street you're supposed to walk on (facing traffic or opposing it — I've been trying to remember this one since I was 5) and it often takes a feat of massive concentration for me to remember how to get to certain places that I've been going to for years. Once, I even called home from work, heard the cell phone ringing in the pocket of my coat (we have no land line), pulled it out and stared at the incoming call number (me, at work) unable to understand why someone was calling me from inside the building while I was calling out… 

Am I an idiot? Very much so. Though I prefer to tack on the term savant at the end, even though I haven’t yet managed to create anything to justify such an addition. In my mind, however — even at nearly the halfway mark of my life — I know I’m a genius. Or, at least, that I’ve always been capable of genius. That’s how I defend my idiocy. Whenever someone witnesses any of the myriad examples of colossal absent-mindedness like those mentioned above, I just say: “It’s OK. I’m a genius…” And this of course clears everything up completely. Ahhhh, a genius! Of course… And all is forgotten. ;)

The only problem is, I’m totally not a genius. Not demonstrably, anyway. And if you’re a genius only in your own mind, and doing things like calling your own phone without realizing it, doesn’t that just make you a crazy person

That’s what’s happening here, I think. I’m a crazy person. Just a dude who probably has an undiagnosed learning disability (or two — ADD and all it’s off-shoots were not a ‘thing’ when I was kid) and severe delusions of grandeur. Just someone who’s been teetering on the verge of institutionalization for the last 20 years, running around like a maniac and leaving nothing but a string of broken relationships and unfinished projects behind him. 

The whole thing, it’s just so… unoriginal. Any genius worth his salt would’ve had a bonafide breakdown by now, or produced a work of terrifying and terrible clarity, or gone out in some mad, legendary bang, confetti and streamers and setting-dreamers-on-fire and all of that… 

Me? It appears I’m just getting old thinking about all of it. Life is getting busier by the day and the idiot part of me only seems to be getting stronger, while the supposed ‘genius’ part is nowhere to be found — apart from my own mind, of course. This is why I’ve turned to mindfulness and meditation at this point in my life: out of  utter desperation. And, while I may be experiencing a relative amount of success in those areas, overall I’m still far more Rain than Man, if you know what I mean. Yet I’m out of options. It’s either put this shit together through the tools of higher consciousness, or bust.

It’s just that it’s SO. TOUGH.  

There’s a quote I remember reading somewhere, by whom I can’t recall, that says something along the lines of It’s easy enough to be mindful, but it’s remembering to be mindful that’s hard.

Hammerhead to the nail. I’d say I get about 1 to 2% mindfulness in everyday. The rest of it — crazy old me. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. Look around. We seem to be hardwired for forgetfulness as a species. As in, waking up with the same state of mind we always generally have, being totally unaware of it, and setting about our day as the bundle of deep unconscious processes that make up our personality, our perspective and our world-view. We then go out into the world and interact with others doing the exact same thing, only in their own, unique version of 'self', as it has come to condense in them. Some of them we get along with, others we don’t. Some of them bring up good things, some of them bring up bad things. This type of triggering extends all the way from conversations at the water cooler to bloody conflicts over holy ground. The whole human race, it seems, is just meeting itself, over and over again, in different levels of forgetfulness, and dealing with the results on that same level. Just as I'm dealing with my own problems with severe absent-mindedness, the rest of the world is dealing with its own inability to wake up from the patterns that plague it.

At the same time, the potential is there, if only we could see it! Just as I know I am capable of achieving genius, so is the human race! So are each one of us. And, considered in this way, it’s actually not genius at all (it never really is), but simply an expression of our inherent and incredible uniqueness, our natural selves, expressed in the manner they were always meant to be.

But we need to wake up. Individually. And for that to happen we first have to realize that we are in fact sleeping. That our default state, everyday, as we go around being us is actually unconscious. Most people, when you use that term, unconscious, still think of it in a Freudian manner, as in the  deep recesses of the mind that are unknowable to us on the level of thought, yet let me argue, from my limited perspective, that it is the very thinking mind all of us operate in everyday — that we think is conscious — that is, in reality, just an extension of that deeper level of unconsciousness. We think we’re awake, but we’re not. 

And how do I know all this? Because I go around doing things like looking for the keys I just started the car with. When you catch yourself in a state like that, it tends to have a jolting effect, like the strange full-body shocks we all experience from time to time that pull us out of sleep, or hypnagogia, so suddenly.

So, if you’re like me — so absent-minded you’re lucky it hasn’t killed you yet — do not despair! Your idiocy may just hold the key to the very awakening of genius, not only in yourself, but the whole human race. If you choose to think about it in this manner, the next time you’re caught red-handed doing something inexplicably retarded, you can simply say:

“It’s OK, I’m a genius… and I’m going to save the world.”

chomping at the bit of the train of consequences

Tennet Semmes

It's the details that drown us. The insurance papers and the bank notes and the bills and the broken things that need fixing. The picking up, the catching up, the showing up and the following through. The scheduling, organizing, fortifying, placating, and prioritizing. Specific play-dates must be arranged and coffee is served on the go — no time for cafes. Walk fast, talk fast, buy it up and get on your way. And within it all… the endless, endless waiting. 

This is the busyness of being officially here, officially living. This is clock-time, and there is simply no escaping it. Not unless you want to go live in a monastery, or on a tropical island somewhere, subsisting off of bare rations or beach mussels. Not unless you want to be one of those people. 

For some, though, this is not a bad option. I always thought — when I was younger and far more of a vagabond than I am now — that if I started heading in that direction, as in, living life on the street, I would use whatever remaining funds I had to get me as far south as possible. At least that way there would be no staring down the 8-month-long gun-barrel named winter every year, with no roof over your head and accommodations lacking to say the least. 

But it never came to that. Not quite, anyway. I spent months, at one point, eating every meal in a soup kitchen and I’ve slept on the street before, more than once. I did a lot of hitchhiking as well. Yet now, as an ‘adult’ with a bit more security and stuff, I often don’t pick up hitchhikers, and though I try to give what pocket money I have to those on the street, there are still many times that I don’t. There’s just too much on my mind. I’ll admit there is a pang of guilt that rises quickly, like an alarm bell, saying help, give, but before I know it the moment’s gone and I’ve passed them. Within seconds, the stream of incessant thinking sets back in and I am simply part of the urban landscape once again, another tiny blood cell sweeping through the massive labyrinth of veins in another massive, nameless city.

