Confessions Of A Human Pinball

It feels good to be back.

In the fall I was underemployed, and it seemed all I did was sit around reading books.  That was okay.  At least I learned something.  Of course, by now I’ve forgotten it all, so I guess I didn’t learn anything after all.  Reading can be inefficient that way, at least when it comes to nonfiction.  The only way you can retain information is if you go back and review, take notes, and memorize passages, and who has time to do that?  Or else you can share what you’ve read with others while the material is still fresh in your mind.

These days I have little time to read and hardly any energy to write.  I teach English in Korea for a living, and since I’m a freelancer my schedule fluctuates from month to month.  To avoid another dry spell like the one I had last fall, I try to be vigilant about picking up new jobs whenever old gigs expire (also to humor my wife Jina, whose arm must be getting tired from holding a gun up to my head for all these years).

Anyway, I lost a good gig a few weeks ago.  Although I wasn’t exactly fired, I’d been expecting it to continue for a whole year, but the students only let me teach them for three months.  I’ll tell you why I think so in a second.

It was a sweet deal, considering it wasn’t that far from where I live–only one bus ride and two subway rides away–and I got paid fifty bucks an hour, the going rate for teaching classes of adults in a Korean company.  Because the students are so busy, they’d often only wanted to study for the first of the two hours they’d signed up for, but I still got paid for both hours.

My kind of job.

As with this blog, I have a tendency to sometimes put my foot in my mouth when I teach and bite my toenails.  It’s a little awkward, especially when I don’t take off my shoe, but the yoga classes keep me from getting a Charley horse.  In this case the boo-boo I made was saying something that wouldn’t have elicited any gasps or sanctimonious horrified shudders back in New England, but in modern Korea proved a premature announcement.

We were talking about differences between men and women, and somehow the subject of gays came up.  I said that as far as I knew, people were born gay and could not change their sexual orientation.  I added that it was wrong for others to try to change them, regardless of what the Bible (or the Koran, a book I didn’t mention at the time) says.

I noticed a few of my students exchanging looks, and the next day I received a phone call from my recruiter, who said the students wanted to bail on me after my initial three-month period was up two weeks from then.  I ventured to tell her why I thought they wanted a different teacher, and she sounded sympathetic–to me, not them.

The remaining two weeks of the class went all right, even though one especially religious student stopped coming, reinforcing my assumption about what had happened.

Of course, when you work as a foreigner in Korea, you can second-guess until your ass flies off your body and goes into orbit around Jupiter and still never figure out why something went down.  After awhile, you just get used to not knowing and shrug it off.

Obtuseness is bliss.

I have a new job in the same time slot–well, that’s not quite right.  I picked up a job for five hours a day that pays approximately half as much per hour as the previous gig, teaching kids.  It takes about an hour to get there.  It’s in the boonies.

That job is from one pm to six pm, twice a week.  What sucks is that on the same days I have to get up and teach a one-hour class in another part of town at 7:40, then go back home, grab a shower and a ten-minute nap if I can squeeze one in before taking a taxi to the train station.

Those days I spend about four hours shlepping back and forth, using a complicated network of buses, subways, and taxis.  Waiting is always involved, whether for one of the above conveyances or for a streetlight to change.  Patience is not always my strong point.

On alternating days I teach a class from 7 am to 8 am in yet another part of town.  That one’s not too far away, although it entails a short cab ride to the station.  (I could take two different buses instead, though that would entail getting up even earlier in the morning.)

After class I walk past the restless river of cars and wait for one of the local bookstores to open, usually stopping for a bite to eat in the meantime.

Then I go home and take a long nap while my wife goes off to teach kids all afternoon.  All the constant movement (which miraculously leads to an incredible absence of weight loss, probably because I stuff my face with too many carbs throughout the day to keep my energy level up) means more showers and changes of clothes, which means having to do the laundry every other day, usually as a way to punctuate the epic naps.

