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 Zen and the Art of Opposite Lock 
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"...Talent is sort of a dark gift...talent is its own expectation: it is there from the start and either lived up to or lost."
-Hal Incandenza,
Infinite Jest


Joe stared at me from across the table as we folded too many thousands of binders for some paper company in Central Wisconsin. One of the good ole' boys, he was an ex-Chicagoan ex-retiree who passed the time by complaining about hours, government spending and black people. Hey, whatever helped eight hours of 'hand bindery' go by. “Back at the cable company, I can't tell you half the things I've seen, kid,” he ranted in my direction, eyes glistening. "They'll take any chance you give them and take up every inch they can get without putting in a lick of effort. Why, there was this gal, I was on a call...” He rambled on, looking like a gray-haired grizzly bear in a camouflage jacket, trying to instill in me his red-blooded American ideals.

“...and they stay on welfare, and there's no business in them working a real job when they can sell dope on the corner making ten times as much!” At last he was finished, pounding his fist against the table in a premature declaration of victory. Don't even, Matthew, I coached myself. Logical argument means nothing to the Joes of the world. Of course, I could explain the systemic causes of socioeconomic inequality and their disproportionate effect on ethnic minorities for the umpteenth time – but we were deep into the fourth hour of our shift, and I folded,

“Can't we talk about cars or something?” I whimpered, clambering to the unlikely possibility that he'd finally drop the subject. A gruff murmuring signaled the end of his tirade, followed by an uncomfortably tense silence as we toiled away on the piles of unfolded binders laying beside us. There was far too much on my mind to get worked up over this ignorant piece of white privilege sitting across from me – college loomed on the horizon, my friend Jeff was back in jail, and I felt stuck in a rut dug ever-deeper by a pattern of poor decision-making and ordnance violations. The stress was starting to get to me, and I wasn't sure how much more paper-folding I could take for eight fifty an hour. I tried not to think about anything. Tried, anyway.

Across from me, a group of middle aged Gossip Girls collated greeting cards to the tune of industrial paper cutters, digging for whatever insubstantial drama they could find at a printing company in Wisconsin Rapids. I glanced around and prayed this wasn't where my life was headed. As brilliant orange sunlight glared at me from outside, I fantasized about burning the place down in a moment of cathartic ideation. Pallets on pallets of paper, stacked over three stories high – the whole place went up fast enough as I envisioned it. Everyone would make it out, except maybe Joe. Joe could get stuck by a forklift for all I cared.

Brrrrrrzzzz! The work bell thrust me back into reality, as everyone filed by the computers to punch out for lunch. A half-hour's respite was exactly what I needed – not just from my coworkers who were stuck in the Cold War, but from my own spiraling mood. I dragged myself out of my chair, clocked out, and left the warehouse-cum-printing company-cum-prison for a hard earned unpaid break. The stale November air hurriedly ushered me to my car, a 1995 Camaro Z28 (manual, of course), and I practically threw myself inside. Jamming my key into the ignition, I groaned alongside the engine as it took its sweet time turning over At last it roared to life and I threw it in reverse, doing a Rockford before tearing out of the parking lot and hanging a right.

Rolling down the snow-caked road, I went a couple blocks from work to this mostly abandoned construction business I'd discovered. There was lots of dirt-paved road ahead of me which crisscrossed this way and that, and I'd taken to driving around the place for my lunch break. Most of the turns were pretty tight, so I'd stab the throttle and powerslide one corner after the next at speeds the cops would allow in an elementary school parking lot. There was this one turn, though, that arced slowly to the right for a few hundred feet after a brief straightaway – I'd never drifted it before because doing so meant A) hitting damn-near-highway speeds and B) having balls as big as Joe's fat head. I sat in park right at the entrance of the complex, that gently-swooping turn teasing me with its curves.

Maybe it was the stress of a long work day, maybe it was all the craziness and confusion of young adulthood, but right then I'd had it. I'd reached my limit. And sitting before me was a beautiful mistake just begging for my rationality to give way to unabashed overconfidence. I cranked the radio, some top 40 pop jam about breaking the rules. It was too perfect, a planetary alignment beckoning me to rip around this turn and come out the other side standing or upside-down in a ditch. A tentative push on the accelerator prompted the sound of eight poorly muffled cylinders shouting at me: Do it, do it, do it!


