Juggernauts versus Underdogs

I addressed this somewhat in my last post, so apologies if anyone finds it repetitive.  Still, the more I think about it, the more it needs saying.  There’s also been extremely recent developments that make it even more noteworthy.

In that last post, I mentioned that Bat World Sanctuary was doing extremely well, against all conventional reason and logic, in the Mozilla Firefox Challenge over on Crowdrise.  First place, in fact, and vying primarily against Jimmy Kimmel and the Ian Somerhalder Foundation without the benefit of celebrity.

I mention this again because it’s a big deal.  This is a world where labor unions are despised even by the people they purport to unite because they’ve been subverted by those they’re meant to oppose, and where the voice of a common voter only serves to have him or her pandered to when there’s an election going, after which they are promptly ignored.  This is a world where big corporate interests will move into a community and bring such destruction that even the earth under their feet is ruined, and for all their outrage and how righteous it is, those who live in that community can’t stop it.  If they stay legal, they are protesters, and they come off looking like strident crazies with some radical agenda just for protecting their home.  If they take direct action, they’re eco-terrorists.  Or maybe even just terrorists, probably akin to how these guys were viewed back in their day.

It needs mentioning again and again and again because for that tiny non-profit to be uplifted by its loyal, everyday supporters until it stood as tall as Jimmy Kimmel and Ian Somerhalder matters.  It flouts everything that our modern society is oriented around even as it embodies everything that our modern society was meant to orient around.  Not only that, but it was the perfect culmination of what Crowdrise set out to do, which was to empower people through unity, through numbers to become a force for change.  Jimmy and Ian both could buy Bat World and the whole town it resides in, but for a glorious little while that did not avail them.

In fact, when they both chucked good form out the window and chose to belittle Bat World Sanctuary, and by extension Amanda Lollar, who pretty much is Bat World, it didn’t avail them all that well then either, only serving to bump BWS down to third place.  They – we – won that and the $20,000 that came with it.  We didn’t have the platform that either Jimmy or Ian did with which to respond, nor did we have what appeared to be affluent lackeys to make huge last minute donations to break the spirit of the contest and unfairly put us ahead, but we resisted anyway.

Had we had blogs on Huffington Post like they do, we might have mentioned that while even on the list of competitors, one could see what Bat World Sanctuary was all about at a single glance, while all one could tell about the Ian Somerhalder Foundation was that it was Ian Somerhalder’s and that it was a foundation of some sort.  And Jimmy Kimmel:  his listing literally just said Jimmy Kimmel, with a picture of his potato face to go along with the picture of Ian looking pensive as he no doubt ponders the woes of this our planet Earth.  Or maybe it was just to brood for the fangirls, I can’t ever decide.  Had we had the benefit of a mass media feting us, we might have publically questioned just how much Ian cares about the animals in his sanctuary when he’s been sporting a bracelet made of leather, and how he feels about this tutorial video showing his fangirls how to fashion the skin of a dead animal.  We might have questioned why his mission statement says basically nothing.  We might have questioned why he named his foundation after himself rather than its purpose.  We might have questioned why Jimmy Kimmel just put his name and nothing more, and if in fact his being Jimmy Kimmel is the problem he’s collecting money to address.  Sure, you could click on it and get more information as to what his charity worked for, but that’s not the point.

The question we would have asked is why they didn’t make similar comments about each other.  We’d have asked if they were going to work the same sixteen to eighteen hour days as Amanda Lollar does.  We’d also ask if they were going to invest the entirety of their personal finances into their causes, again as Amanda has done, but we don’t really need to ask that question, do we?  These guys are happy to help so long as it doesn’t cut into their camera time and primarily costs someone else’s money.  It will never be their life’s work as it is for Amanda.  We know that.

