T for Tom


Posted in Prose by johnsontoms on February 10, 2015


What are these things we put ourselves through? Stretches of searches for feelings of satisfaction, literal, ephemeral, spiritual, emotional. Daily, weekly, yearly, and lifelong operating to find an answer for the emptiness inside our selves, that strange feeling of incompleteness that keeps us moving. Too often keeps us waking in the morning to rise again for a coffee, a long drive to work, work where we sit with facts and figures and spreadsheets and crunch numbers and make calls and receive e-mails to decipher the wrong answers, taking home a little piece (often too little) of the thing we think we need, searching until complete (never complete).


These things we do to each other go unquestioned in deference to our state in nature. The things humans act upon humans, so strange and bizarre, accepted as a way of normal or a way of society (god, society), because of the underlying assumption that we are different and so can be our actions. But while the lion eats the lamb, the lions do not war against the lambs at large.

Somewhere there is a man who, with a starving family at home because he immigrated illegally to another country (read: a different piece of earth) and can’t find steady work to bring home groceries, is shoplifting a gallon of milk. And somewhere in that same country there are millions of humans complicit vis-à-vis taxation to the notion that that man, the thief, should be reprimanded in writing to be permanently filed in the coffers to let all others know: this man has done wrong, and now will be remembered as a criminal for the crime of feeding his family.

Isn’t it extremely bizarre, this whole perpetuation? The end-state is a letter of words and grammar that accuse the accused of having done wrong. But before I get into the question of who the fuck is judge and jury, I will never understand written punishments, be they the final product or a record of further punishment. Think for a minute – to really free the mind from the vindictive if accidental perspective of crime and punishment, focusing the attention not on the crime or the criminal but instead on the arbiter of punishment allows us to see first the absurdity – that, in equal body and mind as the man being punished, there is another human who by circumstance of coincidence and chance was born of a different family in a different land and was raised to believe, truly believe, that he not only needed a job but a job by which he could command the fate of endless other humans simply by applying the law with his signature (to correctly assume that on most levels the law is not interpreted but only applied). Does this man go home every night saying he did the Lord’s work? That he did a good job? Neither a yes or no to these questions would satisfy me, when instead it could all be avoided.

And that is to me the keystone of bewilderment – how, for all the millions and billions of humans stricken to despair why it wasn’t their own self born into riches and grace, we still cling to the idea that humans get where they want by their individual acts and performance and work. That a president or a lawyer or an actor are deserving of their lifestyle by the virtue of their better-ness, having risen from above the masse rest of us who by continuing to suffer I guess never worked hard enough because we still suffer or else we’d be famous too. So, for being different and for the rest subscribing to the notion of the same, there exists a system by which there can even be judge separate from defendant. My bewilderment exceeds into anger when tendered with the additional notion, safely assumed, that judge in this case (as with all) came to be simply because he too needed a job to pay the bills. If there were any morality in acting as judge (morality being the entire purpose behind criminal punishment), the proprietor wouldn’t accept compensation – the need for morality would be higher and more obvious than the need for work. But instead, this man or woman who became judge started as a boy or girl somewhere just like our criminal, but by writ of circumstance came about the satisfaction that could be had with the job of adjudicating judgment, unlike our criminal who either by internal opposition to this morality (a hopeful but unlikely nobility) or by lack of similar opportunity did not become a judge but instead the judged.

These judges exist in many forms – managers, bosses, police officers, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, coworkers, business acquaintances, lawyers, legal representatives, clients, and so on. Anywhere there is a man and woman making a mistake there is a man or woman passing a judgment. Critically here it is a shame that often the answer is not forgiveness. If that were possible we wouldn’t all be struggling for bread.


Sometimes to me the biggest tragedy is that people look around and see things and never think, “how could this be done better or differently?” But then I’m reminded that most people don’t look around and ask questions because this is all they know and they defend it with violence.

I don’t know an intelligent person who advocates for war, and vice versa for the opposite.


I’ve come back to this country and learned many things, but what I cling to most is hope. Hope that things will get better. I didn’t have to always think about hope overseas, and that alone speaks volume for our state of affairs.

There’s a place (the only place) I go sometimes in the evening. A few blocks up the foothills from my apartment there is a road that sharply ascends the mountain through a neighborhood, and because of the steep climb there are on occasion plateaus, little ones that are the size of maybe half a football field where nothing can be built (yet). I got to this plateau the first time because it presents the best view of the sun setting to the west over the flat valley of the desert, but I continue to go back because in the middle of this proverbial wasteland there is isolation – I can briefly ignore the chain of apartment complexes below, not be blinded by the storefront neon lights, be away from the buzzing traffic and so many cars driving across this country.

