Bathwater

Note: I lost the first half of this entry, within a seventy-cent notebook, and am publishing the remainder as follows.

Edit: – I found the notebook – and thus the beginning of this entry, which had been lost. Without further ado:

Carl Jung said something about man needing religion. Having returned from the dark, cold abyss of non-belief, I wholeheartedly concur. I need something beyond myself. Something greater than my mammalian self, which I can place my abiding trust into. Now, this is my personal choice and I’m inclined to think many people have made the decision, not personally, but rather, like most decisions people make, collectively, based upon on the popular opinion of the day, or the opinion of their peer group.

That said, be a freethinker; form your own opinions. Because ultimately, theology is a matter of opinion, not fact. It doesn’t matter to me whether you believe in Yahweh, Jesus, Mohammed, the universe, the sun, or your grandmother’s ashes; you’re allowed to believe what you want, but, like Carl Jung, if queried about my belief in something, deeper, greater, and more mysterious than humanity, I will tell you that I don’t have to believe, I know.

The reason I’m thinking about religion and my relationship with the universe, is because I have been feeling a bit of ennui lately. Feeling like the breakup late last year left me marooned in my hometown. Of course, ascribing to Stoicism, I believe in loving my fate; however, unlike the ancient Stoics, I believe I have some influence over it insofar as I can direct my own thoughts, feelings, and actions. If I wanted to jump off a bridge tonight the hand of the universe would not stop me. Similarly, if I want to write great novels, and pursue my dreams of family and fame, too, the universe will not intervene. Frankly, the universe only cares as much as I do.

And really, this is what I have to ask myself: how much do I care?

How much do I care that, like me, my stories are all works in progress. How much do I care that physically, I’m not taking great care of myself. How much do I care that financially I am as despondent as my heroes were. How much do I care?

I care more than this but the universe isn’t seeing it, and that’s been okay for a time, but it’s no longer sitting well with me that I’m not crushing my dreams. It’s not sitting well with me that I’m not particularly excited to wake up tomorrow; although, one could suppose that at twenty-and-nine years, I am at the juncture when most men get that fire in their bellies, which allows them to hit their thirties with a renewed sense of vigor and passion. And in my ego’s own defense, it’s not like the plane never left the runway; I’ve enjoyed considerable success in my twenties, it’s just that I’ve had a few crash landings. The plane has hit the mountain more than one time.

Now, here I am. On a blanket under the stars. Having come through both blood poisoning and a big breakup this past year. Having examined my life and made the decision that G-ddamnit, a writer must write; I’m a writer, not a tech startup guy. I wasn’t a lot of the things I was. But I am what I am now. My purpose is to write books and stories that change the way people see themselves and the world. My mission is to live my highest self. My vision is to live in abundant peace, love, prosperity, and joy. Yes, I’m not in the business world, but the pragmatism, ambition, and savvy remains. I am the CEO of my motherfucking life. Belie ‘DAT.

This is why I journal. There’s merely no other effective manner in which one can cultivate honest self-awareness.

Like all humans, I’m not fully living my ideals but having come close in my past, I can tell you how smokin’ good it feels to master your life and achieve your goals. I desire that feeling again.
It’s just been a tough transition to accept my identity and to begin living as a writer rather than what the world would have me be: another cog, another brick in the wall – but no, I am not a wallflower, I am Spartacus. My life is I, me, mine.

However to would be writers and artists, you must beware that it can be devilishly alluring to not only be a writer, by virtue of writing as a writer does, but to be a writer by virtue of living as a writer does. As a writer, I will attest: all the cliches are true. Writers are not without their vices. However, my father said that I would be a writer when I had my first story published, so by that logic I’m just another guy living the Hank Moody / Donald Draper lifestyle in southern California, which is great, I am enjoying being single, but the goal is to be wildly successful, not just wild.

I cant help but think of the character Charles Strickland in The Moon and Sixpence (a fictional story written in 1913, based on the life of Painter Paul Gauguin), who at age forty walks away from his family and his life as a London stockbroker to move to France, where in squalor and starving he focuses on virtually nothing but painting – like a fucking BOSS.

To my credit, I do have four stories underway – each compelling and vastly different – but my goal as a writer isn’t just to write page turners, but stories that contain philosophical prose designed to educate and enhance the reader, as my favorite authors have me.

To achieve this I need to take each of my stories and outlay the themes, messages, and lessons I wish to bake into them. I’m not necessarily seeking it write purely moral fiction, but I am, to paraphrase Joseph Campbell, seeking to teach people how to live in this world. As Aristotle said, historically, literature is more important than history, for history shows things as they were, and literature shows them how they should be.

I want to enter the collective consciousness with a books that act as Trojan horses, containing knowledge that can help teach the world how we can be more human than our mistakes. But first, I must be.

Next night, cont’d:

Note: The text below is the entry I had originally published, minus the previously lost portion above.

I read Goethe’s The Sufferings of Young Werther this morning, and while the story’s ending was a forgone conclusion, I understood it psychoanalytically given my own (and Goethe’s) experiences in love.

Thankfully for Goethe, unlike his many readers who took their own lives with a copy of Werther on their person, his story gave him the catharsis – the le petit mort – he needed to carry on living.

The more literature I read and the more I learn about the lives of writers throughout history (for all writers weave their hopes and dreams and fears into their stories), the more certain I become that I am cut from the same woolen, blood dyed cloth as my kin, who, like me, were born fated to take up the pen and put their souls into prose and verse, so that they, like me, could be a less lonely, more understood, more complete, and more purposeful than they otherwise would have been had they not written; for every writer must write: if they did not, they, like Werther, might borrow their beloved’s lover’s pistols and put a bullet through their own heads, which makes me wonder whether Thompson, Wallace, Hemingway and others merely needed to write their own sufferings into something that could have rendered them less lonely, more complete, purposeful, understood, and ultimately: alive.

