Lots of people I know have declared 2016 the worst dumpster fire of a year since the beginning of time, or at least since 1914 or maybe 1347. The reasons for this seem to involve Brexit and lots of famous people dying. Also adding to the sense of doom is the election of Trump, a socially liberal, isolationist blowhard who talks a lot of shit. Americans aren’t used to politicians talking shit that doesn’t involve pleasant lies about policy. It’s been a long time since Andrew Jackson. Frankly, Lyndon Johnson was way worse than Trump in terms of saying really gross things, but he said them during a time when the press was more restrained and didn’t report that the President was pretty much the sort of man you would throw out of your house before dessert was served. Aiding his legacy is that the recordings of him berating his tailor because his pants crowded his balls didn’t come out until after he died. I mean seriously, had smart phones existed in the 1960s, many Twitter pundits would have died from exhaustion reacting to Johnson pissing in a washbowl in front of his secretary as she took dictation or using racist epithets as he farted audibly during discussions about The Great Society.
I don’t mean to seem flippant because I know a lot of people seem to be very afraid of Trump and I don’t want to mock genuine fear. Most of those people are very young and don’t remember the continual fear of nuclear war during the Reagan administration. Some were children when the Twin Towers fell, creating a fear of Islam that replaced temporarily a fear of Russia, so all of this is new to them. Of course Trump is a terrible choice to lead America. But so was Hillary Clinton. At some point all elections force us to choose between either an unqualified person who says terrible things about grabbing genitals while berating fat women, or a person who really wants to go to war with Russia and compromised national security when a lanky Australian wiener got into her e-mail. Anyone who really feels either side in the recent election would have done a radically better job than the other is either in their 20s or became completely lost online and didn’t mean to read this entry. But all of this is my way of saying that we survived Nixon, we survived Reagan, we survived Millard-fucking-Fillmore. We’ll survive Trump, there will be no genocide of whatever group is most upset, at worst he’ll quit or be promptly impeached and we’ll be stuck with Pence until the 2020 Democratic candidate inevitably defeats him. Then we’ll have neo-cons threatening to come to Texas and secede from the USA. Again.
But even though Bowie and Prince and Carrie Fisher all died, even though an unqualified and gross dude is gonna be in charge of my country soon, my 2016 wasn’t all bad. It was a biochemically difficult time – I tried to wean myself off sleep meds, with plenty of medical supervision, and still I failed. My year was spent in a vague, depressive state. Not despairing – just muffled and incoherent. I’ve been absent mentally since 2013, since my mother told me she was dying. She then spent a year dying, then we spent a year coping with the fact she died. Then I tried to detox and sleep naturally despite my REM disorder, and here we are. It was bad losing my mother, of course, but even so I expected it and dealt with it, as well as everything else that came my way. Yet it seems like the last four years passed in a couple of months. Time is rushing to an end for me in a way I never thought could happen. All those older people who told me that time would eventually accelerate were right. Time is off in the distance. I can almost see it. But it runs faster than I can and one day I won’t be able to see it all.
This is a moment we all will have. That realization that we have reached the age when there is no more time for fucking around. You simply cannot waste anymore time. You cannot give into weakness. You can’t sit in a near-fugue state, babying your brain during a bad REM cycle, reading conspiracy theory online rather than books written by some of the greatest minds ever to live. You can’t watch the same comforting television show in a loop instead of writing your books, instead of reacting to the great books you read. You can no longer wait for things to get better before you begin to accomplish your life’s work. The time you have now is the time you must use as it happens, while you can see it, before it outruns you at last. You cannot risk wasting another day because years pass in a month and what will you have done at the end?
That’s where I am right now. I have goals for 2017, none of which I will share because resolutions at the New Year are lies until you make them real and I am tired of lying to myself. But maybe some of my goals will be evident to those who read here.
I’ve been listening to Amorphis’ album Under a Red Cloud a lot lately. The song “Sacrifice” means a lot to me (and the way Tomi Joutsen pronounces “treasure” triggers my echolalia like mad, which is strangely comforting as I mutter “trezshure” to myself) but lately “Death of a King”* has resonated with me because it, in a mythic and grandiose way, explores the revelation I had recently.
You will stand there amidst silence
In the void of endless winter
On the ice of an unknown lake
There you will meet yourself
There you’ll weigh your crown
On the ice of the lake of death
On the mirror of time
It’s Scandinavian metal so it’s a bit melodramatic but, as I’m fond of saying, everyone’s life is melodramatic. We all live epic lives even as we nestle into suburbs and live quietly. Against terrible odds, sperm met ovum and we happened, we managed to be born, we survived all sorts of modern predations and we are here. There is a reason for that. Some think that reason is God, or god, or gods. Some have kids, some have important jobs, but at the end we all are our own Sovereigns and we will weigh our crowns, our works, and even if there no Heaven at the end, there will come a moment before we die when we see that scale, and we will see our life laid before us, and woe betide us if the arm bearing our crown doesn’t move before our eyes close.
