Around Sunset in the Graveyard

So, this is a hippie story. It takes place in the early 70s when Freddy Beach was still recovering from the Strax Affair which made the University of New Brunswick one of the most newsworthy campuses in the country for demonstrations and student unrest. You can read about that here, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with this hippie story.

This story takes place in a graveyard right in the heart of downtown Freddy Beach. 

I had hair at that time. In fact, it was almost down to my ass. I was a hippie. I wore beads. I had a leather vest with a peace sign painted on it. The peace sign glowed under black lights. I did drugs, mostly LSD, called acid at the time. My roommates and friends did acid as well. When we did acid outside in the summer and fall, it was in the Old Burial Ground, so-called because the first burial was in 1787. That’s a long time ago. Old.

We used to do hits of acid while sitting in a group of four or five people in this area:

Image 1

We talked to the people buried here and sometimes they talked to us. Well, not to me. But some of the members of the group engaged in long conversations with the long deceased. I was mostly quiet when I was on acid, you know, just grooving out on the dinosaurs and elephants parading in front of me. 

One member of the group was a hippie witch named Miska. Miska never sat with us. Instead, she lay down in one of the tombs; in fact, this one:

Image 2

At that time the cover stone was broken and whatever remains had been inside were long gone. After Miska dropped her hit of acid, she climbed into the tomb and lay down with her hands across her chest. She said that this made her one of the dead and made it possible for her to go on adventures with the dead people in the graveyard. She never told us anything about those adventures. We didn’t ask. 

One day, about a half hour before sunset, we were sitting in our favorite graveyard spot with one or two people talking to people long since deceased (not me though, I was watching dinosaurs) and Miska was in her tomb with her hands across her chest having adventures with the dead. We were all doing our thing when a couple passed by us on the sidewalk, right where it curves:

Image 3

Now, the spot where they walked was a fair distance from the tomb where Miska consorted with the dead, but it was still light enough to give a clear view of the tomb. 

I stopped watching extinct animals and elephants and looked at the couple. They seemed nice, probably in their late teens. They smiled as they approached us. We smiled back. Everybody  was smiling and it was one of those moments when everybody was happy and smiling at each other. 

It was around that moment that the male of the couple turned his head towards the tomb where Miska lay. And it was at that exact moment that Miska stopped gallivanting with the dead and sat straight up with her hands across her chest and her eyes wide open. And Miska had very wide eyes surrounded by black eye shadow. And she had very long, very black hair. And she was wearing a black dress. The suddenness of her unexpected movement could be very disturbing if you weren’t used to her. 

The male walker wasn’t used to her. In fact, I don’t think he’d ever seen anything like her before, at least, judging by his reaction. He screamed. It wasn’t even a man scream, it was a high pitched anti-man scream. And then he started running. He ran down the side walk, out the gates, across the street parallel to the graveyard (without even looking for traffic), up the street across from the graveyard and out of site. 

His girlfriend stood there watching him run away, leaving her at the mercy of whatever horror he deemed Miska to be. I seem to recall her making several faces, none of them approving of her boyfriend’s behavior until, after he was clean out of sight, she shrugged. She looked at us and one of the girls with us invited her over and gave her a hit of acid. 

We tripped out in the graveyard well into dark and her boyfriend never came back. 

 

Advertisements

When Gravity Catches Us: Thoughts on Thinking

Plastic

We live in two worlds; one’s outside, one’s inside.

The outside world is the world of earth, air, water and fire. It makes its own rules and we obey them. Walk off the edge of a cliff and this world gives you gravity. Build wax wings and fly toward the sun and it will suffocate you before you reach 30,000 feet. These are the rules of the world that existed long before we arrived. We’re the eggs; outside is the chicken. 

The inside world is in our heads and under our skin. It’s where we think and where we feel. It’s us…the eggs…and we also make our own rules but the outside world doesn’t necessarily follow them. We have to adapt our rules to conform to the rules of that other world. Walking off a cliff? Wear a parachute. Flying into the sun? Surround yourself with a space ship. 

This hierarchy of rules has worked well for about a million years, or since whatever date you deem human thinking to have begun back at the beginnings of the bicameral mind or maybe when we learned how to build a campfire without becoming the logs. If we come to a river where we think there should be a path, we build a bridge. If we need water for power, we build a dam.

This is not changing the rules; this is modifying them, and that’s OK: beavers build dams. 

