Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I've been using my facebook status to throw up ideas, leaving little nuggets of politically-charged opinion here and there to the delight of my friends and relatives. I've poked fun at free market capitalism by using "Wal-Mart" as a verb, questioning the wisdom of using chemical weapons manufacturers' artificial sweeteners and letting the world know about Arrested Development Monopoly, all greeted with joy.
The time I quoted Marianne Williamson's "Out Greatest Fear" led to my mother asking what a glory hole is, but you can't win them all.
My current status is off the chain. "If your argument against gay marriage is that 'it isn't natural,' then you shouldn't use Splenda." 14 likes, 6 comments.
If you're reading this you're almost certainly my facebook friend so take a second, check it out and come on back. Done? Good.
Now you may have noticed that it's not a terrific argument, but I'm merely engaging the "not natural" idea on its own terms. And "natural" is a stupid argument for anything.
I've been told time and time again that Socialism can't work because it's "against human nature." I've been told this by Christians, and I finally retorted with, "isn't human nature sinful?"
Some people point out that humans are the only mammals who drink milk past infancy as a shorthand to offering any scientifically-reasoned argument, instead offering a fallacy a step below "correlation=causation." Specifically, they just say "causation" and leave it at that.
How about this: humans are also the only mammals to put themselves on the moon, have a codified system against rape, write books and invented the Beatles. We can drink milk if we want.
Now back to the gay thing. Check the fb discourse if you want, there are some interesting ideas floating on the thread. But let me question what the "natural" argument gets to, which asserts that God did not design humans for same-sex relationships. If we excuse the questionable translations of Greek into English, the fact that Paul even says he offers his own commentary and the fact that a reasoning brain says that God has bigger concerns than two people doin' it when there are child soldiers, we are left with the inescapable conclusion that it just doesn't make sense to keep people from getting married.
I'll tell you what's "natural." It's natural to be a small, spiteful, selfish little monster who cares only about itself. Get over what the world has to say and make your own evidence.
Friday, November 26, 2010
It has been asked who [we are] that God should be mindful of us. With all due respect, this sort of thinking is bunk, one with a rich tradition in hymnals everywhere ("that saved a wretch like me"). A more accurate thinking would suggest that God in fact has a great responsibility toward us if He created us (which I believe he did). The problem with this thinking is it doesn't honor the relationship humanity has with the Almighty, for He does think of us and if he only does what's right then it's self-debasing to conjecture otherwise.
The purpose of the relationship, giving meaning through the stories of our lives, is ignored by such thinking. Seeing God as responsible to us further suggests and validates the idea of a responsibility to Him.
This is all well and good, but I say it carries over to what humans create. I read a book recently that explored the illusions of happiness and the joy of truth and in it a hallucination pleaded with the dreamer, saying, "I need you." I wondered why.
The realization to which I arrived is that, while I find meaning in the framing narrative of Christ, our stories find meaning from us. For example, a friend of mine pointed out that to the Greeks, Pandora finding hope at the bottom of her urn was the worst of all, because it was false.
As you know, we use this story as one to comfort us and these two meanings seem to be at odds. I argue that we have every right to take from our stories what helps us explain our world and give our stories meaning and purpose (which is why they were told in the first place).
My friend maintained that meaning could not be divorced from original intent. This has, even in the last century and throughout history, been proven patently wrong. People always take meaning from stories when they need a meaning. Like in Northern Exposure when Chris said "Casey at the Bat" was about the Cold War. It's what we need sometimes.
Mr. Gorbachev, strike out this wall!
Which is good, since the most important relationships are lateral ones.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Even so, every once in a while I realize how not desensitized I am, even to fictional violence. Playing Heavy Rain on the PS3 put me in some uncomfortable situations of killing: I killed a man I had every right, as an officer of the law, to shoot. I felt really bad about it.
This guilt compliments a similar stress I felt when editing the final shootout of The Wild Bunch into 2 1/2 minutes of pure carnage. It's tough to watch, and it seems bizarre that video games and movies should make me feel the weight of violence so heavily.
