Thursday, March 19, 2009

Better


“The deeds were done and done again as my life is done in Watermelon Sugar.”
—Richard Brautigan

The Better Theory maintains that every experience presents one with an opportunity for personal growth. Crisis teaches you cool; pain teaches you pleasure; love teaches you loss. Every large and small and good and bad thing that comes at you, then, has the potential to propel you forward into, well, something better. All we have is now, and nothing else exists except that, so anything right now is always better than even one second before now. And now. And now. Get it?

All you’ve got to do is climb aboard, hang on tight, and push yourself forward into the abyss.

It’s a tricky theory to keep up with—try having “better” be the first thing out of your mouth next time you stub your toe or hear terrible news. But the truth is, Better works.

The Better Theory, the story goes, is your ticket out of all the things that bind you. It’s a reminder that you can turn even your worst misery into your most enlightened teacher. Heed the Better Theory, and those things entering your life of which you are most afraid become your free pass to your next level of understanding and calm. Watch how Better makes you kinder, more patient, more peaceful. Try saying “Better” the next time you feel yourself slipping. Test drive it as your safe word or code.

The man who taught me Better isn’t here anymore—at least, not in the way he always was. I’m heartbroken. But more than heartbreak, frustration, anger, longing, and fear, there’s something else. There’s a word I remember; one I climb inside of and wrap around me and suddenly everything slows down enough for my knees to stop their incessant shaking.

Better.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Vulcan Principles of Thought

A diminutive woman in a pixie ’do stands in an old saloon next to a red wall littered with antique signs and strings of Christmas lights. She opens a shaky mouth and out comes a voice channeling Edith Piaf exactly. The trombone, clarinet, and violin join in; followed by the upright bass, steel guitar, dusty piano, and drums. Time stops. We could be anywhere, at anytime, but we’re most likely ghosts right now; haunting a strange place in Manhattan while caught between worlds.

The woman hums and sucks air through her teeth so it sounds like a whisper before returning to the lyrics: “And then there suddenly appeared before me the only one my arms will hold,” she warbles. “I heard somebody whisper ‘Please adore me’—and when I looked to the moon, it turned to gold.” Her eyes cloud and she wipes at them quickly, smiling shyly.

I sit at a high table in the front row sipping my fifth PBR of the evening and racking my brain for answers. I lament: We are always sabotaging that which we believe on an intellectual level with these pesky hearts of ours. There’s a lot to be said for this condition in moments of extreme empathy, compassion, falling (hard) for someone, tender interactions. But in other instances, it is a service to oneself to maintain a Vulcan attitude, a Vulcan philosophical posture, and a Vulcan way of holding normative judgment next to godliness.

The major difference between Vulcans and humans (besides the ears) is the Vulcan principle of applying logic to the same scenarios humans apply emotion to. Spock was so valuable as a captain and commander because he could look at a problem without getting “muddled,” for lack of a better term.

Silly, silly humans.

The phone rings with an unlisted number for the sixth time. I take another swallow of beer, and put the phone face-down on the tabletop. It buzzes and vibrates across the table. I am trying to reject the compulsory impulse I have to take the call, whatever it may do to me. Now I look at the singer. Now I close my eyes. Now I exhale. Now the phone is ringing again. Now I am Vulcan. Paging Mr. Spock.

But I’m wrong. I’ve applied the principles incorrectly and missed the call from a desert hospital, and now I’m outside, and now I’m upset (sorry Spock), and now I’m saying “I love you’s” into the ear of a sleeping, maybe dying, man who will wake up and ask for me. Now I’m asking how I got here. Now I’m wishing for something unrealistic.

I sleep and I don’t dream. And today I wonder what a Vulcan might say from his or her outsider’s perspective about this particular human condition of mine.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

De Beers Begins Bow-Out From Generic Diamond Ads

De Beers Begins Bow-Out from Generic Diamond Ads
By Nicole Caldwell
[Click on article for larger viewing size]

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[Originally published in March 2009 issue of Diamond District News]