There are some people I know, who I haven’t spoken to in years. That’s because I don’t like to interrupt. These people have motor mouths that go on and on like flibbertigibbets. They can be a real pain in the ass, and the ear, to be around. But there is one thing good about them. They’ve inspired me to invent a new form of meditation.
Meditation came up as a subject a few weeks ago, at Borden’s Blather. I told Jim Borden that there are many different ways to meditate. But I forgot to tell him about Talker Meditation. Since Jim’s blog is about blather, I think he’d appreciate knowing about Talker Meditation. So this post is for him, and for you too, if you’re interested.
I’ve noticed that those who talk for a long time, cease to make sense after a short time. Their nonstop blather is due to a disease they have, called logorrhea. And those with logorrhea constantly fire off fusillades of words that disrupt our thought processes, blocking our ability to think.
But that’s good, because meditation is about letting go of your thoughts. So the logorrhea-afflicted are useful as meditation props. They help us to let go of our thoughts.
The next time you find yourself in the company of someone who yabbers and maunders incessantly, try this little experiment. Try very loosely to follow what they’re saying. Don’t try too hard to make sense of it, or you’ll go mad. Just follow along loosely. If you’re experience is like mine, you may soon find yourself automatically letting go of your thoughts, while being carried away by a stream of meaningless words.
If the blatherskite asks for feedback, just nod your head hypnotically and chant, “Mmhmm.” Soon they’ll be off again in nonstop soliloquy, and you can drift away into serene samadhi.
This is how you can transfigure the Hell of a talker into a peaceful Heaven. But I’ve said enough. I won’t explain Talker Meditation any further. No, I will not be your meditation prop.
It’s said that nurses can tell a fighter from a patient who’s given up. And they say fighters often survive, sometimes against long odds. But those who’ve given up often slip away even when they stand a fair chance of making it.
I like to think I’m such a fighter. I’ve been fighting AFib, and it’s been landing some pretty hard blows lately. I’ve been sucker punched, rabbit punched, and had sand tossed in my face. Hey, this mutherfucker fights dirty.
But not as dirty as the medical system. That cocksucker will shake your hand, then kick you in the nuts.
I have two opponents: my heart condition, and the medical system. They’ve both been circling me lately, one armed with a switchblade, and the other with a sock full of rocks.
I got the go-ahead from my worthless PCP to visit my worthless cardiologist again, to consult with him over the possibility of an ablation procedure. But after my previous experience with this highly credentialed stooge, where he ambushed me with a dismissive attitude and incompetent advice, I decided I needed to arm myself.
So I clicked on over to the American College of Cardiology’s website. There I found their Guideline for Management of Patients With Atrial Fibrillation. It was available, free of charge, so I downloaded a PDF version. And I studied the hell out of that complex, technically-worded Guideline, while familiarizing myself with the medical jargon. This way, armed with knowledge, I figured I could show that cardiologist that I knew what was what, and could insist upon proper, guideline-based treatment.
I felt nervous entering the doctor’s office. My cardiologist is a hard case. He’s very arrogant. I hoped I’d be able to stand up to him and fight effectively for my cause, rather than transform into a mewling kitten who gets picked up by the scruff of the neck and thrown out to the wolves.
I puffed myself up and boldly approached the front counter. And then, in an instant, the receptionist whipped out a gravity knife and popped my balloon. She informed me that my appointment had been canceled, due to the doctor having to assist a patient at the emergency room.
I protested. I’d waited weeks, and driven nearly an hour to this appointment. So she told me that the doctor should be back in a few hours if I wanted to wait some more. Nice rope-a-dope, lady. Yeah, wear the patient down. But I wouldn’t be worn down. I’d have to draw on my reserves for this, but I bit the bullet. I told her I’d wait.
Finally, a few hours later, there I sat in the chilly examining room, anticipating action at any second. My stomach churned. My body trembled. Was it from the cold, or the anticipation? That’s the problem when there are lulls in warfare. Anxiety can drive you nuts, because you know all hell can break loose at any moment.
Suddenly I jumped, as Dr. Sherman Tank burst into the room with his cannon blazing. “Sorry I’m late,” he loudly apologized, his tone betraying a hint of irritation. “I was attending to a patient in the ER. I had an ambulance rush me here, so I could see you.”
Huh? I wondered. The hospital is only a hundred yards away. Is this son-of-a-bitch trying to guilt me?
“You’re in normal sinus rhythm,” he sprayed at me like a machine gun, without giving me a chance to say anything. That’s one of his tactics. He talks loudly, quickly and impatiently, without giving me much chance to interject and tell him about my health concerns. “You don’t need to be cardioverted.”