That is, of course, the power of visual media. The neat thing about narratives is they can enhance who we are, freeing us from the bad wiring we have in the monkeysphere. Which is to say, it's hard for us to wrap our minds around human suffering not immediate to us.
Allow me to demonstrate. These are the statistics of how many Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
Czechoslovakia (in the pre-Munich boundaries
Hungary, including northern Transylvania
Romania (Regat, southern Transylvania, southern Bukovina)
Keep in mind, this doesn't include gays, gypsies or any other victims of the Holocaust. Now, just imagine how many people died in military actions (not combat, as many civilians died, too) during WWII.
Can you wrap your mind around that? If you can, it's not easy since these are numbers, the kind we learned in high school. Now, a visual.
That cattle car is full of paper clips. Around 11 million (11,000,000) paper clips.
That sort of idea hits me pretty hard, but I recently saw this and it stopped me cold:
Yup. Raphael socking Hitler. See, when I described this to friends, I stopped and said, "because, Jesus, Hitler killed millions." It struck me. And worst of all, the worst punishment meted out for something like this is paltry violence.
"...for the millions!"
It's absurd, but a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic made me a little more human.
Monday, October 18, 2010
By virtue of the filmmakers setting it in the near-ish future, the movie looked hokey. The music did little to help, because if it was any sappier and you could put it on a pancake. Acting? Please. Even so, this film certainly got its point across: heathens and blasphemers will soon control the (United) State(s), so you had better be ready to die for Jesus. For Jesus!
There's a scene in Five Easy Pieces in which Jack Nicholson's character is trying to order toast, but it's lunchtime so they don't serve toast. So Jack orders a sandwich on toasted bread, hold everything. He's kicked out and his friends congratulate him on sticking it to the waitress. "Still didn't get my sandwich." What the movie's message and this scene have in common is that taking the defining characteristic from something ("sandwich," "Christianity") and using it asininely ("hold everything," "Us vs. Them") defeats the purpose, dismisses the crusader and sends the poor, downtrodden hero away hungry.
There was an amazing amount of hubris in Die for Jesus in the Year 2000 or whatever it was called. See, it thought that in the near future, someone, anyone in the US will be threatened by Christianity. Maybe they figured the USSR would take over and outlaw religion and were hedging their bets, but I doubt it. No, these people honestly thought the government would be worried about a group of people who:
- are naive enough to watch Fox News.
- bored enough to argue over Harry Potter's devilry.
- complacent enough to hole up in the suburbs.
- demure enough to allow atrocious wars in US's name.
- gullible enough to elect a man to start those wars because he's "a Christian."
- Buy, consume, bitch and buy some more.
American Christianity has removed the point of the faith: rockin' the boat. Jesus asked the rulers of His time, "why are people poor?" "Why are you still wealthy?" "Is that what God wants, or are you using God to get what you want?" "Will you carry your cross (sign of a criminal) and follow me?"
A friend of mine recently posted as her facebook status, "God, keep us safe from the police." I responded, "God, make us the kind of people of peace whom threaten the police." Let's think about what's wrong with the social order and mess things up a little. Let's get sent to the Death Star's death row. Let's earn all the promises of suffering Jesus made by doing His will on earth.
What would Jesus do?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
They tried to test my I.Q.
They showed me a picture of 3 oranges and a pear
They said, which one is different?
It does not belong
They taught me different is wrong
-"My IQ" by Ani DiFranco
I was reading up on cyberbullying in Newsweek this morning, reflecting on how we train children to think and act a certain way, then are shocked when they exceed a suicidal society's wildest hopes and dreams. The article opened with the tale of Phoebe Prince who was "bullied to death" over Facebook and in real life (IRL). The poor girl was fighting a two-front war and decided to surrender with a rope.
The article goes on to call into question the logistics of punishing Phoebe's (and other victims') tormentors. It points out sticky spots like Phoebe's history of suicidal tendencies, her attackers' good academic standing (as if that matters), and the fact that it's difficult to hold people responsible for actions they did not directly perform. I'm sure those girls didn't want Phoebe to kill herself; that would have ended their awful little fun.
