Untitled Psych Story
Francis is at the inch-thick bulletproof window in his room, chewing on his earplugs, watching the thunder shower assault the inlaid bricks of the walkway below. He’s been at Stone Brook Psychiatric Center for three days now, although he doesn’t know it.
The man who knows sits outside Francis’ door with a clipboard on his lap. His name doesn’t matter to Francis, me, or you.
“Hey, Frank, please don’t eat your ear plugs,” the man says with little emotion.
You see, at Stone Brook, eating your ear plugs is of little consequence. The man has seen worse- much worse. Especially from Francis, who, as you may have already noticed, actually goes by Frank; or at least that’s what most people call him, except for the fat nurse, she always calls him Frankie.
Francis or Frank, whichever you prefer, hates being called Frankie. I can tell. He hasn’t said more than a mumble since he got here, but I can still tell. Even if he told her, she wouldn’t care. She laughs everything off like it’s a big joke. I once saw her laugh at a girl who’d just cut her wrists all up with a broken DVD. The DVD was about how to handle stress, so I guess it was a little funny, but that’s not the point. It wouldn’t have mattered, she still would have laughed. When she does laugh, she always grabs her grotesquely enormous tits, which, if it were the cute, redheaded nurse, or even the short one with the raspy voice, I would think is sexy, but when she does it, all I want to do is kill her. Then again, I want to kill everyone. According to my chart, I’m basically a homicidal maniac. I’m not of course, but my invisible bunny is. That’s just a joke. I joke around a lot. I’m actually a pretty funny guy.
Today is Monday and all the big shots are showing up for the day. Like most mornings, I’m hanging around the payphone near the nursing station so I can eavesdrop on their secret plans. Some of them notice me and close the nursing station door, which is absurd because I can still see and hear them over the counter of the station next to the door. None of them have the balls to say anything to me. I’m built like a bulldog and I don’t take kindly to, what they call, “redirection”. The last guy who tried to redirect me away from the payphone ate part of my fist when I broke the receiver across his face. It was too bad, really, because I sort of liked that guy. They close the door because they are afraid of me. And, since I’m crazy and all, I suppose they have a right to be. I’d be afraid of me too.
Fear the Dragon
There once was a small town surrounded by a forest of birch trees. None of the townspeople had ever gone beyond the birches, for it was rumored a dragon lived there and would promptly eat anyone caught trespassing on his land. The small town did well for itself. Trade was good, people were healthy, and life was peaceful and satisfying.
A young boy was busy splitting wood one day when a crow came and perched atop his woodpile. “Surely you do not believe a dragon lives beyond these woods,” said the crow to the boy, who became a bit startled and stopped his laboring, as it was not a normal occurrence for a crow to speak in such a way.
“I believe it as truly as I believe you spoke to me just now,” said the boy.
“Well,” said the crow, “then isn’t it possible there is just as good of a chance that the dragon does not exist?”
The boy resumed chopping. “I haven’t the time for this quibbling.”
There was a short silence, and then the crow spoke again, as he was fond of doing so. “What if I could guide you safely to the outer rim of the forest and prove the dragon to be a myth?”
The boy paused for a moment to think. “Simply the absence of the dragon in one spot would prove nothing. Who is to say the dragon would not be at some other place?” The boy tossed two pieces of freshly cut timber on the pile.
The crow took flight, and after a bit of angry squawking, settled back on his perch. “Foolish boy, what proof do you have of the dragon’s existence?”
“Such a small creature should not question such great things,” said the boy, “but since you have the persistence of a whining mosquito, I will explain.”
The crow swooped down from the woodpile and sat attentively upon his haunches on the chopping block.
“Each fall the dragon’s breath scorches the leaves, and the forest is stripped of everything green.”
The crow rolled his eyes. “It is but Mother Nature who does such things, but go on.”
The boy continued as though the crow had said nothing, “Then, in winter, the dragon can be heard creeping in the forest, snapping and cracking branches as he goes.”
“It is but a bitter frost that causes such sounds, foolish child.”
The boy raised the ax above his head. “Brave words for a crow on a chopping block.”
The crow stood. “But wait! What does the dragon do now during the summer?”
The boy thought for a moment. “I don’t know. Sleeps, I suppose.”
The crow spread his wings and shrugged. “Then why not take a walk with me around the outer rim of the forest, and if there is a dragon, he will be asleep anyhow.”
The boy paced the yard in contemplation. “All right, I will go with you, but on one condition.”
“Yes, yes,” said the crow, impatiently.
“If we find a sleeping dragon, you must agree to be my pet from this day forward.”
