Yesterday I discovered
a bowl of plums in the icebox that had sat there forgotten for a month, and I tossed the plums one by one into the icy grass
near the woods where I’ve seen deer. A dozen dusky purple plums, past their prime: an offering. And this afternoon when
I go out to look, the frozen grass is bare, and I am filled with a joy I can’t get to the bottom of.
~Abigail Thomas, A Day in the Life. Catching Days Blog.
Something is watching me right now as a write. Something has always watched me. Yes, I can’t remember not being
watched. When I’m barbell-lunging at Gold’s Gym here in Charlottesville, when I was given a vibrating pen for
my 13th birthday and discovered the thrill of masturbation, when I’m grading student essays to background sounds of
Mozart and the trickle-drops of the coffee pot on a Saturday evening. When I stepped onto the yellow school bus, a little
boy with a big backpack. The school bus, yes. That is my earliest memory of being watched by something or someone intangible.
Each day I stepped onto the bus in 9th grade I’d push play on my Walkman to Track 2 on rapper Ja Rule’s
“336” CD. A two-minute song that opens:
Are you a figment of my
Or am I one of yours?
And the refrain:
Are ya watching me?
They be watching, niggas
they be watching, keep watching
Keep watching me
Now don’t look down
Are ya watching me?
They be watching, bitches
they be watching, keep watching
Keep watching me
Now don’t look down
Who’s watching me?
“Niggas” did not mean
African Americans called a derogatory name. It meant people to me – all people. All eyes of the people on the bus who
watched me until I sat.
“Bitches” did not
mean some bad-acting women nor a female dog. It meant morally weak people – cowards who would rather watch and judge
than do and be.
The “keep watching”
meant not for others to watch my future glory, but as a response to a challenge: “keep watching me, go on, watch all
you want I don’t care.” It felt like I was confronting these burdensome spirits that hung from me like wet blankets.
Confronting them directly, though with faux confidence.
Because these aren’t some
always good-natured angels. They watch and wait for me to screw up so they can send their Zeus-bolts or some negative aura
into my life.
If I eat junk food all day a family
member may be diagnosed with cancer within the month.
If I watch porn rather than mind-masturbate,
my frail, sick grandmother will be forced to endure a miserable, sleepless night.
If I lazily spend hours watching
a reality TV show my sister may get in a serious car accident.
If I don’t push myself at
the gym the chance a rapist gets hold of my mother-in-law or fiancée becomes better.
It’s all a game of chance.
And whatever watches me deals the cards based solely on my actions or inactions.
Because I eat healthy (especially
when I’d rather not), because I mind-masturbate, because I challenge myself mentally with good books and physically
through exercise, the spirit who may or may not be my dead grandfather, a long gone ancestor, or even remotely human or decipherable
has granted me positive energy:
This essay you’re reading
(thank them not me if you like it).
A relatively happy, unharmed family.
A stable career where I can bring
about beneficial change in the world.
Good, reflective karma for generally
all areas of my life: fighting, acting, writing, love, health.
Whatever watches me, I’m
both scared to death of it and grateful it’s there. I’d have accomplished little without it.
This fear of some unknowable,
possibly fabricated thing leads me to a book like any other on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, a book used to control people
by fear, a book that has slowly lost its talent for the rear naked choke in recent years: The Bible.
For whatever reason, films like
Bill Maher’s “Religulous” or a rise in consciousness that everything in The Bible had already been written
about from, among others…
Lao Tzu (about 500 years before
Socrates (about 400 years before
Plato (about 300 years before
…and regardless of whether
Christianity’s stories are plagiarized products of earlier religions, or the root cause of the death of millions of
innocent people – Fox News will still publish articles like “Bill Maher’s Absurd Take on Religion”
by Father Jonathan Morris and the stories of Christianity will continue to have a positive impact on millions of people.
Really, it’s the most tremendously successful and harmful book of all-time and should be viewed as such. It’s
written extremely well, but so is Dinty W. Moore’s “Between Panic and Desire,” though I doubt we’ll
see people kowtowing to Warholian replicas of Dinty Moore beef stew cans anytime soon.
This preamble leads to MMA, in
particular to a February 2010 New York Times article by R.M. Schneiderman titled: “Flock Is Now a Fight Team in Some
Ministries.” In short, the article highlights the rising marriage of mixed martial arts and Jesus Christ’s teachings
in order to “tap” into the male 18-34-year-old bracket – which many pastors say is increasingly absent from
churches “because churches have become more amenable to women and children.” So, pastors must evolve (insert LOL
here) with the times, the times that state: UFC 100 was the top pay-per-view selling event of 2009. Rather than relying on
fear from fabricated stories to increase church attendance-revenue-power, pastors are relying on the realist of fears –
the fear of the fight.
I walk a thin of contradiction:
On one hand, there is nothing
more primal than fighting, and it has developed in me respect, determination, and a healthy and moral body and mind –
things a book no matter how good could have done. Perhaps this reality balances Jonah-living-in-a-whale stories. Perhaps it
could all combine to create stronger bodies and minds, better brothers, husbands, fathers. This would be wonderful.
