We are all responsible for ourselves and each other. We are our brothers and sisters keepers.
We are all responsible for ourselves and each other. We are our brothers and sisters keepers.
Some books move you, others, you identify with on a level that moves with you. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was THAT book for me.
I honestly do not remember much of the book’s narrative. I remember the basic premise and flashes of many of the pivotal scenes but the specifics are lost on me now. I think it’s time for a re-read.
I read it the first few times when I was vulnerable and young before I became a father (or a man really) and both times I read it I thought myself deeply in love. I knew it was about becoming, something I write about and allude to a lot here, becoming the person you are and how that person relates to the rest of the world. It was about philosophy and kindness and fear, it was about being imperfect in the face of others wanting perfection, and it was about being a father.
It is a book that I encourage every man to read, women too, but especially men. It deals with the pain and confusion of becoming a man and becoming a father in such beautifully illustrated words that even if you are none of those, you can understand what it is like to be any of them.
It was my go-to comfort book for many years. I’d read a chapter or two when I was depressed or despondent. When the girl I liked didn’t like me back and I was so afraid that I’d never have the opportunity to become a father. It kept me warm when I was cold and alone and struggling just to keep my head up. It kept me alive when I was suicidal, awake when I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open and striving for healthy when I was so sick inside I could barely get out of bed.
In a very real way, this book was why I wanted to write in the first place and its more than 100 rejections proved to me that it was a noble venture. And that, with perseverance, luck, and will, almost anything is possible.
The more I grow and the older I get the more I realize that happiness is not only relative but may be something unrelated to joy. Joy is the exuberance that follows a positive discovery of the world. The discovery of a new thing or a long forgotten emotion, the discovery of a long-lost feeling or a new vista, all are the fuel of joy.
Happiness is not joy. It’s not contentment, nor is it complacency, It isn’t hope or wonder, though it is a product of them all. Not alone. It is the product of the tension between opposites, the right balance between optimism and fear, a melding and repelling of opposites.
Happiness is what happens where our hope and our fear collide in equal measure. It is the point of homeostasis that occurs when love and hate exist in equal amounts. It is the in-between space where all hope meets all hope is lost. Happiness is the place where our greatest aspirations and our greatest doubts cancel each other out and create a space for us to live in the moment, unhindered by either.
Happiness isn’t a state for any short span of time, it is a long-term way of being that occurs in the moment and across time. It is transcendent yet it steadies us in place. It gives us glimpses of the 5th-dimensional beings perspective of the movies I mentioned in the last post. It removes us from the moment and secures us to it and because our perceptions are so limited we can only really feel it in retrospect.
Happiness is tension. Happiness moves us forward by being the swift, ever-present and ethereal force, the wind that we can’t see but feel when we pay enough attention or when it is strong enough to move us on its own. Happiness is where hot and cold air meet.
Happiness gives us an understanding of time and space that is not linear, not one point to another and not directly linked to our appointment calendars or datebooks. It expands our understanding of what the universe has to offer us, and what we contribute back to it. It connects us to the eternal and in brief glimpses gives us the shape of the face of “God.” Abstract like a psychedelic trip taken in millisecond doses spread throughout the average 28000 days or 672000 hours in an average lifetime, happiness exists in the eternity between moments.
I’m finding myself fearful and more hopeful lately, and therefore so much happier because I can feel both, fully, just this side of insanity. To me, that is happiness.
Prologue: A coworker was telling me about someone who died recently. He was in his 30’s and had just gotten married. Just after getting engaged he discovered he had cancer, he died, I believe, just this past weekend.
We were flipping through his Facebook page and he seemed to have lead a good, solid, yet short, life. The shots in his gallery seemed well constructed but genuine, he seemed to be surrounded by people who loved him and they seemed to be incapable of wiping the smiles off their faces in his presence.
It got me thinking, is it better, or at least equally good to live long and have an okay life, or to live a shorter, more robust one? Does any of this matter? If for the fact that we have so many conflicting emotions and quirks that seem to battle within us daily do we really live?
