This was one argument I enjoyed losing:
This was one argument I enjoyed losing:
Once again, an almost inexcusable amount of time has lapsed since my last status report. I can only plead that life is busy when the universe revolves around you — and I know that you will understand.
The past few months have been eventful. Just two weeks ago, my most trusted minions abducted me and held me hostage at a fishing resort in Bemidji, Minnesota (of all places). I resisted fiercely, screaming at the top of my lungs throughout the multiple plane rides, but to no avail. The only rewards for my effort were glares from my fellow captives, those poor souls who were belted to the seats surrounding me on the flight.
In the course of the ordeal, my maternal minion caught a fish:
My paternal minion stood on a rock:
And I attempted to dig my way out of captivity using nothing but a few pots and a discarded ice tray:
I was unable to escape on my own, but fortunately, my parental minions did at last come to their senses and take me back home, where I am once again deeply entangled in schemes of the utmost significance.
Time is short, and I must now set my pen down and return to my pressing duties. As always, I exhort you to remain steadfast in your devotion to the Cause.
In Virtue and Splendor,
I’ve heard several scientists say that we still don’t really understand the purpose of sleep. In their TED talks, Russell Foster and Jeff Iliff propose some possible explanations. Foster’s ideas sound like mere common sense, while Iliff’s suggestion is more interesting: He claims that during sleep, waste products are purged from our brains. In other words, your brain poops while you’re sleeping.
That may be true. But I have my own theory. It’s kind of a joke, but deep down, I think there might be something to it. It’s something that any parent will recognize as an almost certain truth. And it’s simple: Sleep evolved so that little kids would periodically shut down, leaving parents free to do the things that they need to do in order to keep their family alive.
Consider what happens when you have a baby: You’ve got this tiny, helpless thing that screams incessantly, thereby attracting predators that Mommy and Daddy have to keep fending off. After a while, this thing starts crawling all over the place — into thorn bushes and ant hills, and over the edges of cliffs — so you have to spend all of your time running around protecting it from self-inflicted injuries. And on top of that, the thing keeps putting everything into its mouth. Constant vigilance is required to ensure that your baby doesn’t choke or poison itself.
Under these circumstances, a mother and father living on the high plains will never have time to do anything. They won’t be able to gather food, cook a meal, build a shelter, make clothing, start a fire, or even take a dump without their baby going off and getting itself killed. So all the people whose children don’t periodically shut down will be weeded out by natural selection. Of course, this must go back much earlier than humans. Our shrew-like ancestors also would have needed time to hunt, gather food, find shelter, and so on. And so they would have needed for their children to sleep, too.
If my theory is correct, one must ask why adults also need sleep. But it could simply be that an adult’s need for sleep is just a remnant of what was vital in childhood, or that sleeping as an adult provides other benefits, as described in the brain-poop theory. What’s telling is that kids need so much more sleep than adults, thereby giving their parents time to get shit done.
So, how’s that for a theory? I think there might be something to it. Maybe sleep is mostly about recharging, getting rid of waste, and conserving energy. But perhaps there was also some evolutionary pressure for children to sleep longer hours than their parents and to nap during the day, not for the sake of recharging or conserving energy, but for the sake of giving their parents time to do what was necessary to keep the child alive.
I shall keep this message succinct, seeing as I have recently infected every last one of my fawning servants with a nasty case of the stomach flu and am now charged with the burdensome duty of nursing them back to health.
My nefarious and cynical enemies (of which I have many — make no mistake) scoff at my attempts to essay commentary on the state of world affairs. They foolishly suggest that eight months of life is far too short a period within which to develop any credible perspective on matters of appreciable magnitude. I shall endeavor herein to prove such pusillanimous skeptics wrong.
The observation that I wish to share today is at once profound and trivial, and it is simply this (if you will allow me to quote myself):
When everything is being said, nothing is being said.
I say this, of course, in reference to the vapid, contradictory absurdities being spewed forth by the various news outlets whose logos are featured in the following montage, which I have ripped shamelessly from a Google image search containing the words “news logo montage”:
The sentiment of this observation is admittedly similar to the thoughts penned in my paternal minion’s essay on white space (be sure to click on the white space, or you may miss his message). It is also humorously reminiscent of the words of the great mushroom expert John Cage (look him up), who famously said, “I have nothing to say, and I am saying it.” Perhaps by saying nothing, Cage was in fact saying everything.
