“What’s Wrong With Dying?”

“But what’s wrong with dying?” I asked a fan of the ‘end-to-ageing’ movement.  And the question led to this TEDxSeattle talk, where I explore what it’d really be like to live forever.  I swear it’s the last TED talk I’ll do (too hard on both time and the nerves), but it’s probably the most fun one (the audience laughing so much I began laughing along with them, which is a strict TED no-no).

And now, time to knuckle down and find out if I can write the new book I’m thinking of writing and truly don’t know if I can write, which is why I’m not talking about it yet…

 

The Poem That Stopped Me Crying

I hated the tears.  Hated the helplessness of them. Two weeks after the U.S. election, and they were still coming. And then a friend emailed me saying “I’d love to treat you to a poem just written by a brilliant young woman I know.”

It was signed only with initials: e.c.c.  I had no idea who e.c.c. was. But I knew the moment I saw the first lines that this what I needed. Enough with the tears. This spirited slam poem had me cheering. It’s what got me moving again.

REVENGE

Since you mention it, I think I will start that race war.

I could’ve swung either way, but now I’m definitely spending
the next 4 years converting your daughters to lesbianism;
I’m gonna eat all your guns. Swallow them lock stock and barrel
and spit bullet casings onto the dinner table;

I’ll give birth to an army of mixed-race babies
with fathers from every continent and genders to outnumber the stars
My legion of multiracial babies will be intersectional as fuck
and your swastikas will not be enough to save you,

because real talk, you didn’t stop the future from coming.
You just delayed our coronation.
We have the same deviant haircuts we had yesterday;
we are still getting gay-married like nobody’s business
because it’s still nobody’s business;
there’s a Muslim kid in Kansas who has already written the schematic
for the robot that will steal your job in manufacturing.
And that robot? Will also be gay, so get used to it:

we didn’t manifest the mountain by speaking its name,
the buildings here are not on your side just because
you make them spray-painted accomplices.
These walls do not have genders and they all think you suck.
Even the earth found common ground with us in the way
you bootstrap across us both.

Oh yeah: there will be signs, and rainbow-colored drum circles,
and folks arguing ideology until even I want to punch them
but I won’t, because they’re my family,
in that blood-of-the-covenant sense.
If you’ve never loved someone like that
you cannot outwaltz us, we have all the good dancers anyway.

I’ll confess I don’t know if I’m alive right now;
I haven’t heard my heart beat in days,
I keep holding my breath for the moment the plane goes down
and I have to save enough oxygen to get my friends through.
But I finally found the argument against suicide and it’s us.
We’re the effigies that haunt America’s nights harder
the longer they spend burning us,
we are scaring the shit out of people by spreading,
by refusing to die: what are we but a fire?
We know everything we do is so the kids after us
will be able to follow something towards safety;
what can I call us but lighthouse,

Of course I’m terrified. Of course I’m a shroud.
And of course it’s not fair but rest assured,
anxious America, you brought your fists to a glitter fight.
This is a taco truck rally and all you have is cole slaw.
You cannot deport our minds; we won’t
hold funerals for our potential. We have always been
what makes America great.

And who is e.c.c?  She’s Elisa Chavez, co-organizer of the Rain City Slam. Three weeks later, she’d bring down the house at Town Hall Seattle with her performance of this poem, doing for 900 others what she did for me. And yes, I post the poem here with her permission, in the hope that it does for you what it did for me as we move into the New Year: with spirit, with resolve, and dammit, with joy. — Lesley


 

Talking About Soul at TED

Just posted on YouTube:  my TEDSummit talk on what we really talk about when we talk about soul.
This was in Banff, in June, and here it is, unedited.  Which I love, because you get to see it raw, gaffes and all:

And yes, of course, if the spirit takes you (as it were), share and pass it on!

‘Healing’? No Way.

What American voters did this week is obscene.