I put it in first and gave it gas, paying less attention to the speedo than the feel of the car. Scenery flew past my windows frighteningly quickly as my Chevy began sweeping to the right and I kept on the throttle, rowing through one gear after the next. A glance at the speedometer showed somewhere between 50 and 60 – and climbing. Working through the bend, the wide 245/55 rubber started giving out in the fight between weight and friction. I felt the rear end rotate, a little at first, getting more dramatic as I stubbornly held my foot pressed against the gas pedal. I don't know what possessed me to keep going, but pretty soon the windshield was displaying more ditch than it was road. A wonderfully-candid exclamation of faith and profanity escaped my lips as my heart pulsed and I yanked the wheel to the left.

“Opposite lock” is, in my opinion, the most beautiful pairing of words in the English language. When a vehicle oversteers (that is, starts rotating during a turn), after a certain point it becomes necessary to steer the front wheels in the opposite direction of the turn in order to maintain control. This isn't something I've done very often, but the first time was right about then. It was one of those moments of cognitive disconnect, steering hard to the left as my beater Camaro hurtled around the bend at 60 miles per hour to the right, clinging to the dirt for dear life at the very limits of traction. It seemed on the surface so wrong, but the result felt absolutely right in the worst of ways. Any thought of social inequity or adolescent angst was forcefully and viscerally rejected in favor of adrenaline-induced euphoria and the clattering of gravel kicking up against the underside of my car. I don't pretend to know what nirvana is, but I imagine it feels like drifting around a corner faster than your grandma drives down the interstate.

Then I had a thought – You're gonna have to stop sometime, buddy. Looking up to my left, I watched as the T-junction rapidly approached, ending in undergrowth and unhappy thoughts. Instinctively I slammed on the breaks, as ABS did its best to keep me from throwing my derelict hot rod into the ditch that lay ahead. I eased the steering wheel back into place, listening to the tires claw against the earth as they arrested my momentum. At long last I stopped, having rotated a complete 90º to face the road leading out of the construction complex. Words can't express the elation I felt at that moment; every tendon in my body relaxed as my brain received a pharmaceutical dose of dopamine. A sigh of disbelief brought me back from heaven as I struggled to process the bastardization of physics I'd just performed in my pristine example of mid-90s hi-po GM budget engineering.

I find it difficult to express the rapture of driving sideways at full-tilt. Partly, it's a cultural barrier; such analysis is unneeded, redundant, when articulating these sentiments to a fellow gearhead. We just get it, whatever “it” may be. Partly it's a lack of self-awareness, as my therapist could probably attest to. But I have at least an inkling of insight behind what leads me to do something so reckless, directly in contradiction of self-preservation. It's about control. It is immensely empowering to take a chaotic situation (a car accident) and will it into something precise and calculated. It feels like winning. Drifting is the closest I've come to the sensation of flight – comparisons with Icarus aside.
It goes deeper than that, though. I lay awake in bed, wondering if others feel even an inkling of the existential angst that drives me to search for understanding in an ineffably complicated world. Constantly questioning the fundaments of reality is an exhausting endeavor. To capture it in words I turn to Buddhism and the concept of dukkha: alternately translated as 'sorrow', 'pain', or 'unease', it is the idea that even at our best, it is human nature for us to experience suffering. We are far too naive to grasp the mechanisms governing the chaos of our lives. And so, the world appears cold and unsympathetic. We have to reconcile our innate sense of free will and fairness with a universe in which good people die young, bad people prosper, and it all happens with frightening unpredictability. I find it hard not to think about, day and night.

Drifting is a temporary escape from dukkha. When you're hurtling around an S-curve, tossing your vehicle this way and that as the wheel slides beneath your fingers, there isn't time to consider the metaphysical ramifications of the human experience. The intoxicating odor of gasoline mingles with burnt rubber, as shrieking tires and wailing metal combine into riotous overture. Your body teases out the meaning behind every push, every yaw, and every vibration communicated through the suspension, the wheel and the shifter. Every fiber of gray matter finds itself occupied with the translation of hand movements into steering inputs and gear throws intended to keep that gray matter from painting the dashboard red. It's hard to feel depressed when distracted by something that involving.