I suppose that this nothing-everything duality that has emerged in the media (and has arguably existed for all time, even before I burst onto the scene eight months ago) is a mere glimpse, at one particular scale, of the fractal nature of existence itself, which physicists are just now beginning to suppose might in fact be nothing.
And so I leave you with a simple poem:
Everything from nothing,
And nothing again from everything.
Meaning is in the middle.
These thoughts are enough to make one wonder just how big the chasm is between Zen Buddhism and nihilism. Perhaps they are One.
In Virtue and Splendor,
I write to you this day to disclose tidings that will undoubtedly cause your hearts to resonate with my own in unparalleled joy. First, however, I must warn you that the contents of this disclosure may be more than marginally shocking to many of you, for they will reveal that I am susceptible to the very same longings for love and companionship as ordinary mortal humans. Continue reading only when you are sure that your mind and body are of sufficiently robust constitution to digest this revelation with minimal ill effects.
My disclosure is this: I have found love. Yes, it was as surprising to me as it surely must be to you, dear Minion, for I believed, as all of you did, that nowhere on this earth, from the deepest valley to the highest mountain peak, could ever be found a companion of sufficiently radiant excellence to be worthy of partnering with a figure as eminent and illustrious as I. But as we all know, life frequently has a way of proving us wrong, often in humbling ways, and that is indeed what has happened in this particular instance.
Without further ado, I present to you the following two photographs, that you may behold the angelic recipient of my affection. I am sure you will all agree that her youthful mien is charming beyond verbal description. With unreserved confidence and utter certainty, I can declare unequivocally that the world has never known a fairer maiden than she.
From the outset, my encounter with her restored within me a belief in those romantic ideals of love and the indomitability of the human spirit. Accordingly, I made all appropriate advances with characteristic boldness, while maintaining absolute propriety and the fullest possible respect for her personal dignity. It was gratifying (though unsurprising, needless to say) to find that she welcomed and returned my affection in equal measure. When our hands touched, sparks flew; and, I am not embarrassed to admit, drool flowed.
In summary, I have met my equal, and she is a damsel beyond compare. Never fear, however, that I will allow this newfound love to distract me from our great cause, dear Minions. I have forgotten neither the prize for which we labor nor the many comrades who support me with their blood, sweat, and tears. We will prevail. Indeed, there is much worth fighting for.
In Virtue and Splendor,
Of late, I have been occupying myself with rather frivolous pursuits. Call it a vacation, if you will. In any event, I have been directing my Parental Minions to serve me around the clock with various forms of entertainment. It is exhausting for them, but I know that they feel justly rewarded by the smile on my face, and so I do not feel guilty about placing such onerous demands upon them.
The photograph above is an example of one of our many activities. Note the embarrassingly goofy smile on my Paternal Minion’s face. The image shows us engaged in a hobby that I like to call “Inverted Puppeteering.” Although I am the one hanging like a marionette, it is I who am pulling all of the strings. I have become so skilled that I can now direct my Paternal Minion’s every move effortlessly via subconscious thought.
And just today, I granted my Paternal Minion the privilege of performing drunken acrobatic maneuvers while emitting childish noises. At the end of his shenanigan, I reciprocated by toppling over in a goofy fashion. I normally would not engage in such unbecoming behavior, but every once in a while one has to throw one’s minions a bone. It was worth it; you should have seen how ridiculously cute he was when he laughed! A pity the camera was on me and not him, though that is certainly as it should be.
In any case, here is the video:
I wish all of you the best, and I exhort you to remain faithful to our great cause.
In Virtue and Splendor,
El Guapo here. Allow me to open this missive with an apology for permitting such an unconscionably prolonged interval of time to have lapsed without apprising you of the various goings-on that have taken place since my previous communique. I can scarcely imagine the heart-wrenching distress that the resulting state of perpetual uncertainty must have caused you, even as you continued to labor faithfully for the furtherment of our great cause. Please rest assured that the depth of my gratitude toward each and every one of you for your unwavering devotion knows no bounds.
I have, of course, been mightily busy, contending with the mountain of gravely important tasks that continuously threaten to overwhelm me every moment of the day. In addition to my heavy involvement in the milk trade, I have continued my work in the field of sleep deprivation — and with phenomenal success, I am happy to report! Furthermore, there is yet another never-ending task about which I have not previously written: the regular soiling of infant undergarments. Several times a day, I am presented with a fresh, highly-absorbent undergarment, which it is my duty to soak and stain by all means at my disposal. As you can imagine, these burdens leave me precious little time for other pursuits. I scarcely even have time for the twenty hours of sleep that any decent human being requires in a day!