In the evening I take a bus to the subway station, go down to the far end of the platform to reduce the distance I’ll have to walk when I make the transfer at the station where I pick up the connecting train, take that one to my destination, and walk to the building where I teach four times a week (including Saturdays).

The commute home from there is twenty minutes shorter.  Since rush hour’s over by the time the class ends, I can take the bus most of the way home, then transfer to another bus, then another, or else skip those last two transfers and walk.  I’m happy to do that on those nights when the air has the decency to be breathable.

Mind you, the work itself is satisfying, but all the commuting is for the birds–or would be if they didn’t have wings to fly.

It’s an absurd way to live, but at least it makes the absurdity of death that much more comprehensible.

And that’s something.


All Systems Stop

Hi everyone.  How are you doing?  Me, too.

I just wanted to apologize for the humpteenth time for being out of touch lately.

I’ve been super-busy.  My three hours a day of commuting is killing me–not literally, unfortunately.

But I feel guilty for not writing anything lately, which is why I’ve asked a member of ISIS to come to Seoul in order to behead me in person.  Unfortunately again, I can’t afford to buy him a plane ticket 😦

Uh-oh–now I’m repeating myself.  I promised I’d never use an emoticon again and have broken my promise.  I guess that means I can’t join the Promise Keepers, so that’s something anyway.

Another problem is my prime blogging time has been eaten up by the demands of my new schedule.  I usually like to post stuff at around five in the morning, then go back to bed for a few hours as a reward.  It’s the best way to make constructive use of my insomnia.  But these days I have a class at seven in the morning so I don’t have time to write then anymore, and I can’t get up before then or I’ll interrupt my wife’s insomnia (we work in shifts).

It’s now afternoon here in Korea, so I guess I’ll make this my new writing time, except for the times when my wife takes the computer with her to work.

It feels good to get the fingers moving again after such a long absence.  I feel like Fred Astaire born again as an octopus.  No–make that Gene Kelly.

I guess only other old folks like me will get those references.  Cultural solitary confinement is the best way to get out of touch.

Anyway, that’s all for now as I have to correct a speech written by one of my evening students, then mosey across town on the underground jointed silver serpent from hell.

I hope you’re doing well, and I appreciate your taking time to read this.  Now you can go back to the arduous demands of being an air traffic controller.

Vaya con chili con carne!

Heaven Is Just A Cliff-Jump Away

My wife Jina believes that people who kill themselves don’t get to go to heaven.  That’s awfully nice of God to punish them further by consigning their souls to hell after their lives have been just that (otherwise why would they go to the trouble of offing themselves?).  I wonder if they can tell the difference between life and death.

“Oh my God, I’m still in hell.  I thought it was supposed to end after I killed myself.  Hey Satan, could I please have a refund?”

Yesterday in church Jina forced me to stand up in front of the congregation and sing a hymn about loving Jesus with the rest of our Sunday school-teaching staff.  Now don’t get me wrong–I don’t dislove Jesus; it’s just that singing a love song to a man–and a long-dead one at that–feels wrong somehow (with a small “w”).  Maybe I’d feel different if it was to Shakespeare. I heard he was a switch-hitter so he might get a little too turned on by it if his corpse could still budge.

Next thing you know the pastor will be in cahoots with Pfizer and they’ll be passing out Viagra during the eucharist in a quixotic effort to resurrect the dead member of the Lord’s charismatic cadaver.

Sorry–I’m brain-damaged.

Anyway, when I say Jina forced me to sing along, I don’t mean she used a gun or a handheld crucifix the way you would to fend off Dracula.  She just resorted to her trusty, tried and true method of emotional blackmail, drawing me aside to say if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t get to teach the Sunday school class anymore (although I’m more of a glorified babysitter than a teacher), or guide the old men through the treacherous waters of English in the dictation after lunch from one of their ludicrous modern religious texts laden with glib tripe, or–and this was the one that broke my resistance, since I was broke–get to tutor two of my Sunday school colleagues for fifty bucks a week.

