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MUSINGS

A Tenement Apartment for Ideas

How to Disagree

When you vehemently disagree with somebody about a specific issue, try taking a step back and examining the broader context of the argument. Whatever issue you're arguing over must arise from some deeper interest in that topic that you both share. Only two nerds with a shared appreciation for comic book lore, canon, and internal logic could have an intense debate over whether Batman or Superman would win in a fight. There's always a common interest from which arguments arise. It isn't the absolute stranger with whom we have no common understandings that frustrates us most but the perversions of ourselves that arouse the greatest emotions.

The thought of another perspective originating from similar foundations as our own veering off into such foreign territory causes fear and anxiety within us; fear that whatever we've told ourselves to justify our own outlooks on life could be challenged and disproven, that maybe our internal logic and beliefs took a wrong turn at some point. This fear commonly causes us to try and annihilate the other perspective. If we can disprove or destroy the other branch of thinking, we will have nothing to fear. This tactic does work, but consider what happens if you are actually wrong about something. You are actively closing all possibility of learning and growth that could end up actually improving your life in many ways. Approaching disagreements with this attitude all but guarantees that your life stagnates.

Which is why it can be so effective to step back from the issue to find common ground. When we acknowledge that our most notable disagreements all stem from some shared understanding, we can try to start the conversation over at that higher level point of agreement, only this time also acknowledging the shared anxiety we both have of trying to find sure footing over existential crisis, and agreeing to cooperate in search of that sure footing. Rather than annihilating the other lines of thought, we can look at our debates as opportunities to collaboratively seek the answers to our shared uncertainties. Done properly, a debate can actually bring people closer, even if they can't find a way to arrive at the same destination, because it can still give us a momentary glance at ourselves in others, and grant us the wisdom to recognize and bond over the shared struggle to find meaning in life.

So, do you agree or disagree? 

Mike LinComment
Yes to Yes

Sunk into a fog of bass, shaken alive, frames possessed, yes to yes, mess to mess, there's thunder in our souls.

Give me a heart attack of joy, a riddled rhythm with a mystery, a secret bit of chemistry, a reaction to the scent of sweat.

How these coils unwind, let me come undone. Echo through these goose bumped walls, let fun be for fun be for fun be for fun.

Mike LinComment
Mural Wall

Look how we are— 
The raggedly pretty,
The eccentric many,
Stoop-seated,
High-booted,
Black fur,
Silver smoke,
Gold in our veins,
Fear in our hearts,
And hope that glimmers in our glassy eyes
Shining back the colors of the street.
Let me be teal,
And you chartreuse,
And you a fiery pink.
And let us hope that when we cross
Our colors don't subdue
But bleed with vibrance
And the contrast between us
Makes the brightest me
And the brightest you—
All for that perfect Story.

Mike LinComment
Lard

Some nights I feel overwhelmed and affected by a profound mood, like a wild fire whose certain cause is always uncertainly defined, and with such matching heat and passion that I feel my entire self rendered, running free and clear. I am translucent, showing bone and marrow, an exhibitionist of hopes and sorrows. And I have no will to move the world but that it should move me, runny and delicate, and vulnerable to every sincerity that promises some depth, in which I might relearn my own profile, and for which I open all my secrets.

But sure as rain, with time enough, I cool. And in the night, dwindling embers turned to ash, my maudlin manners congeal again, so I awaken in the morning, thick and dense, opaque as the blanket that covers my face from the dawn. And though once I cried for some grand thing, now I lie against the cold morning, shameful and embarrassed. Who should see me so naked? And that I dared to show it. Who am I? And the perfumed self I was that still lingers faintly on my breath, smells now like a gasoline, a numbing sadness, a great regret, that I can never choose to simply be that self which shame had fled and made so free.

Mike LinComment
Reliance

What's nice about the occasional camping trip or excursion into the deep outdoors isn't just that it grants us the soothing comfort of "mother" nature—an epithet which is as much propaganda as it is truth. Mothers, the nurturing life-givers, the founts from which our spirits erupt skyward to condense into our transcendent selves. A gentle and loving condition bestowed upon that world from which our ancestors emerged. But just as much as it can be nurturing, nature can also be cruel. And the balance it strikes can be no more judged than the artistic value of a sunrise or waterfall. Nature is what it is exactly so that it can be as it is. There is no greater intent for us to grasp at to lobby claims of favoritism. "Mother" nature just as easily feeds a warbling chick in the early dawn as it would tear it apart by the talons of a dusk cloaked raptor. And life bestowed is as miraculous as death is indifferent.

We do not rejoice in nature because it is forgiving and kind. We do because it releases us from the hazy confinements of the world which we have moved ourselves into. Because nature's cruelties are without malice and our survival of them breeds respect rather than enmity. A mountain climber does not hate the mountain that caused her so much pain. She reveres it, as much for its own awesome nature as for the transformed spirits of those who can reach its summit. Our communion with nature is not in seeking the shelter and warmth of a mother. It is to embrace the nostalgia of our trials as children. At a time when our minds were closer to our natural selves. And especially of the period when every new discovery revealed in some way the emerging reality that we could mold the world around us, and shape the consequences ahead of us. When a human being discovers that she can rely on her own self.