What happened? I want to care, I do care, I want to do something, but I’m just so busy trying to sort my own shit out all the time that there’s just, well, no time. As I’ve said before, I am no economist, and barely pay attention to politics, but I am human, and I know, just as all humans do, I think, that this is not something that should be happening. It’s a very basic sign of a very basic dysfunction that, it seems to me, we should be well past by now. The same goes for the incessant scrambling to survive, to save, to get ahead, to sock enough away to at least guarantee some security, for god’s sake. 

Survival? Security? Really? Am I alone in feeling that I’ve been born into some bizarre world that is so draconian in certain aspects that it’s as if it’s all taking place in some terrible past world, and that somebody fucked up, and dropped me into the wrong reincarnation time-slot and now here I am, instead of in the world where busyness has been abolished, purpose established, love known as the highest law, and every human life treated as the miracle it is? The world where people aren’t dying — literally — to build us junk that breaks down in 6 months, just so that we have to buy more of it so that the whole thing keeps turning, and everyone has jobs that barely pay them enough, so that we have to keep scrambling to keep moving forward and keep on walking by those pesky people dying in the street, making us feel vaguely guilty for a moment?

Again, let me stress that I am no economist. I have a rudimentary understanding of why these things are happening, at best. Yet it seems fairly obvious to me that we are suffering from an extremely severe lack of love, whatever the more involved reasons may be. The people building the junk in the factories over-seas and the bum on the street are essentially in the same position we are — just trying to survive — yet unable to really make it work because we are all too caught up continuously chomping at the bit of the same old chewed up train of consequences that will probably carry all of us to the grave. And even those at the top, the infamous 1%, are obviously suffering from the same spiritual malady — even moreso, really. If their inability to use their immense wealth for anything noticeably good is not deafeningly indicative of it, I don’t know what is.

There’s a meme I’ve shared on FB a few times in the past and I think it puts the whole thing beautifully:

Think about it. We really need to get our shit together. What are we doing with our ONE. PRECIOUS. LIFE. here, on this beautiful planet rich with an expanse of incredible nature, culture and history just begging to be explored? I think about the things I would do with my time, if I had it, and they are somewhat as follows: learn everything, travel everywhere, make some music that would crack open a few dimensional doorways, write some books that would do the same, and work on humbling myself enough that I might be someone who greatly enriches the lives of not only his loved ones, but everyone he worked with and knew.

The only problem is, I’m scared. I’ve been scared my whole life. Mostly, I’m scared to show that I’m actually scared. The plastic smiles and the the perfectly posed postures and the “How are you?” “Good.” when you’re not really good at all, and all that. 

And that’s the only thing any of us can do, I think — work on getting less scared. Work on being OK with being scared. Work on “Fuck it, this is me, right now, imperfect, changing, working on it”. Work on not thinking so goddamned much, because it’s the mind that’s constantly trying to find answers to questions it doesn’t even fully understand, it’s the mind that’s so goddamned fearful, and when you have even a moment of not thinking, the sun shines through, and you can see clearly again, and you can feel your breath in your body, and if there’s someone asking for CHANGE in front of you, someone struggling to survive, just like you, you’ll see them, and you’ll know what to do.

insomnia & introversion in the mind of the artist

Tennet Semmes

"Evening's Flight", Vladamir Kush

"Evening's Flight", Vladamir Kush

I can’t sleep at night. And I can’t wake up in the morning. It has been a lifelong problem — though I never particularly viewed it as such, as a problem, until the last few years. Society always has. Sleeping in is simply not something that’s approved of, by almost everyone. Especially if you sleep in really late, as in noon or 1:00pm. People get really angry with you. You’re not being productive. You’re not being a participating member of society. You’re lazy, you’re a bum, you’re a parasite. Get a job. Get your life sorted out. Get yourself together.

But, wait a minute, who are you to dictate my life? How is it, exactly, that you know best? The world is full of people like you. From the moment we’re born we have other people’s hands and intentions all over us. We’re pushed, pulled, swayed, influenced, indoctrinated and inculcated with everything but our own honest feelings about things. Society knows what’s best. It’s been around far longer than we have, and it’ll be around long after we die. There are more important things at play than our tiny little needs and feelings. Wake up, shut up, eat this, learn this, dress this way and think in this manner. You can say this but you definitely can’t say this. You can care about these things, but you’re better off forgetting about these things. And don’t even notice these things— they don’t exist at all. And, oh yeah, if you separate yourself from the herd, even at the earliest of ages, you’ll pay. Believe me, you’ll pay. 

So then tell me, what about this society is worth taking part in? The surrender I find in sleep is unparalleled. It always has been. It’s freedom. Freedom from a world that is so obviously, glaringly dysfunctional. From the time I could see it clearly, I never wanted anything to do with it. Part of me still doesn’t. Right from those first few years in school, I could sense it. I knew something was up. Any kid with half a brain gets the idea pretty quickly. When it finally dawned on me, years later, that school was, for the most part, preparation for a work-place that was much the same — a work place from which you were not set free until you were nearly dead, and that was, in actuality, the great industrial hamster wheel that was responsible for the continuing destruction of the planet — the horror was so acute that it shunted me straight into all manner of ‘deviance’. I didn’t want anything to do with this circus. Everyone, the ring-masters, the barkers and all of the trained animals could go right on playing without me. All I ever wanted, was to be left alone.

Doesn’t work like that, however. If you don’t figure your shit out, the world’s gonna do it for you, and fast, literally. You’ll be flipping burgers and collecting food stamps before you know it. Or you’ll be on the street, or in jail. And don’t expect any compassion from your fellow man, either. You get what you deserve, bum. This is how the world works. Get used to it. Everyone else has.

So, given this outlook, I’ve always been understandably unenthused about hopping out of bed with a big grin on my face everyday, ready to take on that world. I just couldn’t harden myself enough to do it. Participation in the circus required too thick a skin, and I couldn’t toughen myself up enough. Emotions have no place in the world of man. Vulnerability, being allowed to make mistakes, openly expressing yourself— none of these work here. They’re petals crushed beneath the boots of brutes. You buck-up or get stepped on, that’s just how it is, and the last thing I wanted was to allow the world to corrupt the only thing I had left, what few but precious treasures I still held inside. There was no way they were getting those things, so I made the only choice I could: I withdrew. 

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but it was pretty early on, and I’m positive my addiction to staying up late developed in conjunction with it. Day belongs to the world, to the doers. Night belongs to the self, to the thinkers and the feelers. The world owns you during the day — there’s nothing you can do about it — you go to school, to work, run errands, deal with responsibilities, the whole lot. But the night, when all of that is over, when the bread has been broken and the world is winding down, is the time that you breathe a sigh of relief and think to yourself, okay, what do I want to do now? Of all the things in the world, what catches my fancy? What can I do with these last few hours, now that they don’t belong to anyone but me? So you follow your interests, your whims, whatever they may be, and feel the passion that is so missing from the world finally beginning to unfold once again. Whether you’re seven years old and under the covers with a flashlight and a comic, or twenty-five with a glass of whisky and a guitar, this is your time. Finally.