As with the last time she coerced me into parading my phony faith in front of the true believers, exposing my humiliating hypocrisy like a slimy bug lodged under a rock lifted by God Himself before He raises his sandaled foot and crushes the quivering, squinting insect, I refrained from making eye contact with anyone in the congregation, and mumbled my way through the hymn.

I was also even more out of breath than usual, thanks to being exceptionally out of shape, and to the pestiferous plague of toxic dust blown in from China that had parched my throat and stung my eyes over the past twenty-four hours.  (Mercifully, the wind blew most of it away from the time being, though it took all day and a precipitous drop of the temperature to execute the environmental exorcism.)

I belted out the treacly lyrics with all the fervor of a mummified Egyptian, exhaling tiny mushroom clouds of desert dust.

And I raised neither my eyes nor the corners of my mouth when the whole mortifying charade was over.

That didn’t stop people from congratulating me for my Elvisian performance, including the pastor himself, who had the gall to mention me by name to his rapt listeners, as Jina translated for me how he was delighted I could “rejoice” with the rest of them.

In fact, I rejoiced so much that yesterday I took twelve hundred milligrams of ibuprofen to quell the pain of prostatitis, along with a thousand milligrams of acetomenophen (fuck if I can remember how to spell it), and 300 mgs of something called doxyprofen, which is like iboprofen, only stronger.

I’ll let you know which internal organ explodes first–my stomach, kidney, prostate, brain, or heart.

Who knows?  Maybe the whole thing will happen in sync.

I’m sure that would make God smile.

And if Jina’s wrong, and he doesn’t exist, maybe I’ll finally be out of pain instead of in it–and to hell with heaven.

Ain’t nobody got time for that shit.

Life is only a cliffhanger until your fingers finally give out.

Then you drop dead.

Yoga Driving Tips

Remember, a relaxed driver is a safe driver.  And the best way to relax is to take a deep breath and close your eyes.  Put on some New Age music if you have any, preferably Ravi Shankar on the sitar or George Winston if that’s more your bag, something you can easily drift off to.

In order to fill your lungs to their maximum capacity, push your abdomen out as far as you can while inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose.  Make sure to undo your seat belt so your diaphragm muscle can descend and your chest cavity takes in as much air is it can hold.

Your feet are crying out to be liberated.  Can you hear them?  That’s good.  That means you’re attuned to the music of the spheres.  Now your toes can finally feel the gas and brake pedals underfoot.

It’s time to stretch your arms and legs as far as they can go.  Feel the blood tingling all the way up and down the length of your body?

Let go of everything that’s been burdening you for the past few days, weeks–even your whole life.  Let go of your fears about the future and the steering wheel.

Try not to get attached to the squeal of tires against the pavement or the screech of other drivers’ worn-out brake pads.  Don’t feel you have to judge other motorists swearing their heads off at you.  Let them work out their own unresolved issues themselves.

Soon you will feel oneness with them.

Just live for the moment, knowing it can’t last long.

Who knows?  You may never get another chance to be present again.

Do You Ever Feel Your Brain Is Being Chopped Up Into Bite-Sized Bits?

Why worry about the future when you can regret the past instead?  That question is a tribute to my favorite generator of jokes, Mr. Mark Peters.  In case you haven’t caught his Twitter feed yet, Google “mark peters wordlust.” His link is the first one on the list.  Click it and feast your eyes (pardon the cliche) on the endless smorgasbord of jokes.  To date, he’s come up with over thirty thousand of them.  I don’t know how he does it.

You may be wondering about the provocative nature of the title of this post.  Welp (another Petersism–call me Captain Plagiarism), the repetitive, depressingly ridiculous nature of my life of late has cast me into a less than funky funk.  I’m suffering from a case of writer’s block the size of the former World Trade Center, God rest its rectangular soul.  (If only I could make it the same size it became on September 11th, 2001–call it the writer’s blockbuster.)