But no, it did not come as a surprise.  A shock, yes, to see it actually unfold.  But a surprise, no.  It’s not as though the short history of democracy has always favored the angels.  Or as though the human capacity for resentment, bigotry, and sheer dumbness is any less than it always has been.  Or as though people ever tell the truth to pollsters.

But still, we hoped that sanity would prevail.  And for now, that hope is shattered.

Here in Seattle, we’re a deep blue island on the edge of a vast ocean of red.  There’s a heavy silence in the air,  as though the whole city is in mourning.  And indeed that’s the word I keep hearing.  Take the time to mourn so that we can recover from the shock, we’re told.  Work our way through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief.  “Heal.”

Humbug, more like it.  We’re being psycho-babbled into resignation.

Those five stages of grief?  They’re denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

But I am not in denial.  I will make no bargains with monstrosity.  I totally refuse the luxury of depression or despair.  And please just pull the plug on me if I ever accept this vile travesty of a human being as the 45th president of the United States.

That leaves anger.  And this is not a comfortable place to be.  Anger eats at you; it’s toxic.  But then that is the hallmark of the man who is now the president-elect.

I’ve felt that toxicity seeping into me over the past few months.  Felt my temper shortening;  my tolerance for disagreement diminishing;  my language  — as a writer! — reduced to spitting, spluttering outrage.

Sounds like I could do with some healing?  No.  Please don’t even think of telling me that this is the time for that.  Try telling it to the people who will now methodically dismantle every step towards progress made over the past eight years.  Go ahead, just try.  They’re laughing at you already.

Which leaves the option of… leaving.  We joked about that.  Canada, Costa Rica, Iceland, Malta, New Zealand?  We amused ourselves by toying with possibilities in after-dinner conversation, indulged in fantasy, knowing — or thinking we knew — that it would never come to that.

And it hasn’t.  Because I’m damned if I’ll leave.  Damned if I’ll give up.  Damned if I’ll be driven out by bigotry and stupidity.

I will stay.  We all will — all the plurality of voters who saw a Democrat win the popular vote but lose the election for the second time in twenty years.

We, the majority, will take this country back again.  And if the price to be paid is years of anger, I for one am willing to pay it.  Because while anger may be toxic, resignation is far more so.

Resignation only enables foulness.  And for those who give in to it, it erodes self-respect, and leads to the paralysis of helplessness, even of despair.   We can afford none of that.

The United States has elected bad presidents before, and we have paid the price in what is monstrously called “blood and treasure” — as have others.  But never has as god-awful a candidate as this one been elected.  So the very least we owe ourselves — and others —  is to dig our heels in, do our damnedest to limit the damage, and however long it takes, make sure it never happens again.

Psychopath, Defined

dt

The word “psychopath” gets tossed around a lot.

So it occurred to me to check out how it’s defined in psychiatry.

I began with this piece in ‘Psychology Today,’ and went on to check out the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R) and the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI).

Here are the chief 15 psychiatric symptoms, every one of which is markedly present in the Republican nominee for president of the United States:

1. Callousness

2. Absence of remorse or shame

3. Externalization of blame

4. Glibness

5. Conning others for personal profit or pleasure

6. Outlandish lying

7. Grandiose sense of self-worth

8. Boastfulness

9. Pathological egocentricity

10. Inability to modulate responses

11. Parasitic lifestyle

12. Low tolerance for frustration

13. High irritability

14. High aggressiveness

15. Indifference to plans

Here is what amazes me:  A presidential candidate displays every sign of psychopathy.  That is, of a severe and dangerous personality disorder.  Every single sign.  He is, in fact, a classic case.  And yet so far as I know, no psychiatrist has yet said this publicly.

President Obama just called Trump “unfit” to serve as president.  That’s a gentle word.  “Unfit” could mean simply unsuited, or not a good fit.  But what it really means, in  this case, is sick.

It’s rather like the emperor’s new clothes, isn’t it?  The Republican nominee shows every sign of being in dire need of psychiatric treatment.  And yet nobody says so.