I’m honestly embarrassed to admit that I bought this book.
I haven’t finished reading it. So maybe there’s some useful information in there somewhere. But I find self-help books to a pimple on the ass of the literary world.
I’m sure the author thinks that this is some philosophical commentary and not self-help. But really it’s just some bourgeois armchair philosophizing, which is how stoicism often comes across to me.
While I don’t consider myself a leftist (all political and religious ideologies require a healthy dose of skepticism) I do agree that there is a large portion of our lives that we have no control over. Even our preferences are largely predetermined by external circumstances. Free will is often recognizing this which then leads to angst, anxiety, and even suffering.
Following this line of reasoning, one might conclude that stoicism would help alleviate that pain. And it actually might to a certain degree. My primary beef with stoicism, and it’s current usage in the zeitgeist and world of self-help, is that it could actually contribute to one’s own delusion by masking real and justified emotional responses to very REAL problems.
It’s kinda akin to Jordan Peterson’s advice to “clean your room.” That’s basically “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”…and that idiom is the thrust behind self-help books.
I dunno, this is probably just a pedantic problem that I’ve created in my head. But if you’re in need of Axial-Age sage advice, I’ve personally found Buddhism…stripped of its spiritual and religious elements…to be far more useful as it teaches abstract thinking and encourages you to accept that the only constant in the universe is change.
Look, I’m trying to get to the good stuff (all the nasty sex). But I’m trying to get there organically, alright? Give me a break.
At the campfire, Geoff was playing Nearer, My God, To Thee on his acoustic guitar.
“Maybe you should put that away,” Alyssa told him.
Nine church goers were attending the camping trip in total. Brother Ted walked back to the camp after reliving himself in the river. “Woo! That water’s cold!” he declared.
He sat down at the edge of the fire and took out his Bible. “Being in nature reminds me of the awesome power of God,” Ted said. “But 1 John tells us to hate the world and everything in it. All of it will be destroyed in the Second Coming. None of this matters.” He then grabbed a trash bag and dumped its contents on the ground.
Alyssa tried to get close to John, but it appeared that she had competition. Sister Becky was close to Alyssa’s age. She was the touchy-feely type, laughed at every joke…even when a joke wasn’t being told. Most men responded to her flirty nature, but John was different. Alyssa tried to eavesdrop on their conversation.
“When I returned from Iraq, I successfully underwent conversion therapy,” John told Becky, “I haven’t had those kinds of feelings in nearly 2 years.”
“You’re such a brave man,” Becky responded as she gently touched his arm. Alyssa typically wasn’t the jealous type, but Becky was really trying her.
Everyone began roasting marshmallows and hotdogs but John took out a pork shoulder. He could have easily pulled back the plastic film covering it but used his Bowie knife instead.
“Shouldn’t you cook that before you eat it?” Brother Ted asked. “Nonsense,” John replied as he tore into the meat with his teeth, “God gave our bodies everything we need to digest raw pork.”
Alyssa woke up in the middle of the night to relieve herself. She walked a few yards from the camp and squatted behind a tree. While peeing, she heard painful grunts coming a few feet away.
“Who’s there?” she whispered into the dark. But All she heard was more grunting.
When she finished, Alyssa stood up and began wondering towards the direction of the sound. Behind another tree was John, pants around his ankles, squatting in agonizing pain.
“Are you okay?!” she asked him.
“I feel like my guts exploded!” John replied. He was blasting out one fart after another.
“I’ll go get help!”
“No!” John exclaimed, “I can’t let them see me like this! You gotta help me!”
“What can I do?”
“Just stay here with me.”
Alyssa knelt down beside John and held his hand. He started expelling an ungodly amount of diarrhea out of his anus. The stench was almost unbearable. When he finished, he looked up to her with his bloodshot, watery eyes.
“Thank you,” John said. Alyssa gave him a smile.
Afterwards, he stood up and washed his fecal-covered buttcrack in the river. When he finished, he walked back to Alyssa. As he took her by the hand, he said to her, “You can’t tell anyone about this.”
She nodded in return.
The two went back to their tents. As Alyssa climbed into her sleeping bag, she thought about John and thanked God for giving her such an intimate moment with him.
The next morning, groups were pairing up for the canoe trip. Becky approached John to row down river with her. He paused and scratched his forehead. “Uhh, actually I was planning to go with Alyssa,” he told her.
Becky stood up straight. “Alyssa? Really? But I assure you that I’m a much better rower than her,” she said.
“Good! That’s why you should go with Geoff.”
As Geoff was putting on his life jacket, John grabbed him and paired him with Becky. “Good luck!” he told him, and paddled off with his sister.