It’s difficult to know writers as intimately as only a writer can and not believe in some sort of reincarnation or intertwixtness of the writer’s soul – as if heaven sent some of its fallen angels down here from the place where writers go when they die. Writing is no more a profession than shaman, for a writer’s true duty is to heal himself and others, which, the latter, it may be argued, Goethe’s Young Werther did not [accomplish]; I want to bring my readers to the alter, not the grave.

Given that I believe in serendipity, kismet, synchronicity – G-d, what have you – I cannot help but feel this morning’s read was a solemn reminder of what I wish to give the world; of what I have to give – of what I must.

For here I am, once again, on my blanket, under the cover of the night’s clouds, softly tapping the touchscreen keys on my phone to write this, but I can’t help but feel pregnant with my stories, the little legs I’ve given them kicking about my insides, begging to be let out; my soul praying they are beautiful, healthy gifts to the world.

To quote Tupac: “Somebody has to break out and risk losing everything, and risk being poor, or else we stay like this,” because the real heroes of the arts are those who know their obligation and thus, their power. There have, historically, been books that changed things for people, books like Ivan S. Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, which ignited a revolution, freeing the lowerclass serfs in eighteenth century Russia. But one must remember, there have also been books like Mein Kampf, which ultimately plunged a civilization into an abyss, costing twenty million lives. Sadly, the legacy of the latter is greater and today the most popular arts are songs about fucking bitches and television shows about murder and meth. If that’s your favorite TV show, you, my friend, are a philistine.

To paraphrase John Gardner, there isn’t a lack of great fiction because of the ills of society, but, rather, the ills of society are due in part because there is a lack of great, serious fiction. 

Now, as a writer, a fallen angel, it’s my duty to take my words and paint every television and theater screen in America and across the world with the patina of the human soul as it should be – as it can be – for who will we give our children as heroes?

We can paint death in bathtubs, corroding with all the acid of our hate, or we can paint life coming into the world through those same tubs, porcelain and white and pure.

There’s an irony to it all, a grand fucked up irony, but we can fix it. There is no egg, which scrambled, we cannot throw away. We either eat them or we pay our attention and intention elsewhere.

A wise man once said, we are either kings or pawns in life.

What is a king to you? Someone who is adorned for all the trappings of the modern persona, or someone who redefines it – someone who shows us there is a better way?

There is no noble act in vain, for an emerald shines even if its worth is not spoken of.

I sit here, watching seven juvenile water fowl floating abreast on the cold, black water. They do not kill one another, do not delight in the death of their fellows – real or imagined. Yet, if they possessed our intellect, they would surely think our place in the world mad. We have not changed from the selfish beasts we evolved from, laying waste to the world and the life around us – real and imagined.

I’m not sure what the answers are, but I’ll ask the questions in order to write them, and I’ll take every purchase, every royalty, every single click and view, as a vote of solidarity – and if my worth is not spoken of, I will still shine.

As an afterthought, I am vastly fortunate to possess the kin and kith I do; however, it’s all too easy to discount the rest of the world in light of that; it’s all too easy to follow my human instincts and not care for those in neighboring caves; it’s all too easy to call someone an ex, a stranger; it’s all to easy to hear the siren of an ambulance crying in the distance, as I now do, and not care about them: thinking, I’m glad its not me. Whether you are as staunchly atheist as Steven Hawking or as strict a believer as The Pope, you cannot, nor will they, deny that we are all kin – whether via science or religion – those opposing theologies agree that we all share a common ancestry. We are all interrelated, connected; it’s but our perceived differences that separate us – keeping us from being beholden to one another.

The opposite of love is not apathy, as the learned would claim, but fear. I say fear not. I say throw the eggs out with the bathwater – not the baby.

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March 23, 2015

I find few things more enchanting or favorable than seeing a beautiful family or a long in love couple. I can feel the harmony radiating from their peaceful, contented hearts.

Just but a minute ago, a song came on my phone that felt like a sad, slow wave coming over me. I wanted to let it take me back, all the way to the pain and anguish of saying goodbye to her this past year. Only I didn’t; I chose not to simply by skipping to the next track.

Of the eight-thousand-odd-songs in my iTunes library, the top fifty played are surely the most melancholy and nostalgic I own. Whether these songs have been effective palliatives, damning up the tides of memory and assuaging the plague that has flooded my mind on its darkest days or whether they have merely the been the salt, mortar and pestle by which I have antagonized my own wounds and indulged in my own sufferings, I know not – but I see no difference in the two. For if it were possible to overdose on ones own sorrows, I would long ago have; I am a glutton: no one minds my pain as I do, I lay crippled to what others pay no mind to. Perhaps a broken heart is really a sort of suicide; perhaps the artist has no greater vice or adversary than his own pain, which minds not whether he seeks to soothe or revive it but only that he doesn’t forget it. For without his wounds, he might be whole and if whole he would not be forgotten any longer by those who don’t love him. Love me, the pain says. She doesn’t, the pain says. But she did, the pain says. His only answer to the sad slowness, being his pen strokes.

How many times I let that sad, slow wave come over me, heaven knows – but there have been entire days passed in a blanketed coma, my only other solace the pain inducing lyrics of songs I dare not quote or cite. There have been days like that. Heaven knows.

Only now, I’m thinking this life of mine needs a new soundtrack. One devoid of the songs whose notes sting like barbed hooks pulling my heart out through my ears, devoid of the songs that entomb me in a dead, cow-eyed sadness.

I return again to the wisdom of John Gardner; the idea from his tour de force, On Moral Fiction, that good art need be life enhancing – that art should seek to enhance life, rather than debase it – and in this light I ask myself whether listening to the proverbial Blues for thousands of hours as I have has done a damn thing to make my life better?

Maybe it was what I needed to get by. Maybe the change of seasons is bringing a new breeze in through my swollen ears to soothe my pickled and pricked heart. Maybe sad songs were the soundtrack of yesteryear. Either way, my music library is getting a spring cleaning tomorrow. No more sad songs.

No more looking to the beautiful family walking by as I listen to songs about needing, losing, wanting, having, hating, or loving love. I try and remind myself that there’s more to life than love as I write this, but who am I kidding; I might be somebody’s fool, but I’m not my own.

