Celebrating My Hekoya Nature

A friend told me today about the Native American archetype of hekoya. He described it as, “When the crowd goes right, the hekoya goes left.”[1]

[1]: (Wikipedia’s further description: The heyókȟa is a kind of sacred clown… [that] symbolizes and portrays many aspects of the sacred beings… [their] satire presents important questions by fooling around. They ask difficult questions, and say things others are too afraid to say. Their behavior poses questions as do Zen koans. By reading between the lines, the audience is able to think about things not usually thought about, or to look at things in a different way.)

In the spirit of the hekoya, I shall now celebrate my oddness. Here are things that I did today [well, yesterday as of posting this] that are completely reasonable and yet most people might find odd. Go, verily, and lead a more satisfying life:

  1. Drove 4hrs with a dear friend who dropped me off and then immediately hightailed her way back, thinking little of the gift. (As she described it, “I have a lot of books [to listen to on the drive]”). 
  2. Moved a bed into a closet and hung blackout curtains so I can sleep at my parents’ place in complete darkness.
  3. Bought a 65” flat-screen TV for my parents’ house, which I will only be in for ~2 months. (Gotta make your space your own!)
  4. Thought that buying a TV was weird (this thinking is perhaps more weirder than the buying… as I have never bought a TV. The only TV I have ever owned was an inherited little 15-inch doohickey installed by the guy who built out my camper van. (He used it, I assume, when he lived in the van. I used it a total of 3 times… ever… and it was… fine.). 

Pics of my new closet-room:

Now go, my children, and be the hekoya you were always meant to be.*

*: Most of you were not meant to be hekoya. Tough titties. It’s fuckin’ great.

Telos as a concept is limited.

Telos as a concept is limited. It is a very good concept, don’t get me wrong–but it’s limited in much the same ways that other philosophies of frequently-lauded dead white me have been limited. It’s by-and-large never been questioned. At least I never read something that questioned it in my study of Aristotle while majoring in Philosophy at Yale, so I can assume that questioning, if it exists, is not part of the basic canon of education. But telos is limited. And it’s very important that it’s limited. And here’s why:

Telos means “the aim of a thing”. The telos of a knife is to cut. The telos of a physician is to heal people (or keep them healthy). That parenthetical is the point. The fact is the telos of a physician is somewhat more complicated than the telos of a knife. A knife is obviously for cutting. But what about two knives put together—scizzors[1]: what are they for? Are they for cutting, too? What about slicing? What about unscrewing a screw when you have a pair of scizzors and a screw that they would fit and no screwdriver? Scizzors have many uses, as does a knife, as does a physician. And most problems are scizzor problems, not knife problems. Here’s why:

There is physics and there is culture. Physics (okay, math) is the root of the universe. It’s what exists and how they interact. (Chemistry, biology, existing metaphysics—these are under that category of “physics” too). Everything else is created by humans. It’s culture. It’s rules we made up. And by gum, most of the time we’re living in that second world. Most of the time—almost every second of every day we’re thinking about a topic that has nothing to do with the limitations of the physical world and everything to do with what that person thinks of us. With whether that person did something unacceptable… not unacceptable physically, but unacceptable socially. See: we made the rules.

We made the rules… and they’re restrictive. Because when you operate from a Telos-centric place, you see solutions to problems. You don’t see existence. You see a physician and you think “a healer”, but you don’t see that she’s also a mother and an exhausted human being and a republican and a dog-lover. You don’t see that she’s made of organ tissue herself that is deteriorating over time and will one day die.[2] You just see a tool with the purpose “to heal”.

And yes, if she’s not a competent physician, she shouldn’t act as a physician. But that’s the point: being a physician is acting. It’s pretending. It’s putting on a role, and that role is your telos.

We use “telos” to communicate the specific solution of a specific problem. But humans and experiences are so much more. We’re vastly complicated organisms wandering around incredibly intricate social structures, and seeing other people as specific teloses is bad. It’s damaging. It’s dangerous. It’s unethical.

I would quote Kant here but I hate Kant because he was generally wrong (at least his most famous things), but there’s a Kant quote here, and a Jesus quote here and a quote that we teach kids that would apply here too. There’s an explanation for some of the cruelty of slavery and why we use the word “dehumanizing” in some of our most terrible ethical contexts. Because people are people, not tools. And animals are animals, not tools, too. So when we treat them as though they have a specific telos, with little regard for the other aspects of them, it’s cruel. And megalomaniacal. And paternalistic. And harmful. You can’t know the utility of another person, nor can you know their utility function (what makes them happy/sad/fulfilled/etc.) And that cruelty/megalomania/paternalism is something we’re seeing manifest in our lives these days. And it’s sad. And painful. And sad. And inaccurate, which is the worst of all of those issues because it’s the inaccuracy that causes all those issues. 

So what do we do? We try to take a wider approach. One of the correct Buddhist teachings (i.e. an accurate statement about the world) is that you’d probably benefit from metacognating. From noticing your thoughts and how they move. From seeing how the world actually *is* more frequently, and seeing the world how you *imagine it to be* less frequently.

