Some strange shit had been going down in my office building. A handyman who ran a wood-working shop below my office got arrested for killing a cult leader. No you did not read that wrong. It’s a weird sentence to write. The dude’s name was Sorek Minery. And he was a dude, a seemingly laid back dead head type. Seems he was caught up in a cult called The Work started by a scary fella his followers called Julius Christ. He thought he was God proper. That was crazy enough, but then some weeks later a clerk at a local grocer was arrested for murder too. He reportedly raped and killed a woman on the bike path that ran just past our office. I talked to this oddly friendly fella daily, so that hit home too. So two big wtf moments. I called up my buddy Shannon Cason to get his take on this weirdness. He hosts and produces Homemade Stories and The Trouble for Chicago’s WBEZ radio. Both are killer shows. Anyway, at that point I was considering making it the subject of a podcast series called Bad Mojo.
He liked it the idea of talking to the phenomenon of bad shit glomming together. He’d run into bad mojo. He’d lived on hairy edge as a gambler. He knew there was something real there. I told him about some of the other strange shit that’d been going on, like our office manager had lost her partner in a local plane crash a few days before Sorek’s arrest went down. My life had also been going sideways too. So bad mojo was in the air it seemed. “Could this stuff came as a package deal,” I wondered? Seemed like a good question to ask, although not an original one. Shannon agreed.
After our chat, I realized this idea of bad mojo is pretty complicated. When bad shit happens nobody really wants to deal with it. People prefer to avoid anything bad. It’s easy to see this because people start asking weird shit around difficult stuff like “why is this happening to me?” This is silly, because it’s really just life they’re talking about. It’s like a spell. The truth is everybody knows there’s up and downs, good and bad in life. If you’re human you know there’s going to be shitstorms. But the moment a person is confronted by the darker side of life a different version of the person comes out. This version acts as though bad shit was never supposed to happen. It’s like a prejudice for the good stuff gets unleashed, or perhaps it’s more a delusion. The person is saying “it’s ok if bad shit happens to other people, but not me.” Perhaps this is the Maya the Buddhist’s are referring to. Most of us prefer to let our mind’s determine what’s real, and it does. Reality’s too painful.
I’m not going to lie, this bad mojo shit took me for a spin. I was looking at this phenomenon from the eye of the hurricane to speak. But bad mojo is really just the unexpected. But the darker side of it, the stuff that amplifies our uncertainty and pain. The truth is life is mostly good stuff. More days than not the fucking sky’s not falling, so that’s easy enough to see. So the phenomenon of bad mojo is a situation where the script gets flipped. Suddenly we’re knocked out of comfort zone. We live on our assumptions that the good stuff will just keep going forever. But it won’t, and when gone we’re exposed to the stinky underbelly of life. Bad shit is real. And worse, when it’s bad mojo, it’s like a hose gets turned on the bad keeps coming. It’s jarring when you see it happening, and way worse when it’s happening too you. Perhaps a good analogy is like you head to a church for a church breakfast but when you open the door you get punched in the face. Nobody expects bad when you assume the good. Bad luck, hard luck, or whatever you want to call it, when bad clumps together it creates a whiplash effect. The weirdness pumps a disquieting fear into our suffering. It inspires a sort of disturbance. You can watch it happening. People start asking questions they might have preferred ignore their entire lives. Like “why do some people get more good in life than bad,” and “why’s all this shit happening too me or them?” Those are examples of people assuming prejudice. It’s like bad is unreal.
What’s bad about bad mojo is you quickly realize the stories you’ve clung onto in life may not be enough. Beliefs about about reality, free will, faith, fairness, and destiny, may fall short. We may turn to science, psychology, religion, family, or wisdom stories. But the experience of bad mojo is high strangeness. It’s so jolting it asks more than our stories can offer. When it persists around people caught in tragic incidents like wars, epic illness, or in cases like the holocaust, the misery can twist humans into something no longer recognizably human. It takes humans beyond human. Perhaps that’s why people like Victor Frankl are true studies in miracles. We want life to make sense, and when it doesn’t, we are forced to make sense of ourselves. It’s a rare person who can survive life truly turning upside down.
I wondered if that’s what happened to the guy below me, Sorek. Had misery twisted him into something beyond human? The day I gotten the news I went down to his workspace to poke around abit- you know research. And damned if I didn’t run into the guy’s wife! She was getting his equipment appraised. Her husband was the bread winner apparently and she had kids to feed. It was a sad and awkward moment. We’d locked eyes, and I was frozen for a brief moment. I felt for her. I was struck by how seemingly normal and pretty she was. I then felt silly that somewhere I was carrying an expectation that I’d be able to see why she’d married a monster. I’d apparently also already judged this guy as a monster too. Perhaps this guy wasn’t a monster at all, but just another confused man that fucked up big time. Is every murderer a monster? Maybe bad mojo had run loose in his life for god knows how long. Who knows?
I’d been caught in bad mojo. My life had gone sideways before, and recently even. So I wondered why him and not me?… Why I am the guy mixing podcasts up stairs and he’s the guy who got caught up in a cult and murder?
This is a creepy question. We’ve grappled with the notions of good and evil probably since we popped out of the ether. And it’s unsettling. We all like to believe we know we’re capable of. And more, who we are. But what if bad mojo took up roost in your life?… Like it not just visiting, but rented a room in your home and stayed just screwing up your life daily? Like Job in the bible. It’s a impossible question to answer until you’ve experienced bad mojo yourself. It’s a perspective that can only be earned the hard way. When life turns upside down, who will you be?…