My great aunt used to say, “If you rest, you rust.”  She was right.  I’ve done both.  The only problem is that it’s hard to keep up with the frenetic pace of silly city life.  The older I get, and the longer I live here, and the longer I keep pursuing the same career and maintaining the same marriage and attending the same stupid Sunday school services, the more absurd the whole shebang becomes.

(Say, isn’t that a song?  Shebang, shebang, da dadadadadadadadada.  Music notes sold separately.)

Like many other bloggers–at least I assume some of you may share this affliction with me–I suffer from delusions of grandeur (again, I’m always happy to provide you with cliches; they’re my life blood–see?  There’s another one).  In fact, that may well be the source of the writer’s block–hey, stop flying airplanes into my tummy!  Mommy, help me dig this black box out of my belly button.

Luckily, I’ve been humbled by the sustained relative lack of attention.  And writing that just makes me feel like an ingrate.  After all, I’m lucky to have the readers I do, many of whom I respect and even envy for their many creative contributions.  (I’m looking at you, Menomama, Robert Okaji, Sweettenorbull, and Smirkpretty!)

I just wish there were a way we could get paid.  Shucks, I’ve been writing for forty years and haven’t made beans off the effort yet.  Then again, that’s not what I’m supposed to be doing it for anyway–is it?

One thing that makes it hard to write is the assault on the senses the news provides.  I’m a glutton for punishment (cliche, si vous plait), so I tend to pick at these festering wounds more than a mentally healthier person would, even though I do nothing to solve the problems engulfing the world except complain about them and hector other people to do something about them with hypocritical panache.

It’s purdy frickin’ retarded (in the figurative sense), if you ask me.

What do you do to stay sane?  Is sanity overrated?  Maybe being crazy is where it’s out.  Or else you can be retro.  That’s far out.  From where I’m sitting the future looks bleak.  Maybe because it’s filtered through what I can glimpse of my own future, replete with its seemingly unsolvable health problems and the vicious cycle of marriage’s sparky buzz saw.

Yesterday I taught three different classes in three different places, working a grand total of three and a half hours.  My commute came out to the same time.  It’s nuts.  Luckily I only have to do it once a week.  The other work days are more measured.

A couple of weeks ago my wife Jina and I joined her family for three days to celebrate the Chinese–or Lunar–New Year’s holiday, feasting shamelessly on the carcasses of lovingly prepared livestock.  I think that was after–versus before–I’d read Chris Hedges’s piece on about the suffering all animals prepared for food  undergo.  It’s an eloquent argument for veganism.  Cognitive dissonance enables me to carry on consuming these poor victims of the bloodthirsty economic food chain instead of renouncing meat altogether and repenting the error of my ways (if that’s the right cliche).

Finally, as a way to escape the tedium of uneventful domestic life and the loneliness of unrequited lust, I’ve been reading a lot of books lately.  Usually they fire me up to write, but for some reason the books I’ve gone for recently haven’t breathed life into the comatose Muse.  She remains supine.  I hope she’s not dead.

In fact, I was so impressed by one book in particular I wanted to review it for you.  Sadly, I proved unequal to the task.  I also didn’t want to give away too much and ruin the story.  I hate it when people do that.

The book is Dave Eggers’s The Circle.  Let me know if you need any more information about it.  I’m a slow reader, but it’s just shy of five hundred pages long and I plowed through it in four days.  Granted, a lot of the pages consisted of dialogue.  Still, it’s a page turner.

So is Douglas Coupland’s The Gum Thief.  And Thomas Berger’s Meeting Evil.  Max Barry’s Lexicon, not so much.  I preferred his Machine Man and Jennifer Government. 

If you prefer nonfiction, check out Jack El-Hai’s The Nazi and the Psychiatrist, or Andy Warhol:  Prince of Pop by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan.

I don’t bother with movies anymore and have essentially stopped listening to music, except once in a while while hanging up laundry.  I need silence to recover from the onslaught of K-pop, Korean ballads, and K-rap (or “krap”) I hear every time I leave my apartment.

