Culling the Herd – an Introduction

Sep 30, 2013 by


I have noticed that I am usually unable to allow myself to enjoy someone’s writing if I know nothing about the author. As such, I typically find myself reading a Wikipedia page written and spun by God-knows-who anytime I have just read something with an uneasy threat I might agree with, just to verify I am not endorsing the opinion of some ne’er-do-well, baby-insulting, livestock-buggerer. Unfortunately, I don’t really care much about the general demographic census data type stuff that one generally finds on such a page, along with who they voted for in the last election, whom they’ve been married to or divorced from and what sort of personal problems their children have had. I want to divine somehow what they really believe and what sort of dark magic has coaxed them down the path of coming to believe it. Ironically, the best way to do this is probably just to keep reading their work, but instead I usually distract myself with the self-same diluted, irrelevant entries of questionable veracity I claim I do not value.

As such, to set the context for anything I write or claim to espouse heretofore, I’ve decided to bang out some random musings that have passed through my brain over the past year or two. I do this for two reasons. First, just in case I write something I like, I don’t want to have to pause on re-reading it to Google myself. The uncomfortable wording notwithstanding, the only thing that would unnerve me more than the fact I’m not famous enough to have a Wikipedia page, would be if I ever did find a Wikipedia page. Second, should such a page ever exist, it would, as I have already suggested, contain mostly information that was superficial, irrelevant or just plain wrong.

So the following essay is about thoughts I’ve had, observations I’ve made, and the seedlings of a personal philosophy I hope one day to understand well enough to claim it as my own. The problem with such thoughts and observations is that I have noticed my purest and clearest thinking tends to occur at my weakest moments. That perfect germ of an idea usually makes its debut in my addled mind when I’ve had a few too many drinks, a few too few hours of sleep, or when my mind should be, and primarily is, occupied by something much more pressing. Thus, it is a difficult process for me to weave these seemingly disparate concepts together into something resembling a cogent ethos. I suspect many people have similar issues, which may explain why the word “Philosopher” is seldom listed under “Occupation” on tax returns.

If you are still with me gentle reader, I must express my gratitude for your patience. If you are not, then you won’t be offended when I tell you to go fuck yourself and that I don’t care what you think anyway. So, if you plan to see the rest of this through with me, I must also apologize in advance for the seeming randomness, disjointedness, and perhaps occasionally self-indulgent nature of the pontification about to follow. Hopefully, some of you will also see a grain of truth or value in some of it, or at least get a chuckle.

It is coincidental, though not ironic, that my first observation of late is while I have always believed human beings, by and large, are pretty stupid and ignorant, I don’t believe that this issue is our species’ biggest problem. What scares me even more is how smart and well-informed most of us think we are. I apply this lens of scrutiny to myself often. I try to comfort myself that if I was truly one of the unacceptably stupid or ill-informed examples of homo sapiens, I would have never made that observation. That sort of rationale though, is to true intellectual reasoning what thin, watery gruel is to my grandma’s comfort food. Everyone who has ever waxed philosophical has pointed out some variation on the theme of: “the smarter I get, the dumber I realize I am”. We all like to get that out of the way up front so you, gentle reader, will take our ensuing postulations and intellectual self-pleasuring all the more seriously. Still, our species’ bold, drunken-teenager-like swagger in the face of the obvious truth that we muck up most everything we touch is terrifying.

So, now that I have tossed out that little philosophical “Scooby snack”, the hope is by admitting my own human frailty, I may have engendered some small modicum of trust. For what kind of relationship can we have if we don’t trust one another? All relationships are built on trust. Isn’t that what all the therapists, marriage counselors, bosses and high school guidance types told you throughout your lives too?

Unfortunately, my new friends, trust is an illusion. Even the illusion is fleeting. You can only truly trust those who depend on you absolutely. And you absolutely cannot trust someone who is so dependent. You can but choose to believe in someone, and such belief is only an ideal. To construct that ideal and to choose to continue to believe it, and to thereby trust a person despite all the rational evidence not to, is what we call “love”.

Speaking of love (and, no I will not try to turn the whole concept of love into a few sentences of psycho-babble, so stick with me), why, in fact, is it “we only hurt the ones we love”? I know, I know. That old chestnut? Seriously, though. I will go out of my way not to be a burden to some complete stranger in an airport that, roles reversed, would plod along obliviously, completely unaware of my existence, completely clueless to the fact that their incompetence—that they think is so endearing when they shrug helplessly at the gate agents and security personnel—is causing a potentially serious obstacle to my day. Yet, despite this, I strive to not be in their way. I put serious thought and effort into not being a burden to the hordes of marginally functional herd animals that surround me every day. All the while, I wouldn’t think twice about seriously inconveniencing my wife, or family or dearest friends? That was a bit of a sidebar, I guess, but it does somehow fit in the grand panorama of my theme. See what I meant in those first few paragraphs?

My point is that there is no moral high ground. No one is better than everyone else and everyone is better than someone. The highest thing to which mankind can aspire is to stay the fuck out of each other’s way. Yet we never do. We cluster together like slow, stupid herbivorous plains game animals constantly and inadvertently jamming our noses into the hindquarters of the bovine in front of us. And we don’t even realize that for the most part, very few of us are doing the rest of the herd any favors. But may the gods help you if you drift too far from the rabble. No it’s not like a Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom special where a salivating lion is waiting in the rushes to turn you into an amuse bouche. That’s just what the herd wants you to believe. It’s the herd that doesn’t like it when one of its members drifts too far away. It makes the rest of them nervous. Any element that doesn’t move in the exact same direction or at the same mind-numbingly slow and meandering pace becomes a visual anomaly that attracts too much attention. So the herd tries to keep each of us in the fold. They try to make you feel guilty or scared or stupid or inconsiderate if you don’t do what they do. Because they want to believe that there is safety in numbers and in conformity. The dirty little secret is though, that such behavior doesn’t protect us from our natural predators…because we really don’t have any anymore. We, as the saying goes, are our own worst enemies. So I say, get out to the edge of the herd and see what’s really going on out there. Otherwise, the view never changes.

Ultimately, life in the human existence is just like one big, never-ending bar fight. It’s total chaos and in the fog of war it’s always hard to tell who is really on your side. And people are constantly smashing things on each other. A beer bottle shatters over our heads. A pool cue splinters across our backs. We tumble over a chair, crushing it under our own dizzying momentum. The result of all this is that through the experience of everyday life, we suffer lots of little wounds. Shards and splinters, debris and detritus become embedded in our psychic skin. Once you’ve lived long enough to absorb enough of these barbs, all the little bits of shrapnel begin to form a mosaic. That mosaic determines who we are and what we call our “soul”. So, my friends, the point  is –  in order to really appreciate someone’s creative process, it helps a little bit to understand the composition of the mosaic of that person’s soul.

In the coming days, weeks and months, I hope to give you a glimpse at my own unique mosaic. There might be more general ranting like this one in the form of essays, maybe a poem or two (for your sake though, I hope not) and, most desirably of all, some short stories. Hopefully, the above words will intrigue you into wanting to read some of this, and maybe even give you some insight into why I write what I write. Let me be clear though, my intention is never to lecture or educate. It is only to give myself an emotional full-release massage and hopefully, in the process, give you a chuckle, or maybe make you think about something from a different perspective. So, with that, until next time my fellow bovines. And keep your nose out of my ass. I’ll try to extend you the same courtesy.

468 ad

1 Comment

  1. Very interesting. I will look forward to future essays.

Leave a Comment