COPE

On the phone today, my friend asks me, “How are you doing? Emotionally. We haven’t talked about that in a while.”

There’s a silence while I think about it. Then I tell her I think I’m good, actually, and that I appreciate her asking. “Because,” I say, “Nobody’s asked me that in a while.”

I talk a lot about coping, if only because I’m aware of the fact that I am or have been doing it. When you’re actively coping, it’s hard not to exhaustively narrate your inner monologue to everyone every chance you get, which is why, after a while, everyone stops asking you how you’re doing.

Fundamentally, I think humans are always coping. Like, with life itself. Like, I’m not sure our brains can really reckon with our existence, and so I think a lot of subconscious mental power gets occupied with trying to deal with why the fuck we’re here.

To complicate matters, because of the age we live in now, coping becomes essential to survival on the daily. It might not always seem like that for everyone — the filter of image or class or social media can make it seem like some don’t have anything to cope with ever, but I think it’s true that the people you think have nothing to cope with probably do, and if they don’t, they might be coping with the absence of something to cope with.

In any case, it’s really not until circumstance sort of “serves up” a tangible thing for us to cope with we can intellectually recognize requires our coping mechanisms that we can finally become aware of the essential nature and presence of coping in our life. Then we can say, like, “OK. This is a thing I have to deal with,” and then do whatever it is we have to do — or not do, as the case may be. Only then do we become conscious of it.

That’s how it happened for me, anyways: in hindsight I realize I’d been coping with a life that hadn’t turned out how I imagined all along, but it was only when I ultimately had to face coping with that life falling apart that that became evident. Basically, I’d been focused for so long trying to tie my life up into a big bow, I didn’t realize it when it become a knot.

I got so preoccupied with trying to turn that knot into a bow, that I couldn’t just untie the knot and start over. Someone had to do that for me.

Which is why my friend asked me on the phone how I was doing emotionally, because it’s been a little over a year or so since the whole trajectory of almost ten years of my life changed course in a single afternoon, and while the people close to you will be there for your to offer shoulder and ear at first, after a while everyone assumes that the coping has set in and is finally bring you further and further away from that need.

Which is true, I suppose. If you let it.

Like, I was telling my friend that I had looked back at that first year [of coping], which was full of all kinds of imperfections — good choices, bad ones; triumphs, setbacks — but somehow, regardless of the peaks and valleys, looking forward at the upcoming year [of coping] had became markedly easier.

Coping, by and large, doesn’t seem cool at first because it gets conflated with dealing. Dealing with the pain of whatever terrible experience you’ve endured. So it gets a bad rap for being that, Instead of what it actually is, which is the process of growing out of that terrible experience — something we call “healing,” but I’m on the fence about that.

My friend, on our phone call, as our conversation spun into a discussion about grief and trauma, and thus subsequent coping, referenced something called “The Four Levels of Consciousness,” and did in terms of said coping —

Now if you Google this, there’ll be a lot of hits for a lot of different personal development models that might not be this model in particular, so, for the purposes here, and your edification, I’m giving credit to Peter Sage, cited in a post on the blog “Real Growth.”

These four stages of consciousness are as follows, in order: “To Me,” “By Me,” “Through Me,” and “As Me,” and if you think about how we respond and transition into a state of coping, just looking at it should already make a lot of sense. Now, while I do think most coping is active — after all, nothing changes lest we change — I also think coping can occur passively. I think we can do a modicum of coping without even trying, until one day we wake up and things just don’t hurt as bad anymore.

But the overall reality of coping is — and the blogger cites this in the post — it’s a journey. We cope through these levels, not by them.

This is why when my friend asked me how I was doing, I had to take a sec. Because, the fact is, things have changed. Circumstances have changed. Life changed. I’ve changed.

A year ago, when people’d ask me how I was, I might say, “Surviving,” or “Alive.” There was comfort in that attention —

You know, that attention can be like a pacifier, and after a while those responses to it can become canned. Eventually, when no one’s asking you how you’re doing anymore, you might still respond in this way as a way to stimulate them into asking. Which is sad, because that means you’re stuck.