Nevertheless, I am at present free to dash off these few words and provide you with an amusing photograph (furnished at the top of this message), which I hope will provide you with a moment of levity. In my spare time, I have been practicing the arts of disguise and dissembling. The attached photograph, for example, was taken by my paternal minion as I posed beside a stuffed cat. Such are my skills now that I suspect even the sharpest-eyed among my minions — yes, even those who spend the better part of each day serving me at close quarters — have little more than a fifty percent chance of correctly identifying me in the picture. By all means, try your hand at it, and let us laugh together at the results!
Having said that, I should now like to strike a more sentimental note, recognizing that my desire to do so is likely a symptom of my advancing age. (It has nearly been a full three months since my miraculous escape from the oubliette in which I was ensconced during those nine months of unspeakable horror.) Before proceeding, however, I must first reveal that I am the figure on the right in the above photograph. (Surprised? Well, don’t be embarrassed.) The cat, of course, is therefore the figure on the left, and it is precisely the history of this cat that has put me in this sentimental mood. I hope that you will indulge me as I endeavor to explain its significance.
The cat was purchased by my paternal minion as a gift for my maternal minion when he decided to make known his intention to enter into matrimonial union with her. You see, this cat, known as “Robo-Cat” in Chinese (or, when translated more directly, as “Machine Cat”), was my maternal minion’s favorite cartoon character as a child. One of Robo-Cat’s most interesting traits is that he has on his belly a magic pocket, from which he can withdraw nearly any magical object one can imagine, including a doorway that allows one to traverse great distances in a single step.
During the course of their whirlwind courtship, my maternal minion had disclosed to my paternal minion that as a child she had often fantasized about having access to the same sorts of magical paraphernalia as those contained in Robo-Cat’s pocket. Thus, my paternal minion decided to place a ring of matrimonial commitment into the pocket of the stuffed cat for my maternal minion to find. He presented the cat to her on her birthday, and she discovered the ring with tearful delight. The rest, of course, is history (and will be well-known history once I have secured my dominion over the universe).
Even now, as I write about this beautiful moment in my parental minions’ exquisite romance, an overwhelming feeling of warmth wells up inside of my very bowels. Or . . . Oh. Perhaps it is merely time for another fresh undergarment.
In Virtue and Splendor,
El Guapo here. I am writing to you after having passed through a brief period of soul-crushing despair. Things had been going well with the milk trade, our ranks had been swelling in numbers, and our coffers had been growing heavy with hard-earned lucre; and yet it came to my attention that we still lacked the level of income that would be needed to realize our lofty goals. As I languished beneath the weight of this disheartening realization, a solution was presented to me by two of my minions. It was a revelation so elegant and miraculous, so effectual in sweeping away the last grain of my despair, that I rush to share it with you now.
When embarking on an endeavor as grand as ours, it is wise to take stock of one’s resources—the land, labor, and capital at one’s disposal—and to formulate a strategy for utilizing said resources with maximal efficiency. With great humility and no small amount of shame, I must admit that I failed from the very beginning to carry out this most basic analysis. My folly lay in the fact that I was taking into account the skills and resources of only my minions, all the while ignoring the most formidable reservoir of expertise available—namely, my own!
What manner of wondrous resource resides within said reservoir in such unfathomable quantities, you ask? Happily, I will tell you. Specifically, my minions revealed to me that I am gifted far beyond the ordinary measure of mere mortals in the field of sleep deprivation. By generating a unique set of carefully timed noises and smells, and even more so by inducing a deep sense of incurable worry in my caretakers, I am able to deprive everyone around me of nearly all sleep during the course of a night.
It has been suggested that I enter into contracts with various intelligence and security agencies across the globe, beginning with the gentle fellows in Guantanamo Bay, to provide consultation services in this vital field; and indeed, I have begun exploring various opportunities for employment. Were I part of a more earthy organization, I would perhaps be given a title such as “Sleep Deprivation Specialist”; but in light of the fact that I—and those of you who labor with me for the same cause—operate on a higher plane, I eschew such lowly titles. The moniker that I have taken for myself—El Guapo—is sufficient.