The problems start when we ignore the rules or deliberately disregard them, like when we build thirty dams on the same river. Or when we remove masses of material from the earth and transform them into materials that never have and never should exist and then we coat the earth with them, like buttering the planet with poison. 

And you might ask: Why the hell would we do that? And I might answer: Because we convince ourselves that we’re not doing it…even while we’re doing it. For example, you buy the health wise, low calorie pasta bowl that cooks in just four and a half minutes in the microwave. When you finish the meal, you have a sense of doing something right, giving your body healthy sustenance. And you throw all that plastic packaging and the plastic bowl into the plastic garbage bag without thinking that what you’re doing is being simultaneously done by millions of other people. 

All that plastic.

When it comes to satisfying our needs and wants, we look at the good and ignore the bad. It’s called rationalizing and rationalizing is one of the highest levels of intellectual activity and very likely the key ingredient in the extinction of the human race. 

Some people talk about how logical the rational mind is, but there’s nothing innately logical about it. Logic says, “I’ll buy the smaller more fuel efficient car and be part of the solution.” Rational says: “I’ll buy the gas guzzling SUV because everybody else is buying the smaller cars, so it doesn’t really matter what I buy.”

It’s adaptive thinking. At which point you say, “Adaptation is good. It’s a survival mechanism that allows us evolve as the conditions around us change.” But there’s a big difference between adaptive thinking and adaptive evolution. 

Adaptive thinking wraps itself around the needs of the moment and justifies itself by meeting the needs of the moment, but we’re not going to physically adapt to a world with un-breathable air. We can live underground or in controlled climate housing or maybe even under the ocean, but we’re not going to walk in a park, canoe down a river or harvest a crop without some form of portable life support system, at least (depending on future technologies) not for several hundred or several thousand years. 

If we’re still around that long. 

Back to that thing called rationalizing. 

It creates a situation in which we create another world (the one we think we live in) and the real world (the one we live in). The problem here is that we’re so good at rationalizing that the world we think we live in becomes the world we live in. We convince ourselves that tossing that plastic water bottle into the garbage isn’t going to be harmful to the outside world because it isn’t harmful in our internal world. It’s just one bottle. Who’s going to notice? Sure as hell not the tens of millions of other humans throwing out plastic bottles every day.

Tens of millions. Every day.

That’s a lot of bottles. But we don’t see them. We see just our one bottle. We know the others are out there but we choose not to see them. It’s a conscious choice. 

This is scary. We need to come out of the cocoons of our inside worlds and live more in the outside world before gravity catches us without a parachute.

For more on Biff.

Throwing Seeds at LinkedIn

I find that I’m getting increasing numbers of invites to connect with people on LinkedIn and for the most part they’re not people I know or work with or am connected to in any way except their desire to sell me something I neither need nor want. 

Almost always the offer is totally inappropriate and demonstrates clearly that they haven’t taken any time to learn about me and find out what I actually need and what I’m interested in. This is spam. Anything that involves contacting someone you don’t know with an offer that hasn’t been requested and comes nowhere close to meeting the contact’s needs is spam. 

I joined LinkedIn to make contacts, participate in forums, write articles, post notices of personal promotions…and yes, I do advertise and market books, photography and writing workshops. But I post these in articles and status updates; I never send them to anyone’s personal inbox. That would be spam.

More and more, I’m seeing bios that read like badly written sales copy with their lists of features and skills, but with no connection to my needs. I have no need for someone who converts Flash to HTML5. If the dozens of programmers who’ve sent friend requests with this feature so outstanding in their sales pitch would take the time to read about me, they would notice that I’m not in the market for this. And if they were truly professionals, they wouldn’t send me spam. 

I realize that some people may be desperate to pick up any kind of work they can get, especially if they’re working for a start-up or starting a start-up. I’ve been there and I’ve made the same bumbling mistakes, and the biggest of those mistakes is tossing random seeds over a professional networking platform in the hopes that something will grow. 

It won’t. 

Those seeds should never be tossed. They should be planted with the same care you would bring to planting seeds for a tomato bush. It takes time, research, thought. It means knowing exactly what your greatest skills are and identifying who can benefit most from those skills and then building profiles of those people and organizations that clearly define what they need and what you can offer to meet their needs.

Tossing seeds over LinkedIn not only wastes your time and the time of the people you spam, it strips you of your professionalism and puts you in the same league as a telemarketer with a list of random numbers.