See, when you’ve truly progressed in coping, that authentic feeling at the root of how you are interacting with the world around you, it’s undeniable. Then, when someone asks, “How are you doing?” you have to think about it, then respond.

So, basically, here’s how the levels of consciousness presents, in the order they do:

To Me” is the victim mentality, which is the instinctive response to a traumatic event. “Why is this happening to me?” For however uncomfortable it is, this is also the most comfortable level, because it allows us to indulge in the pacification of self-pity;

After we ditch the blame and take some accountability, though, we move into “By Me.” This is the active state, wherein we rely on productivity to replace the crutch of self-pity. This level frees us from the indulgence of the “To Me” state but can also wear us out;

Through Me” occurs when we’ve surrendered our need to control and steer our circumstances (as a justified causal reaction to the memory of our pain, of course), and rely on a faith that our life is now in a state of “flow”;

The author of the blog post highlights this level FYI — and its transition into the next, and final, level — as being the most critical. The reason being, “Faith,” as the author points out, “Is the flip side of doubt.” Although faith can be a powerful tool, it doesn’t take much to compromise its integrity. Faith, reinforced, says the author, “Is knowing”…

And “knowing” leads us to “As Me,” which is just total fucking oneness with the Universe. And all I’ve got to say is, if you’ve got that going for you, it’s “nice.”

My friend and I were both able to peg down where we were on this journey, hilariously stuck in the meddling [and very luxurious] rift between “By Me” and “Through Me” — ironic on the eve that we’re launching a business we’ve gone in on together.

As I, personally, head into this new year, I’m trying to enjoy a state of “flow,” but I also don’t want to let the slack out too much; I want to work toward that “knowing,” instead of just “believing.”

Wherever y’all are at on your journey, do your best to appreciate it. Moving on to the next level isn’t an achievement, and “you can only hear from the level you’re at,” so don’t confuse another’s progress in coping with your own. Honor your own path, and take a moment now and again to recognize the distance you’ve come.

DEATH

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paw…”

I’ve always been concerned with time. Killing it, saving it. Trying to catch it when it flies, wishing it’d fly when it drags. Etc, etc. Trying to save it ’cause it’s money, but there ain’t never enough of it.

Time is such a double-edged sword. We look forward (payday, vacay, Super Bowl Sunday) until it’s passed, because when it’s the past we start looking back. And what really sucks is its inevitable, which is why when we do get to the time we were looking forward, we start looking back, because suddenly we’re another time we were looking forward to closer to our death.

And death is the thing that concerns me most about time.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a high-idling fear of death, which obviously can’t be a unique fear by virtue of the fact that I’m talking about fucking death here and if you’re not afraid of death then you’re a fucking robot or just the guy from Free Solo (who is also maybe a fucking robot), because, honestly, what’s scarier than everything being over?

I used to sit up late in bed just, like, sweating death. And I don’t mean like dying. Not, like, worrying about the way in which I’d die — honestly, I don’t really give a fuck about that, but if you’re curious, the top three ways I would rather not go (because, look, it’s not like I haven’t thought about it) are 1) shark attack, 2) fire, and 3) a skin-rotting-style-virus —

I’m talking about sweating death itself. The great void. The nothingness.

Do whatever thou wilt, swift-footed time…

And it wasn’t even like I was sitting up late in bed sweating my death. I was sweating everyone else’s death that would happen before mine, because that’s the shit you really have to endure. Which is how sinister time is — like a home invasion thriller except the home being invaded is your life, and first it takes your dog, then your folks, and then, depending on where you sit in the lineup among your other loved ones, maybe it takes you next, but no guarantees, and plus, you’re dead now and without the luxury of knowing what happens to your peeps!

And what’s worse, by the way, is this: say time does run its course, and death does happen in its natural order. Well, my friend, then you gotta consider yourself lucky because think of all the poor unsuspecting individuals who contend with the wanton fetish of death when it selects those well before their time.

But I forbid thee one more heinous crime…

It seems like the mystery and inevitability of death would encourage us to live in a certain way. Like, it would force us to live with the presumption of it. But I think death is just so unknowable and looming that collectively, we’re just too scared to really cope with it. And, as if the relationship between time and death and their compounded existential threat weren’t harrowing enough, death has a side scheme —

It can get you whenever it wants. However it wants.