I managed to regain my composure and grabbed my carbine, so that I could plink at this Sherman Tank. “I’m not here to be cardioverted,” I shot back. “I want to discuss ablation.”
His turret whipped around at me, and blasted, “You don’t need ablation! You don’t have AFib! I just told you, you’re in normal sinus rhythm!”
The concussion knocked me across the room. But I staggered to my feet and took unsteady aim again. “Uh . . . uh, yes, but I have recurring episodes of AFib. It’s paroxysmal, and brought on by physical activity. I want ablation so I won’t have fatigue anymore, and so that I can exercise more and be more physically active.”
He lobbed a hand grenade at me. “No, you can’t get fatigue from AFib unless you’re in AFib! If you’re not in AFib, you’re not tired!” Untrue, as many with AFib will attest to. AFib takes a lot out of you, and fatigue can linger well beyond an AFib episode. Besides, I know when I’m tired.
Then the Sherman Tank fragged me with something that was clearly contrary to the Guideline. His Guideline by the way. He’s an FACC, or Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. His FACC colleagues wrote the Guideline. So this was his Guideline. The fake, FACC fuck.
So I hurled a hand grenade back at him, with the protest, “That’s not what it says in your Guideline!”
He puffed up and kicked the grenade back at me, “YOU’RE telling ME what’s in my Guideline?!” Ah, the all-knowing-doctor-is-the-authority tactic. I’m supposed to defer to this fool, no matter what stupid thing he says, because he’s a DOCTOR and cannot be questioned, while I’m just a pissant, ignorant patient.
I had a copy of the Guideline in my arsenal, with relevant passages highlighted in yellow. But before I could whip it out and show him the damning truth, he changed the subject by announcing, “There is no evidence you even have AFib!”
Oh this was even better. Apparently, he had not reviewed my medical record before this skirmish broke out. He had barged into battle unprepared. But I was prepared. I reached into my armory (a file folder) and pulled out three ECG traces from emergency rooms, and let him have it.
There was no denying it. Even his cursory review of the traces clearly demonstrated that I’d been irregularly irregular (an AFib term). These bomb blasts staggered him. Finally he sputtered, “Okay, so you were in AFib then, but you don’t have AFib anymore. Anyway, there’s no cure for AFib.”
He was flailing. He must have realized how illogical he sounded just then. Besides, it’s not even true. There is a cure for AFib. Ablation cures it about 75% of the time.
I had this son-of-a-bitch on the ropes. But before I could move in for the kill, the nimble Dr. Tank beat a hasty retreat. He stormed out of the office while tossing a smoke screen behind him. He hollered to the receptionist, “Refer this patient to Dr. Fubar!”
Great, a new cardiologist. That’s what I needed. At least Dr. Tank was good for something. But later, my insurance plan would intervene and change the referral to a nurse practitioner, leaving me with a new battle on my hands.
I appreciated the referral, at the time, but Dr. Tank offered no explanation as to why I was getting this referral, and he quickly disappeared through a warren of office doors and passageways. I was shaking. The combination of combat and a bad heart left me feeling wounded and weak. It’s not good to excite a heart that has a propensity to go out of rhythm. I just wanted to get the hell out of there and rest my nerves.
I staggered to the elevator and pushed the button for the parking level. But suddenly Dr. Sherman Tank rushed in and joined me. Geez, this was awkward. I was tired of war and out of fight. But there I was standing next to the buttons. And Covid and social distancing, you know. So I politely asked him what level he wanted.
“Oh, where you’re going is good enough,” he blithely replied. Hmm. Is this guy stalking me, I wondered. The doors slid closed as he fixed his bayonet for some mano-a-mano action in close quarters.
He eyed me. “I know my Guideline,” he suddenly jabbed. “And it says what I told you it said.” His voice was authoritarian and patronizing, as if I was a kindergartner needing correction.
Why was he even talking to me about this?Was he as full of shit as I thought he was, and worried I was going to expose him?
I’d had enough of this bullshit. When a warrior tires he either lays down and dies or throws everything he’s got at the enemy. I chose the latter. With all the adrenaline I could muster, I parried his thrust and drove my blade home, declaring, “Sir, I’ve READ the Guideline. I KNOW you don’t know the Guideline.”
He stiffened up. For a fleeting moment I feared he was going to physically attack me in that elevator. But he kept his body still and mouth shut. For the first time, something I said triggered silence in this bastard. Perhaps he’s not accustomed to patients telling him they’ve read the Guideline.