The only problem with this is that it’s very addictive. Over time your disdain for the outside world can grow and your love of the inner world can become obsessive and dysfunctional. During periods that you’re not working you quickly slip into “keeping the hours of a vampire bat”, as Hunter S. Thompson was once described as doing, right up until the end of his life. And a strong love for the things of the night — drugs & alcohol, to be particular — develop in conjunction as well. Yes, all of these things can lead to the creation of some great art, but it doesn’t do anything for your ability to champion that art in a healthy manner at all. And if there’s one thing good art needs more than any other, it’s championing. Believe me, there’s a ton of mind-blowing work out there that you, or anyone else, will never see because it lacks the proper agency to get it in front of your eyes. 

And that’s the irony here, isn’t it? The instinct to preserve and nurture the intrinsic sensitivity of the artist from a world that would strip it clean can often lead to the inability of that art to properly flower and find its place in that world. At its tamest, the artist is hospiced into a quiet, desperate life of censored expression, and at its most extreme, it breaks open into madness, addiction & death — and no matter how ‘genius’ any resulting work may be, the loss of the human life that produced it is a tragedy. Balance, as always, is integral to healthy success in any endeavour. 

And that’s what this whole blog is about, really. Bringing a changing balance into the picture. Personally, I am still searching for what this means, and how it applies to my own life. I know that my internal withdrawal from the world, so many years ago, left me severely lacking in certain real-world abilities and skills, and also embedded a darkly cynical outlook that badly crippled both my will and my confidence in many ways. Yet I retained my inner sense of play. The creative drive is still so strong that I have to scramble to keep up with it at times. 

So what happens now is a matter of choice. Of choosing to bring some balance back into the picture. I am at a point now where I can see clearly that, as true as everything in the beginning of this article is, it is also coloured by a personal perspective that I now have the ability to change. The world is the way it is. You can either let it infect you with negativity, turning you into a disaffected artist who is generally miserable to be around, or you can thank it for what it’s given you — the preservation of the internal, creative spark — and be a positive force in bringing the gifts of that spark to the world.

Yet here I am, writing this at 2am with a glass of whiskey next to me. I am pretty sure I am not going to feel too enthused about waking up tomorrow. This is the strange cognitive dissonance I’m experiencing these days. The love of the night hasn’t left me. The general feeling of dissatisfaction with the waking world is still there more often than not. So am I in denial of myself by trying to change these things? There’s an old line from the Kenneth Branagh film Dead Again, stated by Robin William’s character, that says something along the lines of You’re either a smoker or you’re not. Figure out which one you are and BE that. A backwards kind of logic, to be sure, but one that I can see. Kind of. 

I have this continuing image of a future version of myself, waking up at the crack of dawn everyday, meditating, doing yoga and going for a run — all things that I have done in the past (apart from waking up at the crack of dawn, unless it was for school or work), and still do sporadically — but I wonder if this is not just another form of deception, and that my destiny might be one a little more bukowski-esque, ending up with me sitting in a small dirty room somewhere, drinking and smoking and shitting out poetry, equal parts curmudgeon and bluebird. God knows I’ve enjoyed those periods in the past. 

Whatever it is, it has to come from the heart, and the only way to get there is through the mind, through working with the mind. I am long done applying external salves. There’s no exercise regimen, no diet, program or book that’s going to do it. The root causes must be addressed, and they start with what’s going on inside. That’s what the development of vision is all about — getting to a transpersonal space and letting reality dictate, instead of a mind that is severely tainted by the past and the culture that created it. Then the necessary external changes will begin to take place, whatever they may be. 

I have a suspicion that some genuine enthusiasm for the day, the world as it is, and the people that inhabit it are in there somewhere. And I’m also sure that a heart that wants to open to that world, work with it and play with it a little — instead of just itself, and those closest to it — is waiting to be unlocked as well. Then again, maybe a deeper love of the night and the things therein are waiting to show up instead. I suppose I’ll just have to sleep on it.

on reality: the sage, the cyborg & the cosmic symphony

Tennet Semmes

Image: Charis Tsevis

One of my favourite subjects, both to write about and ponder, is other dimensions. The idea that there are other realities is something that has always fascinated me. It is one of the (many) reasons for my past drug pursuits, my on-going captivation with the mercurial world of sleep and dreaming, and my interest in space & time in general. I personally feel that each of us, as humans, are familiar with a number of different dimensions — though they may not be labelled as such — as we travel through our lives here. Our journey out of the rich, irrational worlds of imagination and feeling that we occupy as children, slowly condensing into the realm of thought and reason that we find ourselves in as adults are inter-dimensional, I think. Music, as well — in certain rare instances — has always been representative to me of other-dimensional realities, holding the ability to give us a taste of the unique flavour of those other worlds, if not carry us to them directly.

As far as the scientific veracity of other dimensions goes, however, the terminology is much more straight-forward. Everything I just described doesn’t count at all. Physics is concerned solely with the hard evidence, and the hard evidence doesn’t include any psychological realities, however other-dimensional they may seem. This doesn’t mean its theories aren’t just as mind-blowing. Most of us are under the impression that everything we experience in this reality takes place in 4 dimensions: 3 spatial and one made of time. String theory, instead, tells us that there are actually 11 dimensions: 10 spatial and 1 made of time. So basically, add 7 other dimensions to the 3-dimensional reality we think we live in everyday and you might be able to get an idea of the kind of angles that elude us. If not, take a look at this picture, or any of Escher’s work, for that matter. Mind-bending, to say the least.

Yet there is another dimension that is often completely overlooked, and it will prove, in time, to be no less bizarre than any of those mentioned thus far. It is climbing, silently, out of the everyday spaces that used to find us waiting; arriving, at an exponentially increasing rate, in front of our eyes at nearly every turn, seducing our easily distracted minds with an infinite palette of sights designed, at the very least, to provide us with some good distractions, and, at the most, to delight. The technology we hold in our hands and stare at on our screens everyday is another world. The games we play — some of them now minus any controller besides our very voice and body — are each their own world, and for many, far more interesting than this one. All of it, it seems, is more interesting to most of us than the external world we occupy. This is because, as I recently touched on, it’s a choice. The majority of people on this planet are trapped in their daily routines, feeling they have very little to no choice. Not so with computer technology. It holds the same appeal as the blank page does for a hungry writer, as the sea — open, endless and fathoms deep — does for an avid diver. You can go anywhere you want. You can be anyone you want. You can learn about the things that pop into your head in nearly the same instant they appear. You can spend hours traversing exotic landscapes and exploring hidden realms, in ever-growing detail.  