Like shark attack. Or fire. Or a skin-rotting virus.

Once again, I’m not trying to highlight the modes of death by talking about death in those terms, I’m just saying that via those modes, death is fully unpredictable. Which is why I say that I think humankind really has an issue with death-denial, because by virtue of our very lives we’re expected to deal with both the immediate threat of, like, this possible and sudden death, but also run-of-the-mill death which slowly approaches, no matter.

If I had to drum up a sports metaphor for this right now, it’s like being a quarterback, except the D line and the downfield situation both represent death. And pretty much everything else on the field probably also represents death too.

Yet do thy worst, Old Time…

When my grandfather died — old, not suddenly, so, like, no worries — I remember my uncle said something to me about death that was just concise enough for me to process but profound enough for me to never forget —

“Death,” he said. “It’s so uncool.”

ACTUALLY

Recently I got in a brief Twitter smackdown in a trending thread on the subject of celebrities who’re #blackfamous. It’s regrettable because Twitter smackdowns always are, and plus the thread was really enjoying itself, going full viral in good spirits, destined for success if only for a single dangling string: celebrities considered “blackfamous” presumes they’re unknown to white people.

And if there’s a thing white people hate, it’s anyone having anything they don’t.

By its very nature, Twitter encourages users to feel entitled to join a conversation, although calling threads “conversations” gives Twitter too much credit. They feel entitled to join because, ultimately, Twitter is like a discourse buffet — take what you want, leave what you don’t, and probably the potato salad has been sitting out for too long. By that I mean, everyone on Twitter thinks every conversation is theirs — and by “theirs,” I obviously mean “ours,” because, hey, let he who is without sin and all that crap…

Of course, calling how users interact with conversations “joining” gives users too much credit also.

So this particular thread, concerning a topic specifically culturally-centric (and perhaps, at least in my opinion, a little culturally-sensitive), seemed like the type of thread that I — and other users like me (read: white people) — should’ve just sat back and enjoyed. And, for a while, we seemed to be! While relevant contributing users (read: black people) dropped into the thread for a joyous game of one-upmanship, the thread simultaneously became a celebration the culturally niche, as well as culture identity in general.

But, like moth to flame, all it took was one white dude who had to flutter in to drop a tweet meant to course-correct the very heart of the conversation —

“Actually, but…,” this white dude goes — “Actually, but…” being the fucking siren song of white people — “I know who all these celebrities are,” reads the tweet. “Everyone knows who [black actor] is,” reads another. Yet another reads: “Some of us can even tell the difference between [black actor] and [black actor].”

In my defense — given my reckoning with white guilt — my POV on these responses may have been a little knee-jerk myopic. All I could read between these tweets was: “Actually, butthere is nothing you can have that I can’t take.”

So at this point, I felt entitled to join as well — which, again, gives myself too much credit — and I basically said I wished all white dudes (such as myself) would just “pipe down.”

Yeah, I see the irony in that.

The tweet experienced a little camaraderie at first, but by then, another white dude felt the need to call me out for being “self-serving,” and I replied indignantly, because, mostly, I felt indignant, and it just seemed to me like another white dude looking to justify other white dudes copping other people’s shit.

But, honestly, what did I expect? I’d called out white dudes for chiming in on this thread by chiming in on this thread, and then I got called out by a white dude for chiming in on this thread —

It was like a fucking ouroboros of white privilege.

Now, in hindsight, I see I hadn’t really shown up to help in the first place. My tweet — or “contribution,” if you can call it that — although maybe well-intentioned was entirely self-serving. It was just another way for me to feel like I’m doing more that I probably am; to feel less a part of the oppressors and more on the side of the oppressed.

To really be that, though, it takes a little more than sub-tweets.

Ultimately, I got called out by a Twitter user — a black woman, who’d probably been enjoying the brief moment where her community could just be, and thus rejoice in being — when she tweeted, “This is a feel-good thread,” she said. “Don’t bring this here.”

The white dude who’d called me out, quickly and appropriately, replied, “Yes ma’am.”