Modern Korean music is almost as bad as the unbreathable waves of yellow dust, the toxic miasma blowing in from China and Mongolia and the growing Gobi Desert that heralds the advent of spring.  This rich formula of lead, mercury, cadmium, and assorted other goodies makes a mockery of spring fever, taunting those who are willing to boldly go where no generation has gone before to risk cultivating an unholy host of malignant tumors.

Go for it, kids!

Hostages Of The World, Unite!

Sorry I’ve been out of touch.  I had a hangnail.  Actually, I did have a nasty case of stomach flu last week, but at least I got a lot of exercise getting up several times throughout the night to dry heave my soul into the toilet, where it belongs.

My wife has been in full-on harridan mode lately as well, an enervating phenomenon (I was going to write “development,” since it harmonizes better with “enervating,” but since she’s been in harridan mode off and on throughout our fifteen hellacious years together, it’s not exactly an accurate choice).  I just don’t know how to appease her.  Neither the Neville Chamberlain nor the Winston Churchill strategy seems to work.

Defeat is the answer!

I share this computer with her and the screen has gotten so gunky–probably from having been manhandled by her primary school students–that it’s hard for me to see what’s going on.

Anywho, before signing on I read a sad post on the blog onlypeaceandlove about Kayla Mueller, who I assume is the woman who was recently beheaded by ISIS, ISIL, IS, the Islamic State, or whatever it’s called.  (Fellas, you seem to be having a branding issue.  Pick a name and stick with it if you want to market your product of indiscriminate mayhem and ghoulish bloodshed.  I used to live in a bloodshed when I was a little boy.  My pappy taught me how to finger-paint political messages there.  Sorry–I’m in a sick mood.)

I don’t know about you, but I can’t see the point in an organization going out of their way to deliberately execute not only innocent but likable, sympathetic, exemplary people (which means at least I’m safe) as a way to promote their cause (sorry to belie the “indiscriminate” factor mentioned in the previous paragraph).  Why can’t they be like the Slim Reaper and just use Predator drones?  The remote-controlled missile-firing aircraft is mightier than the sword–and more expensive (this message has been brought to you by McDonnell-Douglas Incorporated, and is also compliments of Raytheon and a big wet smooch from Lockheed-Martin, the most lovable and affectionate weapons-makers in the world today, our dear friends who are keeping the world safe for hypocrisy and extortion).

When I was a little boy, one of my favorite nursery rhymes came from a book my brother and I all but memorized (although I eventually went on to forgetize it) entitled The Best of Sick Jokes:

“I love life and life loves me.  I’m as happy as can be.  A happier man nowhere exists.  I think I’ll go and slash my wrists.”

I just found the contrast between the can-do optimism of the smiling man in the cartoon that accompanied the rhyme and his casually dismissive twist of despair hilarious.

Little did I know at the time that the joke would become something in between a mantra and a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Although I’ve never attempted to commit suicide in any concrete fashion (but hey, the night is still young), my choice of spouse was downright suicidal–not that I can say I dived right into the arrangement without considerable prodding–and the years we’ve endured together have not only ruined my health, but made me question the possibility of ever finding happiness–or even sanity–with anyone else.

(The enforced-happiness aspect of the rhyme I’ve discovered both by living in the U.S., where cheerfulness is mandatory, and by being a teacher of Korean students, many of whom seem to think the best way to answer a smile is with a scowl–or, more precisely, an inscrutable face of stone.)

I can’t pretend to understand the pain my wife personifies, but Murphy’s Law being what it is, I can safely predict that although I’m probably better suited to find a new mate after our marital nightmare ends, I’m so far gone I’ll be lucky to survive another ten years, which means I won’t be able to get front row seats for the apocalypse 😦

(That’s the first time I’ve ever used an emoticon, and probably the last as well.  Under the circumstances, I couldn’t resist.  Does anyone know if I need to put a period after it?  Who can navigate the treacherous waters of emoticon-related punctuation?)

