Memories are an anchor. Possibilities are a wild wind, taking you to new and fantastic places.
But if you let the wind alone guide you, you’re bound to run aground.
Use the damn rudder.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. –Samuel Beckett
We do not all begin at the same starting line, and we do not all have the same amount or height of hurdles. We will all fail many times in our life no matter what we do, and we will not catch the people in front of us, those that due to some cosmic lottery, were born on a short track to success.
No matter. Failing does not make you a failure. Losing does not make you a loser. Giving up and blaming others because you didn’t get a short track, that’s where the moral failings fall.
Don’t stop in your stride to blame “The Other Guys,” the ones not like you. Don’t spit your hate and fear at the ones that you’ve never met because that absence makes it easier to see them as not human, not moral, etc. Take hold of your life, own up to your failings, and keep running. Finishing the race when you have the harder track is nobler than winning with an easy one. Pity those on the short track. It makes for a flabby spirit.
If you’ve made it this far, you probably like my writing. Check out my two fantasy novels Song of Simon, and The Watchmage of Old New York, or recommend them to friends. You can also check out this super secret “romance” project, “Welcome to Elmwood Park.” Writers don’t live by the “Like” button alone
Cheesy ads are below…
Death is everywhere
Death is Change
And every story
I have a few Facebook friends that work out and love to post inspiring stuff about working out. Yesterday, one said “Everything I learned I learned in the gym. Hard work and commitment are all you need in life to achieve your goals.”
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But it feeds into something I’ve been thinking about in society for a while now. I’ve seen it repeat in my history studies as well, and I think it bears acknowledgment.
What my friend (actually, he’s a bit of a dick) said the above is the echo of the American Dream. Success comes from virtue, being a good person, working hard, honesty, etc. You are rewarded for your Goodness. You can call it God’s Blessings, or Instant Karma, or whatever. They mean that if you are “good” you will have success.
But if that is true, then it would follow that if you don’t have success, you are a bad person. You’re not smart enough, or lazy, or violent, or drunk, etc. You have some flaw that is keeping you from millions of dollars and a yacht filled with women in bikinis and/or men in g strings.
Obviously that isn’t true. Bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad ones. But we cling to that belief like it’s a rope over a pit of lava. It influences the way we see and act toward other people, and not in a good way.
John Lennon was wrong. Instant Karma doesn’t get you. Dumb luck does.
Wealth is Your Reward. Poverty is Your Punishment
“See that family in the trailer park? They must be drunks or meth addicts. That’s why they live there.”
“Don’t give that homeless guy change. He’ll probably just spend it on booze.”
“Those people on the welfare line?” They’re lazy. Get a job and quit sponging off my taxes!”
And on and on. We assume that they are bad, because they have bad circumstances. We use the scant examples of virtue leading to success as proof that it’s all we need. Success is 1% virtue and 99% luck (not data-based stats. It’s probably much less).
To blame someone else for your troubles is cowardice. Bravery is accepting your lot and trying to make it better.
We look down upon the poor, because part of us believes that they deserve it. They are bad people. We also look up to the rich, because they must’ve earned it. They’re so smart, hard-working, dedicated, etc. We should be like them. It doesn’t matter if their parents were millionaires, sent them to the best schools, found them a great job through their connections, etc.
We worship the rich because we believe that they are worth worshiping, even if they’re only rich from inheritance or a sex tape (or both). But they are no better or worse than us, just like the poor. We all have virtues and vices, and they are separate from fame and fortune.
The Blame Game
“So why aren’t I rich? I’m a good person. Someone’s keeping me down. It’s not my fault, it’s their’s. They took our jobs. They rape and murder. They blah blah blah it’s not me.”
Sound familiar? It’s because you hear it every day, thrown at every “other.” It’s the immigrants. It’s the Muslims or Jews or Hindus or Buddhists or Pagans. It’s the feminists. It’s the government. They’re the reason my life sucks, not me. I’m infallible.
People need to find a reason, no matter how absurd it is. To blame luck is to accept the random futility of life. You are not suffering because of anyone else. You are not suffering because of yourself. You are suffering because people suffer without cause and effect. The sooner you accept this and stop blaming others, the better off you will be.
Remember, you can play the game perfectly and still lose.
Praying to the Dollar
There’s a quote usually attributed to John Steinbeck, but I’m not so sure about that. It goes “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
I don’t think that it’s true, and I don’t think it has to do with Socialism (and I really don’t give a damn about Socialism) so much as how we see the rich and poor. It’s because according to the American Dream, the rich are virtuous and the poor are laden with vice. You reap what you sow. You get what’s comin’ to you, etc.