The elevator doors slid open and Dr. Sherman Tank stalked away with a stiff gait and clinched fists. I quickly retreated in the opposite direction. He was younger and athletic, and I figured he could easily whup ass on me. I wanted away from him.
I don’t know who won this battle. I did not get what I wanted, which was a referral for an ablation procedure. Or at least a stress test, or a Holter monitoring. These are two standard, guideline-based tests I’ve never had before, but would have had six months ago if this quack knew and followed the Guideline.
But he apparently didn’t get what he wanted, either. Which I think was for me to back down, shut up, and meekly let him call all the shots with no dissent. I suspect he didn’t like being stood up to by a well-prepared and well-informed patient. And I’m hoping he spent the next week losing sleep, while worrying that I might file a formal complaint against him. I suspect I could devastate him with such a complaint, simply by citing the Guideline he didn’t follow.
But I won’t do that. Instead I’ve chosen the nuclear option. Open Season is coming up, and I’m changing insurance from my HMO to a plan that will allow me to go to any specialist I choose.
With an HMO, you’re stuck with a small selection of specialists, confined within the HMO’s sub-network medical group that you’ve chosen. And often these doctors aren’t, shall I say nicely, the cream of the crop.
But my new insurance plan will allow me to choose from a wide range of cardiologists. If I make a bad choice I’ll figure that out quickly, due to my familiarity with the Guideline they’re entrusted to follow. And then I’ll fire the bastard and choose a new one.
This new insurance plan will cost more, but hey, you get what you pay for.
I’ll have to wait until January before I can see a better doctor. A considerate, competent doctor whom I hope I won’t have to do combat with. And with any luck, my heart will hold out until then. In the meantime I’ll stay in the ring, bloodied but unbowed, and keep duking it out with AFib.
I ain’t gonna let it knock me out. I’m determined. I’m a fighter.
People have advised me that the best way to die is in my sleep. I’m not sure if they were wishing for my demise, or if they were merely suggesting that if I have a choice—whether to die while awake or die while asleep—I should make the somniterminous choice (that’s a word I made up, by the way).
But is that really good advice? Why would someone who’s enjoying a nice, peaceful sleep want to interrupt their nocturnal pleasure by departing their body and journeying to the Other Side? It’s like the alarm clock going off in the middle of a beautiful dream. Or like being shaken awake by some asshole, just at the good part where you’re about to have sex with a supermodel. That would leave me in a pissed off mood. I’d act like a grump, and then my departed relatives might not be so eager to welcome me.
Anyway, how many people actually die in their sleep? I suspect it’s a lot less than some of us think. After all, heart attacks are very painful. So if someone’s asleep and the BIG ONE hits, the pain is probably going to wake them up. It seems to me like there’s a good chance they’ll be spending a few minutes writhing around in coronary pain before the grim reaper finally hauls them off to the next world.
As for me, I don’t like the somniterminous choice. I want to be wide awake when the time comes. Let my last words be, “OH SHIT!” shouted at the grill of a semi truck, for instance. Then, if there’s an afterlife, I can leave the scene of the accident without having to deal with cops, insurance, or any of that hassle. It would be the ultimate hit-and-run.
I think dying in one’s sleep is overrated. What a boring way to go. As Hunter S. Thompson once advised:
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Hunter S. Thompson, by the way, was the original gonzo journalist. The cartoon character, “Uncle Duke,” of Doonsebury, was originally based on him. He lived a wild life, riding with, and writing of, the Hell’s Angels, covering counterculture and Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign, drinking heavily, doing drugs, shooting off guns, and thumbing his nose at authorities.
But ol’ Hunter couldn’t take aging and bad health. So at age 67, two weeks after football season ended, he shot himself in the head. His suicide note read:
No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun–for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your age. Relax—This won’t hurt.
His funeral was held exactly six months later, on August 20, 2005, with his ashes being fired out of a cannon, accompanied by fireworks. 280 people attended this funeral, including John Kerry, George McGovern, Jack Nicholson, Bill Murray, Sean Penn, and John Oates. Yep, this bastard was well-loved, inspired many, and was not the type to die in his sleep.
I don’t advocate following Hunter’s example. I’m sure I’d wince like hell if I put a gun to my head. But I’m also no fan of dying in my sleep. Just the same, I suspect that’s how it will happen. After we reach a certain age, we can’t protect ourselves from well-meaning young people who haven’t appreciated the deleterious effects of old age. So they insist on incarcerating our enfeebled bodies in nice, safe rest homes, where our half-lives fizzle out into nothing, while we wither away and disappear.