My wife, on the other hand, will be an old maid, untouchable as far as her misogynistic culture is concerned, but she’s made of sterner stuff than I am, so she’ll probably live to be about a thousand years old, chronic aches and pains notwithstanding, lonely and guilt-stricken, flagellating herself endlessly in the nickname of Christ (Little Jeezy?).

Posthumous revenge may not be as sweet as the kind you can live to enjoy, but at least it’s something.

Sorry to see Jon Stewart go, and right on the heels of Stephen Colbert.  Who will be there to pick up the mantle of sacred satire?

By the way, I want to apologize for comparing myself in an earlier post to the heroic cartoonists who sacrificed their lives in the name of free expression working for Charlie Hebdo.  I’ll try not to be so pretentious next time, not that it will be easy to contain my flatulent blue whale of an ego, illusory as a soap bubble though it is.

Have a good day and a nice weekend–and make sure to smile, but only if you feel like it.  Remember, it’s hard to laugh your ass off and frown at the same time.

I’ll leave you with one last joke-let from that long-lost book of evil gems:

“Mommy, Mommy, Daddy just got hit by a car!”

“Don’t make me laugh, Gladys.  You know my lips are chapped.”

Self-Contained Chaos

The Lunatic Is in My Room

Last Saturday night my wife Jina suddenly flipped out on me–hardly an unusual occurrence.  Only this time the display of her terrifying temper made my blood run colder than usual–a delicious, high-calorie, vampire-friendly crimson smoothie from Reincarnation Instant Breakfasts.  (The word “breakfast” is funny when you think about it.  Considering it’s the first meal of the day, eaten after a long phase of sleep, the idea of breaking a fast held while unconscious doesn’t sound so impressive.  “Hey, I fast for eight hours every night, but I still can’t seem to lose weight!”)

The reason she went berserk was she couldn’t find a box she’d left on the table in this room–which I guess you could call a study.  It contained some money she owed to the mother of one of her students.  I tried to help her find it by looking around on other surfaces in the apartment, including the messy round table in the living room, the sofa covered with clothes, the medical knick-knack-strewn side table in our bedroom–all to no avail.

The table she’d lost the item on was the most cluttered area of all–anarchically adorned with folded receipts, ballpoint pens, church-related propaganda, neglected mints, clothespins (beware!  If you’re a native English speaker living in Korea, a “close-pin” refers to a safety pin.  As my brother would say, “Stop fucking with my language!”), safety pins, an orphaned trouser button, a roll of toilet paper, a highlighter pen, and the perforated cardboard seal of a box of tissues.

As she continued to rage against the dying of the light, I gently suggested she might have left it at the little school she runs.

She replied by screaming at the top of her lungs.

“When are you going to get rid of all these books!  I can’t stand it anymore!”

The books, by the way, were all stacked on the shelves; none of them were on the table where she’d left the box.  In fact, all the stuff in the catalogue above was generated by her (not that I’m not a major league slob myself, although she’s gone a long way towards domesticating me, an intricate part of the gelding process).

“Okay, I guess I’ll go back to America, then.”

“Keep talking like that!  You really know how to stimulate me!”

(When Korean people use the word “stimulate,” at least in my experience, they usually mean something closer to “annoy” or “infuriate.”)

Over dinner she asked me if I was planning on continuing teaching a class that only meets once a week.  Compounding matters, since the students are professionals and are often busy with their work, the class is frequently canceled.

“I don’t know,” I said.  “I might as well until I find something better.”

“Do you want to teach them?”

“It doesn’t make any difference to me one way or another.  I couldn’t care less.  I’ve been teaching English for twenty-three years and I’m fucking sick of it.”

“Well,” she said, “what would you like to do instead?”

“I don’t know what else I could do for comparable pay.  Probably not much in this shitty economy.”

With a dramatic sigh of self-pity, I said, “So I guess I’ve just got to keep teaching.”

I was able to sigh with relief instead of pity when she finally left for awhile, making it safe to breathe without bringing the roof down on my head.