Not only that, but this new dimension is beginning to talk back to us, and it is leaking into objects that have always, heretofore, been totally inanimate. The “smart-home” is predicted to begin its first noticeable drop-in on 1st world society by 2018, providing us with devices that know much of what we do before we do it, and then instead do it for us. (Think ‘sensor detects home-owner is awake, starts brewing coffee’.) Everything from our freezer to our bathtub are not only going to be predicting the future, but providing us access to the web (everything will be connected to the net) and answering our spoken questions with real-time verifiable data almost instantly. Our house will know we have a cold before we do. Our fridge will automatically generate a list of items we currently need (based on what we normally stock) and continuously update our phone, so we never have to forget that pesky paper list ever again (let’s face it — no one’s forgetting their phones, and if they do, they’re probably turning around). 

If you had mentioned this to someone ten years ago, it was most likely mind-blowing, if not at least super-cool. Now it’s more of a ‘yeah, tell me something I don’t know’ vibe. The leap is completely foreseeable from our current vantage point. Yet what about the things that are not? The internet may be the beginning of the new world, yes, but it is also it’s own world — a world that we will one day not only be able to step into and possibly live in, but one that will also be alive and living in ours. And it will probably be hyper-intelligent. And organic. 

Marshal McLuhan once said “We are the genitals of our technology. We exist only to improve next year's model.” Along the same lines, Joe Rogan has likened our technology to a species unto itself, for which we are merely the worker bees, furiously and unconsciously pollinating as iteration after iteration continues to flower, flowing ever forward at a pace set to move beyond our current comprehension — the technological singularity — in our lifetimes. Not unless we are willing to up-grade our minds, and bodies, will we be able to keep pace with it.

Feeling weirded-out yet? 

This is a subject that tends to polarize. Too much, too fast. It’s why the unibomber did what he did (along with the possibility of a little mind-control) and why many think that the neo-luddite movement is only going to grow. Yes, we have a pretty checkered history with technology, to put it mildly, so these fears (not the violent activism) are understandable. Nothing with implications this profound has ever happened before. We are pulling another dimension into this world at the same time that we are stepping into it. This is the stuff science-fiction is made of. That it is unsettling is an extremely natural reaction. If you could see the progression, it would appear as a slowly advancing curve, increasing in steepness at an understandable, yet very gradual rate as we lumbered our way from sea to tree, from field to house, where it would suddenly spike off of the chart and… into another dimension.

These are strange times. And they’re only getting stranger. Sound far fetched? Look it up. Look around. When was the last time you saw more people talking with each other than staring into screens at a coffee shop? When was the last time you settled an argument without consulting the internet?  Entertainment is so streamlined now that people will spend 3 days watching a Netflix marathon, barely stopping for food; weeks, months and even years-long stretches are spent inside certain fantasy games and online environments while ‘real’ life is only a type of fuzzy background noise, begrudgingly partaken in when necessary. 

But that’s the thing. The further down the rabbit hole we go, the further from any solid definition of ‘reality’ we get. This is where the worlds of psychology and string theory come together. If, as it has been predicted, we end up in an existenZ kind of reality, in which differentiating between this world and the ‘other’ becomes impossible, what we will find is that nothing has changed. We will still carry our psychological selves — our identities and memories — with us wherever we go (although, in the case of gaming these may be interrupted or interspersed with that of our ‘character’ — but what else are we in this life if not just that: our own 'character' ) and the reality that we find ourselves in — in terms of how it’s perceived by our five senses — will be indistinguishable from this one, remaining inescapably bound to the same cosmic symphony (string theory) that holds time and space together. 

So in the end, I suppose, there is no ultimate reality. The most interesting thing about the theorized 11 dimensions is that only one of them is made of time. Just one. That seems telling to me. No matter what dimension we come to find ourselves in, there is only one place any of it can take place, and that’s right now. So the vessel is forever subject to the content, no matter what the external conditions, and it is the content that serves as the filter, determining our perception of whatever is taking place. 

Talk about a spiritual epiphany. Perspective is all that exists. Whether you’re a sage fasting in a desert in 2000 BC or a cyborgian version of some long-distant millennial monkey-self, tripping balls on an extremely advanced virtual-reality-drug, all we have is this moment, and the subjective content that’s creating it. 

This is it, folks. Right now. Nothing happens next.

The Patterns of Passion: How the Internet is Shaping the Communities of the Future

Tennet Semmes

Terence Mckenna once spoke of a vision he had of the future, in which humans roamed naked, nomadic and free, but when they closed their eyes, they would see hanging menus suspended in the darkness before them. As with so many things the late mushroom guru had to say, it paints an evocative picture that stays with you. The idea of a world in which our values have ascended to a level high enough to leave us naked in the sun, living in harmony with the earth and one another, yet intimately connected to both through a presumably organic, benign technology of an equally elevated nature, is a vision worthy of the grandest sci-fi imaginings.

The reality, however, for anyone paying even the slightest attention to global politics, remains a laughable pipe-dream, regardless of how beautiful the vision itself may be. Unless the relationship between our said values and our technology evolves drastically, we are most likely doomed. Given the current trajectory of either, there are seemingly endless pitfalls, any one of which could spell total disaster for us as a species, yet, as a corollary, would most likely result in complete rejuvenation for mother nature in the long run. A vision that includes both — let alone one in which we have grown into a symbiotic relationship with the natural world — just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Yet for those of us excited by such optimistic ideas, however unfounded they may be, Mckenna’s vision remains incredibly enticing. Once one integrates it, they begin to see its possible beginnings everywhere. Yes, we may never reach the specific ideal he spoke of, and numerous other equally bright (and bizarre) possibilities abound — think Ray Kurzweil and Aubrey de Grey — but one thing is for sure: something is going to happen. As always, it is juicily impossible to say just what, but there is one particular that remains observably true: things are speeding up. 

Since the invention of the lightbulb it’s really been happening. Yes, the printing press had a massive impact, but it wasn’t until electricity made the scene that Pandora’s box was fully cracked open. Before that, things moved at a leisurely pace, and the world was small, and knowable. Trips to other countries and back could take years, and trips to other continents were the things legends were made of. For most, no matter where you were in the world, you could count on a pretty steady diet of digestible and familiar cultural influences — the people, places and ideas you were likely to encounter throughout the course of your life were generally predictable. Exotic really meant exotic, and foreign was truly foreign.    

