Way of the Shadow Wolves

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Matt Geiger

Did you know that Steven Seagal wrote a book? To be honest, I would have been surprised just to learn Steven Seagal read a book, let alone penned one. But he did. Sort of. He had a co-author. Someone to hold his meaty hand while crossing various linguistic streets. I’m guessing the co-author did much of the heavy lifting.

It’s called “Way of the Shadow Wolves: The Deep State And The Hijacking of America.” Really. It sounds like something that should exist only online, but I think there might even be paper copies of it, too. It’s a great book title, I think, because it also sounds like the name of Facebook group run by someone with ample free time and abundant conspiracy theories. The cover, which if not the best part, is certainly one of the best parts, features a large photo of Mr. Seagal himself, who one YouTube commenter recently pointed out looks exactly like a giant hot dog with a goatee, in front of a large, hovering set of superimposed wolf eyes. It’s sunset. I think it’s always sunset when he is around, both literally and figuratively. Perhaps it’s the universe’s nod to his career. Seagal is draped in a very ambitious fringe leather jacket. 

The fringe is so long it looks like he is draped in 100 pieces of beige spaghetti. 

He is wearing tinted sunglasses, and while people have been making jokes about his suspiciously wooly, jet black hair for years (primarily because it sprouted when he was in his 40s) in this image his trademark facial hair also appears to be fake. 

To serve as both author and cover model! Is there anything he can’t do? 

I knew I was going to read the book (or, at least the free sample portion of it) when I discovered a nice typo in the second sentence of the official description. “Shadow Wolves is a book of fiction based on reality. Both author’s (that’s not how apostrophes work, sir) have worked with, confronted, and seen the power of the Deep State and the manner in which many federal government agencies willfully violate the Constitution and the laws of the land in service to special interests.” I have typos in most of the things I write, but one would think a global movie star would have better proofreaders. 

I have no idea if Mr. Seagal has fought the Deep State in movies, or in real life, or in both. I sense the line separating the two might be somewhat fuzzy at this point. I think he once played a bounty hunter in a reality show. I don’t know how else to write that sentence. 

Steven Seagal is essentially a walking (in a plodding kind of way), talking (in a gravelly, tough-guy voice), endlessly bewildering meme at this point. The striking thing about him (both in real life and in his movies) is that he seems incapable of any sort of humility. He’s like the opposite of Socrates. He knows everything, including the fact that he knows everything, which makes it seem like he lacks any kind of wisdom. Because people who think they know everything are always the dumbest, in their own special way. 

The Internet has been making fun of his weight for many years, but I do think that’s a fairly lazy and pointless set of jokes. For starters, this is America. We are all pretty rotund, so making fun of Mr. Seagal for being overweight is like making fun of him for wearing pants or driving a car or watching TV. It’s a pretty common thing and going at him too hard feels a little hypocritical as my own chair creaks audibly beneath me. I’m eating a bowl of cereal while I write this. Seriously. And it’s the afternoon. And it’s not even a proper bow; it’s a Tupperware one, because all the real ones are dirty. 

The one bad thing about Steven Seagal is that I cannot share any of his work or life with my daughter. She is only six, which means she is far too young to watch any of Steven Seagal’s movies. It’s a shame. But they are full of senseless violence, old time misogyny, horrid cultural stereotypes and, certainly most offensively, the kind of lazy scripting in which you suspect the screenwriters’ fingers were coated in a thick layer of Dorito dust and any wrong key that was accidentally hit was just incorporated into the script, rather than going to the trouble of backspacing and rewriting any lines at all. The kind of script in which someone gets home after a long day of work and walks into the hose, rather than the house, because the guy typing couldn’t find the “u” key and gave up, and so on. And this wouldn’t be a classic Dorito dust; this would be one of those new flavors that combine several wacky products owned by the same giant parent company. Like extreme oatmeal, lemon-lime, snowboard, flea and tick shampoo flavor chips. It’s hard to keep track, these days. 

Because my daughter is six, she is also far too old to ever truly appreciate a Steven Seagal movie. Which is sort of a shame, too. If she watched one, she would have serious questions about various plot holes and questionable dialogue choices. His movies, especially the ones he has made in the last couple decades, are written for people with a mental age of negative 17, I think. People like me.

If you are wondering why I am writing this very long column, you are not alone. I’m wondering the same thing, myself. 

I usually just pour myself a bowl of cereal, sit down and write these things. By the end, I realize my subconscious has done much of the work for me, like Steven Seagal’s co-author.

But this time, I see I have written 1,193 words and I am still rambling on about an aging movie star who most millennials have probably never heard of. It seems my subconscious has fallen into a slumber. Who knows? It is 2020, after all. It’s been a long year for all of us. 

So please, place your own tidy ending here, if you don’t mind. Something about loving your kids, or your parents, or trying to understand that your political and ideological enemies only act the way they do because they are scared of people like you in the exact same way you are scared of people like them. 

Maybe try to remember that you can’t convince someone to be kind by yelling at them, shaming them, scolding them or canceling their identity or their existence. You can’t simply tell people to be happy and kind, in real life or in a newspaper column that will soon be in the recycling bin. 

You can only try to be happy and kind yourself, and hope it is contagious, because perhaps it can spread the way other things do. I don’t know. I’m out of ideas. 

But I do know that Steven Seagal has more money than I do. I know he has more freedom. I know he has a bigger house, and much, much more fame. I strongly suspect his books will outsell mine, a thousand times over. So why is it, if he has all the things that society claims make for a good life, do I strongly suspect that I am the lucky one? Why, if he is rich, and famous, and successful, and powerful, would I never trade places with him in a million years? It’s because those are not really the things that matter, and we all sort of know it. We just need to be reminded, from time to time. 

If people want money, they should have it. If they want power, they should have that too. The same goes for success. In the end, none of those things will make for a better life. 

All you really need are people to love, and people to love you. Not by the million. Not even by the hundred. Just a few. Maybe a husband, or a wife, or a child, or a buddy who likes the same jokes you do. Love, happiness and meaning are born again and again in the small spaces between you and them. The tiny distance is just right; just fertile enough for vital things to spring into being and grow.  

Those who achieve too much, who see their names in bright lights and who are adored by millions of people on social media, don’t have those small spaces, anymore. They only have the illusion of millions of people who seem to live in their phones but really exist 10,000 miles away. Nothing can grow in that kind of space. Not love, not meaning, not happiness. Those things need proximity to thrive. Like the air quivering as two wolves howl to each other in the dark of night. There is one, and there is a second, and in the space between them is everything in the world. It’s not right, or wrong. It’s just the way it is. It’s the way, well, it’s the way of the Shadow Wolves.

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