Only, I’d like to forget about love for a little bit. Maybe John Mayer was right when he sang, it’s wanting more that’s gonna send me to my knees. Maybe love is my gravity. Maybe staying where the light is means not letting gravity pull me back. Maybe it’s listening to those songs that remind me I’ve got dreams. Maybe it’s reminding myself that my dreams are bigger than love. Maybe it’s swallowing the truth that all unborn dreams die a thousand deaths in the heart of the dreamer.

Sauntering

Some guys are surfers,
And some guys are sailors
Some guys are saints,
And some guys are sinners
It’s by our own vices or devices,
That we’re losers or winners

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March 18, 2015

I’m not even sure how to begin this day’s journal entry; I hope tonight’s words can do today justice. A poem might be better but I’ve been thinking in prose on this day and so in prose I write on this night. Some days I think in poetry but not today, today was a movie, today was a day that needs no reconciling. Today I was at peace with it all, my own flaws included. Reading my entries it’s easy to see that many of them were written in an attempt to accept what unwritten I could not, for there are far too few days like this in my recent memory, far too few days that feel like one long, perfect sunset.

And today wasn’t false, it wasn’t the flattery of being adored, it wasn’t the high of being loved. It was the high of life, my life: alone and happy.

Today gave me an abundance of goodness. Even the imperfect moments were bearable, their imperfections no less perceptible, but somehow made more palatable by the day’s je ne sais quoi.

Yes, I’m not reconciling life, I’m celebrating it, I’m holding onto it, as I should be.

For there was a time when I revelled in life daily, back when I used to take pictures on my beloved Blackberry but I haven’t posted a photo of my own on here since I had that phone, over four years ago. Perhaps owning an Android after far too long spent in iPhone serfdom (footnote 1) has gotten me back into the habit of taking photographs. I hope so.

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The above was my view this evening, but the day was beautiful long before the sun began its westward journey toward the horizon. The day was beautiful sauntering down the avenue, the bliss of unknown possibility in my heart. 

For to saunter, as I, is to follow in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau, who definitively captures the essence – and etymology – of sauntering, or being a saint of the land, within his essay On Walking:

“…sauntering; which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la sainte terre” — to the holy land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a sainte-terrer“, a saunterer — a holy-lander. They who never go to the holy land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds, but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all, but the Saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.

Saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.

And so I sauntered, meandering circuitously like a river, my impromptu course leading me first for coffee (naturally), then to Pennywise Books, where I purchased a 1942 copy of Fathers and Sons, whereafter I met my mom and we ventured to the library’s book sale, where I purchased books too numerous to mention. The day was a roaring success thus far.

After dropping off three grocery bags of books – in a given week I normally borrow a handful from the library and purchase a quarter as many via the typical die hard bibliophile book troves (thrift stores, flea markets, indie book stores), sometimes trading in the unloved at 5th Avenue Books, or taking them to one of the local Little Free Libraries – I once again sought the shortest course to the sea, where I purchased a gorgeous handmade Mexican blanket for ten dollars, having given away its precursor.

Since I often saunter avec (footnote deux) blanket to the beach or park, I like to tote a reusable canvas bag, wherein I carry said blanket, a book or three, my journal (thanks Bunny), pens, a bottle of water, and sometimes medicinal herbs – for you can’t saunter drunk, that’s more of a stumble, but I have it on good word that it’s perfectly safe to saunter high as a kite, provided you have good music to listen to and, of course, headphones because no one wants to hear you sing, but you might sing along regardless; so, go ahead, saunter on, sing along.

Being that I didn’t leave home avec une couverture to read upon, I did not bring a bag to carry one. So, having purchased the new blue and khaki Mexican blanket (a softer, superior textile compared to my previous, overpriced RVCA brand blanket) I simply placed the blanket around my neck, as you would a scarf, letting its ends flank my unbuttoned shirt, under which my T-shirt bore the word Love. Yes, I was full hippie sauntering and my headphones were definitely in.

I was as far west as you can be after following the sun on the shortest course to the sea. I sauntered to the pier, the same ancient wooden pier I once ventured onto with my father during a huge storm, when the pier itself seemed to be sauntering and I hoped it wasn’t on the shortest course to the sea, but alas, the pier survived, we survived.

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While out on the pier sauntering and singing, I paused at the pier’s northern handrail (as pictured above) to admire the gulls in the sky and the surfers in the sea. Whilst there, I struck up a conversion with a fellow saint of the pier, a saintperrier if you will (tongue fully in cheek).

John, as he was named, is one of those people who remind you of the power we have to touch the lives of others, even in passing. I know this because John touched my life today. How so? I’ll let time and my adventures tell, but he gave me the courage to do something I’ve long aspired to – since childhood. John gave me living proof I could do it and make memories that would last a lifetime. He gave me proof I could pull it off. Proof I could do it and be happy and free. This is a game changer, thank you John, dearly.

After passing along my contact info and bidding adieu to John I sauntered on, stopping in a new restaurant and bar to give my regards to a friend, and, as evidenced by my Mexican blanket scarf, I wasn’t concerned with fitting in or standing out, I was just sauntering. For as Thoreau said, feeling equally at home everywhere is the key to successful sauntering.

Leaving the dining and drinking establishment I found myself hungry, as a saunterer often does. Having had the caliber of day I did, I knew it would be a perfect night for dinner out with a loved one, and who better to accompany me than my mom. The wonderful thing about calling to invite my mom to dinner – or to invite her to do anything for that matter – is that I know she will be there if she can and I know a good time will ensue.

To my great satisfaction she was up for grabbing dinner. I’ll spare you the details of how we came to arrive at this particular restaurant (for that is a story perhaps only she and I would find amusing) but it was sublime. I cannot wait to return and I just ate it there less than twelve hours ago.

Apres dinner we ate chocolate protein bars for dessert. Coming home, the night was still young but it didn’t matter, for the day had blessed me and the night could do no wrong, for I would only saunter on, singing along (footnote 3), thinking of what dreams and days may come.

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Footnote 1: Remaining in any kind of relationship beyond its expiration is never wise.