I said in a previous article that the concept of introducing competition to charity work made me uncomfortable, and this is why.  You might say it was a little harmless trash talk, but when Ian mentioned that his animal sanctuary would have all kinds of animals, bats included, and thus ridiculously implied that Bat World was somehow exclusionary, it crossed the line that people of his lofty ilk often seem unaware even exists.  When Jimmy plead to his fans to “not let the fruit bats beat us” and himself implied that fruit bats are a novelty that doesn’t matter, he crossed that same line.  How are you going to see those kids in Kenya fed without fruit, Jimmy?  Fruit bats pretty much pollinate all of it, and even you’re not actually handing them actual fruit, that big gaping hole in the food chain would make the rest of CTCs work very, very difficult as the resultant havoc is wrought upon the ecosystem.  Besides, Bat World is in North America, which is home primarily to insectivorous bats – that’s bats that eat insects, Jimmy – which even without West Nile Virus being around, is very important.  Biologists have predicted that if insectivorous bats were to go extinct, which is a possibility now with the advent of White Nose Syndrome, that insect populations would very, very rapidly reach alarming numbers.  Thanks to the money Bat World won despite your attempts to prevent it, they will soon commence construction of new facilities that will be able to house assurance colonies for species that are threatened with extinction.  Bat World does have fruit bats, but only those they’ve rescued from the exotic pet trade and zoos, where their 25 to 40 year lifespans are nearly inevitably cut down to less than one year.

And you, fey Ian:  so you’re just gonna throw all the animals together?  You have a private ocean at this sanctuary of yours?  A mountain range?  Marshlands?  Plans underway to airlift a chunk of the Serengeti to your sanctuary?  Really, it’s like something a little kid would say.  Besides, Bat World isn’t exclusionary.  You wouldn’t know this, but animal rescuers specialize because nobody can learn all the anatomical ins and outs of every single species, not because they only like one kind of animal.  Bats require even more specialization, because it’s not like any other mammal has an anatomy that even roughly resembles a bat’s.  Because of this, rescuers tend to work together.  Just yesterday Amanda helped someone who’d found a wounded owl locate someone who knew how to care for owls.  Owls eat bats.  She keeps eight rescued dogs at Bat World, feeds a stray cat that lives behind their building (a cat that is smart enough to know to bring injured bats to BWS without further hurting them herself) and even a frog that has learned to hang around for the bowl of mealworms it finds set out for it every day.  At the Bat Castle is a kiddie swimming pool in the summer for the local raccoons to help them endure the blistering Texas summer heat.  At the site where the new facilities are to be built, plans are being made to co-exist with the very often highly destructive wild pigs that occupy the land, which even a lot of other animal lovers are saying is impossible and that the pigs need to be moved.  So yes, Bat World does help animals other than bats, and they do it themselves rather than paying someone else to do it while they go off and brood and pretend to drink blood or whatever.

I don’t say this stuff because I’m angry that Bat World lost its first place spot; unlike the Ian Somerhalder Foundation’s vague mission statement about “world change”, Bat World’s clear goal was to raise the money to commence work on this new facility.  With the money they raised, the third place prize money and Amanda contributing all but the sentimental parts of her entire inheritance from her recently deceased father, they accomplished that.  Many people who hadn’t heard of Bat World Sanctuary before now know about them, and as best I can tell, things look bright.  So even though two celebrity juggernauts stepped on them, Bat World still came out okay.

It’s the stepping on them, the belittling comments and the eleventh hour $10k donations just so happening to come in to charities fronted by rich men with rich friends that I object to.  I also object to Crowdrise hiding my post saying so on their Facebook page.  To be specific, someone who actually knows how Facebook works (I do not) suspects that they marked my comment as spam, meaning that I can still see it, as can my friends, but nobody else can.  Didn’t think I’d see that, did you?  You did leave it alone when I reposted it and after other people had liked it, so, thanks I guess.  Harder to be sneaky when people are watching, I know.  And the sad thing is that I genuinely liked Crowdrise.  I didn’t blame them for what happened at all, but then they went and de facto condoned it.  My voice is already so faint compared to Jimmy’s and Ian’s, and they tried to stifle it further.  They are evidently not all that big on empowering the little guy in ways other than taking their money.  You can help express your disapproval by going here.  Or here.