The view can extend for some hundred miles without exaggeration – if you’ve never seen the flattest valley from an elevated perspective, it stretches for as far as the curvature of the earth will allow your eyesight. On this particular plateau with Franklin Mountain behind me to the east, there is a good view of the Sierra de Cristo Rey looming near Juarez, and to the right far off into the distance but still clear are the Florida peaks of New Mexico at 75 miles away. In between is a line as straight as a ruler, and the sky so wide that when the sun finally dips below its horizon the oranges and reds can linger for an hour. It’s especially wonderful when there are clouds beyond the Florida peaks. We’ve all seen clouds turn to pink and purple when the sun sets, but they turn over our heads. Seeing the clouds over 100-miles away turn to the same color but nearly an hour after watching the sun set, that truly is spectacular, and tells me that amongst the thousands of sunsets I’ve witnessed, these are different in the best way.

And so I go back there often, because all during the day and week I drive these highways, past the cracked roads, past the dozens of broken down cars each day, past the daily wrecks, past the advertisements that dot and cover and line all the roads even into the empty valley where otherwise there would be desert beauty but instead there is an advertisement. I go back there because as the sun sets around me grows darkness. It is so very hard to find a dark place in this country that is lit by a thousand lights in a thousand parking lots. The darkness sets over the valley below and from the sky downward and there in the middle is the longest, purest, cleanest disbanding of color from the sun, sandwiched in the middle like the closing of a sideways curtain.

It’s peaceful there and it makes me think of northern Arizona, southern Germany, Spain, and all the places I’d rather be. And if the best place in this town only makes me want to leave, then leave I must and soon.


The truth is that I’ve been maddeningly depressed for some time now, the deep, clinical kind of depression that robs you of all energy, thought, emotion, the kind that renders a man still until he finds himself waking up fully clothed and sober in the middle of the room for no reason other than not being able to make the decision to get up and into bed. Forgive me then for having written nothing in a long time, though forgiveness would be accorded if someone were reading, which by now I am sure there may never be.

I persist however because, for reasons I’ll never know, I’ve always believed that it would set me free, in the colloquial and clichéd way. But even if it never gives me the lifestyle we all want, I’m sure that it is the only key to my sanity. I’m reaching the point where I cannot go any longer delaying my life in this world, and that means equally that I cannot any longer pretend to go along. I don’t know what that means I should do, but things have to change and the strongest feeling is that I need to be better, seconded by the feeling that I’m the only one that can do this. So, well, here we are.


I write because in this arena there are no rules but those I impose on myself. I’ve always struggled with others’ rules because, I don’t know, why shouldn’t I? Why can’t anyone be allowed to be, in the most free and individual sense? Thousands of years of human history and art spent at believing in that proposition, and yet we’re no further along now than when we were slaves. We may have more distractions, but if we all have the same distractions we are not individually unique. Even the lower class can afford a Coach purse to feel entitled.


I’m not a good employee because I simply cannot believe that I should work until I die. I don’t believe this to be true for anyone.


I don’t think anyone believes that of their self either, but have only forgotten that they will in fact die. It’s important to remember that life only exists in opposition to death. It doesn’t go on and this is it.


Some time ago I was talking to my wife about some of these and other similar thoughts on the tragedy of life and modern living. I think maybe the context was the vote on gay rights in Estonia and the equivalents in America and other countries. We both (rightly) concluded the errors present in Judeo-Christian morals when applied to law, and it always at first engenders sadness that humans as a society are still struggling with understanding and forgiveness.

But then, for some reason and when I’ve never thought of this way before, it occurred to me that I am insignificant. I am just one of the billions of our animal species blotted somewhere on this earth. And unlike centuries before, I used what little education I was forced and offered, and from other things I chose to learn by having access and desire, I have concluded on my own things that before were punishable by execution and ostracism – atheism, peace, equality, social economy, open borders, and all the things mislabeled as liberalism. And I’m just a single man, born of two humans in a large city and moved to be raised in a small town, with a small education, and working like a everyone else for a few dollars.

And if I am free to reach these conclusions, and simply even able to reach these conclusions without the same tireless efforts used by those who brave souls who originated these philosophies, and if I am not persecuted for having these beliefs, and if my wife can reach these conclusions equally and simultaneously in the same way on the other side of the planet, than surely we have made progress that we just haven’t recognized yet.

And surely the world can progress more.


2 Responses

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  1. Steve Maedl said, on February 10, 2015 at 5:43 am

    Tom –

    Believe it or not, I really do read all your posts and I was wondering where you have been.
    I know what you mean and agree with you that we really are just a small speck in a big universe.
    I too get depressed from time to time, only to realize that whatever caused it was probably my own damn fault. I finally concluded that no one, not your wife, your children, your family or friends can keep you happy for very long. We want things to stay the same, yet we also want things to change and grow at the same time. While the world around us is also in a constant state of growth and change itself. It seems to me that when I allow myself to get caught up in believing the advertising, or what is shown in the media that I NEED something or someone to be happy, that this gets me either motivated to take action or frightens me into depression. This is the fight we all have to deal with. I don’t like rules either, but we must live within them to a point to exist in a peaceable manner with others. Acceptance of diversity can help sometimes, yet other times you just gotta be by yourself for awhile. Hang in there buddy !
    – Steve

    • johnsontoms said, on February 22, 2015 at 9:28 pm

      Your kind words are always like a fresh, spring rain. Especially in times of frustration and confusion, in times like now. One day I’ll make something of this, and you’ll be to thank for the continued support.

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