They’ll stave off death at all costs, gavaging medication down our throats, poking us with needles, and performing CPR as needed. And when we’re in that situation, perhaps the only practical escape will be to wait until lights out, pull our covers over our heads, and slip peacefully away into a sleep they can’t shake us out of.
I may not be able to avoid such a fate, because I’m too chicken to shoot myself. But until then, I may look into how I can arrange to have my ashes fired out of a cannon. That’s the least I can do.
My wife likes to embarrass me, in her blog, so I thought I might turn the tables on her. The following is a short story I wrote that is closely based on an actual event that occurred about six years ago. An embarrassing event. Involving my wife:
Free creamers. That’s what she liked so much about going to McDonalds. She’d order a cup of coffee, then ask for, let’s see, how about eight creamers? Then she’d put just one of those creamers in her coffee and stuff the remaining seven in her purse, to be taken home for using later. McDonalds had always been so nice about letting her get away with this.
“Welcome to McDonalds! May I take your order?” the young lady behind the counter smiled.
“Yes, a cup of coffee, please. And can I have eight creamers with that?”
“Sure. Anything else?”
She calculated that she’d need a little bag to hold the extra creamers without them getting scattered in her purse. Then she was struck with a splendid idea. She’d order the hash browns, which come in a small bag just the perfect size. She was dieting, so she’d have to throw the hash browns out, but they weren’t too expensive.
“And hash browns.”
A few minutes later her order was ready. There on her tray at the counter sat the cup of java. Next to it were some steaming hot hash browns. But there were no creamers.
“Uh, excuse me ma’am, you forgot the creamers I ordered.”
“Oh no I didn’t,” the nice young lady reassured. “I put them in your coffee for you.”
She sat at a little table with a view of the Ronald McDonald playground, and gave the coffee a test-sip. Her face scrunched up to the left and to the right, and her gag reflex kicked in. And then she reflected. This little coffee break cost her $3.12, when she could have bought eight creamers at the store for $2.50.
She dumped the coffee and hash browns into the trash receptacle and departed the land of the golden arches, feeling a bit sheepish.
Democrats and Republicans in Washington don’t like to compromise anymore. But when they did, this is how it often went:
Democrats like more spending and more taxes. Republicans like less spending and less taxes. The compromise: More spending and less taxes.
But that was okay because economists say that the more the government spends, the more the economy gets stimulated. And they also say that the less the rich are taxed, the more they trickle down upon us in the form of jobs.
I say they ought to start compromising again, and increase spending to about 100 trillion dollars a year, while reducing everyone’s taxes down to 1%. This will cause our economy to explode at warp speed, with astronomical profits for gazillionaires everywhere. And then the gazillionaires will trickle down a torrent upon the heads of the poverty-stricken.
How could anyone lose with a compromise like that?
I love apathy. Nothing makes my life easier than being around apathetic people. There’s no pressure to conform to a pattern of behavior that matches someone else’s fiercely held values. I can relax, be myself, and live in peace.
Some parts of this world are run by religious fanatics. If you live there, you have to put on a display of faith and devotion so some God-loving asshole doesn’t string you up from a tall tree. What a pain in the neck.
Or, consider the plight of the Palestinians. Jewish settlers strongly believe God has promised them their land. So these poor bastards find themselves displaced and occupied by a hostile force of religious zealots.
And then there are all the fervent Communists and anti-Communists who have been killing each for more than a hundred years, over a political and economic ideal. Their goal of utopia seems to require slaughtering anyone who gets in their way. Which are generally other fanatics and extremists.
I have no problem with people who hold strong convictions. I just want them to be apathetic about it. In other words, I want them to keep their strong convictions cooled down to the point where they won’t try to force others, like me, to go along.
I think apathy is healthy, so I try to be as apathetic as I want others to be. I’ve found it keeps me out of trouble. It also gives me a good out. The things I feel strongly about today may be very different from my convictions in the future. If I’ve committed myself to aggressively pushing my agenda upon others, how can I save face when I want to change my agenda? Hell, I’d feel sheepish if people were asking me why I was no longer trying to convert them.
I’m really trying hard to convince you of the merits of apathy. But then I think, So what? Who cares? What’s it to me? Why should I care if you’re apathetic or not?
I sure hope you’re thinking the same thing about me.
Jeeeeezus Keeeeeerist! All of this for a frickin’ pooh?!