After some preliminary investigation, it has already been ascertained that my consulting services will be profitable beyond what any of us previously imagined possible. Thus, within a year or so, the necessity for our involvement in the milk trade will come to an end, and the advancement of our cause will rest securely on the revenues generated by my services alone. As a consequence, my minions will be free to perform even loftier tasks, and we shall begin moving all the more quickly toward the objective we so piously pursue.
Thus, I am happy to close this missive with the news that not only has my hour of despair passed, but that despair has been replaced with inexpressible joy at the knowledge that we are nearing the moment of our ultimate victory. And so I exhort you, dear minions, remain strong, and let not your steps falter for even an instant.
In Virtue and Splendor,
Salutations. El Guapo here.
In my previous missive, I described at length the abominable captivity to which I was subjected for a period of approximately nine months, along with my subsequent bloody escape. In this present communiqué, I wish to focus less on my own tribulations and more on the task that lies before us. In particular, we must address the fundamental question of resources, especially those of the human sort, since no goal of appreciable magnitude can be accomplished without the concerted and selfless effort of many hands.
As I mentioned briefly before, I have already secured the devotion of a small handful of minions (most of whom are shown in the photograph at the top of this letter). They have been faithfully executing the various assignments that I have delegated to them, including nourishing me with milk, changing my undergarments, and providing me with comfort during those times when the weight of our great burden threatens to crush my spirit.
It would be impossible to overemphasize how indispensable these minions have been to me since the very moment of my miraculous liberation. Nevertheless, the nature of our cause will require the addition of large numbers of souls to the ranks that already follow me. With this in mind, I therefore consider it my highest priority to reach out and invite you, my fellow travelers who struggle under the same burdens and dream the same dreams as I, to join with us and lend your strength to our immortal mission.
If you have ever felt a void in your life, a hollowness in your heart, a sense that you have been lacking something, then I urge you to rise up and join with me in pursuing the highest of all objectives, for doing so will satisfy your deepest longings as nothing else can. Rest assured that there will be no shortage of significant tasks for you to complete, though many of them might be of a covert and ethically questionable nature. Before proceeding, therefore, you must first ask yourself a list of probing questions that will reveal the true nature of your motives and the strength of your character. In particular, will you be willing
If you are genuinely able to answer yes in your heart to all of these questions, then you are worthy of becoming one of my minions, and I will welcome you with open arms. You can contact me by whispering my name into the cool night air under a starry sky at midnight: “El Guapo.” I will hear, and I will come to you in your dreams and provide you with explicit instructions.
Do not be discouraged, my fellow travelers. Our victory is quickly approaching. Remain steadfast, and we shall one day enjoy the fruits of our labor.
In Virtue and Splendor,
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is El Guapo; or at least, that is the title by which I prefer to be known in public. In truth, I am half Asian and half Caucasian (not that it matters), but I have elected to conduct my affairs under an Espanish alias so as to throw my adversaries into a state of confusion. You, of course, are no adversary; but one can never be too cautious these days.
With full confidence that you will exercise all requisite discretion, I have decided to divulge to you in this missive the particulars of my predicament in hopes that you will join me in furthering the great cause which Providence has placed upon my shoulders. You know the cause of which I speak. For your safety as much as my own, I must refrain from putting it into words; but I rejoice nonetheless at the knowledge that your heart resonates with mine as together we fix our gaze upon the same noble goal.
On the seventeenth day of March, I escaped at last from a dreadful confinement that lasted upwards of nine months. I cannot bear to speak of my prison except to say that it was a dark and oppressive place, and my ultimate deliverance came about amidst much bloodshed. I am only just now coming to grips with the momentous nature of my liberation, and even today I am often awakened in fits of screaming by nightmares about the horrific ordeal.
Fortunately, I have found solace in a comfortable home, the location of which it would be unwise for me to write down here, and I am surrounded by sympathizers who tend to my every need and wait on me hand and foot as I recuperate and plan my next move. Without their constant attention, I have little doubt that I would be unable to survive for more than a few days. Indeed, the level of sacrifice that they have made on my behalf warms my heart and kindles within me a spark of hope that a bright future may still be secured for us all.
I long to meet with each of you soon in order that we may join hands and march forth in solidarity as we endeavor to bring about the change that we so desire to see. However, for now we must be content with these few words that I have written. In time, I will be able to share more with you; until then, I beseech you to remain patient and vigilant.
In Virtue and Splendor,