“Geoff’s not gonna like that,” Alyssa said, “he’s the jealous type.”
“Sorry, but I figured that I owe you an explanation for last night,” John replied.
“None’s necessary, John. You see, I get the bubble guts too.”
“I don’t think you understand,” he said. “I have IBS…Irritable Bowel Syndrome. So you understand why I hope we can keep this a secret.”
“But why John? Why?”
“Because…,” he gave a long pause, “I was laughed at as a child. Everyone called me Mr.Poopypants. I couldn’t walk 10 feet without poop running down the back of my legs. I had to tape up the bottom of my jeans to prevent turds from slipping out and everyday my pants would fill up with poopoo.”
Tears began to well up in John’s eyes. “Everyone thinks that I’m some kind of hero,” he continued, “but in my own mind, I’m always gonna be Mr. Poopypants.”
With his back against her, Alyssa wrapped her arms around John’s body and placed her head just below his neck. “You’re not Mr. Poopypants to me, John. Your secret is safe. But maybe you should stop eating raw pork.”
John placed his left hand top of Alyssa’s that was resting on his chest. “I’m glad I’ve finally met someone like you,” he said.
“Hey God, God Alliance, the Holy Divers…whatever the fuck you call yourselves…come get your boy!” I radioed to the new energy source on radar.
Yah jammed the transmission. “Captain, you have fucked me over for the last time,” he said over the intercom. “You will never escape me. I’ll chase you around the moons of Nibia and around the Antares Maelstrom and around perdition’s flames before I give you up!”
“Suck my limp dick!” I replied.
The energy source pursuing Yah was gaining on him. And with his final act, Yah tail whipped the rear of the Sagan, causing the ship to spin out of control.
“Fire the braking thrusters!” I ordered Valdez.
“Thrusters are having no effect!”
I radioed down to engineering. “Nia, more power to the brakes!”
“Sir,” she replied, “breaking thrusters were destroyed in the last hit! There’s a coolant leak in engineering. I’m diverting power to both the lift and main thrusters. That will stop the spinning, but we will be unable to stop in forward motion!”
“Captain, we’re hurdling towards a massive object ahead. 50,000km and closing,” Dr. Jackass said.
“Valdez! Give it some gas!” I yelled.
Valdez floored it. We were seconds away from crashing into a large meteor in front of us. The Sagan got caught in the object’s orbit and we spun around it a few times until we broke free.
The ship was now on a straight path, but we were still traveling at light speed. “We dodged that bullet,” The Doctor said, “but it’s only a matter of time before we collide with another object!”
I called back down to engineering. “Nia, can you stop the engines?”
“Not at this speed sir!” she replied. “And with our coolant depleted, I am unable to ramp them down. We will continue to increase speed until the engines burn out, but there will be no way of stopping the ship!”
We were now traveling at 1.5 times the speed of light and increasing. It was the fastest that humanity had ever achieved. But it was going to cost the lives of my crew.
Valdez and Jackass looked to me for answers. I had none.
I went over the intercom.
“Attention crew of the Sagan,”I said, “it has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your captain. All of you are fine officers. You have achieved only what others have dreamt. Let’s just hope history never forgets the name: The USV Carl Sagan.”
I leaned back in the seat and closed my eyes. Vibration began increasing.
Then there was a miracle.
“Sir!” Valdez yelled. “Speed is decreasing!”
I opened my eyes. The universe was no longer speeding past us. Finally, the Sagan reached a full stop.
“What the hell happened?” I asked.
There was a voice behind me. “I stopped this piece of shit from flying apart, that’s what happened,” it said.
I turned around and there was a Jack Lemmon-looking asshole dressed in white robes standing on the bridge.
“Who are you?” I said to the strange man.
“You’re God?! I thought Yah was God!”
“No moron! Yah’s that damn Deceiver fella mentioned in that book of yours, the uhh…,” God started snapping his fingers to jog his memory.
“The Bible?” I said
“The Bible! That’s it! He had this cockamamie idea that he could come to Earth and establish a kingdom for himself or some stupid crap. I dunno. We stopped him and thought that he should be a prisoner to YOU guys because he tortured all of you for so long. Clearly that didn’t work out. So now we’re gonna have to find some other way to punish Yah. That guy’s fucking nuts!”
“So are you the ONLY God?”
“I’m the only one NAMED God, if that’s what you mean. But no, there’s a lot more like me.”
“What do you guys DO?”
“Hey! You stay out of our affairs and we’ll stay out of yours PAL!”
“But Earth needs your help.”
