Jiu-Jitsu 101.

During junior high, my parents got divorced and things got a little messy. It was the early eighties, and after my dad read the self-help book Your Erroneous Zones, by Wayne Dyer, I think he suddenly realized how unhappy he was —and that was that. He and my mom never figured out how to make it work. They were both warm, caring people, but neither handled the divorce well. For reasons I never quite understood, they fought in and out of court for years— until everyone was broke. I was lost and scared. At one point, I started shoplifting with the secret hope I would get caught so that I could finally have an excuse to yell at them: "This would never have happened if it wasn't for this divorce!" (Sadly, I only got caught once, and when Macy's couldn't reach my parents by phone, the store Iet me go.) It's hard to be a teenager witnessing your parents at their worst. This was way before the days of "conscious uncoupling." This was war. I remember thinking to myself at one point, Well, I guess my parents' advice can't be any good—just look at how they are handling this situation. I need to figure out how to support myself financially and emotionally.

Oddly, that pain and fear became the fuel in my tank. It inspired me to work hard and has led to every success and good thing in my life. It worked so well that today, a parent now myself, I am frying to figure out how to fuck up my daughters just enough that they, too, develop outsize dreams and the desire to get the hell out of the house.


Death of culture, scientifically explained.

He had known all along, of course, that nothing but a theoretical engine or system ever runs at 100 percent efficiency; and about the theorem of Clausius, which states that the entropy of an isolated system always continually increases. It was not, however, until Gibbs and Boltzmann brought to this principle the methods of Statistical mechanics that the horrible significance of it all dawned on him: only then did he realize that the isolated system -galaxy, engine, human being, culture, whatever- must evolve spontaneously toward the Condition of the More Probable. He was forced, therefore, in the sad dying fall of middle age, to a radical reevaluation of everything he had learned up to then; all the cities and seasons and casual passions of his days had now to be looked at in a new and elusive light. He did not know if he was equal to the task. He was aware of the dangers of the reductive fallacy and, he hoped, strong enough not to drift into the graceful decadence of an enervated fatalism. His had always been a vigorous, Italian sort of pessimism: like Machiavelli, he allowed the forces of virtù and fortuna to be about fifty/fifty; but the equations now introduced a random factor which pushed the odds to some unutterable and indeterminate ratio which he found himself afraid to calculate.
Nevertheless (...) he found in entropy or the measure of disorganisation for a closed system an adequate metaphor to apply to certain phenomena in his own world. He saw, for example, the younger generation responding to Madison Avenue with the same spleen his own had once reserved for Wall Street: and in American ‘consumerism’ discovered a similar tendency from the least to the most probable, from differentiation to sameness, from ordered individuality to a kind of chaos. He found himself, in short, restating Gibbs’ prediction in social terms, and envisioned a heat death for his culture in which ideas, like heat energy, would no longer be transferred, since each point in it would ultimately have the same quantity of energy; and intellectual motion would, accordingly, cease.