The crow crossed his wings. “I’ve never heard such an absurd proposition, but I agree, on the condition that if we find no dragon, you must be my pet.”
The boy chuckled. What would a crow want with a boy?
The two hiked through the forest until they reached the outer rim. Vistas of rolling hills spread out as far as the eye could see. The boy made a mark on one of the trees, and the two set off across the hills until they came upon the mark again.
“Well,” said the crow, “it looks as though you shall be my pet.”
“I shall be no such thing,” cried the boy, and he ran into the forest.
The crow, although upset, came to enjoy the rolling hills and soon made himself at home.
Summer passed, and with the return of fall came the dragon, who, upon finding the crow nesting in his territory, became very upset and ate him.
Years passed and the boy became a man. The man retold his account of the outer rim to the townspeople many times and eventually all fear of the dragon left their hearts.
“It is but Mother Nature who does such things and causes such sounds,” they came to say.
One summer, they cleared the birch forest and settled among the rolling hillside. Summer passed, and with the return of fall came the dragon, who, upon finding the townspeople in his territory, became furious, burned their dwellings to the ground, and ate them—all but one.
The dragon towered over the cowering man. “Come closer and listen to my words,” he said to the man. The man trembled and dropped to his knees. The dragon lowered his massive head until the heat from his nostrils singed the man’s skin. “Travel due west 131 miles as the crow flies and find the forest of maples. Share with the townspeople there what you have witnessed here. Leave no doubt in their minds that I exist.”
Nothing but The
There once was a single sheet of parchment with a single word upon it: Truth. The word was written in black ink with a quill pen. The parchment was rolled and gently placed in an iron box. The box was welded shut and buried in the Sea of Tranquility 2,000 years ago. This is the truth.
Some of the men involved with the project concluded it would be best to document what had occurred. The papermaker, scribe, welder, and astronaut wrote an account of what had occurred and compiled their data into a book. The men passed this book on to their sons and daughters. Their sons and daughters fought over the book for many years. The men who wrote the book died, not knowing what would become of their work.
The sons won the battle and held a monopoly on the book for a long time. The book was written in a strange language and was eventually translated into many tongues. Many people erroneously believed the Sea of Tranquility was a body of water and feverishly searched the earth for the box. The written explanation of welding did not make sense to them and was changed to mean something different. The concept of welding was preposterous, and even more absurd was an astronaut. Some could not bring themselves to understand the truth and decided it was nothing more than a fairy tale.
One of the sons accused his brothers of using the text for self-indulgence. He claimed that the Sea of Tranquility was a patch of dry land on the moon and secretly wrote his own interpretation of the original texts. The sons banished him from their order. The public understood the ocean better than the moon and therefore paid more money to learn more about it.
The story of the box spread around the world and was passed down from generation to generation. Some people refused to believe the story and wrote stories of their own, most of which mimicked the original story. One popular story told of a canister which held a piece of parchment with the word “Freedom” written on it. Most people believed there was a box somewhere, but few believed the word on the parchment was “Truth” and even fewer believed it was in an iron box on the moon. Nobody actually knew firsthand what had happened.
The tribes of the earth split apart and formed radically different cultures based on their beliefs. Many even grew to believe that their beliefs were actually truths. If somebody believed the box was made of plastic, was stuck together with bubble gum, and held a turtle with the word “Phoenix” carved into its shell, that was their belief, and you’d best leave them alone.
One group of people had passed down an accurate account of what had occurred. A truth does not depend on belief to sustain itself, and this group of people based their beliefs on the recorded facts. This group was fractured into many subgroups, but even most of the subgroups believed the word “Truth” was written in black with a quill pen on a piece of rolled parchment in a welded iron box in the Sea of Tranquility. Some believed the box was painted blue, some believed the parchment was made a certain way, some believed the word “Truth” was written in one language or another, but they all agreed on the facts.
Centuries passed, and then one day the papermaker, scribe, welder, and astronaut returned to the Sea of Tranquility, retrieved the box, and brought it back to earth. All who had known and believed the facts lived together in peace for eternity. All who had refused the facts and believed lies were separated from truth for eternity.