Lastly, I would like to state that my criticisms are only for Jimmy and Ian themselves.  No doubt there are good people administering those non-profits that are knowledgeable in their fields, genuinely want to be of use and are grateful to Jimmy and Ian for empowering them to do so.  I did criticize the ISF’s mission statement, but in the end I only think they might benefit from making it more clear what they’re about, as again, I’m certain there are great people working hard to do some good.  And for whatever disagreements I may have with whomever watches over their Facebook account, Crowdrise is doing a hell of a lot of good for a hell of a lot of people.  I was sorry to see the spirit of their Challenge undermined the way it was,  just as I was proud of Bat World Sanctuary for backing them up against the wall.

I’m just saying that if Ian and Jimmy wanted that $50k for their charities so bad, they could have written that check themselves rather than talk down to a non-profit for whom $50k means the world.  Amanda would have written it, if she had their money.  It all comes down to how badly you want to help, and whether you would still help if it hurts to do so.

How Eating a Little Bit of Paper Made My Previous Post Possible

Let’s pretend you read my previous post, for the dual purposes of boosting my ego and because making that assumption will make for a cleaner essay.  You know you didn’t; I know you didn’t.  Let’s just pretend.  Let’s also get out of the way that hoary old American social tradition known as a disclaimer:  I’m not advocating that anybody do a fucking thing here.  If you’re so unfathomably lazy that you’d use information on a blog post without verifying it elsewhere, you are destined for hard lessons, and LSD has the potential to mercilessly and irrevocably administer them straight to your brain.

As I combed through my previous post this morning days ago in order to ensure that it read like the humorous recounting of a string of mild bad luck that it was meant to be, it occurred to me that there was a point in my life many years ago when those very same events would have been documented in a very, very emo fashion.  Then, as if by kismet and as I was beginning to write an entirely different essay, Amarok played me some Hendrix.  Are You Experienced, to be specific.  It all brought to mind the catalyst that sparked my eventual emergence from the depression, self-loathing and crippling shyness that marked my childhood:  lysergic acid diethylamide.  LSD, if you’re not a nerd.

I know, I know, just hear me out.  Although if you’re one of those people who think it’s bad just because, then you may as well stop reading it now.  I could tell you that LSD, as well as basically any entheogen ever, are unabusable and impossible to become addicted to.  I could recount how my single experience with it was a defining moment and one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I could even mention that I’m not some psychonaut neo-hippie (unless you consider being somewhat leftist to qualify one as such; I have a left and a right wing, but I suppose you’d say I veer quite a bit to the left in flight) who’s trying to justify his bad habits, but rather simply a regular guy who had a chance to try it, did so, and legitimately benefited far more than anyone would expect.  There’s also the fact that psychiatrists have flirted with studying its ability to treat various mental problems for decades now, but have been discouraged by a preponderance of people who heard about this one guy, he took some one time, and then he like jumped off his dorm roof or some shit because he thought he could fly.  Lastly, I could question the wisdom behind allowing politicians to make decisions that would more properly fall into the domains of physicians and chemists.  You wouldn’t care about all that, though.

There’s a lot of misinformation on LSD, as opposed to something like methamphetamine, which if anything is actually worse than the public perceives it to be.  For one, the hallucinations are far milder at a reasonable dose than commonly presented; you won’t pet dead relatives, you won’t talk to fantastical animals, you won’t traverse alien worlds, none of that crazyness; you are far more likely to gleefully laugh at bad movies, be awestruck by sunrises and intensely love your fellow human beings, and I say this as a self-avowed and unrepentant amiable misanthrope.  Things do tend to “breathe”, and it’s common to see patterns overlaid across your field of vision, though.  There are hallucinogens that can have you being chased by extradimensional lizard aliens, but acid isn’t one of them.  Or maybe it is if you take a massive dose.  Mine was quite small, which is entirely incommensurate with the magnitude, longevity and positivity of the end result.  Massive doses might also bring on the infamous acid flashbacks too, because neither me nor a single one of the friends that took it too had any.  Judging from my research, a flashback isn’t really that bad in most cases anyway, but merely a recollection of how one felt during the trip.  One can also spontaneously and unwillingly recall how one’s first kiss made one feel too,  so I guess we better make kissing illegal as well.  They can be more severe, but again, it almost certainly involves much bigger doses, similar to how intaking too much oxygen can kill you, or drinking too much water.