Footnote Deux: Avec – French for with– as in, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?”, is the opposite of sans– French for without – as in, sans jacket. I am slowly falling in love with French culture. An odd thing for an adult American to say, but perhaps not for a writer; however, I don’t know whether that’s been true for a handful of decades. There is, of course, a rich history of expatriated writers living in Paris, as chronicled within Hemingway’s A Movable Feast, and also in Orwell’s Down and Out in London and Paris; although, what really got me into French culture – beyond the exquisite and hardy cuisine – wasn’t romanticizing the Lost Generation’s romance with France – but, rather, reading James Baldwin’s Another Country and subsequently learning about Baldwin’s life as a French émigré in Paris long after Hemingway, Orwell, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and other denizens of The Lost Generation were gone. Serendipitously, I recently dreamt I was on a flight to France, and despite the aircraft’s precocious flight and being held up in Customs, I nonetheless found it desirous to be there; ironically – or, rather, bizarrely, I began seeing ads on my Facebook and YouTube pages for Air France practically the next day, having not searched for anything French online (other than James Baldwin’s biography, which, even so, is an indirect connection to France.) The ad itself is actually quite beautiful, delightful in fact, with American pop duo Glass Candy’s pulsing synth sounds and soothing female vocals providing the perfect backdrop. Yes, France is in the air. Love is in the air. Bonjour Mesdemoiselles françaises, mon nom est Lawrence Black , oui , l’écrivain. After having mastered así así Espanol con un a veces acento perfecto, Yours Truly is now setting about to learn French! …Ain’t life grand.

Footnote 3: The song I was listening to was a cover of Steve Winwood’s Higher Love, done by James Vincent McMorrow. The James Vincent McMorrow redux feels more like a prayer than a song and the wonderful transcendent feeling I experience listening to it is exactly what I hope to distill from my writing. It’s the same feeling I get reading a great novel. It’s a feeling I want to perfect. It’s a feeling I want to give others, for I don’t know what the world would be like without the arts, but it’s no world I could ever be a part of.

Rabbit

Man I feel like hell; well, not hell: hell is a bad hangover on a worse day (What more separation from conscious awareness is there than that?). No, I don’t feel like hell; I feel like shit.

Shit is dreaming of a departed lover. Shit is dreaming of looking into her eyes and telling her how much you love her, feeling it in the dream – as you never allow yourself in waking life – only to wake up in your bed alone with a headcold and a fever.

That’s shit.

But not all is forlorn: for despite my waking, and sleeping, circumstances, I took charge of the day; I seized it from the jaws of fate – jaws intent on chewing me up and spitting me out, but not today; for I know that the good outweighs the bad, even on my worst day.

(Thank you Mr. West.)

I think I was empowered largely because I read a damn good novel last night, John Updike’s Rabbit Run.

I always fear discussing authors for worry that critics will have easy targets on me when my works are published, but in actuality a good critic will be able to discern my literary DNA regardless, and a bad critic will try and dispel me as a poor imitation of someone better anyway.

Insecurities and plans of grandeur aside, Rabbit Run is a hell of a novel. The protagonist, while loathed by many readers (see Goodreads or Amazon reviews), is not a cypher; I understand him: he is every young man: imperfect, yet developing into something whole because of it. Now, whether Rabbit actually does [become whole again] will have to be discovered in the next book within the quartet, which I believe is, Rabbit at Rest.

Another reason I liked the book (beyond great character development and story arc) is the fact that Updike manages to write the story in beautiful prose unspoiled by Updike’s realist world view. This is no doubt due largely to Updike’s own philosophy, which, while tucked sparsely into the story’s dialogue, is enough to let the reader make his or her own value judgments.

A shining example occurs on page 140:

“No,” Eccles cries in the same strained voice in which he told his wife to keep her heart open for Grace. “Christianity isn’t looking for a rainbow. If it were what you think it is we’d pass out opium at services. We’re trying to serve God, not be God.”

And, further down the page:

“The truth is,” Eccles tells him in a womanish excitement, in a voice embarrassed but determined, “you’re monstrously selfish. You’re a coward. You don’t care about right or wrong; you worship nothing but your own worst instincts.”

Maybe that’s why I understand Rabbit. Maybe because for a long time I too, like Rabbit, was monstrously selfish.

But I can’t help but believe what Rabbit still seemed to believe at the story’s conclusion, that, “the world can’t touch you once you follow your own instincts.”

Because, as Rabbit said, “If you have the guts to be yourself, other people’ll pay your price.”

This gives me hope Rabbit can make it, but it also gives me something larger; it gives me the hope I need to make it. This sense of hope, I believe – as influenced by the literary philosophies of John Gardner and Ayn Rand – is the life affirming stuff that distinguishes good fiction, such as Dostoyevsky’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich, from damn good fiction, which I find Updike’s Rabbit Run to be.

p.s. Remember, damn good, is much better than good, but it’s still short of the best, which, as a reader and a writer, I always hope is still to come.

15 March 2015: Intact

An early morning – after a nice mellow, late night. A tired day, weighted down by the things that weigh days heavy on the shoulders of sons.

Heavy things, akin to the things that come with a given life, for every life has its tragedies; every family its misfortunes.

Nevermind my ambiguity. Putting this on paper won’t change the unalterable reality of it.

Some things are what they are; you can’t let your heart break under their weight. There’s a certain amount of innocence you have to maintain in order to keep your soul intact. For if you let that sacred part of yourself go, you’ll have a dammed hard time getting it back – for it won’t be gone, but lost. Finding it’s another matter.

Finding it requires distancing yourself from the adult world and doing those things that too as a child allowed you to tap into the wellspring of goodness within you. Maybe it’s walking, maybe it’s a particular book (Treasure Island). Maybe it’s a cartoon or a movie with mom. Anchors to places you once loved are invaluable – for you still love them – so hold fast through the dark night.

Mar 11, 2015: Soul

I walked down to the shore tonight so I could look up upon the stars and marvel in wonderment at the feeling of connecting to something eternal. I walked down here so I could look up at the sky tonight and ask the universe if I’m living it right.