The sense of empowerment ties directly to this escape from dukkha. At 20 years of age, the most likely cause of my death by far is a car crash. Sliding around like a maniac is akin to flipping off the Grim Reaper. Manipulating a car into doing exactly what I want feeds my sense of control. It motivates me, giving me confidence in my ability to inflict change onto the world as I see fit. At such a turbulent point in my life, when so much feels up in the air, it's damned satisfying to master the calculated chaos that is opposite lock.
“It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” -William Ernest Henley,
Invictus


Mon Mar 07, 2016 6:53 am
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Post Re: Zen and the Art of Opposite Lock
neat


Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:20 am
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Ikr


Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:27 am
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Maybe it's the IJ quote coloring it, but this is up it's own ass real hard. Did you masturbate solely to pages of a thesaurus for a week before writing this?

In all seriousness, stop trying to use big words just to use them, stop cramming adjectives everywhere, write like you're talking to someone and not like you're trying to impress someone.

"And sitting before me was a beautiful mistake just begging for my rationality to give way to unabashed overconfidence."

This sentence hurts me. It is trying too hard. It's a thin veneer of trying-to-be-cerebral pasted over very little in the way of actual substance.

"Sitting before me was a beautiful mistake just begging to be made."

Isn't that just so much nicer to read than a sentence full of pointless polysyllables?

"I lay awake in bed, wondering if others feel even an inkling of the existential angst that drives me to search for understanding in an ineffably complicated world."

Yes. I was just as pretentious about it when I was a teenager, too. Thought it made me better than other people, same as you. Largely, it just makes you a lot more likely to suck your own ♥♥♥♥ about stuff other people do without really thinking about it.

"Logical argument means nothing to the Joes of the world."

Way to dehumanize an enormous portion of the world. God, those horrible "Joes" and their lack of logic, how dare they not be exposed to the same culture as I was and not have enjoyed the excess of free time I did. Those horrible, rotten Joes.

Kind of ♥♥♥♥ stupid to dehumanize and typify the proletariat and talk about white privilege in the same piece, doncha think bub?

Your reach exceeds your grasp. Get better at having an understanding of things before you try to write like you have a semblance of one. David Foster Wallace earned the right and ability to write the way he did by eating mountains of pain and books. Faking it is an ugly thing.

So is blatantly stealing your title. Where, exactly, did Zen fit into this story? Or did the book's title just sound cool to you so you ripped it off?


PS. The paragraph where you talk about "a fellow gearhead" is ♥♥♥♥ nauseating. Why the ♥♥♥♥ are you trying to explain thrill-seeking? That's like trying to explain being sorta hungry. Everyone already ♥♥♥♥ knows, you have nothing new, come back when you do. Preferably in a less pretentious envelope.

P.P.S. "To capture it in words I turn to Buddhism and the concept of dukkha: alternately translated as 'sorrow', 'pain', or 'unease'"

You have to translate something before you give an alternate translation. Also that is the most piss-poor explanation of dukkha I've ever read. Let's not reference the first noble truth or anything, let's not explain *why* these axioms we're throwing out are true, Mr. Searches-For-Meaning, let's just declare 'dukkha = it is human nature to experience suffering' and move right merrily along. Protip: Dukkha is suffering, not the concept that humans will inevitably experience suffering. You were describing the First Noble Truth and calling it dukkha. Listening to some Alan Watts on youtube doesn't mean you know ♥♥♥♥ about Buddhism, and you have thoroughly displayed that you don't know ♥♥♥♥ about Buddhism.


I only hate it so much because it reminds me of me, years ago.


Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:28 am
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My English professor liked it a bunch, sorry you didn't. Feel free to post something better ;)


Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:34 am
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Summary: An angsty kid gets upset with some far right republicans being clowns, acts all philosophical about it, and breaks some laws, and endangers his own life and the lives of others to make himself feel better.

Not awful, but too pretentiously delivered.


Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:39 am
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It's good for amateur writing and if someone submitted this for a class I would expect it to get good marks.

It's ♥♥♥♥. I explained why so you could examine my opinion and either use it or discard it after finding it not useful. You disregarded it entirely because it hurt your ego and posted to defend said ego. Using the opinion of an authority figure as a way to deflect, no less.

