06/07/2012 09:49 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2012

Stuff, Not Stuff

Dear Waldo,

I got one leg, no feet, a big welt on my cheek, no job, plus a cleft palate. Cheer me up asshole.


One legged footless jobless man with a welt plus a cleft palate

Dear One Legged Footless Jobless Man With A Welt Plus A Cleft Palate,

What you got there is a real bad break. It's all just the luck of the draw and it looks like you came up with a very short straw. But here's a way of thinking about things that I'm hoping will help you out.

The entire universe, everything there is and ever was, can be divided neatly into two categories: Stuff and Not Stuff.

Not Stuff is any thought, any emotion, any sensation.

Stuff is everything else.

In my head I'm hearing you say, What kind of horseshit is this?, and so I'd like to hurry along if I may.

Stuff is things that take up space. Here are some examples: Your actual welt and your cleft palate etc.; Whatever tools and equipment you might use if you actually had a job; The actual feet that you no longer have; Me, the actual guy you think is an asshole.

Not Stuff is things that take up no space. Here are some examples of Not Stuff: Your sadness and frustration and anger about your welt and your cleft palate etc; Your vision of yourself performing magnificently at the jobs you don't have; The imaginary feet you may see when you look at your feet which are not there; The concept of me, the asshole, in your head.



Not Stuff -- what you think, what you feel -- is behind absolutely every problem that has ever existed.
You may say, One Legged Footless Jobless Man With A Welt And A Cleft Palate, Ohh yeah Waldo? A fuckin' meteor which is Stuff hits my fuckin' homeless shelter which is Stuff and spills whatever this shit is in my bowl which is Stuff all over my fuckin' one-legged trousers which are Stuff and you're telling me my problem is fuckin' in my head?

Yes, that's exactly what I'm telling you. You may think of it as a problem, but it is not necessarily a problem. It's possible that you might consider it a close call that changed your entire way of thinking about life. It's possible that you might find it hysterically funny. It's possible that you might find relief because a guy you owe money got wiped out. All that really happened is, Stuff hit other Stuff which hit other Stuff. What you make of it -- your Not Stuff -- all is up to you.

Do you see what this means? It means that every problem that has ever existed exists only in a head, if that's where the headquarters of a nervous system happens to be. Which means that you can make any problem you have as big as you want or as small as you want. Your problems are your artwork, your singular version of Life as you see it.

Please take your time digesting this before we move on, because there's another giant helping about to arrive that I'm going to be asking you to swallow. Here it comes:


One Legged Footless Jobless Man With A Welt Plus A Cleft Palate, I'm hoping to cheer you up with the concept of Chaos. All Stuff, including you and me, is the result of surprises that come from chance encounters within the random infinite swirling of all the other Stuff. Stuff, both huge and microscopic, having the luxury of forever, happens to rub up against other Stuff and occasionally astounding things happen:

KABOOM! A solar system!

OOOOOOOO! A rainbow!

HOLY SHIT! A frog!

WHAT THE HELL?? I got no feet!

Everything -- EVERYTHING -- happens by accident. Stuff comes together or doesn't come together for reasons beyond our ability to understand them, and now, One Legged Footless Jobless Man With A Welt Plus A Cleft Palate, you got what you got, which in your mind, appears to be a short straw.

So what if you think about it all like this: Dude, you could be a tree. Or a rock. Or fuel for a star. Or a banana. All of which may sound, on some days, like an upgrade. But by a jaw-dropping series of wildly unlikely coincidences, your Stuff has taken the shape of what's called a Human Being. Of all the things that are said to have a special condition called Life, you -- a Human Being -- happen to have developed the fanciest, most wildly sophisticated and entertaining Not Stuff we know of. For example, you can manufacture the concept of RIGHT! You can manufacture the concept of WRONG! You can manufacture the notion of HAPPY. You can manufacture the concept of SAD. But even bigger than that: You can perform the miracle of CHANGING YOUR MIND!!!

Let's think about that for a moment. Let's say you really think you're in love. You believe it with all your heart. You are in love. And now over time new information comes in. You perform a trick that happens every day. YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND. Presto! Now you don't think you love the person any more! In fact, the new info was so terrible that now you actually loath the person.

What happened?

All that happened was some new Not Stuff came into your head and everything changed! You went into the control room of your Not Stuff, and you pressed some buttons, pulled some levers, and you changed the Not Stuff of Love to the Not Stuff of Loathing.

One Legged Footless Jobless Man With A Welt Plus A Cleft Palate, this is exactly the kind of thing you have to do. You have to work at changing your mind about this bad break of yours. You have to go into the control room in your head and you have to fiddle with the levers of your Not Stuff in such a way that each tomorrow is a little better. The bad news is that you're the only one with the keys to that room. The good news is that you're the only one with the keys to that room. I'm rooting for you.

Your Fan,

Waldo Mellon