Monthly Archives: July 2003

Found My Calling

When adolescents begin to wonder about the purpose their life might serve they are often told to begin their search for purpose by deciding what issues bother them in some way, and then decide if they might be able to do something about them. Maybe one has a soft spot for children and would find it rewarding to work with orphans. Maybe one is particularly bothered by injustice and would find fulfillment in the opportunities for pro bono work that a career in law might provide.

Or, from the other end, when seniors look back to discern what purpose their life may have served, they are told to look for patterns in what they have done. Maybe they can now find some greater underlying meaning in the seamingly unrelated recurrences in their lives.

Using a bit of both techniques — combining awareness of what happens to me again and again with the acknowledgement that I find it bothersome — I think I’ve discovered my purpose in life: helping the relatives of deposed African rulers withdraw vast family fortunes from secret bank accounts in Switzerland and the United States.

I was surprised the first time I was chosen to be a trustworthy partner in this most confidential and lucrative business arrangement. For starters, I had no personal acquaintance with the individual asking for help securing his rightful inheritance and, despite what he presumed, I had never heard of his deposed father nor knew very much about the former government of his country. (Unlike my naïveté in those early days, I now have a passing knowledge of the former governments and previous political leaders of Zaire, Congo, Liberia, and Ivory Coast. That last one is actually known as r the success of this transaction, which highly required my utmost confidentiality and secrecy due to the family’s present predicament. I knew I must act fast because it was for a good cause, and they sincerely would appreciate my willingness to assist as soon as possible.

So what’s my purpose on this Earth? I’m not sure. But whatever it is seems to be wrapped up somehow in political intrigue, shady bank transfers, and purloining a 20% stake in the hidden fortunes of wrongfully accused former generals, may their souls rest in perfect peace.

Server-side Excludes

I am not about to commit suicide. But, since we’re now on the subject, I wonder if anyone has used their blog yet to leave a suicide note? Now that would increase your site traffic, boy. — Look, this is MY IDEA people, so back off. — I’ll have to check the patents.

Or better, don’t commit suicide but say that you did. Then pass around a chain letter about this blog that you found where the guy wrote his last kiss-my-a$$ entry to the world and then offed himself. Most people, conditioned to find entertainment in anything, just won’t be able to help themselves but look. Your site traffic would get a healthy boost. Then, if you’re lucky, your online suicide note would reach urban legend status, and you’d get another traffic spike when Snopes steps in to put your little hoax to rest. Wow, is there any bigger dream on the internet? Lots of traffic and a listing in snopes. Thanks to your death, you’ve got a lot to live for!

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to employ technology to jazz up the humble suicide note. I mean, this thing is your last chance to say whatever it is. You can’t leave it in the hands of some grizzled county coroner and expect it to have any impact! Every step of the crime scene/mortuary process is populated by people who have been blunted by an endless stream of death. You can’t get through to them! They aren’t going to appreciate the anguish in your letter. The note beside the corpse might be the only spot of levity in their day!

No, you need to find a way to get your message out. Like, for instance, on your answering machine. Friends, family, telemarketers…they’re calling you! You get to be the first to break the news that you’re dead. And unlike a paper note that gets filed away in a manila folder with your death certificate, never to be seen again, this isn’t a one-time deal. No, this puppy keeps making your statement, ring after ring — at least until the phone company gets wise that you ain’t ever gonna pay your bill again.

So let’s say that leaving your death knell on an answering machine buys you a month or two of voice mail eulogizing. In my neighborhood that means about 120 telemarketers would hear it. And what group of people could be more receptive to your message about the meaningless dead end of life than telemarketers? Can anyone say Target Audience?

All I’m saying is, these aren’t the 1900s, okay? We have technology now. If you’re about to capitulate to survival of the fittest by self-guided natural de-selection, put down your quill pen, pick up the phone, and communicate.

By the way, don’t kill yourself, okay? It’s a joke. Humor. Ha ha. And in any event, DO NOT mention this site in your final note or message or blog. Like I haven’t got enough trouble already without becoming the World Wide Reaper.

And if you’re from Snopes, it’s all a lie: rumors of my demise were greatly exaggerated. Case closed.

Style Sheets

Cascading Style Sheet Specs are not interesting reading per se, but I’ve spent a lot of time searching through them while building this site.

I’m using a style sheet for the presentation elements of this weblog, but I’ve sort of neglected the cascading part. This site is designed as though CSS meant conglomerate style sheet: every part of this site points back to a single style sheet that just keeps getting bigger and bigger. That’s not the point at all, I think.

First Entry for the Link Dump

The Bleat, written by James Lileks, is one of my favorite blogs because of the way the man can turn a phrase.

For example, in today’s entry he wanted to describe the high-pitched squeak that his bedroom door makes when it’s pushed open slowly. Screech? Or maybe — if we really want to make a point — Scrreeech?