So try it. See people as hammers. Notice while you do. Notice what it’s like to see that barista as a coffee-maker. Feel what it feels like. Ask yourself how much you like it and whether it makes the world closer to the sort of world you want to live in.

And then take the other, as just as fair, and having perhaps the better claim, because it is grassy and wanting wear… and that will make all the difference.

(Tl;dr: Use telos for objects, don’t use it for people. And when you use it for objects, start with the goal in mind, then see what’s around you. Or better yet, hold your goals very gently as you go enjoyably slowly through the world.)

[1] I spell this word the way it should be spelled.

[2] Proofreader’s comment: “This is why I think everyone of sound mental capacities should do a cadaver lab.”

A Cool Piece of Interactive Art

I saw this piece of interactive art on the streets of SF (you can visit it yourself: it’s on the even side of the 800 block of Duncan – between 814 and 892 Duncan St, San Francisco, CA 94131) & left a note asking the creator if they had thought about vandalism before creating the art. They hollered back with some pics and their musings – you can find those both below!

A Chaotic Neutral Grocery List

A Chaotic Neutral Grocery List

  • Peachy-O’s stuck to the points on an aloe 
  • Hot Wheels cars joined as a bathroom mat
  • Cigarettes before bed, but not after sex
  • Cats in tiny bikinis 
  • Ringing the doorbell instead of calling upon arrival 
  • Toe socks*
  • Thinly veiled criticism 
  • Mr. Pibb instead of Dr. Pepper 
  • Not complimenting another drunk girl in the bathroom 
  • Arguments with your mom but not with your lover
  • “Enjoy your meal!” and responding “you too.” 

*Remind Chaotic Evil to pick up toe shoes

This guest post brought to you by Maggie “Maximal Awesomeness” Harper.

Two Delightful Ditties

I started a writing group. It was awesome. In our first meeting, we completed three 10 minute writing sprints, each followed by responses from peers. Here, my delightful darlings, you may find two of those creations:

Prompt 1: Picture an object from your childhood. Write something involving or inspired by it. 

I’m two years old and in a swing. A duck swing. A goofy, yellow duck swing. My sister stands behind me, pushing. I don’t have a fond memory of this first memory of my life but hey, isn’t that fitting for a constructed memory? See: 

I don’t actually remember being in that swing. I don’t feel my sister standing over me. I don’t feel what it’s like to be bald and big-eyed and have my lips puff out like Alec Baldwin doing a Trump impression. I can’t. It’s not a real memory. It’s a memory of a picture my mother (father?) took. A picture I’ve seen countless times and incorporated so much into my being it’s become what feels like my earliest memory. 

I feel sad when I think about it. 

It feels like the outside looking in, interposing on me in a nonconsentual way. Like we’re born and we die and in the middle we waffle around, buffetted and muffeted and ruffeted and scuffed by those bigger or stronger or wiser or older or first. Just first. Because first isn’t even a legitimate benefit. First is just first. It’s born at the right time or the right place or to the right sister or parents. And that reminds me of the melencholy in the world and that makes me sad.

I look back to that picture—that swing where I’m dangling form the ceiling, suspended in some ridiculous duck swing and I’m reminded no person is alone. No one is an individual. No being lives in true isolation. 

Still, at least I was supported. 

Prompt 2: Remember a time something made you angry. Like a 6 out of ten. Dial it up to an 8. Now a 9. Now a 4. What would it be like to live life feeling that level of angry in that situation instead?

“What is sanity?” The blue shrimp told me. 

It was tuesday, and tuesday is when the existentialists meet. 

“I don’t know, but he does,” he replied. 

“You can’t reply to yourself,” I told him, “It’s against the rules” and that’s when it 

broke. 

It shattered to tatters as my grey matter splattered. 

What’s it like to be an honest orange? 

How do orangutans pick a hand? 

What’s a perspective and how does it–? 

Can I please have another? or another? Or a hug. 

I don’t find myself flying most of the time. 

I don’t find myself crying most of the time. 

The words come in and I grasp what I can. 

Most tunas escape their captors. All salmon some day die. 

“This got weird”, I want to say, but then you’ll know that I could’ve stopped it, 

and we forgive those that can’t help it while

lighting aflame those that can. 

What is responsibility? 

What is it to be mean? 

Two Terrific Ten-minute Jottings

Dr. Seuss on Breakups

One sheet, two sheet, three sheet, four.

Slam that paper to the floor.

Rip it, tear it, burn it good.

Light it up as though it’s wood.


As you hear the crackling flames,

As you feel the warm remains,

Eyes reflect the flickering embers,

Spleen and liver scarce remember…


What he did to break your heart,

How you swooned back at the start,

How you cried o’er these letters,

Before he ripped your heart to fetters.


Now kiss all the gifts he gave.

Rub your cheek and feel his shave.

Toss this bear into the fire.

Hear it roar like your desire.


You may feel crick in your neck,

Weighty eyes as though you’ve wept

Tickling soft palate above your tongue,

Ringing ears as you’ve been wrung.