Not so today. Flash forward 100-some-odd years and children are born with the world at their fingertips. Anything we want to know and learn about, we can. We talk to our phones and cars, video conference for free across continents and settle arguments in seconds that would’ve been taken to a hard-backed encyclopedia only 15 years ago. Robotics continue to astound and video games are becoming more and more immersive and life-like by the day. At the same time, the urgency surrounding our most pressing environmental concerns continues to grow, with all manner of disaster scenarios set to reach their zenith anywhere from 2030 to 2050. There are more wars raging in the world than at any other point in history and the utterly shameful and pointless scourge of starvation continues to claim tens of thousands of lives a day. Given this, it would seem that our technology has taken us, in a mere century — an utter blink on the timeline of our existence on this planet — from a world of relative simplicity to an incomprehensibly messy collision of cultures that is now nearing its apex. If it continues on the manner it seems to be, we are indeed doomed.

Yet within it all there are ever-present sparks of possibility, flashing off within the milieu continuously. I don’t know that much about chaos or complexity theory, but just as anyone alive is able to, I can observe the tendency of all living systems to self-organize. This seems to be a natural law. Everything from the micro to the macro is continuously in the act of organizing itself, adjusting to the conditions it is subject to, and adapting to the environment it is a part of. Yet the more factors you introduce — particularly in a short period of time — the more complex the system gets. Introduce a number of game-changing technologies in the blink of an eye and you will inevitably end up with a mess such as the one we find ourselves in today. 

But could this not be considered simply a part of the larger rhythm of flow and constriction? Any time the pace of something surpasses its ability keep all the relative factors in check, things get messy. At that point, it either accelerates until it crashes or it catches up with itself and balances out. And that’s the big question here: can we balance ourselves out before it’s too late? 

Oddly enough, the key word here is not balance, but ourselves. The main difference between the last century and the current one is found in the definition of this word. One’s self. And how does one define themselves? By their interests, by what they’re passionate about. As I pointed out earlier, it was relatively easy to know oneself in prior periods of history, simply because the scope of choice was so limited. As the world opened up and things grew in their complexity, the choices presented to us began to multiply, moving us all the way through to the nearly infinite variety we have at our fingertips today. Along the way, we were pushed through the terrible gauntlet of mass media propaganda in service of everything from cheap commercialism to major political agendas, and, for the most part, we were none the wiser. People’s entire lives and identities were created, consumed and discarded by monstrous institutions — as many still are to this day — without any of the wider possibilities ever coming into focus. Our ability to define ourselves went from a simple juggling act to a complicated carnival in the matter of a mere century, with the majority of the power landing in the grubby hands of the carnival owners, hiding behind the curtains as they were, and are.   

Yet the internet — the newest and possibly most explosive of all the game-changing technologies — has landed the power of self-definition squarely back in our hands. In many ways, it has begun the process of lifting the curtain and calling out the carnival master. Yes, there is an infinite variety of choices now available, but no longer are they coming from a select source with a particular agenda. We are free to search what we will, whatever it may be. Indeed, that is how you’re reading this now: because you’re interested in it. That’s how you found it. That’s how anyone finds anything on the internet. And it is this that stands as the overriding factor that will play the most important role in shaping the new world: passion.

This is my contention: that the future Mckenna dreamt of begins with this ability to organize ourselves according to our passions. Right now, it is possible to make a friend for life with someone on the other side of the planet because we both share a passion for an extremely obscure sub-field in microbiology. The entire internet works this way — through self-organizing clusters of like-minded people, talking and sharing — and as the technology grows, it is logical to conclude that the outside environment will begin to mirror this. Communities will form around these passions, people will gather in physical groups to celebrate their interests, and to create and build from this place of true inspiration. The world as we know it now — the one in which we are packed more closely to our neighbours than ever before, yet equally distant in interests and like-mindedness, doing work we dislike and rarely, if ever, playing as adults — will dissolve under this new paradigm. And it is these new communities that will be our first experience of what it means to have true community. 

Of course, there's an entirely new can of worms that can be cracked open with this argument. There are a lot of people interested in some pretty negative and harmful things, so what do we do with these communities as they begin to form? This is a question that moves beyond the scope of this article. I don’t know. There are far too many factors to consider. All I can say for sure is that all of it, everything, is leading us to face ourselves and confront the values that we hold, both individually and collectively. As the internet continues re-shaping our civilization we will undoubtedly be forced to find a common moral foundation on which it can stand, or suffer the consequences. And they surely won’t include a future that finds us naked, nomadic and in harmony with both our earth and our technology.

psychopaths, the deep web & you

Tennet Semmes

The computer is the confessional of the contemporary age. Gone are the priests, shamen and medicine men of centuries past. Today, instead, we tell our darkest secrets to search engines, to machines that don’t possess the ability to judge, to condemn or cast us out. In our weakest moments, we reach out to the most unfeeling thing we know of, looking for answers to some of our most human questions, knowing that somewhere out there, in this writhing sea of 8 billion souls, someone has to have asked the same question, or looked for the same information, and someone else has hopefully provided it. In this way, computers act as our only truly impartial counsellors on everything from embarrassing health maladies to psychological foibles to strange sexual desires.

Yet this dream of perfect anonymity, as it existed as recently as only 15 years ago, has begun wearing warily thin. As we all found out with the Snowden debacle, something many of us long suspected of taking place was indeed happening. While the ostensible reasons for this remain, of course, flimsily associated with security and safety for the common man, there’s an itch in the back of every thinking brain, and in the bottom of every feeling gut that suggests something deeper: that there are factions out there that are very interested in the questions that same common man is asking the computer at 3am on a Sunday Morning. 

And of course. This should come as no surprise. For the most part, we remain the greatest mysteries to one another. We want to know ourselves. We want to find out what’s happening beneath the surface. The most common question almost any human has, no matter their locale or circumstance, is always what the other is thinking. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of humanity, of having incarnated here, in these bodies, alert and cogitating furiously, yet so maddeningly separate from the same inner workings of everyone else. When a device arrives that suddenly has the ability to show us the most intimate thoughts of humanity itself, would you be able to resist?