In a bubble of bulletproof glass existed a world where evil and deceit ruled the hearts of a strange breed of man. There was a boy made of gold, who cared so much for status and perfection, he survived, not on food, but on affirmations. The golden boy hid crucible tongs up his sleeve and carried an ingot mold in his pocket. There was a free-floating mouth with jagged teeth. The mouth spoke only dramatic words and gossiped endlessly without ever taking a breath. Nothing could stop the mouth, and all of the inhabitants of Bubble Land, except the Jester, loved to kiss the mouth. There was a drunken musician, who never spoke kindly, but sung so sweetly. She was contradictory and would often sing and speak in the very same sentence. The golden boy hated the drunken musician because she would not sing his praises. There was a spook, who could change herself into any object she wished but never told anyone. She was a snitch and a liar, yet all the players in Bubble Land liked her because she would make them feel important. The spook was powerful and cunning, often lavishing the players with gifts to win their favor. There was a Jester. The jester always spoke the truth, no matter how harmful or helpful. Many of the players took his truths for jest because lies were commonplace in Bubble Land. The jester was feared and loved but cared for neither. There was a little white witch, whose hair glowed so brilliantly her face was not visible. She loved all things worldly and could only hear and see negative things. The jester liked the little white witch because she had enchanted his mind into believing she was truthful. The little white witch liked the golden boy when he wore certain faces that pleased her, which he did quite often because she would then affirm him. The golden boy liked the spook, because of her constant flattery. The spook liked the jester because he would tell her everything. The drunken musician liked only herself, and the mouth didn’t care for any of them; the mouth could only talk without thinking.
There once was a lion on a chain in the center of town. One day a little girl came to him with her troubles and told him secret things. The lion took kindly to the girl, for it had been a long time since anyone had spoken to him in such a way, and he felt sorry for her.
For many days, the lion and the girl confided in each other. The little girl loved his attention and affirmations. She tricked him into believing she cared for him so he would continue to love her.
The townspeople became suspicious of the lion and the girl. Some of them thought it was inappropriate for such different creatures to have a relationship. As much as the little girl enjoyed the lion’s attention, she valued the opinions of strangers over his, and one day she told the lion she was not in love with him.
Much to her surprise, the lion answered, “I have cared about you, but have never been in love with you.”
The little girl was vain and spiteful and refused to believe the lion did not love her. “The lion in the center of town loves me,” she told the townspeople.
Because the lion was chained, only those closest to him knew the truth. The lion was modest and virtuous in his actions but soon realized what the little girl had done. No longer did she confide in him. No longer would she tell him her secrets, and one day he roared at her.
“Why has this beast roared at me?” asked the little girl in a loud voice. “This lion has roared at me without cause,” she said to anyone who would listen. The townspeople were immoral and pugnacious, and although they knew of the girl’s relationship with the lion, they sided with her.
The lion, embarrassed by his actions and angered by the little girl, pulled his stake from the ground and chained himself at the edge of town. Some of the townspeople visited him and told him the girl was still spreading rumors, so the lion called to the girl from the outskirts of town and she came to him.
“Why have you lied about me?” asked the lion.
The little girl patted his mane. “I have not lied,” she said.
The lion regretted roaring at the girl, despite what she had done, so he apologized for several days from the edge of town.
The little girl was busy repairing her public image, but eventually visited the lion and again reassured him that she still cared for him. Several days passed and the lion became lonely. “Where are you?” he called to the girl. “I have said I am sorry,” he cried. “I don’t understand why you have left me alone.”
The little girl never spoke to the lion again. She sent an angry messenger who warned the lion not to bite the girl again or there would be consequences.
“I have not bitten anyone,” replied the lion; and, although he had done nothing wrong, the lion agreed to pull up his stake again and leave the area forever. He still cared deeply for the little girl and wanted what was best for her.
Weeks passed and the lion found a new home where he felt at peace.
The little girl was not accustomed to such chivalry, and therefore perceived the lion’s actions as a scheme. She shared her conspiracy theory with an empty-hearted woman who knew less about love than she, and the two whipped themselves into a paranoid frenzy.
“He has tried to bite me on several occasions,” said the little girl.
“I always knew he was a biter,” said the empty-hearted woman.
Because of the girl’s false claims, the angry messenger hunted the lion and threatened to kill him.
The lion, although modest, was no coward, and roared loudly at the foolish messenger, who then placated the lion with lies of peace.
“I keep myself on a chain for a reason,” said the lion to the wind.
Eventually, the little girl became bored and once again falsely accused the lion of biting her.
The lion unhooked his chain and bit the little girl.
“Why have you bitten me?” asked the girl.
“Why not?” answered the lion.
What I learned by Age 32
Someone will always think they know more than you. They probably don’t, but somebody out there does. Youth is magical and is not wasted on the young- watch them play; it’s amazing how much energy they have.
People have a difficult time acknowledging their mistakes. Admit you’re wrong, don’t make the same bad choices, and move on. Don’t expect others to apologize, especially the people who really should. Don’t expect anything. Expectations are only the slightly more positive side of worrying.