“Let me tell you something: no they don’t. You think that because we’re “gods” that we don’t know what it’s like to be you guys? Guess what? We were like you humans at one time. Humanity can climb out of this mess and come back stronger than ever. You know what? I believe in YOU. How do you like that irony?”
“Can you at least help the Ishnarians?”
“Yeah yeah, I’ll go back to Ishnar. I’m used to cleaning up Yah’s shit.”
“I have just one more favor to ask.”
“What do you want now?”
“Can you send us back to Earth? The ship’s kinda broken.”
“Look, I’m not allowed to break the laws of time. Earth’s kinda a shithole right now. Don’t worry though, there’s still people there but they’re all living underground. How bout I put you back in your hibernation chambers and by the time you reach Earth, radiation levels will be back to normal. Sound like a deal?”
“Alright, sweet dreams.” Then God snapped his fingers again.
Many decades later…
The Sagan was orbiting Earth. Tranquility Bay was abandoned and uninhabitable. I made the decision to land on the surface.
“Radiation levels have stabilized, Captain,” Dr. Jackass said.
“Thank you Doctor.” From the bridge, I looked out through the view screen, down to the big blue marble below. “Should we attempt communication?” I asked.
“There doesn’t appear to be any technology to receive it,” the Doctor replied.
“We really are back to the stone ages then,” I said. “I’ll be down in engineering.”
I met with Commander Mwangi at her station. “How’s the landing gear?” I asked.
“All systems are functioning normally, sir,” she replied. But she wouldn’t look at me.
“Is everything alright Commander?”
Mwangi stood up from her desk and turned her face towards me. “You took a big gamble Captain,” she said. “You risked the safety of the entire crew.”
“I ain’t apologizing for getting into a stare down with the devil and winning,” I replied.
“We could’ve been killed!”
“I couldn’t allow you to live in sexual slavery!”
Mwangi sucker punched me right in the face. As I stood in a daze, she grabbed my head and kissed me passionately. “You are one stupid, STUPID son of a bitch,” she said, “but I thank you for it.” She rubbed her body against mine as she sidestepped her way back to work.
I had no idea what just happened. But I liked it.
I returned to the bridge and patted Valdez on the shoulder. “I never congratulated you on your pregnancy. Congratulations Commander,” I told her.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Are you ready to raise this child in a brave new world?”
You can blame Putin for my absence. I’ve been distracted by Twitterverse’s brain rot due to America not being (directly) implicated in an international crisis.
I mean, what’s the world coming to? I thought America was supposed to be responsible for ALL the global fuck ups.
Anyway, recent events have reminded me that you should never trust someone that gets paid to express political opinions. Spoiler Alert: they’re full of shit and need to be ostracized from civil society.
So anyways, WWIII could happen. Check back with you later.
It looks like we’re actually getting somewhere. But without a plot, conflict, hero, or villain, the story simply becomes another character study, therefore making the main thrust of the story “man against himself” or some pretentious bullshit like that.
That being said, let’s close this thing out…
After returning home from my weekly STD checkup, there was a package on my doorstep. It was addressed to my neighbor, but I took inside and opened it anyway.
In the box was a stuffed teddy bear and a letter from someone named “grandma”. I thought that was a stupid name but continued reading anyway. The letter said:
Grandma and grandpa love you very much. We hope that you feel better soon.
Grandma and Grandpa
I put the contents back into the box and poured a drink. I was supposed to start taking medication for something called “syphilis” but I threw that shit into the trash.
“Maybe I should return the box,” I thought. But I wasn’t so sure. I lit up a cigarette, shot up heroin, took a bump of coke, played a round of Russian Roulette, then taped up the box.
As I was laying the box on their doorstep, my neighbor opened the door. “Get the fuck off my porch,” he said.
“This is YOUR package asshole!” I replied. “UPS wrongly dropped it off at my house.”
“Why should I believe you?” he asked after he pulled out his .38. “You’ve played your drums, lit off fireworks, and engaged in target practice with your shotgun at ungodly hours of the night. You’ve also ding dong ditched my ass, used my WiFi, and played peeping Tom on my wife. Well guess what PAL! You’re now on MY property and am well within MY right to blast YOUR ass!”
I raised my hands. “Now calm down John,” I said. “We’re both sensible adults. We can talk this out.”
“No,” he replied. “I’M the sensible adult. You’re an asshole.”
John then fired his .38 into my gut and I laid there bleeding out in his front yard. He picked up the package and opened it.
“Well I’ll be a son of a bitch,” he said, “you finally did something right in your life.”
I lifted my head up while holding my guts in. “Please call an ambulance John,” I said.
“Sure, I’ll get right on that.” John then looked up into the sky and smiled. “It’s nice finally getting some peace and quiet around here,” he said.