This is what nature offers to us, with its simplicity of purpose and unwavering indifference. We learn to turn inward towards the instincts that nature itself carved, alongside the canyons that whip across the land. And with them, we discover our own agency. For among the myriad marvels of nature, the greatest of them was to teach a thing to believe in itself, whether true or false, and from such miracles, we develop a self to rely upon. We are forced to reseek that primitive sense of discovery that comes from realizing what we can achieve when nothing else matters. That is the truest joy of visiting the outdoors, spending a night beneath the billions of shards of starlight, with the river's polyphonous monologue lulling us to sleep. It is in this world that we remember who we are, this world where we must be exactly what we are so that we can be exactly as we are.

Mike LinComment
Slice

As we walked towards the Spring St. uptown 6, we passed by a tall young man leaning against the matte green subway entrance railings. He pressed a small antique film camera up to his eye, stoic in the face of teaming pedestrians interrupting his line of sight. It wasn’t until after we’d walked past and hooked around to descend the staircase that I noticed the girl seated on the sill of a street-level door opposite the photographer. Her back was slouched against one side of the door casing while her thin legs were bent so her feet could rest against the opposite moulding, bracketing her crumpled body between the recessed architrave that hid her from the busy foot traffic just inches away. She held her phone casually in front of her face, elbows resting on her inclined thighs that flowed into two peaks of bare kneecaps exposed through the fraying tears of her black skinny jeans. She split her gaze between the phone screen and the camera lens, her fashionably waifish body in the practiced and aloof poise of an aspiring social media influencer, as if curling up in the early afternoon beside a shut door facing the sidewalk were some mundane SoHo pastime. We could only guess that it was a consensual photoshoot, though the voyeuristic gaze of strangers would probably not be far from the actual inspiration for the setup.

Down in the station, we swiped past the turnstiles and waited briefly behind the studded, taxi-yellow platform ledge before boarding the next 6 train. Stepping into the interior, we rode along in an older model car that had developed enough rust and grime on its metal trim that it would surely make any passenger who still remembered the novelty of that particular model’s introduction some thirty years ago feel irreversibly old. The train filled with more passengers at each stop, claiming its typical indeterminate mix of European and domestic tourists, Chinese immigrants, and passengers of various other ethnicities who all shared the defining weary mien of local New Yorkers. As the car filled with people, the pattering of their chatter grew like a rainstorm rolling in, until shortly after pulling away from one stop, a young and wholly innocuous passenger with a blocky frame and wearing a tattered baseball cap suddenly raised his voice above all the rest and began reciting a tragic plea for charity which outlined his desperate circumstance—all of which was prefaced by the admission of shame that some panhandlers lead with in order to imply some lack of familiarity with begging that would be more effective if it weren’t used so prevalently by so many panhandlers. And as usual, the shock of his sudden monologue commanded the attention of every passenger as they all fell quiet with the awkward silent deference people momentarily give to panhandlers in lieu of any actual charity or attention. But once the man had weaved his way unsteadily up the car and out the doors at the next station, the passengers surely and slowly resumed their prior conversations, putting the recent encounter with an uninvited reality behind them and gifting even the lone passengers on board a swift return to the inconsequential banter that works like novocaine against the unnerving self awareness of being intimately packed together with so many strangers.

We clattered up Manhattan’s east side, tolerating the frequent stops along the local route for the comfort of catatonic inattention, all the way up to the 68th St. station, where we finally disembarked and surfaced with a small group of other riders. A pair of young women preceded us and walked ahead as we stood pivoting around in search of the Central Park treeline, which happened to be in their same direction. As we began walking behind them, they stopped and spun around—two plainly pretty girls in their early twenties, lacking the subtle apathetic self-possession of New York natives, and one of whom was wearing a gray sweatshirt with Nantucket written across the chest in a heavy collegiate all caps slab font. They reversed course, and as we crossed paths, I overheard the girl in the Nantucket sweatshirt relay to her friend in disoriented frustration, That’s why I hate the subway.

Mike LinSliceComment
OPEN CONVO LAWS

 

INT. OFFICE LOBBY — DAY

A typical busy morning at a Manhattan office. Mounted on a wall is a TV airing cable news coverage.

REPORTER:

Officials continue to investigate the tragic events which unfolded yesterday at a New Jersey mall where a man opened dialogue with crowds of shoppers and engaged in civil debate. Reports estimate that close to 60 people were forced to listen to the mass-speaker before law enforcement intervened and ended his verbose rampage.

The president is set to make a speech tomorrow in the aftermath of what is looking to be the worst mass-speaking incident in the nation's history.

CUT TO

INT. OFFICE KITCHEN — DAY

A few co-workers are gathered around the coffee machine.