Most people live under the false belief they are more important than they really are. Once you realize this about yourself, you’ll feel better. People take themselves too seriously. Almost nothing is worth the fuss people cause. Most stress is not real, to the point that many people are delusional when it comes to stress. The way you think and the thoughts you choose to believe create your reality. I’ve met beggars who believe they’re God and rich men who live in fear.
My son once said, when he was very young, “I love everybody. Everybody’s cute.” The truth is, everybody is not cute and it saddens me that someday my son will come to realize this. How and when do children learn everyone is not cute? When do they learn about rape and torture? I once heard if you ask a classroom full of kindergartners “Who can draw?” they will all raise their hands. If you ask the same question to a classroom full of high school students, only a few will raise their hands; and a classroom of adults, even fewer.
Somewhere between age 5 and 25, people lose faith in themselves, all based on the belief that the judgments of others are correct. The judgments of others are often incorrect. Only those who question their most solid beliefs ever find any truth. People don’t care about other people half as much as they care about themselves. Watch the traffic around you. Watch the people, and then realize you are one of them.
People overestimate their lifespan, and instead of using death for motivation and perspective, shy away from it and fear it. A person’s life from 0-100 years old is only 36,000 days long (about 5,000 weekends).
Forgive others; not only for big events but for the small things too. Life’s major events are bridged together by millions of tiny events; these tiny forgotten events make up your life. Most bitter and angry people will never figure out why their life is miserable. Only when you accept the flaws in other people can you start to use the energy you once spent judging others to better yourself. Yes, people are stupid- there’s nothing you can do about it- you can hope and pray another’s stupidity doesn’t result in the injury or death of your loved ones, but you can’t fix stupid.
Everything is temporary and therefore constantly changing. Everything that changes eventually ends. You will end. Your children will end. This world will end. Life isn’t about the end—it’s about right now. Material possessions are garbage at an earlier stage in the process, as is your body. Death is not depressing. Death is a fact. Facts are few and far between and should be treasured because they are true. Truth is very rare.
Love someone. Find someone to love and love them until it scares you—this connection is as close to God as you will ever be. Realize you are an American. America, when compared to the rest of the world, is a temporary fantasy land. Enjoy it. Nothing in the history of civilization suggests America will be on top forever. America is a young country with many lessons ahead. If China was a 60-year-old man, America would be a 3-year-old.
Don’t smoke cigarettes. Regret nothing. Make your choices, make your mistakes and own your consequences. You’ll do better than some and worse than some in every way. Identify your faults, but if you’re not willing or able to correct them, don’t fret over it. Move on. If you’re going to die of cancer, you’re going to die–that’s all there is to it. If you’re going to get killed by a bus next Tuesday, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Sleep at night. There have been much more powerful men and women with much more stressful tomorrows, and they slept just fine–you can too. Unless you’re under fire in a war zone, there’s nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow. If it was truly as horrible as it seems, you wouldn’t have time to lie in bed worrying about it.
Pray. Don’t confuse praying with worrying or wishful thinking. Regardless of what you believe, if you talk to God, he will speak to your heart. Religion is ridiculous. Jesus didn’t create religion. Don’t become angry or frustrated when people don’t believe the same thing you believe. Live by example and never try to prove anything. People believe what they see. Be the proof. Be yourself. There is a high price for being yourself–pay it anyway. Don’t base your self-image on what you guess others believe about you.
My daughter is 10 years old and her cousin is 11. My daughter came to me after a visit with her cousin, her expression very sad. She told me her cousin doesn’t like collecting bugs anymore, now that she’s older. She asked me if she, too, would one day lose her love for bugs. It’s up to you to decide. You don’t have to stop loving bugs.
Get outside more and avoid the news and advertisements. Stay up to date on current events, but do so objectively. If you believe you are immune to brainwashing, it’s already too late. Watch the documentary Bowling for Columbine.
Avoid drama and dramatic people. Work hard. Don’t be jealous or envious of other people who seem like they are doing better than you. Learn from strong people. Keep learning. Keep your mind sharp and feed it new information every day.
Don’t hold grudges. Hurtful people are punished by their very existence. Don’t use credit cards. Don’t play with fire. Cause trouble, but man up if you get caught and do your time. Do anonymous good deeds and tell no one. Listen more. Call a spade a spade, take risks, do something crazy. Don’t ever call a woman the c-word. Brush your teeth; dentistry is costly and painful. Read the Bible. Telling someone about Jesus is only half as good as showing them. Money comes and goes but makes no difference in the long run. Keep things in perspective and relax. Laugh every chance you get.
This is what I learned by age 32.
Thank you for reading.