Those of you who know me very well may be familiar with my own experiences with the shitheadedness of children. To this day, there are a few things that just bug me, hurt me or shut down my coping mechanisms thanks to a slight breech by some unwitting person in my life reminding me of something said when I was 11. These things, they happen. Certainly I had mornings I didn't want to get up, let alone go to school, and some times I got that wish. Sometimes not. I look back on those days with a slightly better emotional framework, so I'd like to offer a couple of ideas on the cyberbullying conversation. Maybe I can even contextualize it in the human condition.
Cyberbullying, and the whiplash reaction to it, occurs at the intersection of at least two of three phenomena in human sociology/psychology:
- Different is wrong: how interesting this possibly evolutionary trait should be applied within a species.
- Pattern-finding: while this determines "different," it also leads to the decade sentences over some of these bullies' heads. Check out the Historian's Fallacy.
- John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory: or, to quote Oscar Wilde, "give a man a mask, and he'll tell you the truth." Not that calling someone a whore is truthful, but it does release the caller from a modicum of responsibility.
The US government legislates against homosexuals, many churches decry their "lifestyles" (because you are who you fuck, right?) and in general are given the scarlet word of "other," so people shouldn't be surprised when children treat gays like subhumans. This was the case of two boys in California and a college student named Tyler Clementi who threw himself off George Washington Bridge.
The problem lies in a culture which trains children to think in terms of exclusivity and entertainment: Clementi's roommate streamed a video of him and a lover. Children, even college students, have a hard time separating degrees of what society considers acceptable levels of hatred. It's generally okay in the US to support "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (you won't lose friends over it, probably), but it's wrong to out and out ostracize LGBT people.
Furthermore, when a culture values entertainment like "Flavor of Love," which operates like "Lord of the Herpetic Flies," children are going to think the "other" is there for entertainment. If we want to stop cyberbullying, this would be a good place to start.
Breaking the human's idea of pervasive patterns would be something to consider as well. Newsweek, hoping to elicit some sympathy for her torturers, points out that Phoebe Prince had already attempted suicide. The idea is that since she had the problems anyway, there is less responsibility on the bullies' part. If Jessica Bennett (the article's author) really thought it through, she'd realize it would make more sense to hold them more responsible (you don't give an alcoholic a fifth of Jack).
She is right, though, in asking whether bullies can, as a policy, be punished for their victims' actions. The Historian's Fallacy and people's... interesting use of cause and effect make us work backwards. So while two bullies post the same sentence on Facebook, the one whose subject commits suicide becomes the media's pariah. It reduces the question of causality and responsibility to moral luck. When you factor in the fact that one of Phoebe's bullies had her own emotional demons, this takes on a whole other facet of culpability.
As for the intersection of anonymity and responsibility, Facebook disallows most of that problem, but this has become part of human's approach to interaction online. Couple that with how analogous using a computer to socialize is with gaming, where moral rules are often suspended, stark realities focus. Again, people should not be surprised when "just a video game" thinking leads to "just a wall post" actions.
I hope this will give you something to consider, and maybe even help around the water cooler when and if this comes up. And let's have some sympathy for our devils.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Now for my rebuttal: fuck "masculine," "feminine" and any other moniker you want to hang on people. Wanna know why? Here's why. Let's set up a few facts.
- Fact: No one is pleased with how things are. You know, in general.
- Fact: If you think the way you've always thought, you'll do the things you've always done and you'll get what you've always gotten.
- Fact: The world has always used labels to confine the human being.
- And we're fluid.
I was reading Y: The Last Man recently (and if you aren't/haven't FOR SHAME). In it, there's a scene in which Yorick (our hero) is having a water gun fight with his girlfriend Beth. In this scene, while Beth is using a run-of-the-mill multicolored toy, Yorick's pistols looks like a freakin' pistol. Yorick says some bravado garbage and Beth calls him: his gun's empty. He claims he's refilled it with his piss.