All these wants, stuffed in your mind,

Salty-sweet of love unkind,

Prickling poke of lover’s yoke,

Brilliant blaze, gone up in smoke. 

A Humorous Happening

“I did not knot the naughty Norwegian nurse, nay!” I say to the barrister as she lifts her haughty head higher, sliding her specs down her protruberant and bulbous nose. I wish to honk that nose and I know that she knows that I know she knows it!

“But sir,” the barrister bellows in a reedy, sinewy snarl, “You were locked in her chambers, the only one!”

I snort and hock a particularly phlegm-filled hunk of malevolent mucus into the bin.

“And I’ll have some decorum in my courtroom!”

“Awright,” I relent, congealing into the visage of an upstanding citizen. “I’ll take you there: see, the shipmate and I had spied a trifle of glinting gold in that there stowhole not two days prior to her nursehood’s ‘napping. An’ we, ‘aving ‘eard of ‘er reluctance to part with treasures, either internal or ex-, went a-sniffing our way ‘round the floorboards above, where the bilge’d been spilt and reeking and rotting salty sea water only a few days prior. So the mate, ‘e says to me, ‘why don’t ye stick yer wooden leg under that there board and heave to with yer hips and cascade it over, lettin’ us shimmy downward into Her Highness’s quarters and ransacking her all good ’n’ proper?’ Only that cankered, leprosy-ridden, flea-infested mate sneaks down ‘imself and grabs the gold and hoists ‘imself back up, only to push me down into the hole myeself, to be caught by yer most High and Honorable lawmen!” 

Eery comparison…

Cops in 1974 vs today:

I suppose I had implicitly assumed that things had dramatically improved in every area over the last 45 years…

Today in Music.

In which I attempt to play the intro to Thunder Road on Harmonica (I do not yet play the harmonica), do a poor, shrill, and off-key impression of Bruce Springsteen, and snuggle quietly with the dog.
(Also, at the end, the song ends rather abrup

Notes to readers:

  • If you have a harmonica in the key of F, play along.

Notes to self:

  • Yes, I always knew I was going to be famous.
  • Yes, I posted these in part to inoculate myself against public mockery and to get comfortable with being emotionally authentic in public.

Jaywalking & You: A Guide

This is not a guide to jaywalking. It’s a humorous story; I lied.

Now that I’ve got your attention, please enjoy this anecdote. ‘Twas written by a dear friend of mine, Archibald Smittens*, who is a real person** who actually exists***.

*: Not his real name.

**: Not true.

***: Censors have attempted to verify this for years. None have, as yet, returned alive.

[Your Humble Editor also feels obligated to preface by saying that the low-fat version of cream cheese DOES NOT taste the same. He does not wish to spread such malicious lies. Anyway, without further ado…]

3 Perspectives on Jaywalking

Perspective 1:

The red hand. Just great.

9:27—three minutes left. The coffee shop’s only what? three, four blocks away? I can still make it…

The woman next to me just quickly skimmed the empty road and then jaywalked. More like a leisurely jay-stroll. What’s she thinking? Back home, no one would ever do that. Ma would’ve killed me. It was either jaysprint or jaysplat.

Still no cars, and that red hand’s still there.

Well, maybe it is time for a jaysprint.

But I’m in a suit; that’d look weird…right?

Middle-aged guy checks his watch, gulps down a half-chewed bite of bagel, and then rushes across the street. Didn’t even look both ways. Actually looked kinda cool doing it.

Well, until he dropped the bagel.

Maybe I should bolt across too. Like one of those guys from the movies.

Oof, curbside puddle. Just great.

Ah a dry patch. Perfect.

Wait.

Who am I kidding. I can’t.

My foot returns to the curb, defeated.

The empty road stares back.

Maybe… Just maybe…

My foot lifts off again.

Maybe just this once…

And the red hand turns into the white man.

Oh well. Right. Left. Empty road.

At least, Ma’d be proud.

Perspective 2:

Damn good bagel today. Think I’m gonna stick with this low fat stuff. Tastes pretty much the same as the regular cream cheese.

Countdown stops. But that stupid hand’s still there.

Chunks getting stuck in my teeth? Gotta check before I walk in the office.

Oh wow, now dumbass over here walks across the intersection. No hesitation. No urgency either. The hell’s wrong with her?

No cars out there, but seriously, lady? Can’t wait like two goddamn seconds for this light?

What’s the deal huh? Late or something? What’s the time anyways?

It’s only 9:28. Really? C’mon lady?

9:28!

Shit! Move people, move!

Yeesh. Took ya long enou—

Shit! No time to pick it up.

Perspective 3:

Red.

Right. Left. No cars.

Let’s go.

I’ve always wanted to be Ellen. (A Crowdsourced Poem.)

Poems should have hyperlinks. This poem does.

Poems should give their readers commenting access.

This poem does.

Go. Read. Comment. Be merry.

Get in on the ground floor

because baby, we changin’ literature.

#Digitalism. <-Our new literary movement.