Everything – every single thing that exists – will hurt you if indulged improperly or to excess.

Not that acid is without danger.  My young-man-emo-phase came with a good deal of self-loathing, as emo phases often do.  When you hate yourself, things such as a string of mildly bad luck similar to that depicted in my last post tend to validate that hatred; oh look, the world hates me too, I guess I’m right to feel the way I do.  Like a great deal of conscious and unconscious thought, it’s a loop that feeds back into itself, becoming stronger and stronger with each cycle.  This isn’t really a new concept: religions and spiritual traditions that emphasize the analysis of the human experience have documented the mind’s incessant tendency to run in circles for thousands of years, such as the Buddhist concept of vāsanā or, roughly, the Shaivist concept of the rāga tattva.  They also generally agree that these loops are incredibly difficult to entirely break, as they are all permutations of desire:  wanting, seeking, obtaining.  When a thing is obtained, another want surfaces.  The more often the loop cycles, the more it perpetuates itself, and it becomes harder and harder to break.

Brief aside before I continue:  before starting this essay I searched ‘lsd tolerance’ on Google to refresh my memory on whether or not it could become a habit.  The first result was a site called Above the Influence, a site which ironically immediately tries to influence you into taking up that tried and true American tradition of bashing shit without having tried it or indirectly experienced it in any way.  One thing of value that it does say is that LSD disrupts the normal functioning of the brain.  Hang onto that.

Now back to the hybrid tornado/train wreck/feedback loop that is the human brain.  Psychological disorders such as the aforementioned depression, narcissistic personality disorder, etc. tend to act as a filter through which everything else is passed.  To put it another way, if your thoughts/desires/longings are the planets of our solar system, then depression is the sun around which they orbit, and which itself is spinning in the center.  This would mean that most all the functions of your brain are subservient to a central dysfunction of ever-increasing power.  It’s doesn’t take a great leap of logic to conclude that disrupting this “normal” functioning of the brain could be good for a person, does it?

There are a few caveats, though.  For one, you need to be on speaking terms with all of your demons.  That’s at the very least, and intimate familiarity would be ideal.  You feel on this stuff, and your mind revels in itself.  It will not respect boundaries.  With a meditative practice, you can go to those cordoned places in yourself as tentatively as you like; with a chemical, those places come to you as they will, and amplified just as your senses are.  If your self-control collapses when those demons make themselves known, they will outright traumatize you on this stuff.  Knowing yourself is a great thing in any circumstance, but here it’s mandatory.

For two, you need to know yourself.  You need to really know yourself.  Nobody ever thinks they’re repressing anything without some hellish introspection; that happens to be one of my specialties, so that well was dry long before I took anything.  I realize I already said this, but it bears saying a hundred more times.  Under no circumstance is it good to be a unknown and foreign country to yourself.

For three, it amplifies what’s already there.  If you’re in a good, calm mood, then your entire body will feel amazing and all of your usual stressors will seem the way those spiritual traditions I keep mentioning describe them:  small, fleeting, ephemeral, like smoke in the air.  You’ll see your own complicity in the pain they cause you, and you’ll realize that without that complicity, they and nothing else can hurt you at all.  It’s like standing up and realizing you’ve been sitting your whole life letting things loom over you.  If you’re in a bad mood, invert everything I just said, imagine how incomprehensibly hard that would most likely suck, and learn the twin virtues of patience/not moping about shit.