I thought long and hard about this. Masculinity, as I understand society to understand it, demands anyone with a penis (that's me) act as though we have the capacity for deadly violence. It calls for bravado and the infantile. Just think about the last comedy you saw. Chances are it was about a grown man acting like a child and a woman teaching him to act his fucking age already. The reward is often true love--or at least empty sex, which, as far as empty experiences go, is one of the best.
This sort of thinking has really screwed men. Last night, Allie and I were biking and, long and short of it, a guy in a taxi called me a faggot and told me to suck his cock. He also spat at me. I told him to fuck off (of which I'm not proud).
Looking back on it, I realized how hard it must be for that bro. Brah? Whatever. Dude felt the need to show off in front of his buddies by hurting someone else, to assert a masculinity in which he had no confidence. This masculinity plants the seed of "do, not be," which is to say one must do something to be a man, not that you can just be a man. This manliness is the peg on which so many hang their self-worth. How terrible.
How difficult it must be to affront someone's sexuality to glorify your own, to demand a homosexual act while calling someone a faggot. I say it's difficult in the sense of how scared a person is from masculinity's compulsion. Really, it's the easy way.
The hard way is to be happy with the masculinity you create for yourself (you women, too! Everyone's welcome!). I cook and clean. I lift weights. I play violent video games. I enjoy Audrey Hepburn movies. I make movies. I write poetry. Comic books. Dungeons and Dragons. Have a wife, but try to think of her as "spouse." None of these things are inherently masculine or feminine. To contextualize, there are gay men in the military killing people. There are gay men singing showtunes. There are straight men baking pastries, building a house with their own hands. That's the masculinity we need: not a paradigm, but a personality. We don't need to "do" to be valid, and "being" does not validate either. Rather, everyone needs to find the place between the two where self-love and love for others is best realized. One can only occur with the other, you know.
So I encourage all of you to consider how you view yourselves and others, because it's not just the examined life worth living, but the properly examined life. Help me to do the same.
And you know what else? That guy wasn't even my type. I wonder if I'm his?
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The nature of identity is the nature of leading a just life, and it is in this I have failed and find myself both deserving and redeemed from the Jaws. While the greatest commandment is, "to love the Lord your God... and your neighbor as yourself," to paraphrase, this is not the definer of what sin is. I have sinned by not knowing who I am and that is the germ, the spark, that causes me to hurt others. I cannot love my God and other people fully because I act in what the existentialists call "bad faith".
“I wouldn't recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me.”
-Hunter S. Thompson
Here, Thompson operates on what I think of as a sort of "worst faith". In my understanding of existentialism, one works on bad faith by refusing to acknowledge he or she is acting outside of their own accordance of right or wrong (for lack of better terms). Thompson is aware of the destructive nature of his lifestyle, but disavows its immorality.
Truth to tell, I like this idea. He knew himself well enough to recognize his shortcomings, and that's a start of self-awareness. The evangelist would consider this an acknowledgment of being a "sinner". Both are all well and good, but there's a level of intentionality lacking. Even fans of Thompson have to agree with me on this, as football season did end, and he lost sight of his purpose. I have done the same by punishing Allison for my own shortcomings, along with her unwillingness to punish me for them.I will fail in getting the grill going well and proper and snap at her. I will fail in getting directions right and yell at her. I will commit these little failures and commit myself to a depression for them. And, as Lincoln said, "Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." Well, my father told me, "Depression is anger without the enthusiasm," and I need to work through both to live with a decent self-awareness.
I realize I need to consider why I'm walking, why the walk is worthwhile. To do this, I have to know myself. I'm reading T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone, and have just finished the duel between Merlyn and Madame Mim, in which they transform into sundry animals, vegetables and microbes to outwit or outtrample one another. It's the stuff of great literature, and adumbrated Gaiman's battle between Choronzon and Morpheus in the first volume of The Sandman. In the fight between Dream and the demon, the former is trying to win from the latter his helm, in which is his own power. He is trying to win himself. Throughout the battle the two move from form to form, seeking to kill each other by stomping spine and desecrating life. In the end, Choronzon becomes Anti-Life. Dream becomes the one counter to this: Hope. The demon finds no recourse and Lucifer punishes him for his lack of imagination.