Nope, here’s what Lileks came up with: …it sounds like I?m trying to grate a cat butt-first.

There are a lot of Lileks fans out there already — it’s not like I’m first on the scene or anything — but the embarrassment of being the 3,718,932nd person to link to The Bleat is still much better than, say, …bobbing for dog turds in a chum bucket.

Cross Your Eyes

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Squint your eyes and clench your teeth.

Holy with a Double-U

Holy is being set apart. Can you be partially set apart? Partially holy?

You’re set apart or you’re not, right? That means being holy is only about being wholly holy. Holy with a ‘w’.

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Sometimes I think about dying and all that it implies. I don’t mean the final-breath-and-you’re-dead type of dying, but more like the six-months-left-to-live type of dying. The realization that one is about to be imminently dead is surely terrible, but the longer agony of living under a terminal medical diagnosis scares me more.

However, knowing that you’re dying months in advance gives you the ability to prepare for it: to spend time with family and friends, to make sure that children will be cared for, and to put all of your remaining affairs in order so as not to leave a burden on anyone who survives you. You get to be a sort of pyrotechnic engineer planning for the tidy demolishment of your own life. Find the beams that keep this place standing and set the charges. No one knows the structure of this place better than you, and when the powder goes off you want it to fall straight down in a pile and not leave debris scattered everywhere for others to clean up.

Attack of the imagery.

Anyway, there would be lots to do if I knew I were going to die shortly. One thing I’d be tempted to do is write letters to my children for when they’re adults. That would be my one chance to communicate with them as a peer, as one-sided as the communication may be. A young child certainly wouldn’t see dying dad as a complicated person in a tough situation. I’d want to leave something behind to let them know how much I loved them and to say that the hardest part of an early exit isn’t losing my life but losing the chance to be a part of theirs.

But as I think about it, I recall what Harriet Tubman reportedly told someone on the persuasion-end of her pistol, and instead of perceiving a threat I’m taking it as good advice: “Dead men tell no tales.”

Throughout human history it has been customary to die and then shut up. People don’t communicate after they’ve died: it’s creepy. Whatever I have to say about checking out early, it can’t be anything new to human experience. Just because I feel something deeply doesn’t mean it should be recorded or — worse, but just my style — crafted into a poem. The rhyming kind.

If my children are thoughtful, they’ll understand the broad strokes of how I felt for them — and how much I must have thought about them — by the time they’re adults. If they aren’t thoughtful, what’s the point anyway? I don’t know what makes me think I’m so special and my story so moving that I should clutter up my kid’s lives with the dying ramble of some wanna-be.

Or something like that. Trying some kind of Amazing Kreskin act by attempting to communicate to my kids 10 years after I’m dead could really backfire. It’s probably better to let others tell my tales for me. I’ll leave it to the uncles, aunts, and cousins. (Some of those stories will be more colorful than others.)

Can you tell? Six months gone by. Doctor’s appointment coming up.

Draining a 5th

Today is Tina’s and my 5th anniversary!

Are we still in love? Absolutely. Is it the same love as when we were first married? Absolutely not.

Five years ago I perceived going from single-and-in-charge to married-and-in-a-partnership as having some definite risks. Did we really want to be together 24 hours a day? What if our styles of co-occupancy were incompatible? What if our love went flat and we found ourselves miserable?

At that time, my love was the sort that said, “I love you so much that I’m willing to risk all these troubles to prove it.” This was a heroic, step-in-harm’s-way, give-your-life-for-a-cause sort of love. This isn’t a bad place to start, but it’s certainly not where we ended up. Eventually you’ve been married for a while and you know whether you can surmount those daily problems or not. And, whether you find them easy or difficult, you’ll need a love that grows from patience and kindness to get through it. Heroic love won’t last in long adversity.

Good news! We got through it! We figured out how to divide chores, when we should go to bed and wake up, what should be deemed appropriate time with and away from each other, and how—and for what—we should spend our money. But that’s just discovering how to surmount the potential pitfalls of two people becoming one financial and social unit. There is an upside, too!

Marriage isn’t the final result of love: marriage presents all the opportunities for the continued growth of love. My love isn’t heroic any longer: I don’t look to the years ahead of us and set my jaw and swear we’ll push through it somehow. Instead, I welcome the future and all the changes it may bring, and it seems natural now that we’d choose to step into it together. In fact, the uncomfortable proposition now would be facing it apart. Tina’s my first choice to support me through anything, and I want to support her through anything, too.

Is marriage restrictive to the individual? Perhaps from a certain point of view. But marriage also provides an opportunity for growth that the individual doesn’t have. You could ask whether the protective fence around a garden is restrictive to the plants growing within. It may look that way from one perspective (and to someone who doesn’t know much about plants). But if the ground inside that fence is tended by someone who cares, then the plants inside have a very good chance to thrive in a way the plants outside do not. I think that Tina and I are thriving.