To my mild disappointment I can see no stars, their shine obscured from my vision by a concrete sky of clouds, their presence above me is foreboding, as if their purpose were to keep me grounded in this California town tonight, unable to dream about another California town, unable to dream about another time.

The Native American streak in my soul tells me this is a metaphor, a lens through which I may see my situation in a different light – should I choose to interpret it so.

I have no doubt that man has found life’s deeper meaning in nature since man’s beginning – and while I’m faraway from the dawn of man, clouds and sunsets remain unchanged. They reflect upon oceans and lakes in an eternal mirage of something unreachable yet deeply familiar. They center and calm like warm milk or a tender lover.

I bask in nature’s glory as often as possible, and almost always on a good day; however, tonight’s drab sky feels like a cheap painting – far from glorious.

But these thoughts are little more than my way of avoiding that Native American metaphor, the idea that the universe has fated for my thoughts to remain grounded under this inglorious sky. For tonight I cannot wistfully look to the stars to find the answers I seek. Tonight I must be here now.

(Sits up straight, breathes deeply, changes music on phone, stretches.)

So I’m here, now.

I’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot to think over. I need to be decisive about exactly where I am going to invest my time this year. Inaction is action nonetheless.

I believe I’ve finally found some strong overlap between my business experience and my passion, but it’s not my passion, that of course being writing – and, more and more lately, reading.

Back home, thinking about some medical cannabis and some vanilla ice cream to go with this James Vincent McMorrrow I’m listening to. This is what my single life has come down to. My joys have been reduced to your typical single twenty something’s favorite mind adulterants. But, I shouldn’t be so austere. After all, I’m not thirty yet (thank you metabolism).

Ice cream or no ice cream, that is the question. Alright, ice cream, but asleep by three, and up for a run before getting to work tomorrow. Everything in moderation, that is the challenge.

Pause.

Fat, high, happy. Listening to Drake’s “Now and Forever” off If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late.

It’s nice to enjoy some Hip Hop, having been turned off from much of it after Reading John Gardner’s On Moral Fiction, where Gardner posited that art should seek to enhance life, rather than debase it. An idea subsequently bolstered after reading Ayn Rand’s The Romantic Manifesto. However not all Hip Hop is about mindlessness, just the popular stuff.

That being said, I’m back again listening to Van Morrisson’s Astral Weeks (a masterpiece).

I just took a pause from writing this to mindlessly peruse my Facebook feed, ironically, or rather, serendipitously, I came across this image:

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Sometimes things are too clear to ignore – too obvious.

My soul tells me that I can’t smoke enough weed, or eat enough ice cream to silence it. It speaks whether I listen or not. It speaks in the small fistful of anxiety jostling the pit of my stomach, and it speaks in the lack of inner peace that has disturbed me all day. I just sometimes don’t want to listen to it. I sometimes don’t want to face the truth. Sometimes I’d rather get high and eat ice cream. Sometimes I’d rather look to the stars and my books for answers. But all those things offer is the solace of escape, the reminder that all this is somehow temporary.

Unlike the stars and my books, my soul sometimes tells me things I don’t want to hear, but must.

My soul tells me that I’m worried about my father, that I’m not living life right on all accounts, and that I need to work harder to progress towards my goals. Its no wonder I don’t care to listen to it. Sigh. But I must. For too many men place their fate in the stars and not in themselves. And no book but the one I write can speak for me.

March 9-10, 2015: Deepened and Family

There are days when you know you have changed, days when you notice a marked difference in the feeling of your disposition, days when you know there has been a significant shift in your outlook. Tonight I stand on the dock I grew up on, knowing there is no going back to yesterday.

There is a sadness to it, but it’s no more sad than leaving summer camp, knowing you won’t see the girl again. For I know I no longer have the chance to be loved for the boy I was. Those loves have come and gone.

Now, I feel as I’ve never felt: I feel like an adult man. The truth is, up until tonight I’ve never been much more than a boy – and now, the guilt of all I have done as a boy is upon me. The breakups, the fights, the selfishness, the abandonment – of myself and others – is clear, as it never has been. I can relate to the lyric in ‘Waitin’ on The Day’, where John Mayer sings, Waitin’ on the day where that voice comes to say, that it’s not wrong what you did for just a kid.

Maybe it’s time to be honest with myself about my crimes and to find out why I’ve committed them so I can forgive myself, so I can begin to forgive others, so I can live as purely as I did before I ever had my heart broken.

Note: above paragraph inspired by the following James Baldwin passage in his novel Another Country:

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In the words of David Foster Wallace, “The truth will set you free, but not until it is finished with you.”

It’s time for me to take the lessons away from the pain. It’s time for me to become the man I was always meant to be. Remaining a boy simply isn’t an option for me anymore. Boyhood is over, and I think I’m okay with that. I think I’m okay with the challenge of being a man, because I know the challenges of boys are greater.

I’m not sure whether this shift is a normal maturation of a man’s priorities or just some gift handed down to me from the heavens. Either way, I’m ready to say goodbye to my twenties and the fears they contained.

Much has come to pass in these last ten years, but the things I love remain the same and my dreams haven’t changed.

As a boy I dreamed of being a good man, of having a family, of being happy, of sailing places, and of being loved and respected for who I was. As a man, I’m tired of dreaming. I’m ready to fulfill the promises I made to myself as a boy, on this dock, all those years ago.

Perhaps the fact I am standing on this dock, a place steeped so rich in memory for me – perhaps this is helping to highlight the significance of the change I feel tonight. As Nelson Mandela wrote in his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom: “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

Tonight, I have a deepened sense of myself. Some change has arisen within me, and I’m so ready.

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10 March: Family

I’m slightly stoned, and I don’t particularly feel like writing – but I know I should because if I don’t, I’ll just lie here thinking of all the same things anyway.

Yesterday’s internal shift continued to show itself today. Ironically, I wanted to write about family last night, but as I was wearing shorts and it was cold on the dock, I ceased my writing when I could no longer stand the chill. But to add clarification about last night’s psychic Bar Mitzvah of sorts, the feeling isn’t only that I am passing from boyhood to manhood, but that specific changes in my priorities are driving this change of seasons in my life.