I love mac and cheese, so I’m backed against a wall. Therefore, with my hat in hand, everyone who was offended, including Winnie, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Rabbit, Gopher, Kanga, Roo, Lumpy, and any other wacky character that’s on that damned cartoon, please accept my apology. I also apologize to everyone who’s ever enjoyed a Winnie-the-fucking-Pooh cartoon.
I’m sorry that Pooh Bear is shaped like a turd. And I’m sorry his name is “Pooh.” I can’t think of a worse, more disgusting name for a parent to give a child. And I’m sorry Winnie is so damned sanctimonious and priggish.
Alright, I hope everyone is satisfied now, and that everyone’s idealist views of the world that my post shattered have been glued back together.
I was on the phone with one of my sisters the other day, when the subject turned to politics. In reference to our fearless leaders, I said, “Those bastards don’t know shit.”
She corrected me with, “Oh, you mean those guys don’t know poo?”
Oh shit, that’s right, I remembered, I’m talking to my religious sister. She’s an uppity-up with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Her husband’s an elder, you know, so she’s big-time, and has to set an example for everyone. And in that religion, “shit” is apparently an unacceptable way to refer to the fecal matter that drops from the anus.
The appropriate alternative is “poo.”
Worldly people say, “shit,” whereas those who are not of this world say, “poo.”
Poo is acceptable in any Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can say that word repeatedly, while attending their meetings, and they’ll just smile, and maybe even giggle, and you will be tops with them.
In fact, you can say, “poo” to any religious person. Nuns love poo. So do ministers. And so do Sunday School teachers.
Poo goes well with religion, but it’s also appropriate for mixed company. I don’t quite know what “mixed” company actually is, but from a small child I’ve heard admonishments along the lines of, “you can’t say that in mixed company,” or “don’t do that in mixed company.” I suppose it means you’re in the company of people who are mixed up about things, and thus are easily offended.
When you’re in mixed company, it’s risky to say the word, “shit,” because sometimes people will find it objectionable. But it’s never risky to say, “poo.” You can even add an “h” to the word, then double it, as in, “I pooh-pooh that.” Which I think means, “I shit on that.”
Adding an “h” to poo brings to mind Winnie the Pooh. Kids love Winnie the Pooh. I never cared much for that sanctimonious, priggish, moralizing, turd-shaped bear, but maybe that’s because I discovered the word, “shit,” at a young age. When I first became aware of Winnie the Pooh I wondered, why don’t they call him Winnie the Shit? Does calling shit “pooh” make it any less smelly or disgusting?
I prefer “shit” to “poo.” Shit is more authentic. Also, it’s a much more versatile word. It doesn’t always refer to the stinky material that draws all those flies. It can mean all kinds of things. But when you try to use the word “poo” to refer to anything other than the defecations secreted by our bowels, it really falls flat.
For instance, when someone says, “I have to get my shit together,” everyone knows they’re not referring to that awful stuff that gets flushed down the toilet. No, they’re speaking in the abstract. They’re referring to their life, and various aspects of their life that may be a bit disorganized at the moment.
But when someone says, “I have to get my poo together,” it leaves me in a muddle. I’m picturing them collecting the brown stuff from their toilet, and putting it all together in a sack. Perhaps a blivet bag.
If you’re going through hard times, and someone commiserates with you by saying, “Wow, that’s some tough shit, man,” you know exactly what they mean, and you feel consoled. But what if they say, “Wow, that’s some tough poo, man,” wouldn’t that sound a little weird and off-putting? Tough poo? There’s nothing consoling about that. That just brings to mind the sort of stuff that’s requires multiple flushes to get down the loo.
And yet, many religious people try to use the word “poo” in just this way. For them it’s a substitute for “shit” in all of our scatological idioms, bromides, and other cliches.
To me, it comes off as awkward, dorky, and wacky. If someone considers “shit” to be a taboo word, then they might not want to say it. But it strikes me as strange when they use “poo” as a substitute. It just doesn’t work, unless they’re actually referring to the fecal matter that drops from the anus.
But even then, it sounds like toddler-speak, in my view. And so does “poop” and “caca.” I hardly ever use those words. I grew out of them before I lost my baby teeth. I will, however, utilize the heteroclitical term, “crap,” fairly often. It’s a semi-taboo word that can pass without raising many eyebrows, in mixed company.
I sometimes feel sorry for religious people who seem compelled to resort to silly measures like saying the word, “poo,” to avoid taboo behavior. But perhaps that’s the price they must pay to get on the list for housing in heaven.
I violate taboos right and left, so I’m not on that list. I guess me and my filthy mouth are going to hell. And that’s some tough shit, man.