I said that too, but only to me, not able to bring myself to reply in a tweet. The point had come pretty quick where it was smart — albeit cowardly — for me to step back on mute as the sub-thread my little white fracas had caused spiraled into another argument about race, as more and more white dudes began jumping in, calling me out.

Black users jumped on the bandwagon as well — they didn’t hate against me, per se, but were against what I’d done; what I’d brought. They were against the rift that I’d caused.

And they were right to be.

Because, even though I may have gotten the point of the thread, I didn’t really get the point. Like we always do, I’d made something that was not about white people suddenly about white people, and in so doing, perpetrated an act I perceived as pro-ally, but was really just another symptom of my privilege.

That’s not the role I see myself playing, if I have to have a role to play at all. My gut was right to begin with: I thought #blackfamous seemed like a trending thread I should’ve sat back and enjoyed…

And I should’ve done just that.

RIGHT

Social media is a great place to catch yourself saying stupid shit you chastise other people for saying — if you’re into catching yourself.

Some of us are not.

I’ve been on the receiving end of marginalized ire (rightfully) when I’ve (admittedly) appropriated a piece of culture or misused perhaps either optic or verbiage for the sake of portraying myself in a certain progressive light. Often then, I find myself pushing the agenda even further or laying on the ally-hood real real real thick.

Anyone that’s ever read any of my stuff before knows that I also love to hate on whites and hate on mens.

Both of which I am.

Ultimately, though, that’s all just a way of continuing to recuse myself from being an accomplice to overt, as well as covert, oppressions we [“we” meaning “whites“; “we” meaning “mens“] seem compelled to continually perpetrate on, well, y’all.

It’s also a way of recusing myself from being a white man.

Which, like I said, I am.

So, when I drop a dank meme for trans rights apropos nothing relative to me, and I get called out by someone who has a horse in the race, I gotta ask myself, “Why did I just do that?” What are the motivations behind the words (read: tweets) and, more importantly, if faced with a scenario in which I had the opportunity to stand up for a trans person’s rights in real life, would I do it?

I’d like to think so.

Some white men are great about that. Others ain’t. And others think that dank memes are enough. So when I come back around to that reality laid bare — reality oftentimes couched in the context of a Twitter feed which, yes, I understand, is decidedly not reality (nor is it really laid bare) — I have to ask another hard question: “How much of an ally am I?”

Which brings me to Ghostbusters. Or Star Wars. Or, I dunno, Doctor Who? No, no no. Not true. I mean none of what I said should bring me to any of those, but I’d like it to bring me to Goodfellas.

Or maybe not bring me, but maybe help me arrive at Goodfellas.

It’s all actually first going to bring me to a metaphor of a pendulum, and I apologize for the non sequitur here, but imagine a pendulum, OK?; a pendulum constantly on another upswing before it dives back in the opposite direction of the arc. Forever and ever, which a pendulum will do because a pendulum, although having no real motivation and relying only on the laws of physics, can still somehow be active and reactive.

OK, now back to Goodfellas.

Man do guys like Goodfellas! And Van Halen. Or Bob Dylan and Rocky II and camouflage pants and light beer. And they like to like themselves so much for liking those things so much that they cannot conceive of someone else not liking them.

They cannot conceive of someone thinking (read: being) different than them, a phenomenon commonly referred to as “prejudice.”

And some of the very progressive interpretations of any of these aforementioned “things” — i.e. Ghostbusters, i.e. Star Wars — has boiled a lot of that prejudice to commonplace. Particularly on social media.

OK, now onto something else seemingly unrelated! —

Look, let’s get this out there: I don’t care what Martin Scorsese said about comic book movies because not being cinema firstly, honestly, who gives a shit, and secondly, honestly, I don’t understand what the fuck that even means.

My only thing is: I hate he said it. Like, at all. Like, don’t miss an opportunity to say nothing, Martin. You know what I’m saying? And what’s more is I actually think he shouldn’t have said it, and I hate even more the legions of sycophants who came to his very unnecessary aid, defending his legacy as filmmaker, instead of attacking his legacy as a man.