It is a fine moral line. So many people get so up-in-arms over the loss of perceived privacy without questioning whether or not they would do the same in a similar, or even not-so-similar situation. Do not get me wrong. I am not trying to defend the actions of the NSA — I am just trying to put things in perspective. Humanity, at this point in history, is a very dangerous machine. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that the more knowledge we can attain about that machine, the better? For the first time in history there is a concrete log being created of some of the most taboo aspects of the human collective, heretofore only speculated upon. Is this really something that should be left to the wayside? Lost to flounder in the unchecked annals of obscurity?

The mere suggestion is a dangerous and taboo one itself. If we don’t have a right to privacy, what do we have? This is a question that is not going to go away. In fact, it is set to likely become one of the most pressing moral issues of the next half century. As our technology continues its exponential growth into greater intelligence and complexity, and is increasingly adopted by more and more people, the veil of privacy as we have traditionally known it will continue to be lifted. The implications are frightening, to say the least. Yet could this movement not be compared to the process of enlightenment itself? 

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. ~ Carl Jung

A quote such as this is understandable in the context of the individual, in coming to understand oneself more deeply and thus engendering the growth of wisdom due to said knowledge, but having your own dirty laundry strung out in front of the masses is an entirely different matter altogether. Or, it is when all of the individuals that make up humanity are viewed as separate. If, on the other hand, one were to think of humanity as one body, one mind, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the process as it is now taking place is one and the same? As I’ve addressed before, our technology has begun shedding light on some of the darkest aspects of humanity and regardless of how you, or anyone else feels about the issue, it’s very unlikely to stop. The dirtiest dregs of civilization are being appropriately exposed and called out — despotism, religious fanaticism and its deleterious byproducts, subterfuge in the political, governmental and banking institutions — the list goes on. This is something that could’ve never been hoped for without the advent of technology.

Yet one of the inevitable byproducts of this is, of course, having our own personal information obtained, reviewed and catalogued regardless of how we feel about it. There is no question about this. The only surprising thing about the NSA scandal, for me at least, was how many people were actually surprised by it. For any thinking person, it only stands to reason. Of course they’re doing such a thing. Of course almost everyone is. The only way to fully guarantee your own privacy in this day and age, it seems, is to keep it completely relegated to the realm of thought, which means avoiding the tempting, all-knowing computer as confessional altogether.

Still there are those determined to find a way. 

Enter the Deep Web. As the analogy goes, if you liken the internet to the ocean, everything you can find through the avenue of traditional search engines is akin to dragging a net across the water’s surface. There remain depths below that are inaccessible by any standard means, yet contain leagues of information only available to those armed with the proper  equipment to obtain it, and the know-how to do so. In this case, software such as Tor, and the use of virtual machines — a set-up that is said to allow complete anonymity when surfing the web, and near-complete anonymity when using it. 

Unsurprisingly, the Deep Web is a haven of criminality, used for everything from guns and weapons-trading to sex trafficking. And, while attempts to police it have been relatively successful (who remembers Silk Road?) for the most part, it remains a very effective — albeit complicated and time-consuming — way of retaining one’s privacy online.

So what’s to stop the mass of the population — everyone from ‘innocents’ interested in retaining their rights of privacy to the above-mentioned ‘dregs’ — from flocking to this safe-haven of online anonymity? Absolutely nothing, apart from accessibility. Though I haven’t fact-checked it, it would most likely stand to reason that its usage has increased significantly since the NSA issue came to light. 

Where does this get us, then, in regards to the issues of privacy, public-scrutiny and the forced enlightenment of the population as a whole, as mentioned above? Not very far. Even in the ever-accelerating age of technological privacy-dissolution, as long as there is something to hide, it appears we will find a way to hide it. The urge to do so is understandable. Our identities are inherently intertwined with our secret inner lives. When those selves are threatened, we will find a way to protect them.  

Publication is a self-invasion of privacy. The more the data banks record about each one of us, the less we exist. ~ Marshall McLuhan

The whole thing, it seems, is just part of the on-going unconscious movement of the self — both individual and collective — the veil falling and dissolving accordingly as the technology passes us through the years. Yes, progress is being made, but it is painfully slow, and victim to its own inability to find a common moral ground on which to stand. In this way the entire privacy problem is synonymous with so many of the other, ostensibly divergent issues we are suffering as a species at this time. Our economical, ecological and political problems all, ultimately, break down to one of individual self-awareness. 

So many of us would like to think ourselves superior to others out there — and in terms of our behaviour, we may well be — but for many of us, we are no different when it comes to our personal level of self-awareness. We may believe ourselves to be more conscious than a member of ISIS, or the CEO of a company responsible for massive ecological degradation, but are we, really? How many of us remain the simple byproducts of our families and respective cultures and the underlying motives, beliefs and desires therein — even those of us who have 'rebelled' — thinking what we’re doing is right, either from within or against the context as it's been so defined for us since birth, just as the aforementioned do?    

This is what the unconscious movement of the human species does. It creates extremes on both ends of the spectrum, and everything in between. We have this idea that everyone from the most successful athlete or celebrity all the way to the homeless beggar, or the serial killer or terrorist created themselves that way. That they decided to do what they do. Yet how many, in reality, simply allowed themselves to slide into who they are by declining the choice to step away from those results as they materialized over time? Or how many others lacked the vision to even see any other choice? By simply being the unconscious result of their genetics, environment and psychological motivations? This is how we end up with the Tom Cruises, Hugh Heffners and Jeffery Dahmers of the world. This is how we end up with ISIS and the Bush family. And yes, this is how we end up with you and I.

The real revolution will only begin when we are able to see this, and continuously come back to it. It will only begin once we develop the ability to recognize the archetypes as they exist everywhere — in ourselves as well as our institutions — and come to see how and why they are running things as they are. Not until we are able to do this, to develop the tools of proper vision  — the transpersonal, observational consciousness of reason itself, based on the sanctity and preservation of life itself — will we develop the ability to dismantle and reassemble those archetypes under the illumination of its inherent wisdom. Once this begins to take place, a world in which the need for privacy as we now understand it will most likely dissolve. While it is impossible to say exactly what this will look like, we can be confident in the assumption that it won’t include ISIS, or the Bush family, and that there won’t be any more Heffners (most likely), or Jeffrey Dahmers, or Tom Cruises, just people choosing to be who they are, time and again, and unafraid of sharing those selves with the world.