"Feel free to post something better"

Why, so I could have strangers say nice things to me and bolster my ego? I don't currently feel that need, and so I haven't posted things I've written in years. Sorry bub, you'll have to go digging if you want to compare clowns.


Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:41 am
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PPS I'm a 20 year old physics major who took a course on philosophy and read Siddartha. I don't use thesauruses Ooh, I'm just really this insufferable. Hopefully I'll become less obtuse when I start describing abstracts for physics experiments instead of trying to describe my horribly skewed, mental half-poor, three-quarters spoiled view of the world.

For the record, you'd have to meet Joe to understand how he's not a representative of the working class, but more a champion of the "good ole days" who made a point to explain to me how much I'd hate having a Mexican roommate in the college dorms.


Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:42 am
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Post Re: Zen and the Art of Opposite Lock
CrazyMLC wrote:
Summary: An angsty kid gets upset with some far right republicans being clowns, acts all philosophical about it, and breaks some laws, and endangers his own life and the lives of others to make himself feel better.

Not awful, but too pretentiously delivered.


Mostly I was concerned with the law-breaking bits. Yeah I'm angsty, especially about Far Right Republican clowns...lots of confederate flags in my part of Wisconsin.

But cant we all relate to the escape of it? I don't care if you shoot skeet or heroin or if you're a professional COD player, you still have that something to give your all to when life gets overwhelming. For me, that something is hooning the piss out o my car.


Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:45 am
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Post Re: Zen and the Art of Opposite Lock
I live in the deep south, my father intends to vote for trump. Joe isn't as rare as you might imagine, and I promise you you have 0 understanding of Joe as a human being. You will never try, so assured are you about his lack of worth.

Maybe try using a thesaurus next time, it might help you use the words for which your reach exceeds your grasp a little better.

<+ComradePyro> this isn't typical liberal-academic substanceless masturbatory artless prose at all

ty for confirming the last remaining adjective (academic) in this theory for me

>But cant we all relate to the escape of it? I don't care if you shoot skeet or heroin or if you're a professional COD player, you still have that something to give your all to when life gets overwhelming. For me, that something is hooning the piss out o my car.

Notice in Infinite Jest DFW made a point of *not* glorifying the ♥♥♥♥ you glorified. Figure out why and you'll know why this is so distasteful and masturbatory. Go read the bit about why Gately dislikes NA and see if you can't see what he's talking about in your post.


Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:49 am
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Joe sounds like a wonderful guy.

But good for you, having the privilege to go to college and finish your major. I'm sure you're chuffed about it. Just try not to stroke your own ego too hard.

No, I can't really relate to the escape of it. Self-harm and endangering your own life or especially others, including breaking the law, isn't something I try to engage in for catharsis. When I do, or anyone else does, it's a serious mental health issue. It shouldn't be taken for granted like it is here.

The main character, to me, seems more of a tragic kind, with a fatal flaw. Sort of like you might see in Shakespeare's plays. Not really relatable.


Last edited by CrazyMLC on Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:57 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:49 am
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Fair enough. Believe me, I think about how lucky I am every day, it's a damn symphony of physics. Like God wants me to study particles bumping into each other near c.

I never forget that half the country disagrees with me, or that hundreds of millions of people on this planet have me beat. Such is life. Thanks for the feedback, I'll internalize it much as possible. Bear in mind I'm at least 10 shots deep and a definite lightweight. But hey, I just felt like sharing some writing.


Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:56 am
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From here your ego seems to be bursting at the seams. While not the worse thing to have happen to you when drunk, I'd say to go sleep it off.


Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:59 am
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My ego must be bursting at the seems. You've characterized me expertly from my Data Realms Fan Forums posts. Lol I'm sure your life is so healthy in comparison. Sorry you'll never know how fun low-end torque can be. I have mutilated myself so hard with all the power oversteer.


Mon Mar 07, 2016 9:07 am
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Yeah dude, I don't have a driver's license, so I suppose I never will know.

I've talked like you before when I took too much of my ADHD medication. You start to feel like the center of the universe. That's why I say to go sleep it off, not because I'm trying to put you down.


Mon Mar 07, 2016 9:13 am
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