Being a great filmmaker has nothing to do with a person’s ability to say stupid shit they shouldn’t say.

But apparently a lot of us somehow believe that correlation, and we love a different correlation as well, and we love to just deride people about that correlation, which is this: one somehow hating that Scorsese said a thing means one therefore hates Scorsese.

Or that thinks his movies are bad. Or that it’s all an intent to discredit him.

So, is it?

No! Of course not! Goodfellas is sick! Casino is bomb! Fuckin’ Last Temptation of Christ mothefucker! I mean, Godfather II, amiright?

Just kidding, nerds. I know Coppola made Casino.

But this is how shit goes down all the time. And then, the defensive get offensive, and the debate takes on this sinister mutation when the arguments “against” being anti-Martin Scorsese excuse Martin Scorsese for saying the very Martin Scorsese-y thing because, hey, look, it’s “Martin Scorsese” and Martin Scorsese can “say what he wants,” which is just a permutation of “do what he wants,” and I don’t think I should have to outline what a very dangerous privilege (oh boy, there’s a word) to give someone.

Again: like, at all.

So, first, let me say Martin Scorsese has made movies I like very much. He’s also made movies I don’t. But the thing of that is: it doesn’t matter either way. What I think about Martin Scorsese’s movies doesn’t have to have any bearing on what you think. And also, just because Martin Scorsese is Martin Scorsese that doesn’t mean he’s not a dick.

What Martin Scorsese perceives, say, the movie Avengers: Endgame to “be,” doesn’t matter. And it shouldn’t matter. But, of course, if it does matter, for example, to you (“person who thinks Scorsese is infallible” — jkjkjk) then that’s just fine.

That’s fine by me.

Because why? That’s right: because none of that matters.

The fact of any of these matter is this: in the aftermath of Martin Scorsese dropping his cinematic #truthbombs on the comic book moviegoing public, I, personally, have not found my enjoyment of comic book movies to be any less just because of a little dose of some Martin-Fucking-Scorsese.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t still go and watch Taxi Driver and enjoy that too (just in case that’s the illogical trip-wired ergo counter-argument bullshit you were about to pull).

And you know what even else???

If you don’t like Avengers: Endgame or Taxi Driver then shit, man, what the fuck is wrong you? Just kidding! Because that’s fine too! You like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Fucking awesome, people are gonna have a lotta thoughts on that, but good news: NONE OF THAT WILL MATTER EITHER.

As a side note, though: Martin Scorsese is Martin Scorsese, which is fine, but he says this very particular thing about a very specific subset of products in a very fickle industry — an industry that he has, of course, worked hard to succeed in, but also substantially benefitted from — and I think it was just a shitty thing to say about another thing.

I know that doesn’t matter either, but rising tide and all boats and all that, man, dig?

Another side note: what really put me over the edge was the fact that Scorsese had to go publish a NYT op-ed about it, you know, to “explain what he meant” by the comments, which was just the comment all over again but whilst also being like “but, cinema, guys.”

And that, my friends, is the white man move of white man moves (and, I mean, so is domestic terrorism but when white men do it we don’t call it that).

So anyway, ps, Martin, loved The Departed, BTW, but, seriously, for real, shut the fuck up.

You know what else? None of this matterseither. Like, what I’m saying. This — any of it. It doesn’t matter. You know what does? If you like Martin Scorsese.

I hope you do.

What matters is that there’s any kind of change or progress whatsoever anywhere in anything. In small matters, and in big ones. In discourse. In how we exchange ideas. It all matters that we move away from where we’ve been and go somewhere we haven’t.

The bummer is — and if you’ve seen the recent Golden Globe nominee announcements, you know that what I’m saying is true — a lot of times, we never do that.

So, anyways: back to that pendulum.

The pendulum swings, and it will always swing because, well, gravity, I guess. But I’m not a scientist so *shrugs* but I just think that the pendulum — and it’s just my opinion and, therefore, doesn’t matter — is at its best when it’s at a “reference point” —

That’s the lowest part of the arc. That’s where it strikes a balance. That’s the quotient of act and react.

That’s its sweet spot. Unfortunately, it won’t stay there for long.