She called me half an hour later.  Sure enough, she’d left the box she’d been looking for at the school.  She apologized.  I accepted her apology.  Predictable pattern complete in the endless suffering cycle of life, death, and rebirth that is everyday human experience.

The Mirror Bites Back

It can be a blow to the gut to meet yourself in the pages of a nonfiction book–and I don’t mean your own autobiography.  Recently I read in Geoffrey Miller’s Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior a citation from “psychiatry’s bible,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (sounds like the name of a catchy tune), that listed the traits of a narcissist.

They include “selfishness (lacking empathy), arrogance (haughty, contemptuous attitudes), exceptionalism (belief that one is special), sense of entitlement (expecting special treatment and automatic compliance with one’s wishes), admiration seeking, success fantasizing, grandiosity,” and a “victim mentality (blaming the outside world for one’s failures and disappointments).”

I cherry-picked from the list, but I’m guilty of most of these offenses.

The author goes on to say these “symptoms” make “narcissists. . . view themselves as stars in their own life stories, protagonists in their own epics, with everyone else a minor character.  (They’re like bloggers that way.)” (!)

But that’s not all:  “They feel irritable and show a low frustration tolerance. . . reward themselves with impulsive, hedonistic extremes.  They sometimes perceive a ‘grandiosity gap’ between their inflated self-esteem and their actual accomplishments, leading to an unstable sense of self-worth and periodic self-doubts and depression.”

They–okay, we–get our kicks not so much by spending time with our peers, but via “self-stimulation (fiction reading, TV watching, drug taking, masturbating). . . Tech-savvy narcissists. . . do a lot of ‘ego-surfing'”–in other words, Googling themselves–“and ‘blog streaking’ (revealing overly personal details in their blogs)(!)(italics mine–all mine!!!)

Fair enough:  I stand accused, with my fore-tail between my legs.  Anyway, I’m sorry if I’m sometimes Mr. Too Much Information (or maybe that should be Not Enough Imagination.)

I’m tired of flagellating myself; please summon Mel Gibson to relieve me.

Laugh As If You Mean It

The tenets of ancient Buddhism and cutting-edge neuroscience both reveal that the thing that we think of as the self is in fact an illusion.  That would be enough to drive any die-hard narcissist truly nuts.

As a Westerner who grew up in the United States of America–the original culture of narcissism (and, as far as I can see, contemporary Korea’s template–at least on the surface–in all too many ways)–I can attest that my country’s cult of individuality goes a  long way towards alienating people from one another.  The endless hypermasculine games of competition and one-upmanship are supremely idiotic; they’re also probably what drives the economy and the war machine, if I may be so glib.

But I’m not here to lecture you and pontificate about piffle.  Instead, I want to share a technique I’ve picked up that helps me laugh again.  Did you know that the average child laughs about two-hundred times a day, while the average adult only laughs about fifty (it might be even less than that; my memory for figures isn’t great)?

The world is so depressing these days (there I go again, blaming the world for my problems), as is my marriage (see?  It’s all the wife’s fault, not mine), that even though I still love a good joke as much as the next person, I find it hard to bust out laughing.  My wife even pointed out that I seem to have “lost your humor sense.”

No need to despair, thanks to laughing yoga.  If you need a good laugh but can find nothing funny enough to provoke one, all you have to do is start out with a fake one.  As William Shakespeare said, “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.”  You’ll feel “distinctly like an idiot,” as Peter Lorre would say in The Maltese Falcon, since you’re not really laughing, but keep it up for a minute or two and I guarantee you you’ll be roaring like Daffy Duck on a bender, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler on TV’s Batman, or Jack Nicholson whooping it up as Randle Patrick McMurphy after the guard removes his handcuffs in his opening scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. 

Not only does it feel good, but it’s great for your health.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

P. S.  Apologies for any possible typos in this entry; I’ve got to get my ass in gear and get out of here and don’t have time to proofreed what I’ve writed.