Afterward, Lucifer fancies he has the Dream King in his clutches, but is outwitted by the Prince of Stories. Morpheus again invokes hope; what good is Hell without the desire for Heaven? Lucifer, enraged at his impotence, swears vengeance.
Ultimately, there is nothing simpler and more disarming to hatred than this: asserting oneself. Scripture tells us the only unforgivable sin is the one committed against the Holy Spirit, and this is the Spirit in and among us. In fact, it is each of us, if we believe in a personal, loving God in and through Christ. So across the years we can hear Shakespeare's gentle assertion, not a commandment, but a lens through which to read it: "to thine ownself be true". I haven't always held this precept in my heart and mind. I will fail again (and again, ad hoc) in doing so.
In thought, word and deed I have betrayed my friends, family, wife, self and God by denying simple truths: I am not one or the other of any number of dualities (sinner/saint, lover/bigot, artist/sloth), but rather what is born through my actions, actions which take concepts from essence to existence. The great sin to which I have committed myself continually is denying who I am, which, I think, is really what causes my betrayal of others and God more than anything else.
I think of Christ asking his disciples to profess who He is, and it leads me to consider who I am in His light. I think he can tell me what I am (his beloved) and that will tell me who I want to be (someone worthy of belovedness). It seems rather simple, really.
I mean, when I'm faced with my own darkness (of which I have plenty), I can try to crush it underfoot, or deny its validity, but that's fighting me at my own game. I don't think the way of Love (veryily, the Way of Christ) plays the game that way. It makes itself a nettle in a thicket of nettles and allows wickedness to tire itself. Love makes itself hope, which outlasts every enemy, resting quietly at the bottom of the urn after all shadows have spread. Compassion asserts itself as itself and thus receives freedom from Hell.
I will do my level best, and please hold me to this, to better love myself by loving you, because it's worth it to me to act as though Heaven can, should be here on Earth.
"The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just."
Thursday, August 19, 2010
I was on set a few months ago working on Dustin Supencheck's zombie romance Hostility, having a conversation about the ennui of people my age (about 20). The malaise a lot of us have is the concept of identity. This is nothing new, but it has an ever-growing context, especially in an art school such as Columbia. Couple this with the fact I was speaking with an actor, it was pretty engaging.
It was posited to me that travel is the way to discover oneself. I like the idea of having a walkabout around Europe, eating interesting foods, drinking interesting drinks, sleeping with interesting women; all those European things. The idea I like. As I told the actor (Kai Young), I didn't buy it. My difference was rooted in my understanding of identity's nature.
I wondered aloud if the facebook "About Me" quiz could, if completed, be used to recreate a person. My friend Marc said it couldn't, making me realize how much goes into a person beyond a preference for root beer over cream soda.
I told Kai I thought the real definer of a person was rooted much more in the act of self-creation. I told him, I'm working on myself, making myself into something. Explaining my position, I told him I'm looking to change, that at 22 I'm far too young to believe I'll stumble upon some heretofore unknown "me" and that'll be that: Brandon achieved!
"Do you think the things you're interested in will change?" asked my directing teacher.
"God, I hope so," I answered.
I've been rethinking my denial of self-discovery. I'm not into most dualities. I don't buy into mutual exclusivity. Check it: you can be pro-life and pro-choice. Sorry if I just blew your mind (though I doubt I did). Realizing I had made a false distinction in this instance, I had to reconsider my position.
To be clear, it is a false duality (then again, the overwhelming majority of them are). Being an artist, I discover as I create. I write this sentence, choosing words and crafting syntax and this sentence leads into the next. I discover a desire to say, to tell you, to realize who I am in this writing and what this writing says about my context.
In Christopher Nolan's Inception, Cobb (DiCaprio) tells Page's Adriane that dreams are a process of discovery and creation feeding into one another.