Specifically, family. Maybe it’s because I’m spending the first significant span of time in the last ten years single and as result am spending more time with my own family. Maybe it’s because I have a baby nephew around. Surely both are important factors in the changes I am feeling but it’s more than that. It’s the fact that I feel like they can count on me now. It’s the fact that I am seeing that they need me. As I too am seeing I need them.

I feel terrible to write this, but I love them more than I ever have. It makes me feel better knowing that I also know them better than I ever have, but my increased feelings of love for them are more a product of the fact that I am no longer so obsessed with myself.

In my early twenties I knew I wanted a family, but my focus was on all the things that augmented my manhood – essentially, the same things most early twenties guys care about: their girlfriend, their car, and their image. I had a material life and I was successful based on my definition of success at the time, but my consciousness existed in a bubble trapped on the material plane.

I was also as selfish and arrogant as most early twenties guys are; although, based on the older men I knew and looked up to at the time, I thought all the cooler men shared my priorities.

It’s not just your priorities that change as you get older, but what you look up to and value changes as well. Now that I am nearing thirty next month, I still want success, sure, but it’s a different kind of success I seek. Yes, I desire copious amounts of money – but for completely different reasons than I did, even a year ago. I think time and life and loss have humbled me. I think the chip on my shoulder has been worn down. Thank G-d.

I always assumed I would meet my girl before I made my money. Well, I’ve done that twice and it hasn’t worked out – for good reasons. Frankly, I’m not going to wait for a women to come along and build the dream with me – and in all honesty, that’s a much tougher proposition to sell at thirty than it is at twenty-four. Young women find ambition sexy, women find success sexy – but that’s not what drives me. I live a heart-centered life. I’m not vying for anything less than wifey of the century. Material girls need not apply.

However, as a man there is no biological expiry date on my baby batter. Maybe I’ll be forty when I meet my wife. Who knows.

Regardless of how old I am when I start a family, I’m planting the seeds now. People are counting on me. I’m counting on me. It’s a long time till forever, but i’m learning I can be a family man and be single. It’s a beautiful thing.

Life is about relationships. Connection. And maybe I’ll make a forever home for the right girl someday but relationships sometimes end. Even after years. Family however, is always there. And should the Gods see it fit for me to walk to the alter then I intend it to last a lifetime, heaven willing. But right now I am so blessed to be near my family.

Which is difficult given that I want to get a place in LA again soon (I’m one of those freaks who LOVES El Lay). But honestly, I don’t even want to think about leaving them right now. They need me. And I need them.

4 Mar, 2015: Introversion

I’m coming to understand how introverted I am – and it’s not introverted as in an aversion to people, but rather an aversion to not being in my element.

There have been long periods of time when my element has been in bed with the one I love or otherwise at her side, so my introversion has little to do with solitude; it’s more about an innate need to preserve the sanctity of my soul rather than an express desire to be alone; although, the two certainly are often intertwined, and I suspect they [solitude and inner sanctum] are mutually inclusive for many. Some people simply need to be alone to experience a sense of peace they cannot otherwise attain in the company of others (footnote 1).

The people who enhance my sense of inner peace and add to my wellbeing in ways that do not require me to be anything other than completely faithful to my innermost nature in the moment, whether that’s quiet or talkative, energetic or mellow – those are the people whom I treasure and love the most.

Still there are others whom I enjoy spending time with but upon departing from feel drained, as if I have expended some unearthly spiritual energy in hanging out with them, and now I must go home and recharge my batteries.

This feeling is not overly apparent, at least it has not been until now, but I am becoming keenly aware that there are two camps of people in my life; there are those who maintain and even enhance my mental equilibrium and sense of self, and there are those who somehow disturb it, leaving me feeling off balance and slightly out of sorts with myself and the world.

I’m not sure what the distinguishing factor is between the two kinds of people but one [type] is certainly life giving, while the other is life depleting – and regardless of whether someone is the former or the latter, their effect on me is invariably one or the other; those who consecrate my inner sanctum always do, and those who somehow seem to desecrate it never fail to.

Mind you, I had never consciously and clearly noticed this until now – today to be exact.

I met my friend and business partner Chris for lunch this afternoon and afterwards felt as I always do after seeing him – not just good spirited, but almost more like myself than I had felt before seeing him. It’s almost as if he affirms my sense of life and my identity; it’s as if he helps me know my place in the world and anchors me to it.

Contrast that to coffee later in the evening with two friends, which, while pleasant company, left me feeling an almost instinctual desire to return home and recharge. An unfortunate thing because they invited me to join them at a barbecue tonight, and I had to decline for want of some “me time”.

Later, after coming home and starting to journal this, my friend Britney invited me for a walk. Having had sufficient time to recharge in my foremost preferred fashion – writing of course (a close second to reading, walking being my third choice) – I went and saw her.

Now Britney is an interesting example of someone who, like Chris, leaves me feeling more true to myself than I otherwise would have, had I not seen her.

I say she is an interesting example, because it’s not like Britney is the most zen, chill person in the world; her thoughts are often as discombobulated (her word, not mine) as my own mile-a-minute mind. But no matter, she somehow always centers me to a completely authentic place. I am naturally in my element with Britney.

Which leads me to an interesting point. I’ve long said that, we like others based on how much we like ourselves when we are around them, which may be true to an extent, but my best friend Marc certainly desecrates my inner sanctum – as he always does and has since the time he gave me mushrooms when we were in high school – an unfortunate story he loves to tell to this day (footnote 2).

My point about Marc is that it’s not as if I’m choosing to like people based on how much they feed into my ego (hell, if anything Marc keeps me humble). The fact is, I enjoy having both types of friends. I have friends who put me in my element and affirm my identity, and I have friends who take me out of my element and make me feel as if I need to run off alone and do something that reminds myself of who I am (writing, reading, walking). One is not inherently superior to the other; however, the one kind I can only handle in limited doses before I have to climb up into my tree house alone to recharge, and the other kind I want to invite up into my treehouse to recharge with me (footnote 3).