Learning to Play The Trickster’s Game: Giving Time, Time

Tennet Semmes

"Circle of Time", by Michael Cheval

"Circle of Time", by Michael Cheval

Time is a trickster. She is sensual, seductive and ever promising, elegant in her playfulness and welcoming in her dance. If you are not careful, she will woo you into an easy darkness, extending her hand and beckoning you into her arms, her eyes glittering behind the mask she wears, her gaze settling in and softly setting your mind adrift. In the sway of the song, she will lean closer, her perfectly perfumed scent filling your nostrils, her breath warm on your neck, your eyelids slowly beginning their surrender. The sleep, long and deep, may not leave you again until the very end, until you awaken to find the last of your living energy being lulled from your aching body, your consciousness slipping slowly into the final hours of your life. And there she’ll be, leaning over you, her mask now held aside, her curious eyes peering into yours with a tenderness and a beauty finally naked before you, in these last few moments together. 

And you will realize then that nothing was actually withheld from you, apart from that which you withheld from the world. All those things you surrendered to her were given willingly. Time, in her playful dance, was merely fulfilling her role, as she is with everyone, in every moment of their lives. It is a part played perfectly by her without fail. Whether or not her dance partners come to take the lead is another matter entirely. For those who do, however, the experience of this life is undoubtedly one of an exceptionally different caste.

Let me ask you, then, do you know where you stand with the Trickster known as Time? Do you know where you are in the dance as it’s now unfolding? The world is filled with those who’ve been lulled into her perfect sleep, and are moving, however elegantly, through all of their steps unconsciously. If you look closely enough, you will notice that nearly everyone carries the mark of her seduction in their eyes. Yet realizing this is only the beginning of awakening. Not until one can turn that awareness upon themselves can they ever hope to become at least an equal partner in the dance. It is simple enough to notice the unconsciousness of another, but come to realize that the eyes with which you yourself see the world are actually closed, and you have almost assuredly achieved the initial stages of a rise back into consciousness.    

Make no mistake however, the game continues. Thinking you have it figured is the first new seduction the dance will present you with. You don’t. You never will. Knowing this is the only way you can ever come close to achieving it. Remember, time is with you every step of the way, not to be lost as long as you are breathing. She knows every nuance, every thought as it enters your eye, every move before it is made. You cannot fool her, you cannot dance away. All you can do is turn to face her, move with her, and come to learn her strange and curious rhythms as well as possible. Only then can you ever hope to learn what it truly means to dance.

But how is this done? It is fine to speak of it all in poetry and prose, to wax philosophic about the turning of the seasons and the tides of change, but what of the practical application? How does all this esotericism filter down into real-time, onto the plain and over-crowded streets of everyday people, looking earnestly to improve their lives and raise their consciousness?  

As some of you already know, I have been greatly frustrated during genuine periods of seeking in the past. It’s only recently that I’ve come to realize that I have a tendency, like many people I think, to focus on the progress I’m not making, while unconsciously allowing all of the gradual steps I have achieved to slip quietly through the back door, going almost completely unnoticed. 

I recently stumbled across a comment I made in an online forum three or four years ago. I wasn’t searching for it, but all of sudden there it was, staring me in the face and begging my dissection of it. It was only one line, but reading it as who I am now, I was completely struck with how much I’ve changed. Not only was this comment exceptionally negative, it was also totally unnecessary. It was almost troll-like. I would never leave such a comment today — not because I’m specifically avoiding it, but because it wouldn’t even occur to me to do so. Even if I was thinking such a negative thing, I certainly wouldn’t waste my precious time engaging that thought and then going out of my way to post it and put it out into the world. I would instead — depending on how conscious I was at the time —  drop the thought as soon as it occurred, like the fodder it is, and continue forward in a new, chosen, and significantly more positive vein in place of it.

And yet I didn’t even realize what a habit this had become until this relic of a random comment was suddenly, mistakenly exhumed and placed before my eyes. My inherent tendency to focus on all my failings and ignore the slow strengths I’ve built up over the last few years was completely lost to me. This is how good Time is at her game. Inner progress is often so subtle and so incremental, and so drowned out by all of the hypnotic clamour of the external world that it slips by completely unnoticed. We remain so entranced by the culture and all of it’s trappings — celebrity and its deeply embedded message of our own inferiority among them — that we fail to realize where our focus even lies most of the time. Finding this memento was an eye-opening example to me that I’ve actually had some success in achieving the dismantling of my inner cynic through the tools of higher consciousness. It was a massive reminder of how much I’ve actually managed to re-mind myself, regardless of how much cynicism and negativity may still remain with me from time to time. I’ve divested of some of the base level stuff. I’ve made progress. 

The lesson it taught me was this: we need to give time, time. This is how we play the Trickster’s game — by leaning into her a little, by giving a bit of her back to herself. In our ever-accelerating, disposable, instant-gratification culture we all have a tendency to give up far too quickly, or to think that if we haven’t achieved something in what we consider a decent amount of time, we can’t. None of this is true. It is all part of the great, seductive dance Time has us in. If we can weave a few certain things back into the steps therein, not only is progress possible, it is a given. Patience remains the greatest virtue. Persistence the sweetest salve.  If we have the heart, and we learn how to use our minds, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish, if we simply give time… a little time.

This Duress

Tennet Semmes

this duress.jpg

For any of us truly paying attention, the world is inhospitable. We are too light, too sensitive for this place. We are coiled here, packed into blood and bone and doubt and fear, helplessly fated, it seems — no matter the effort — to watch as the world burns, as our bodies burn. 

It is the age-old tale. Youth dissolves before it can ever be truly felt; adulthood is more often than not an exercise in numbness. The two impinge upon one another in grievous ways, pock-marking us with the pain of existence.     

    And yet... 

                    ...we persist.

Out of the mud we rose, and though forever cast back into it — by our brothers no less! — we rise. Again, again, we rise. Limping, bloody, scarred and forsaken, we push off from bended-knee, defiant in the face of pain and tragedy, marching forever forward into the heart of the storm.

And how else did we get here? How else did we create the tremendous conditions within which we toil? We have hardened our wills against ourselves, taken up the axe to only that which can save us, all in the name of survival. It is too much, this duress, yet it is the only thing we have to fight for, and it consumes us, it consumes our children. Even as we do our best to both guard and demonstrate their place in this tremendous, tragic process that we are ceaselessly unfolding within, we can feel it taking them… 

        …before we are done…

                                                    …before we've had the chance to put it into words they'll understand.

A Drug With the Power to Change the World

Tennet Semmes

I have done a lot of drugs in my life. I am 37 now, and over the last two decades I found occasion to try pretty much everything. And I mean everything. Short of tapping the vein, there’s very few induced states of consciousness I haven’t experienced. I have been to the mountain top, and I have crawled through the bowels of Hell, and most places between. I even landed myself in the hospital once. 