Dreams, art, Homer in that one "Treehouse of Horror":
In my life, I've been dealing with some questions of how I relate to people. I've been thinking about whether or not I could be physical with a man. I'm not opposed to the idea, to be sure. I don't even think this is a question of identity (you aren't who you fuck). Even so, I don't think I've found a man with whom I'd want to be intimate. I don't believe people choose to be gay, but I also think I might have the capacity. The bottom line is, I don't know if it would work for me.
I'm looking at my art these days and considering what my characters make, and what I find in them.
At least in my art I can find a universe to help me create my place in this larger reality.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Three score miles and ten.
Will she still love when we arrive?
Rest assured and don’t ask again.
How many miles through Umbria?
Three score miles and ten.
Will she deign be mine by candlelight?
If you throw a stone to see by night,
You’ll reach Columbia by candlelight.
How long must we navigate Umbria?
The shared lifetime afforded to you.
Will he still honor when we arrive?
In 42 years he will stay true.
Will his heart hold out for two score and two?
He’ll bear the burden with and for you.
Will he be my King and I his Queen?
If you swim like dolphins can swim,
He’ll care for you through land dim.
Will we bear fruit in a home of our own?
Your quiver will be full.
Need we defend our single fledgling flesh?
Athena will bless your soul.
Will we see our new Bohemia?
You’ll be blessed with la vie en rose.
What will our deeds and words be then?
If your hands are just and words are light,
Your progeny will arrive after candleligh
Knowing father? Learning wisdom? Trust in Mother (who Father is)? Does it always come back to her?
Sperm determines sex. Fundamental identity? Wisdom in knowing oneself? Father begetting himself his own son.
Leaving house, Lloyd meets himself meets Brandon Lloyd. Pallas Brandon. Pallas Athena’s avatar: owl, bird of wisdom, asks, “Who?” “Who is your father?” I, knowing mine, am a wise child.
Lloyd, in creating Lloyd, created Brandon Lloyd. Brandon Lloyd seeks to beget ______ Lloyd.
Father loves self, loves son’s supersession. Father becomes quintessential teacher (imparter of wisdom). Stimulates mind, imparts ability to love.
Loved Mother, loves coffee, chocolate, son.
Love because he first loved. Stimulate love. Wisely buy wise father stimulants. Happy Father’s Day.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Brandon L. Sichling
The blank does not intimidate me
Because I know better, shrewdly,
Than to show it any fear
Other than of the failure
On which I’m about to embark.
I know the blank’s dimensions
And I know my materials (how)
And I know what I want to say (why)
And I am flabbergasted if I know (where)
When I am dead I hope
This rune will speak for me
To those I leave behind.
I hope it will strengthen me
To explain myself before God
While I am here I will fill
The blank with the idea
In my heart, pulling
It in and staining it with my inks
Pumped by desire and desperation
I know it will only leave me when I’m through,
Even though my signature adorns it
And makes it my responsibility.
Almighty will raise this point
And my void cast onto another
Will give me the will
And negate the inclination
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Brandon L. Sichling
Love is real, but it doesn’t exist.
It’s “there” because there is always
Where we fruitlessly seek.
Love is not here. Humanity declined
The honor of its presence.
My body exists, but it isn’t real.
It’s measurable, at 11.814286 stone,
A few colors, blue and hazel being the two
That matter, but mostly a tolerable shade of
Pasty, constituent clay.
My thoughts are broken, small things.
Occasionally I dream a few nights straight.
I dream and the dreams scare me
To Death & Equal Realities.
Love is real, but it can’t exist.
Existences start by screaming:
Babies, combustion engines, tea.
Love is only real in quiet places
With heartbeats echoing.
Existence, a tiresome long gestation
Love tries to punch through.
It’s trying so damn hard
I see it when I turn out the light.
I can tell you because it’s not mine.
I’ve seen gas burning in night skies.
I’ve looked into your iris.
Gas and fire: formless, but voluminous.
I guess the severity of your headaches.
Frustration is summons, declined.
Love doesn’t exist, but I know where it is.
I can hazard some measurements like recipes:
1 scream = x decibels
1 flare in your iris = x BTUs
1 orgasm is Love tearing into this world.