ARRIE:

God, can you believe the news.

ERIKA:

Ugh, I know. Such a tragedy.

ARRIE:

It’s like every season, we get one of these psychos.  

ERIKA:

Well, you know these mass-speakings aren’t even the worst of it. I read that every day, over 30 people are engaged in debate-related conversations, most of which disproportionately affect affluent urban areas.

SEAN:

Yea, and you just know nothing's going to be done about it. 

ARRIE:

It’s the National Forensic Association and all these debate lobbyists buying off Congress.

ERIKA:

Yea, but even if that weren’t the case, have you ever met one of these speech-advocates? They’re insane. You can’t talk to them about anything. The only solution they ever offer is to “give everyone easier access to quality educations so they can ‘defend their opinions’ in the event of an important discussion.”

SEAN:

God, that’s so true. I don’t understand why they can’t just buy a gun and settle their differences like the rest of us. It’s like arguing with people makes them feel important or something.

SEAN pulls out a 92FS handgun from behind his back and brandishes it casually in one hand while he sips his coffee from the other.

ERIKA:

Yea, probably trying to overcompensate for something—if you know what I mean. 

A fourth co-worker, CLARK, walks over to get some coffee.

CLARK:

Hey, what’s up guys?

ARRIE:

Nothing, just talking about how mass-speakings wouldn’t be an issue if everyone just had a gun.

CLARK:

Well, I mean, honestly though, you can’t solve the problem by forcing everyone to own a gun. This is a mental health issue. There are tons of law-abiding Americans who legally engage in debates every day.

ERIKA:

CLARK, are you messing with us right now?

SEAN:

Yea, man. Seriously. You sound like an NFA lobbyist. How much you getting paid to say that?

CLARK:

I’m just trying to have a serious discussion about a serious issue. Voicing your opinion is a Constitutional right protected under the First Amendment. You can’t just have the government force everyone to settle their arguments with guns. Do you seriously think that letting everybody walk around carrying firearms wherever they go solves anything?

SEAN:

Dude, calm down.

CLARK:

What? I am calm.

ERIKA:

Listen, CLARK, it’s whatever if you want to debate in private, but… you don’t—you don’t bring your arguments to work… do you?

CLARK:

Free speech laws make it perfectly legal for me to bring my opinions to work and express them in a civil manner. 

ARRIE:

Whoa, dude. You’re using a lot of rhetoric right now. 

CLARK:

I’m exercising my right to free speech.

ERIKA:

CLARK, you’re starting to scare me. 

CLARK:

How am I scaring you? Just because you don’t want to openly and honestly discuss an issue, you’re scared?

SEAN:

CLARK, stop. You’re at the office, man. You can’t just walk around speaking your mind like this.

CLARK:

Are you serious? It’s people like you who make it impossible to find a solution. If you think mandating guns will stop debates, you’re delusional.

ARRIE:

Dude. He’s going off the deep end. I think he’s getting ready to say something dangerous.

ARRIE pulls out his handgun and ERIKA follows suit. The three of them train their guns at CLARK. A crowd of other employees have begun to gather around the incident, some of them cowering, some of them with their hands covering their ears, some of them ready to draw their own guns.

ERIKA:

My god, CLARK. Please just calm down.

SEAN:

CLARK, I know things haven’t been great at home between you and Emily. I know work has been stressful lately. But you don’t have to do this. We don’t have to have this argument. 

CLARK:

What the fuck! I’m just trying to talk to you guys.

ARRIE:

What do we do? He’s trying to draw us into an argument. He’s not even hiding it anymore! 

ERIKA:

Just stop talking, CLARK. Stop trying to engage us!

CLARK:

You stop pointing your guns at me! I’m not the one in the wrong here! You—all of you–you’re the ones who are—

SEAN pulls the trigger on his handgun and shoots CLARK in the head. CLARK crumples onto the floor. SEAN is in shock.

SEAN:

Holy fuck.

ERIKA:

Oh my god. Oh my god.

ARRIE:

Jesus. Sean. You shot him.

SEAN:

Fuck.

ARRIE:

Dude. You saved us. He was about to start a discussion with the whole office. Y—you’re a hero.

The other employees start to applaud. A smile creeps over SEAN'S face.

MATCH CUT TO

INT. EXECUTIVE OFFICE — DAY

CLOSE-UP of SEAN as he sits in a large leather office chair, his head tilted back and his eyes closed. He’s moaning softly. His head jostles rhythmically. ZOOM OUT to slowly reveal SEAN in a nice looking suit, sitting behind an expensive desk, masturbating in his luxurious private office. An ornate gold name plate at the edge of his desk reads “Sean Porter III, President, National Rifle Association.” Suddenly, the phone rings. He answers.

SEAN:

What?!

ASSISTANT:

Hi, Mr. Porter. Sorry to bother you, but I have Senator Klein on the line asking about a donation to his re-election campaign.

SEAN:

Ugh! Fine. Put him through.

 

Mike LinComment