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Footnote 1: This probably accounts for a large portion of Netflix’s user base; although, the discussion of technology and it’s role as a catalyst for increasing one’s need for solitude is a rabbit hole I will venture down another day. Also, if the bulk of your alone time is spent watching Netflix, you likely aren’t my type.

Footnote 2: Sorry this footnote is not a retelling of Marc’s favorite mushroom story, but I want to apologize in advance to my future wife for the toast Marc makes at our wedding, or anything else that comes out of his mouth for that matter. That’s just Quitos and I love him despite his Maqruitos-ways. If I marry you you’ll hopefully love him too – but I won’t hold it against you if you don’t – ha!

Footnote 3: I recognize that for some of my friends, I may make them want to pull up their own treehouse ladders in my face as they rush to recharge on their own. Just as for others, I may center them. The question then is, is Marc an exception to the rule (I have known him for 14 years after all)? And if he is, is one kind in fact superior to the other? And does this life affirming energy always flow both ways? Based on my recent dating experiences, I would say no. One person can center another person and affirm their entire existence, only to send the other person running for their treehouse. So, the question then becomes, are we introverts with some and extraverts with others? And do we prefer one over the other? Surely our MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) functions affect one another. My lovely pink shirt wearing former girlfriend Bunny S. can attest to this, as I am ENFP (coincidentally, the most introverted of the extraverts), and she is ISTJ – my polar opposite (oil and water as she used to say). Perhaps I will ask my friends to take the Myers Briggs for me and I can gather a few additional relevant data points, but the fact is I’m just exploring my relationship to the world here, using my journal to reflect on life, to grow. As I close my eyes to sleep now, I’ll think back on all the relationships I’ve had – for better or worse – and I’ll see if I can figure anything else about why some people recharge us, and others deplete us (footnote 4).

Footnote 4: Yes, I just gave a footnote a footnote because I’m gangster like that. The one question that I ask people to determine if their dominant modality is introverted or extraverted is if whether going to a party gives them energy or if it depletes their energy and makes them feel like they need to go home and be alone afterwards. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, whose work was the foundation for the Myers Briggs, characterized an introvert as someone whose primary focus was on their inner, subjective world, and an extravert as someone whose primary focus was the outer, external world. But of course, these are all footnotes, because introversion and extraversion are only part of the bigger picture, but perhaps the people who affirm your identity possess an intuitive understanding of your inner, subjective world and thus enable you to more comfortably navigate and relate to the outer world, while those who do not intuitively understand your inner world do not draw it out, and as a result leave you feeling like you need to go connect to it on your own – since you could not with them, as you could someone who did (footnote 5).

Footnote 5: David Foster Wallace would have been proud of these footnotes on footnotes. The funny, yet apropos thing, is that my perspective is really only truly relevant to other ENFPs and even then, this is really only relevant to me, but that being said, there is a big relationship between intuition and personality types. Basically there are sixteen Myers Briggs types based on four quadrants: introversion / extraversion, intuition / sensing, thinking / feeling, and judging / perceiving. But each quadrant has introverted and extraverted functions as well. According to the Wikipedia for Jungian Cognitive Funtions, which sheds much light on what I have written:

In addition, each function is seen as either introverted or extraverted (known as attitudes). The attitudes are interpreted in terms of what the person finds more rewarding when using one of the four functions to focus attention outwardly on people and things (extraversion) or to focus attention more inwardly towards internal feelings, thoughts and ideas (introversion).

Jung’s models do not restrict people to any one of four functions, in only one attitude. Rather it observes only that functioning in the opposite attitude requires greater expenditure of “energy” (or rather, emotional resources, enthusiasm, and so on). Operating the function in the person’s preferred attitude conserves and replenishes energy. In this, Jung’s ideas are a detailed close-up view of the fuzzy conventional idea of “comfort zones.”

Rather than write more I’m going to stop here and return later to this entry to reflect on it. That’s the beauty of journaling, you get to reflect on life and yourself in a very introspective and enlightening manner. I recommend it to everyone.

16 Feb – 1 Mar, 2015: Amused, Helocene, Sing, SunKing, Cauterised

Note: Herein are four separate journal entries. The reason I am publishing four at once is twofold: firstly, I often write sporadically and transcribing the entries from my journal is fairly time consuming (my scrawled, barely legible handwriting prohibits anyone else from doing this task for me); although, I find it a pleasurable activity when I’m in the mood for it, which is typically late at night while listening to relaxing music, as I am now – and secondly, I don’t want my email subscribers to wake up with four different email notifications of new entries – despite how thrilling that may (hopefully) be for some.

– L. Black

16 Feb: Amused

She’s in the watercolored, pinkish, burning-orange of tonight’s sunset. She’s walked by me in soft, well-worn shoes, and in a long black paisley-patterned skirt.

I created her because the song I used to sing – the one once again trapped in her heart – I can’t find the words to it anymore. It’s lost for all time like an ancient family recipe, but the soul of it lives on. In my heart and in my writing, somewhere between a memory and a dream.

A man (an artist) without a muse must invent one in his heart, if only to remind him why it beats. And so we beat on, if only to keep dreaming. The love of Marina Keegan, in all of us, beats on. Beating on in dusky moments like these. Moments fated to end, endings we are fated to witness.

But I’m not sullen or sad; this is normal. I’m coming to accept this, this “essence” of who I am (But I must remember the words of Haley S., who said to me, “I’m a different person than I was two months ago”). And I could dismissively apply an adjective like foolhearted to it [my disposition], but that wouldn’t do my appreciation for life justice – my zeal. I’ve got a damn zest for life like Papa Hemingway, I’ve got it alright. Cursed to want to taste my own blood after the punch, to catch the biggest, best fish of my life – ending it’s own with my fillet knife while ad-libbing a Native American prayer to it’s soul. For I believe in the souls of fishes and in mice and men.