This isn’t going to be a pronouncement that takes anyone by surprise. It won’t surprise in its content or its conclusion, it has been made before and will be made again.
Science, or Speculative fiction lately, especially in movie form, has said more about us, where we’ve been, who we are and where we’re going than any kind of art. Music doesn’t even come close, other visual arts pale and theater is just finally catching up. Theater lately has been concerned about where we have been as an element of who we are, using its emotional underpinning to draw us into historical truths we may not have a connection to otherwise. (I’m looking at you Hamilton and Allegiance)
Science Fiction films, like Arrival and Interstellar, bring together pressing issues (War, Famine, Climate Change, Isolation) and instead of drawing us into the story through emotion, the feeling of the films permeates the narrative. It is part of the story; it is not a plot device it’s part of the plot itself. Emotion is so woven into the story, it is almost a genre unto itself, SciFi emo, or something much better put than that.
I posted a few youtube videos a few weeks ago that illustrate the point, and though I hate to be Mikey’s personal evangelist (well, not really) his latest for Arrival, though not nearly as emotionally affecting as the one for Interstellar, still makes the point. On a dual canvas, these films paint the idea that science and logic are good solid things we need to hold on to (in this day of anti-science and pro-stupid even more so) but also that our flawed, messy emotions, our hurt and pain and our joy and love are all essential elements of our humanity. They will save us.
That is what these films do best. They tell us that the conflicting sides within us not only create a tension we need to drive us ahead, but that tension is the place we live inside. That tension is the place of placidity in the right measure and that when you look at a good day or a good week and you dismiss all the flakiness and fear each one brings you just might have had the perfect balance of both. You might just have a life.
I’ve been off job 1 for the past week and that is about to come to an end. It was a great week, and as great weeks go, it went way too fast. It was a week full of lessons and revelations. Of figuring out, both literally and figuratively, how to navigate. A week of re-learning how to operate the heavy equipment that is my life.
There are still many questions left unanswered, from the practical (how the fuck am I going to get through this summer?) to the philosophical (how the fuck am I going to make it through this summer?) I feel like some of the bigger ones have been at least broached, but there is still a ways to go before everything is hunky and/or dory.
Not that the more personal posts will be ending, but without some of the uncertainty of my personal life I will be refocusing more on the external. Which, unfortunately, means “still more fucking Trump.” But I’m hoping to find a basic balance between the two. After all, man does not live on politics alone.
It’s not a problem, I believe you have to reinvent yourself to keep moving forward, but sometimes during the reinvention you realize that there are parts of your former self that have transmogrified in a way that only your side can be resolved.
You’ve moved on from a friendship and want to remain indifferent to the difficult parts but reclaim the good, or a romantic relationship where you’ve moved past the romance but want to hold on to the friendship, kinship, and good memories but don’t know how not to get them all scrambled up in past behaviors.
You leave a job you love and there are people who became such an intimate part of your life that you miss them so terribly that you want to scream, but you just can’t reclaim those days, you shouldn’t try, you are different, better or worse in some ways.
Becoming sucks, but it’s also great. New is wonderful; I love new, haven’t had really and truly new in years. New is scary and unstable, it’s full of pitfalls and traps and the lack of years of context means having even less to go on when that text is non-committal, or the smileys lack a certain warmth.
Conversely, the old is a comfort, even if a lot of the joy is gone there are still memories and attachments and time…
I’m finding it hard to reconcile these right now.
I never want to go back again, ever. Not in my jobs or my relationships. Yet…I do not want to abandon what it was that made these things special, lasting (I thought) and part of what made me….me.
I now have about an equal amount of old and new in my life at the moment. Much of the old has had time to settle, the past being firmly in the past, but some of the freshly old, not so much so.
I have no intention of ever going back. I’ve found new relationships in my life that satisfy what I need at the moment and am trying to build on them patiently, slowly, that in and of itself takes so much effort for me. I’m a zero to sixty kind of guy, always have been. But the sustained effort to control myself, govern my passions, stay the course AND do it all in the NEW, is really hard. I feel that sometimes, by just putting in the effort to slow my ass down, I neglect the things already established in my life. The hardest things to reconcile are the things surrounding and penetrating my heart. New and old.