So what’s the point of all this?  Who the fuck knows.  It could be that I vehemently believe that a unilateral and indiscriminate war on drugs is proof that we in the country are fucking incapable of learning the lessons of Prohibition and still govern via fear and ignorance, justifying it with some vague doom-mongering about social cost.  It certainly isn’t to encourage anyone to either abstain or indulge.  It’s illegal and potentially dangerous in a subtle, potent and possibly long term way.  Think, be honest with yourself and decide.  I guess it’s not to recount the acid-fueled all-nighter we pulled either.  I’d intended to, but this is way long as it is.  It’s among a number of things I’ve touched on that deserve their own essays, so some other time, hopefully.  Plus, honestly, calling it an “acid fueled all-nighter” makes it sound far more interesting a story than it actually is.  Suffice to say that I saw my stressors for what they really were:  small, fleeting, ephemeral, like smoke in the air.  I saw my own complicity in the pain they cause me, and I realized that without that complicity, they and nothing else can hurt you at all.  It was a hell of a lot of fun too, lest all this spirituality I’m spouting make it sound like myself and my friend were playing monks for the evening.  It’s impossible to say if it was so much fun because I experienced the much-vaunted detachment that is the goal of any worthwhile spiritual practice or if it was just because I was on fucking awesome drugs.

I can say with certainty what the point isn’t:  to try to convince anyone that LSD will cure one’s mental ills.  To me, it’s fairly evident that I was “ready” to learn what my depression was trying to teach me, and “God”/the universe/dumb fucking luck used LSD as a catalyst to bring about that eureka! moment that invariably accompanies any true apprehension of the nature of any abstraction.

In fact, I think the sort of mentality that would seek out a figurative magic pill that would sort their brain out for them is exactly the sort of mentality that would fare very poorly on this stuff.  It’s just not how it works.  It’s not how anything works.  There’s been bad days in the years since I took it.  Some very bad ones, actually, and all flanked with good ones, as it’s always been.  It has to be that way, because it’s the bad days that define the good days.  Nobody wants to believe that, including myself; we all have some thing in our hopes and daydreams that we just know will come along and sweep away the drudgery of quotidian existence, and thereafter all the days will be happy ones.  We wait for true love, plan to have children, gun alongside coworkers for that promotion as if we all wouldn’t just end up adjusting our lifestyles until we were just as tight financially as we are now.  Gamblers wait for the big win.  Artists of all stripes await their big break, and it’s folly, all of it is, every single bit.  True achievement is finding the joy in that drudgery.  It’s there.

Even after my experience, I can’t always find it.  But I compared acid flashbacks to a kiss earlier, and it still applies here.  You can’t recall a kiss unless you’ve kissed someone.  Once you have, with a little time and space and just enough peace to imagine, it’ll come back to you.  The way your lips tentatively and hesitantly met comes back.  The moment when all tentativeness and hesitation fell away and you melted into each other comes back.  That feeling of blissful panic, that knowing that if she were somehow snatched away from you now that you’d just fucking die comes back.  What doesn’t come back is the nervousness itself, the uncertainty; there’s only the recollection that they were once there, which brings with it nothing but laughter at how silly and unnecessary they were.  Whatever else happens, whatever else is lost or stolen or destroyed, whatever godawful cataclysms and depredations shake your ground, rain down from the skies or kick in your door, you can always bring it back to you.  It’s true for wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends and lovers, and it’s true for life itself too.  In fact, I coulda just said it was like kissing life itself and saved us all a lot of trouble.

My apologies for using the word quotidian; I am well aware that that sounds pretentious as all hell, thank you.  Apologies as well for taking so long between my last post and this one, should anyone actually care about the length of the interval.  Lastly, introspect.  A lot.  You can leave a strange place, quit a job you don’t understand and you can leave a lover rather than take the time to understand them, but if you are foreign to yourself, then you’ll be lost for every second of your life.