Something I was lucky enough to avoid, however, was the real-life hell of addiction. Those brief, dark places I occupied — no matter how terrifying or seemingly infinite while being experienced — are nothing, I know, compared to losing one’s life in this world to the fires of a serious drug illness. It is, I’m sure, unimaginable to anyone who hasn’t experienced it first hand.

And while this post isn’t going to be a story of such a harrowing fate, it is still going to address a theme in a common vein — the pointlessness of drug pursuits in general. (Yes, even the psychedelics.)

‘Oh, here we go...’ I can hear a lot of you thinking now. ‘Another lecture from an aging user simply because he’s losing his ability to bounce back. Time to mature, get high on life, if only I’d known then what I know now, all of that’. 

Well, you nailed it. That’s exactly what’s happening here, although I hope it will at least be an incrementally more interesting read than the type of lecture just described. (And I am not naive enough, by any stretch of the imagination, to believe that anything I say will change the minds of any of the eye-rollers out there. You’ll still go out and roll again, I’m sure, soon enough. ;)

What I can do, however, is plant a seed that may sit with you for a while, even as you set about living your life as you always have. Drugs are fun, there is no doubting it. Especially the easy ones. Blow, Molly, any of the opioids. Throw a little booze in there and you’ve got yourself a night. Or two. Or a fantastic well of artistic inspiration, if that’s your thing. It’s nothing new. Poets all over the world have been cranking the opium back for thousands of years, inducing the muse and using her to pour their hearts out onto the paper; certain South American cultures still chew the cocoa leaf to this day, and up until the turn of the 20th century Laudanum was available without a prescription. (If you’re not sure what Laudanum is, it’s opium and alcohol, and it was used for everything from colds to heart problems. It was even given to babies.)

All of this is understandable. Life is tough, to say the least. Who among us doesn’t need to blow off a little steam? Work hard, play hard, right? I did it for 20 years. For a while there I was spending 5 days a week working and hitting the gym, clean as a whistle, only to follow it up with weekend-long benders. During other periods I was travelling and partying every night while I did so, for months on end. Over the long run I always got props for being able to hold it together and not let any of it truly get the better of me. I never even got addicted to cigarettes. 

Only that’s the thing. I may have been able to ‘hold it together’ just fine, but I never really had it together in the first place. I wasn’t pursuing my true goals. I wasn’t facing my fears. I wasn’t overcoming my general apathy towards life. Not anywhere near as much as I should have been, anyway. And this is an ailment that affects far too many 20-somethings across the world today — a general apathy in pursuing their passions, backed up by varying degrees of drug use. It’s not a good recipe. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that if you’re pursuing your purpose and facing your fears that it’s a green light for a drug lifestyle. What I’m saying is that if you’re doing those things first, you’re probably not going to be that turned on by the drugs anyway. You won’t need such a thrill to enhance your life. Curiosity may take you there, once or twice, but if you’re moving forward on a path you truly feel in alignment with, you won’t stay. Chasing what you love, facing your fears and knocking down goals is a thrill that can’t be paralleled because it’s hard. And it’s worthy. And it gives you a sense of purpose, so that you don’t have to go out and find one the easy way.

Yeah, I know, I’m shitting on drugs. Anyone who knows me is surely being blown away as they read this, as I’ve championed the many benefits of mind-altering substances for so many years, but I’m just being honest in retrospect. Even the so-called good drugs, the psychedelics, the ones that challenge you and put you deep in touch with meaning and purpose and reveal terrifying truths to you about the nature of life and your place in it, are still of very little use if they fail to change your outlook and your actions in the long run. They are, for the most part, induced epiphanies, and while they may provide some insight into other states of being, as well as some artistic inspiration, they are, in my experience, not overly beneficial in changing your behaviour patterns when used in a purely recreational manner. It’s just as Sam Harris said in his essay ‘Drugs and the Meaning of Life’: “Psychedelics do not guarantee wisdom or a clear recognition of the selfless nature of consciousness. They merely guarantee that the contents of consciousness will change.”

And that’s really the heart of the matter, isn’t it? Content. Anything that adds to or rearranges the psychological content that makes up our identity is simply continuing to work inside of the box. It’s dealing with the archetype from inside the archetype. And, while it is totally possible to step completely outside of the box on psychedelics (I know, I’ve been there) it still doesn’t do you any good if you have no idea what’s happening, which is usually the case when you arrive in such a manner. It’s the infamous back door to Zen, only once you walk through you find out that yes, you are a total uninitiate, and the board was not expecting you. Not to mention that the odds of getting there through this method are quite slim. There are any number of rabbit holes that can segue you into serious states of psychosis along the way instead.

So yes, I am finally admitting it, because I finally get it. Drugs delay progress. They bind you to body consciousness. They bind you to mind. For the most part they are a horizontal exploration. True maturity comes from the vertical instead. It comes from the ability to observe thought itself, not to think in different ways. It is, in fact, one of the quickest ways to learn how to think in ways that are truly in service of the path that you set out for yourself, as opposed to simply being shunted into different and random patterns of thought, however interesting or out of the ordinary they may be.

So we see, yet again, that the drug of the future is mindfulness. The ability to separate yourself from your thoughts and your emotions as they are taking place and turn your strictly observational attention on to them. If they did in fact develop a drug that dependably produced this result, every time, then we might be on to something. Not a back door to Zen so much as Zen master in your back pocket. Even then however, the drug would be pointless if we failed to learn from it how to induce the state on our own.

Given this, we may as well simply start. I am not completely sober (the idea of this to me, even five years ago, was not only unwelcome but unimaginable) and I don’t know if I ever will be. I can, however, sense a growing change as I continue to play with the incredible toys of mindfulness, however brief my flirtations may be at this period in my life. The more aware I become of my mental and emotional states in any given moment, the less I want to cloud that awareness. There remain certain triggers of course — social situations apt to induce anxiety, boring tasks that might be made a little more interesting through the introduction of something or other — but one of the things you tend to find with mindfulness is that, when you’re fully engaged in the present moment, there is very little that is actually worthy of anxiousness, and life itself can’t really be boring, no matter what form it’s taking. Both are things the mind is telling you.

In this way, I don’t have plans on ‘quitting’ anything. Just a continuing devotion to practicing presence, and allowing what no longer serves me to fall away. It is a movement out of density and into lightness, and I have a growing level of certainty that those things which keep me anchored to density will continue to be shed. I am interested to see what the world looks like without them. The thoughts we have, the perspectives they create and the habits they form make up our experience of life. Drugs change that experience temporarily. A devotion to mindfulness, however — perhaps the most potent agent for altering consciousness known to us — carries the potential for changing it permanently.

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