The 17 Strong Suggestions – the dharma of Nick Harkaway’s “The Gone Away World”

ImageHaving unsuccessfully tried to live my live according to Christian, Wiccan, Buddhist, Odinistic, and Islamist principles, I’ve carved my own 17 Strong Suggestions from that penultimate work of prophecy – Nick Harkaway’s “The Gone Away World.” These are suggestions, so if you mess up a bit, it may still be fatal, but there isn’t really an afterlife penalty. Incidentally, I’m not really so sure on the afterlife thing anyway. Might be nice just to be turned off instead of having to line up and yodel praises to Ganesh or what have you. Without further ado, the 17 Strong Suggestions.

  1. Women are indistinguishable from incendiary devices. Always wear oven mitts, just in case.
  2. Big Trucks, always.
  3. Beware of pencilnecks, they keep their souls in a closet, next to their shoes, and polish the latter with great zeal while the former exhausts it’s half-life quicker than a Darmstadtium coffee mug.
  4. Keep the soil well drained around your tree of error lest the pumpkins of disaster become overripe.
  5. Try as you might to kill your inner self, it just keeps coming back.
  6. Things that go away, must go somewhere, and something else always shows up in the void. “Somewhere” is usually your sock drawer and “something else” is usually a rabid ferret.
  7. Soft styles are the dog’s balls.
  8. Embrace your inner Ronnie with the utmost care, lacerations and fractures are likely.
  9. You shouldn’t kill your friend for accidentally eating your pet. It’s perfectly understandable if you do though and most people won’t blame you.
  10. Sooner or later all common sense is replaced by pencilneck talking points.
  11. Everyone you know is a warsheep, help them stay clear of landmines and keep a clean up kit in your trunk or boot.
  12. Respect the Tupperware.
  13. Stay near the pipe. Those who stray might come back, but they will never be the same. Bob from accounting might best be served from an extended vacation away from the pipe.
  14. If something in your life is on fire, try blowing it up.
  15. Mimes may train your in their art, but invisible boxes wont protect you. You have to pay extra for the secrets.
  16. It doesn’t matter where you go to school or what you earn your degree in, real life will always resemble a losing battle against the fogs of insanity populated with unfathomable mutants.
  17. Do kiss the girl next door, don’t tell her she resembles a donkey.
  18. Eat your pie while you can, especially if it’s cherry
  19. The Scalzian Corollary – If you can’t eat your pie at the moment, ask your wife to make a smoothie of it and store in the freezer for up to 3 days.
  20. The Gong-Fu of numbered lists is that they are slightly more humorous if there is a mismatch in the numeration unless the humor is self-referenced and obtuse.

Original NanoFiction

The hands, oaken-knuckled, age-spotted, whisper soft, I always hold them. Even, and especially, the painfully small and sweaty ones get held. The eyes are harder to touch. Rheumy, myopic orbs searching for an answer that no one has. The little ones set below hairless brows.  Others are so hollow and devoid of anything that might have ever been warm, they suck your reflection away into echoing abyss.

On boarding, they choose a sedative, or not. They must belt themselves in. There is no release, not for the body anyway. It climbs, over sixteen hundred vertical feet in two minutes. That apex, a slow approach, decelerating to an almost pause, as the lead car, then the second, and third start to descend. It doesn’t really become a plummeting dive until half the cars are over the crest. The eye can’t catch up to the passengers until the first loop. I know they are there because the acceleration of G forces lights up the monitor in front of me. Six, eight, ten times gravity. The sustained forces shut down all of their thought, feelings, and last, the autonomic systems. One by one at first, then in groups of five or ten, their vitals form chaotic symphonies of fear and anguish. Then the miracle, synchronicity. Cardiac rhythms align in one, a hammer pulping the velveteen forge of their souls. Oxygen leaves their bodies in a single, sighing zephyr. One by one, the players leave the orchestra as the monitors fall silent.

Riders return, broken marionettes, blissful dreamings painted on their features. Their relatives wait below, huddled in their brackish sorrows. I release each one to the undertakers. I look to the east. The next group is there, waiting patiently. I offer my hand.

Working third shift at Persephone’s Chariot, euthanasia coaster.

Conversations with a six year old

I love conversations with my six year old. Our topics range from progressive astrophysics, to monsters, superheroes, never ending why questions, and occasionally we hit upon a teaching moment where I get to contribute to how he views life.

Last night as we left my Aikido class, we were talking about a comment one of my classmates made. His daughter had been on stage with a magician who made her “disappear.” I couldn’t resist asking her how she had come back from disappearing and she laughed a little, still l trying to figure out if I was being serious. Her dad commented that he wasn’t a very good magician and that his daughter’s arm and leg were only missing for a few weeks.

This must have stuck with Oliver, who asked me shortly after we got in the car, “daddy, what if someone were missing an arm and a leg, they couldn’t dance at all.” he laughed at his joke. Oliver had no malice in what he was saying. He’s never met an amputee and maybe hasn’t even seen someone like that.

I asked him, “how do you know they couldn’t dance.” he thought about this and decided that they just couldn’t dance. I asked him to reconsider and told him one of the world’s fastest people was a double amputee. His prosthetics were deemed too much of a competitive advantage to allow him to participate in the Olympics. I concluded by asking him not to consider people that have these challenges as less than completely capable….and you know, I think it made a difference.

Recently, our four year old had a speech assessment. He has never dealt well with tests, dentists, eye doctors, etc. if you know my four year old, he is all energy and action, the combination of both means trouble. We didn’t get any definite diagnosis from this, but we did get lots of recommendations for follow ups. He is to have speech therapy sessions, hearing tests, behavioral evaluations, and and evaluation for special needs pre-school.

My first reaction was, oh man, my kid acted up and drove the tester crazy. Knowing that the cooperation you get from Nolan is very mercurial, I thought, he just wasn’t ready for this kind of test. I resolved to help get everything set up, follow through, but was certain he was just a late bloomer. Nolan is very smart, you can see the intelligence in his eyes, he can solve matching puzzles easily on Diana’s iPhone, he knows his letters and his sounds.

Then I read the assessment from the tester, he’s been diagnosed with mixed expressive-reflective language disorder. After doing some research, I found that the symptoms matched up with some of the more “frustrating” aspects of his character. I haven’t completely bought in to this diagnosis, but I have been trying to adjust to this possibility. One thing I have noticed is that if I interact with Nolan as my son with a developmental delay, I no longer get frustrated with his behavior. I have a lot more patience for him. I see his responses and actions as the responses and actions of a sweet little guy that is struggling to communicate…and this also makes a difference.

While seemingly contradictory these two stories have one thing in common. When you separate the interpretation of what you think a person is capable of from who they really are, your ability to relate to them and understand them increases greatly.