Perhaps this fusion will perpetuate
the values espoused by so many Christians and which continue to drag America and the world into its scum:
Actually, you know where I stand,
so I will pull a quote from said article:
“’The man should be
the overall leader of the house,’ said Ryan Dobson, 39, a pastor and fan of mixed martial arts.” Ryan’s
next quote is “’We’ve raised a generation of little boys.’”
Oh yes, Ryan, but little boys
are ripe for raping by church leaders right? I bet they will grow up to be some type of faggot poets who blow the whistle
with their words rather than kneeling at the pew to blow you. So, you are right, we mind as well teach them to fight so they
can better beat their wives into place.
There’s even an MMA clothing
line called “Jesus Didn’t Tap.” If he had would it have mattered? And what’s wrong with tapping? It
signals you’ve been beat by a superior fighter. Should you never tap you’d never be able to train let alone compete
because your body would be a rubble of broken bones and torn ligaments. The story of Jesus’ crucifixion (crucifiction?)
is powerful and brings me to tears for its act of assertive passivity. Besides, his hands were nailed to a cross.
Jesus is awesome. Greedy people
preaching him for green paper and power are not.
Not writing to the best of my
abilities, not adding (by this practice) to the body of human experience makes me believe that whatever is watching me will
send little black Brita-water-filterish type specks pumping through my blood. I see the front of me: A see-through body, WARRIOR
tattoo, stars on chest representing Earth, Wind, Water, Fire Spirit, standing naked in the anatomical position, red blood
circulating and every now and then a black speck of impurity or evil or weakness appears in the stream due to something I
ate or said or thought or did not do. The way to clear it is to cleanse as I did yesterday – breathing deeply and sweating
countless drops into the ever-darkening sauna room wood at Gold’s Gym.
Minutes after I walked in, a man
who looked to be thirty-five walked in. He wore a white t-shirt with the UFC logo across the front. Rob Zombie blasted from
his headphones. No problem. Cool dude getting pumped and primed for a good workout. Then he began boxing the wooden
walls with his bare hands. Arrogant, awkward, uncoordinated movements. Just a few weeks of MMA lessons under his belt,
I thought to myself. He continued the bare-knuckle pounding and I saw his fists flail back with the red of blood. I saw
my father pounding on the front door after I jumped from his moving truck, ran home and locked him out. How my father yelled,
“open up.” Open what up? The door leading to your past so you may see the
present and the future books I will write and the future divorce you will have? Open up a conversation instead of a monologue?
Open up about emotions? About girls I like? Open up my squinted-from-crying eyes to see the monster you are? Open what up?
So much more needs opened up besides this door. What is this guy punching? Why put fists into walls? What is missing inside
himself, what are the fists moving for – to be surrounded by sexy women, to drive a BMW, to have all eyes watching you?
I asked myself these questions as he continued pounding and moving in the same green way I’ve watched hundreds of others
do in equally strange places. I know fighting filled holes in my life, it always taught me many new things about myself –
so I don’t want to fault the guy because I’ve been there. But I couldn’t help but wonder what his story was. Did he have daddy issues too? Was he lacking confidence and when he moved this way and punched
wooden walls he gained what was lacking? Did he believe he deserved the pain? Maybe he cheated on his wife, maybe he slapped
his mom, maybe he lived a life of drugs and felt guilty. And rather than trying to live the rest of his life morally, he decided
to inflict pain onto himself the way his father may have when he was little. Or maybe it was because pain made him feel alive
in a world he views numbly. He kept pounding. I kept pulsating deeper into my hamstring stretch. He pounded harder, faster,
louder. I stretched harder, deeper, pain. He pounded. He pounded. My blood is 50% my father’s blood. He pounded. He
pounded. I pulled. He pounded. I pulled. He left. I relaxed. Grabbed my keys and came home to write this piece for Caged, for you.
Whatever watches me controls my
level of purity and the amount of cleansing I need to do to remove impurities for others and myself. I am open to all but
believe writing well right. Believe it to be the single noblest act one can engage in. Human complexities-idiosyncrasies-life
slowed down, captured, shared with the world, however minute.
is no greater impotence in all the world like knowing you are right and that the wave of the world is wrong, yet the wave
~ Norman Mailer, Armies in the Night
I write because I feel it is right.
And because it’s my only defense while trapped in the beautifully-destructive wave-tube of the world. (Google: Clark
Fourteen: “… we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the
wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did
not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow
our homes – and our bodies – to be poisoned.
~ Derrick Jensen, Endgame
I write because I hate and fear.
Nineteen: The culture’s problem lies above all in the belief that controlling and abusing the natural world is justifiable.
~ Derrick Jensen, Endgame
I write to control.
I write because when those plum-purple
age spots come and I go I want others to forever eat and shit out the body of work I’ve left behind.
I write because before I die I
want to believe the words on my gravestone:
(Line break just so to show people
the transformative poetic power of words in the world and the spaces between them both)
A plum gone rotten
writing offered you all