It’s bullshit. Stop worshiping the rich. Stop crapping on the poor. Start treating people like they’re people instead of a tax bracket. Stop blaming others for our lack of joy. We’re all in the goddamn fights of our lives, and we’re all going to lose at the end.
Joy doesn’t come from winning, but from playing the game.
Stop complaining. Keep fighting.
(This is a bit introspective, but it’s my party and I’ll kvetch if I want to).
I keep telling myself that it’s just a day. I’m one day older than yesterday, no more, no less. But that’s not true. A birthday isn’t a day, it’s a milestone, a click in you lifetime that doesn’t mark time, but experience. It’s a scenic rest stop on the highway where you get out of the car, stretch your legs, and look at where you’ve been.
I have experienced 40 years on the highway, and I’m looking back. And the road behind me is not impressive. It’s gunk and potholes and endless, endless construction. It’s like driving through Northern Jersey.
When you’re young, you love birthdays. They’re about excitement and joy and parties with friends. I’m not having a party. I have panic attacks when there are too many people around, and I don’t have many friends any more. I don’t really like bars. I don’t have room to have people over. When my dad turned 40, we threw him a big surprise party in our house…we had a house! I only know a few people my age that have houses.When my mom turned 50 we threw her a party at a hotel. I always thought that I’d have the same. I wanted what my parents had. Family, friends, and a place to celebrate with them.
Anyway, when you’re young, it’s about celebration. When you’re old, it’s about introspection. I think about my life: where I’m at, my successes, my failures, my flaws and things left undone. I think about the roads not taken, and whether they would have made a difference. I think about “what ifs” and whether I can back track with what I know now.
It’s why people have mid-life crisises. They’re not about “oh my god, I’m getting closer to death.” It’s about “oh my god, why didn’t I make the left turn at Albuquerque?”
I have a lot of regrets. I wish that I could’ve been there when my mom died. I wish that I was able to save Valerie’s life. I wish that I didn’t waste so much time. I wish…I wish the world would slow down so I can catch up. But I don’t wish for a sports car or anything cliche like that. I wish that I could’ve done more Good. I wish that I made more of a difference. I wish that people didn’t suffer because I didn’t act. I wish I had the power to make a difference.
I don’t. I can’t even help myself.
I can’t say whether I’ve had a good or bad life. There are hundreds of millions of people who have it far worse than I do, and just as many who have it better. I wasn’t dealt the best hand, what with all of my medical problems that keep me from living a “normal” life (whatever that is). But I haven’t been homeless in a few years, and I don’t have to beg doctors for medicine anymore. Whether that changes in the future, whether the bottom drops out and I live out my life in a group home or a cardboard box, I don’t know. Whether I’m dead in five years, I don’t know. But right now I’m alive and in a good place. 40 is not an age that I ever expected to reach, so I’m ahead of the game.
I hope that on the road ahead, I can do more than the road I’ve left behind. But the car is getting old and rusty. The shocks are going, the radio doesn’t work, and a dog peed in the back seat. And that road goes on forever, with or without me.
But I’ll have some cake. Cake will make it better.
Something happened in my writer’s group a few weeks ago that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I don’t know if it means that there’s something wrong with me, or something wrong with the world.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a health post. Although I’m still worried about the heart issues, I don’t think i’m gonna croak any time soon.
Ever since college, I’ve been keeping a journal. That’s pretty common, a lot of people do. Not many people keep it in the bathroom.
Yes, I have a bathroom journal. No, I do not log my shit in there. I just find that the bathroom is a good place to write. I was originally inspired by my friends in college, who kept one. It was a communal book, and they all wrote in it. Sometimes they had conversations through it, other times just random entries about their lives. I did the same with my roommates, and anyone that graced the porcelain god in my apartment was encouraged to do the same. What i ended up with was a record of mine and my friends lives from college on.
We finished the first book my last year in college (it’s in my bookcase), and I started a second, thicker book. Since I lived alone for most of my adult life, it was mostly me that wrote in it. These days it can be weeks or months between entries. But i love it. Sometimes I’ll look back and see snapshots of my life, remembering all that happened, and where I came from.
And so we come to the end.
I am on my last pages of the journal. By the end of the month, it will be filled. Of course I’ll start another one, but I’ve been using this one for 15 years. 15 years of my life, my loves, my failures, the roller coaster of my crazy life, now archived in my bookcase. Maybe some day I’ll take it out to read again, but I don’t do that with the first book. Maybe when I die, someone will find the books and think “why is this guy writing while he shits?” I’ll have no answer (cause I’ll be dead).
The journal is dead. Long live the journal.