Yeah, yeah, melodramatic. But I’ve lost close to four years and my branch of the Dalton family tree is not long lived. My father died 22 years short of the national average, my mother 13 years short. If I follow the trend, I really cannot afford to lose any more time.
That’s what I’ve been doing since around September. Contemplating the day I take off my crown, gathering the mental energy to make sure that when I take it off the accounting of my life will be worth the dozens and dozens of ancestors who lived and died and got me here. My branch of the Dalton tree ends with me. I can’t rely on continuation of my DNA into further untold generations to add weight to my life.
I wonder if that is what middle age is – the real gut punch of knowing you will one day die and that these blocks of time you waste may be held against you when it comes time to add up sums. If 2017 ends up being a year that is not lost to me as the recent past has been, 2016, the year I became aware of how flimsy my crown is, will have been a very good year.
*I don’t know why in the video the guitar player is forced to use an electric guitar for the intro instead of using a sitar and swapping out as the song progresses. I also feel I should mention the conversation Mr OTC and I had when I played this song in the car one day.
“So the singer can actually sing. He has a good voice,” he said when the song reached the chorus.
“Yeah, he does sing well,” I replied.
“Then why does he waste time doing that hollering, growling noise.”
Because metal, my dear husband. Because metal.
3 thoughts on “2017: Preparing to Weigh My Crown”
I can’t say my own 2016 was bad either. Bad things happened, but I’ve had much worse years.
That’s some good perspective on Trump. I don’t like the man at all, but I find the idea that he’s the second coming of Hitler to be rather ridiculous.
I listened to that song you linked. I liked it a lot especially considering I just can’t get into most most metal these days.
I hope 2017 is a better year and that you’re around for a much longer!
OMG Ben, I am so glad you commented because it jogged my memory! Remember back around Halloween when you recommended the weird YouTube video series “meat sleep” for me to check out?
Well, I did and I fell into a rabbit hole. Bear with me as I explain.
There is this former Something Awful employee who was also a cartoonist and animator of some small renown. He evidently is very strange. He claims he is a transwoman, wears a yarn wig and speaks in a permanent falsetto voice he adopted 10 years ago that makes him sound like Minnie Mouse. He had a schizophrenic girlfriend who supported him and observed a lot of his odd behaviors. Anticipating her decision to leave him, he withheld her psych meds and recorded a ten minute audio of him goading her into a meltdown, thinking that would show how crazy she is should she ever decide to leave. If he proved she’s nuts, he figured no one would ever believe anything she would have to say.
Well, she left, he posted it, she ended up in a psych ward then moved home to her parents. Once her dust settled, she defended herself. That audio clip led to a site called Kiwi Farms (which some say is the devil but really it’s a place that mocks ridiculous people of all stripes, including genuine Nazis, left-wing extremists, MRAs, Tumblr weirdos, racists, sexual deviants and on and on – if you behave like a lunatic online, they mock you) digging up information on the cartoonist, a dude called David Kelly, who went by the name Schmorky.
The thread uncovered all sorts of unsettling stuff about Schmorky. Then the ex-girlfriend showed up and shared lots of even more unsettling information about Schmorky, much of which has been confirmed by third parties, like he has spent over a decade writing diaper fur/piss enthusiast cartoons about sheep using a female persona. It’s all very salacious and absorbing if you’re sleep deprived and find really foul people irresistibly interesting.
But here’s the part you and others who occasionally sleep may find interesting: the girlfriend also claimed that Schmorky was one of the people involved in the “meat sleep” videos. That’s how I found the Kiwi Farms site and the David Kelly discussion in particular. I was insomniac surfing again and remembered “meat sleep” and looked into it.
Have a look and see what you think of her explanations:
And here’s to 2017 being a great year for us all! A great, weird, interesting year!
It was a few years ago when the thought of my mortality really started to consume me. I mean it’s not like it’s new news that you’re going to die someday. But as you get older the idea becomes less and less abstract. And one day you realize that you have fewer years ahead of you than behind. My father died when he was 65. On the other hand, my mother is still around at 75, and my grandparents all lived until almost 90. So, optimistically, I could have 40 more years. Or fewer than 20. Of course genetics is just one factor in determining your probable lifespan, but I can’t help using it as a gauge. Thinking about having maybe 15 years left is scary as hell to me. It doesn’t seem like very much time at all, especially if you feel like you’ve frittered away most of your life not accomplishing much of what you wanted to.