Sunday Advice Column #39


It’s easy to forget, but great literature is timeless. The last year or so I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction and more tough-guy self-help biographies than I should. I even rescued a damn marketing book from my donation pile.

I don’t want to get too off topic here, but if you plan to get rid of or donate something, get it out immediately. Otherwise it will weasel its way back into your piles of junk.

Back to literature. I’ve had this feeling lately that every single conversation I’ve had felt staged, or that I know what’s coming next. Like I’ve seen it before. This has everything to do with the election. It’s a memetic virus that everyone seems to have caught. The symptoms are thoughtless regurgitation of exogenous partisan ideas. I’ve caught myself doing this is as well. It’s almost like conversations get taken over by a mind worm that forces you to each reenact an argument held between pundits.

It’s like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, but instead of that weird scream, some bullshit cooked up by HuffPo or Breitbart comes out.

Great literature, like Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, is able to transcend its time and get right into human nature. I just finished Cat’s Cradle, it’s the first book by Vonnegut I’ve ever read and I can immediately see why people love him. First, his work is funny and entertaining. You don’t have to do a lot of heavy lifting to dig it, but you can keep thinking about it philosophically.

The idea from the book I keep thinking about is from the fictional religion of Bokononism.

Granfalloon’s are a group of people who affect a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless. Like being a Republican or a Democrat. The group that you are actually a part of is called a karass. A granfalloon is a false karass.

Granfalloon’s are dangerous because they keep you from engaging with what’s actually meaningful in you own life. Of course, deciding what is and isn’t a granfalloon is probably fairly subjective. As dumb as it sounds, there are probably people who put all of their spirit into being Ole Miss or Harry Potter fans, and who am I to say what’s legit or not? Hell, the whole idea of Cat’s Cradle seems to be that worry over the appearance of society can actually blind you to the existential horrors the universe will randomly, but inevitably, drop on your head.

It’s almost like granfalloons are psychic traps. Just go to any controversial page on Facebook. You’ll see people who don’t have shit in common lining up against each other casting volleys of edited videos and largely unread wiki posts at each other. It’s a Civil Meme War and the main casualty is decency.

Since all of this is my lazy weekend analysis of what came from Vonnegut’s head, its subjectivity is highly suspicious, unless we are all in a simulation intended to amuse a hive mind or something esoteric like that.

Bottom line, I read a good book instead of poring over the internet for hours and I feel better and smarter for it. All self-help books could be one sentence: Do more of the things that make you strong and less of the things that make you weak.

To that end, I think 2017 is going to be the year of great literature for me. I want books with big ideas and universal themes, but with action and cool stuff happening in them. No navel gazing MFA claptrap for this intellectual He-Man. Just powerful, classic books. I think I’m going to take a deep dive into Vonnegut. It’s been years since I went deep into a single author’s catalog, I think the last time was in my early 20s when I read and immediately forgot the plot to all the William S. Burroughs books.

This is definitely going to be controversial to some, but those Burroughs books are terrible.  There’s certainly some interesting language and ideas, but for the most part, the shit is just a mess. I think lonely intellectuals who grew up with Nirvana are the final audience for Burroughs’ books. I can’t imagine they will make it in the culture a hundred years from now. Everything transgressive in them has been surpassed and then reigned back in as a fetish commodity. And the junky tales are just not that shocking in a world with Intervention on basic cable.

On to your questions, which I will answer despite destabilized credibility.

What’s something that your wife does that annoys you but is actually funny?

This question reminds me of a scene in Good Will Hunting. Robin Williams’ character is talking about his deceased wife with Will. He tells him a story about how she used to fart so loud in her sleep she would wake herself up and blame him. He tells Will it’s actually those funny little things you remember about the people you love

If you’ve been lucky enough to be married for some time, you know what he means.

For me, the thing that always cracks me up is when Mrs. Lott goes to all this trouble to put leftover food in the fridge, as if she’s going to eat it later. We do eat our share of leftovers, but what I’m talking about are the dishes that I know are never going to be eaten again. I can always tell what they are.

Since Mrs. Lott cooks, I do the dishes, which means I usually put the food away. It drives me batshit to take the time and effort, no matter how small, to put this shit away that I know will never be eaten again. I call it “chill composting” because it’s basically just prolonging the inevitable trip to the can.

What’s a common way most people waste money that’s easy to fix? 

Cable is complete and utter bullshit. With Netflix, Hulu, and a few judicious movie rentals on iTunes, you’re basically entertained enough. If you’re into sports, go to your friend’s house and watch them. Bring some beer or weed. Even if you splurge on the good stuff, it’s cheaper than cable.

What’s your biggest concern about Trump’s presidency?

I worry that a culture of decentralized internet celebrity and paid agitators, representing Left and Right, will further drive normal people into dividing themselves into fake, warring communities that exist only to enrich media elites. I really, truly believe he won’t do as much damage as we are going to do to ourselves.

What do you think is up with the recounts?

If they uncover any wrongdoing at all from Trump, people should take to the streets. If this uncovers anything amiss with the DNC, it should be destroyed.

You can find evidence of small scale voter fraud committed by both parties. Unfair gerrymandering is the Republican’s forte. Democrats seem to be doing an amazing job with their deceased voter outreach. I’ve seen videos of Tea Party looking types “disrupting” polling places with intimidation tactics and I’ve seen sweet little old leftists tearing up Trump mail in ballots.

It’s impossible to know if any of this stuff is true. Wikileaks shows pretty clearly that the DNC hires people to agitate, you’d be a fool to think the RNC doesn’t have their own game. I would love to believe all this is just tinfoil hat conspiracy.

How effective is it all? There’s no way of knowing. Ultimately, I don’t think anything will be uncovered, or at least released.

Should I be happy or sad about Fidel Castro? 

His brand of Communism killed more people world wide than the Nazis did and I’m not a fan of people who kill gays and stifle free speech, so fuck that guy.

What’s the most consistently beneficial health practice? 

It sounds silly, but getting 8 hours of deep sleep is incredible. I average around 6 hours  a night because I stay up too late watching movies and going down YouTube conspiracy rabbit holes. When I do the sensible thing and turn in early, the next day is always great.

Second to that would be drinking a lot of water. I have a big jug of water like those bodybuilder dudes have. My goal is to drink the whole thing by the end of the day. When I’m consistent with that, my body feels looser, my skin is clearer, and my natural body odors are much less pronounced.

The last thing I think is helpful is walking a few miles a day. I like to do it without headphones, just letting whatever thoughts come. It’s almost like meditation, except I don’t try and have no thought. I suspect that might be impossible and the only people claiming it is are selling courses.

If you had to join a religion, which one would it be and why?

I’d just go Catholic. It’s the system I’m most familiar with and I like all the weird veneration of Saints. Honestly, the folk Catholicism you run into in Louisiana is more my speed. Just a touch of voodoo and whatnot is what I like.

If I had a second choice, I’d probably go with something with a good community. All the Mormons I know are pretty rad, so that’s a possibility.

I’ve never been a fan of Eastern mysticism in general, but I do like the God Ganesh and the Goddess Kali.

I’m not looking for magic or the one true way with religion. Maintaining some tradition and the chance to hang out with good people is what a church is best at. I know all the groups I listed above have their issues, hell, even Gandhi is said to have been a pervert and racist.

My whole life I’ve been looking for some kind of supernatural miracle and I’ve never seen anything like one. But I have noticed a very simple every day miracle. What you think about and work with consistency towards seems to happen.

So why not think about something grand? Why not get together with some fun people and make that grand thing happen?

Or, you know, just stay at home and write a dick head blog.




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