Yes, I have zest for life. Zest enough to cook that fish for you and I. Zest enough to fall in love again. Enough to beat on – on the longest way round – hoping I don’t run into myself again, knowing I will.

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18 Feb: Helocene

Growing up, growing up, growing.

Spirituality manifests itself in very material ways. Our job as spiritual beings is to impart deeper meanings to the synchronistic occurrences we experience. For none but ourselves can give meaning to our lives. Regardless of how meaningful external things seem to us, we ourselves must orient our lives in the direction we wish to progress. And it’s the spiritual truths, as decided by us, that give us the deepest clarity and guidance, clarity and guidance we find when we need it most – when we open ourselves to it, when we open the doors of possibility and reveal the doors of perception, unlocked and waiting, slightly ajar, the light of our inner truths, our consciousness, – our souls – shining through.

Who would have known that after reading Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, I would discover it’s deeper meaning (for me) in a dollar book reluctantly purchased from the library sale today. I suppose the universe did – or my inner voice, I’m coming to see they are one in the same. As Neil De Grasse Tyson exclaimed, ‘we are not only in this universe, but of this universe’.

Light a spliff, watch the sunset, listen to Helocene.

Watch your neighbors face the burning cotton-candied sky through their phones, turning away to mindlessly post a moment that they themselves (as souls) never recorded.

One more thing to write about. You had hoped to hear from her, to see her here again. Well, you didn’t; c’est la vie. Savor it.

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24 Feb: Sing

A procession of sunsets, the days dawdle on. Weeks on, months on, years on. Then life is gone. So I sit here chewing on these almonds as life eats me up. But what am I going to do about my inevitable exit from this world?

I mustn’t go quietly into the night. I’ve got to sing all there is in me. I can’t go down under the weight of unborn dreams – or of dreams past, neither regret, nor nostalgia, nor grief, nor great heights, nor depths deep and dark.

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27 Feb: SunKing

The sun sinking away behind the row of houses on the isthmus, once again, like the final glimpse of a golden crown on the head if a king riding over and down the hillside towards his destiny. For like the sun, the king never says goodbye. A silent display of confidence that he will be back again, once more.

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1 Mar: Cauterised

Days of daze are over. Dreams risen up and fallen, gone away.

Goodbye to Daniella, Shannon, Genevieve, and Jen (footnote: 1). Freed like birds once kept in my heart – free to begin again, to move on – I mark these scrawled letters as the start I have so long sought.

I now enter into a new sacred compact with my heart, a romance built to last a lifetime, a love with the one I wanted them to love most.

I’ll love myself all at once as they did and as they did not. As only I can, I must, I will – as I do now.

I will grant myself gifts of kindness, compassion, forgiveness, health, success, comfort, peace, and joy. All that love is dwells within me, and should the pangs of old wounds return in nostalgic remembrances of things gone away, I will not allow myself the masochistic, caustic self-pity of devolving into the person I was and the state I was in when the damage was first done, “for the valiant taste of death but once”, and it’s not valor or bravery – but courage, emotional strength.

I do not espouse sending ones vulnerabilities into exile, but rather – bringing ones strengths to light. As is said: a smart man learns to endure pain, but a wise man learns to avoid it. And while I cannot thwart the inherent risks of loving truly, I can choose to be whole.

In moving on alone, ahead, onward toward my thirtieth year, I am complete. Devoid of nothing and no one.

One last thing on the subject of love. Have I been too toady, too servile, too schmaltzy, too self-sacrificial, too pollyanistic, too indigent, too infantile and infatuated? Yes – but disingenuous or insincere? Never. That said, there’s a certain balance of wisdom and maturity between my head and my heart that has never before existed within me. Too my surprise, I’m not in the least bit regretful about possessing this. I’m no longer sad that love will never be what it once was.

I’m no longer seeking a comeback. No longer seeking to incarnate the love of one in another. The Master’s Chamber in my heart is once again unoccupied and I am once again occupied in making a masterpiece of my life.

For the first time in my adult life I am in all actuality grateful for the misshapen gifts of my past – all of them. The incendiary bombs of love departed have kept the fire burning in my heart and my wounds are no longer septic, having now been cauterised by the ashes of love past.

I carry no more torches into the night as I have for the thousands of nights now at rest behind me. Since I am no longer dedicating my love to those who do not love me, I have certitude in my ability to commit my love to where it is most deserved. To I. To me. To mine.

Footnote 1: Chronological order of meeting – except I never actually met Genevieve as it was semi long-distance, and I only met Jen once, after a lengthy correspondence, but nonetheless, they entered into my soul [anima]): although, Daniella and Shannon I did spend the better part of a decade with in total. Either way, it is goodbye. It’s a season in my life for letting go. Something that (my inability to do so) has royally fucked me in the past. Bless them, but I need them not anymore, and do not care to be who I was before: the man who never let go. There’s simply no place in my life today or tomorrow for unrequited love.

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p.s. Here’s a quote that felt appropriate to end these entries with:

“Dignity
/ˈdignitē/ noun

1. The moment you realize that the person you cared for has nothing intellectually or spiritually to offer you, but a headache.

2. The moment you realize God had greater plans for you that don’t involve crying at night or sad Pinterest quotes.

3. The moment you stop comparing yourself to others because it undermines your worth, education and your parent’s wisdom.

4. The moment you live your dreams, not because of what it will prove or get you, but because that is all you want to do. People’s opinions don’t matter.

5. The moment you realize that no one is your enemy, except yourself.

6. The moment you realize that you can have everything you want in life. However, it takes timing, the right heart, the right actions, the right passion and a willingness to risk it all. If it is not yours, it is because you really didn’t want it, need it or God prevented it.

7. The moment you realize the ghost of your ancestors stood between you and the person you loved. They really don’t want you mucking up the family line with someone that acts anything less than honorable.

8. The moment you realize that happiness was never about getting a person. They are only a helpmate towards achieving your life mission.

9. The moment you believe that love is not about losing or winning. It is just a few moments in time, followed by an eternity of situations to grow from.

10. The moment you realize that you were always the right person. Only ignorant people walk away from greatness.”

― Shannon L. Alder