I only have so much energy, working so much and spreading myself too thin. I only have enough effort in me to concentrate on the existing and the new, so the old suffers.
I’ll never forget. But right now I just don’t have it in me to actively remember.
I’m sorry if anyone is suffering for that, a piece of myself is missing from me too, and I’m doing my best to find it. You should know this though, that missing piece will come out of the pod quite different, so different that the person emerging may be unrecognizable.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can’t build the new while gumming up my life with the old. That sounds way harsher than it should, but that is the bottom line. I am building a new life, a new relationship and a new outlook, and it HAS to take precedence above the old ones, HAS to. I’ve not been this true to myself in so many ways as I am being now and my priorities and my needs and my wants and MY LIFE have to be put first.
There is no other way.
Genesis, one of those bands with a smattering of songs I rank among my favorites. The Phil Collins era ones ride the line between pop accessibility and Peter Gabriel era weirdness, and this song exemplifies that.
The way songs make you feel regardless of lyrical content and sometimes because of it, is the immediate catch for me. This one transfers a longing and desperation. It recalls the feeling of being an adolescent in a fully grown man’s body and obsessing about the woman you love and going a little mad in the process.
Plus the music is just great.
Genesis, “Turn It On Again”:
A famous fictional mobster once asked “Would you rather be loved or feared?” well as far as the relevant question in our own lives goes I think the phrasing should be more, “would you rather be trusted or loved?”
It is a revelation when you truly feel trusted, it is also a potentially dangerous weapon/tool. I’ve shattered trusts with a word, casually, emotionlessly, and on one occasion vindictively, and I have kept trusts for lifetimes, never breathing a word of a secret spoken to me in a hush.
I believe that the balance of my keeping or breaking trusts errs on the side of keeping greatly, but the sting of the times when I have done the opposite still feels like a lash across my skin. It burns in a very particular way and when I move similarly, it breaks open afresh. Conversely, the secrets I’ve kept, the trusts I’ve held that have never been broken, I wear like internal badges.
To have trust placed in you as a means to share something delicate, a specific bit of information, a clue to a greater vista, is one thing and that thing is great, but to be truly, implicitly trusted is something entirely different and fulfilling.
So I guess the question isn’t simply would you rather be trusted or loved, but can you be trusted and not loved. Happily, I can say that I don’t think so. Being trusted IS being loved…..more. Being trusted with your nature and your soul is being loved in a way that no amount of “I Love You’s” could convey.
The loss of that, or the potential for it again, terrify me, as it should. But still, I welcome it.
I love Fugazi.
I say that in the present tense not because I believe in the impossible re-convening of the band (but, ya know, it COULD happen) but because they will forever live in the present to me.
They and Husker Du, are two of the bands I will regret to my dying day never having seen live. But with both, I have all the recorded music, all the brutally beautiful jagged guitars and angular stop-start, post punkiness. In On the Kill Taker, IMO their best, makes this case with not a laggard song its 12 damn near perfect tracks.
Rend It, a literal begging for the rending of ones soul, gets deep under my skin. Its a plaintive cry for openness and raw emotion, very fitting for my mood lately.
Rend it, by Fugazi:
10,000 Maniacs was one of those few 80’s groups that artfully combined alt-rock and folk.
Released in 1987, the year after I graduated high school, and the year I met one of my best, longest running friends (who also introduced me to REM), it not only reminds me of him and our various low-key adventures (driving to upstate new York one night with a group of friends on a whim, just to go, and totally falling asleep on Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, in retrospect, a forgivable sin) but of a time of near-innocence and its eventual shattering.
This song was a song on the soundtrack of my life from the time the CD came out. Its dreamy and contrarily carnavalistic keyboards contrasting with the realization of hunger, homelessness and drear that Ms. Merchant must have felt coming from a small upstate New York town and arriving in LA for the first time.
To me it was just another musical dream whose lyrics coincided with my own political and social awakening to the fact that all was not well in the richest country on earth.
10,000 Maniacs, City of Angels: