Drunk on Henry Miller, Ruminating on Life

I am the happiest man alive – or, at least, I aspire to be. My restlessness, my stressors, my impatience, my work – the machine of automatic process by which man is conscripted to live and work in this society – all of these pale in the face of death, which, I concede, is the final result of life. 

As Henry Miller wrote in Tropic of Capricorn

Take a good look at me. Now tell me, do you think I’m the sort of fellow who gives a fuck what happens once he’s dead?

And rightly so; for this is my heaven, right here. 

But a distinction must be made: I was not always diamond hard on the inside. This blog – my life – is a testiment to that. 

I have learned how to be a true Stoic, to see what lies beyond my control; again, quoting Henry Miller:

I soon found out you couldn’t change the world. The best you can do is learn to live with it. 

But in learning to live with it, you change your world, your perspective broadens, your prejudices die off. 

Where I am now, at 31 and change, I have learned to live with it [the world] via the acceptance of personal responsibility. I – and only I – am responsible for how I feel, what I do. 

I fear this (and much of my writing here) all sounds very pollyannish, very self-congratulatory, very smug. And fuck it if it does; although, I am very much inclined to state that no man is immune to the human condition entirely. I’m a Homosapien; I have foibles, which, if left to their own devices – that is to say lived unconsciously – would ruin me; however, that’s not how my story goes. At 31, I’d much rather feel nothing at all than pain (A sharp departure from the shadow days of my late twenties, when I was hellbent on burning my world down – a world I didn’t see fit to live in). 

Pause. 

I am begged by the muse to answer a question here, and the question is one I have heard other fortunate souls ask: why me? Meaning, instead of falling in love with Sarah, instead of many of the good things that have happened for me (All my loves included), why didn’t life just fuck me, ruin me?

I don’t know: I suppose it did; I just don’t see life that way anymore; instead of seeing a tragedy, I see a golden goose. Sure, shit sucked – I have felt the twisting pains of heartache – but I no longer feel I know what heartbreak is. 

As I have said before, every woman I ever loved has loved me. 

Why lead all roads back to love – what else? I find nothing save the ability of my soul to weather anything – to endure – to make an ecstasy of solitude; all else is waiting. 

The bounds of my love, however, are merely shores I have yet to tread upon. I’ve only now, in my eyes, become what may be called a good friend, a good son, a good brother, a good uncle – a good person, which is to say nothing of morality and everything of generosity. 

I have covered this – and wish to cover it no more – but I will:

I wasn’t always this whole. 

Again, I am not one for morality. Save me your reproaches. As the newest beau of my muse, Henry Miller, wrote:

I had no more need of God than He had of me, and if there were one, I often said to myself, I would meet Him calmly and spit in His face.

I am of the basic belief that humans are no more than a goddamned species of mammal. The great tragedy of life then is, that in the advancement of life, the most advanced species on earth is also its most base.

Slavery, Abuse, Rape, Murder, Torture, Oppression: the human is master of these crimes. We are inherently base because we are a bunch of fucking mammals with egos. 

And in being human, I wish no more than to transcend the petty, the ugly, the banal; for it is very difficult to be human and not feel like a piece of shit. 

Real life, which is to say life amongst the human race – shit – good luck buddy. Because even if you are happy, it is only becacuse you are not in a North Korean prison camp eating rats. 

Why the world is like this? I don’t know. I’d like to say that humans will continue evolving, that we will overcome the darkness of our own age, but I also fear the inroads to the soul are dying – that man is exchanging knowledge for truth. 

Facts are stubborn things, sure; however, despite myriad human progresses, I am increasingly inclined to view society as a machine that will eventually – given the dangers of AI, genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics – eat man. 

Not all progress is forward. 

There are, within futurist circles, those who would happily see Homosapiens go extinct, and frankly, aside from the hardwired preservation of my own mortality, I can hardly disagree. We are the single most oppressive, harmful form of life on earth. More suffering can be attributed to man than can be engendered to any God. But I suppose this is merely the unfolding of evolution. I just wish we saw our place in the universe more honestly. 

We are a species with hopes and dreams. But we are a species nonetheless and not the children of Gods; we are the children of men and woman, as flawed as any ever were. 

I am stretching my mental legs, thinking aloud, as I always do here, but it is late and I am tired. So, allow me to wrap up. 

Life is a road, and we are born in a lane amongst many. Our lives are spent largely ignoring our passions, lost in petty pursuits, chasing trivialities at the cost of our grandeur, our splendor. 

Society asks that you participate in exchange for acceptance, which is a catch-22 of the highest sense. You are made to exchange happiness for comfort, time for money. But that’s all there is fundamentally: time. 

You are born then you die. Humans, sadly, however, choose to spend their lives pretty fucking stupidly. Put simply, the metrics by which we measure our wellbeing are not doing our being well. 

Great food and nice homes. A nice car. Clothes. Is that all you want out of life? 

Do you not wish to live in flow? Would you not rather enjoy peak state as a circumstance rather than a luxury? 

That conception of you, your very values, these are products not of the self but of society. 

And there is only one way to change society, which is to say the collective values of humans, and that is via art; for only art has the power to create change in others, in ourselves. It is the mirror; the place where we form our heroes, where we catch the conscience of the king, as Hamlet did. 

Art, I feel, is then the royal road to life as the Buddhists see it: the purpose of life being the reduction of suffering. 

Art can be anything. 

To quote Malcolm Gladwell, ‘art is using your humanity to create change in other people.’ Only, via capitalism, via governments, via the leveraging of labor, we enjoy our comforts instead. 

The Substance of The Soul

Edit: I’m beating myself up after publishing this. It’s not that I don’t like the content, which was inspired by a conversation I had tonight with two new friends. The problem is, this is simply not the right form. There is a reason Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables. I must work on my stories. This comparitively is masturbation. Pleasurable, but not fulfilling. Nonetheless, the following freewritten message written post haste is something worth reading. But it is a tiny star compared to the cosmos brewing within me. Time. Time.

I love nights spent in deep conversation, talking about things that matter. Substance. This is something most lives lack an adequate volume of. Instead they are filled with things that burn our time and waste our minds, and for what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?

We live in a world of gains at the expense of the things that make us most human: love, relationships, a connection to something deeper; our entire inner lives are but an abyss. I am one who suspects we fear what’s beneath the surface. After all, the vast majority of our encounters with our soul tend to be painful experiences: breakups, loneliness, rebellion, pain, breakdowns. But these too are aspects of the soul, for no soul is purely calm and peaceful. Like the sea, the disturbances of the soul are found on it’s surface, and the calm rests far beneath, at a depth few reach. A human soul, when brought to light, shines brighter than a thousands suns. I see this light in the faces of babies, animals, and those in love. It’s light stifled by the thinking mind, and thus the souls of most adults have long been snuffed out. But the darkness need not be permanent, for this light may be rekindled. Art, music, dance – even great conversation; any form of honest self-expression brings soul to light.

As Voltaire’s Candide teaches us, we must cultivate our gardens. Only, like Candide, we abandon the garden of the soul in pursuit of our fortunes. And in our neverending pursuit of doing and being more we suffer the cost of our pursuits. Costs we never realize until it’s too late. When I have children, I want them to know they have the power to create themselves; to be rather than to become. To actualize the soul rather than the self.

I believe we are all creators. Only we have been taught to consume. Our values have been twisted by a society ruled by power, by a people obsessed with prestige. It’s the businesses of the world that conscript us from birth to make a living instead of making a life.

Nothing is sacred anymore. All that ever was has vanished under the tide of image, pulled by the endless greed of the ego. For in a modern society it is prefferable to be seen as smart rather than to think for onesself. So we let others define happiness and success for us, and we live according to benchmarks that ring true only in the light of day. Look at me, look at how good I am at life, the bourgeous seem to say.

Our egos and our personas are defined not by our souls but by the times we live in. The values of the human soul are timeless. The values of a society live and die with its people.

What are you giving this world? What are you giving the future. Is your life a good model for others? Do you want for your children what you have for yourself? Do you even want for yourself the life you have?

Modern life isn’t conducive to independent thought. The system is designed to create good workers not great thinkers. After all, good workers can buy good TVs, good cars, and all the other bullshit (aka eventual junk) we have been programmed to exchange our lives for.

I can’t change the world alone. But I believe together we can. If each of us lived a life true to the values of our souls, the world would be a beautiful place. This isn’t just about getting to paint, eat organic salads, and make love. This is about being part of a system that has enough money to feed starving children, real humans with real names. A system that places profits over people. A system that ignores the plight of 200,000 Koreans in concentration camps in order to maintain diplomacy with China for capitalist gains.

This system is fucked up. You are a part of it. Are you really going to let yourself be another brick in the wall? Is this all your life is worth?

These are just thoughts written on a Saturday night by a guy in a warm bed. But they are part of a human life, the life I am living. A life I want to use rather than be used. While society may call me a misanthrope, I don’t think it can ignore my voice. This is why I write. This is why my dreams of the self, replete with all the trimmings of a successful life, are secondary to the dreams of my soul – a soul that values inner peace, love, communion, family, truth, beauty, and goodness. A soul like any other.

Under a Blue Moon

Cool on me the eye of heaven shines
In an earthly world where the mortals dine

I can’t question anything,
Anymore or again
I am to be my hero,
My unequaled friend

You know your truth,
Think and speak your voice
Act according to your heart and you’ll never have to make the choice,
Between things and dreams
Unless your heaven is a Rolls Royce

The soul has dreams;
The ego wants
The choice you make leaves the alternative that haunts

What is greater,
To be a consumer or a creator?

Select thine edeavor
And may thee fruits live forever

The Layman Sails Not

Standing on the banks
The layman sails not
But intent on succeeding,
He plans, toils, and plots
Only he’s living in a dream,
For he accomplishes naught
And without the tests of time,
His craft lay in rot

While he watched men of the world go forth
He judged himself still provincial and stayed hither
Hence through age and not mediocrity,
Unspent passion soon withers

Years on and gone wasted,
He recalled the voyages of great men:
How they were once but mediocre,
And he was once but one of them

##

Unproductive day, dissapointed. Perfection is surely a lesson only the great can teach; the rest of us damned to learn it, aiming to be great and failing to venture forth and acheive what may be called good, even great. There’s a diffference between living a life that is a work in progress and making progress.

Maybe it’s just patience I Iack, but I’ve been here before. I made that great mistake mediocre men make in trying to be great: I turned back at the water’s edge. Yes, I built a raft and made ready to venture across the river but on reaching the water’s edge and not feeling my craft swift or good enough, I turned back.

But what if I would have cast off?

Oh the pain in not knowing and then knowing! This is hindsight: to see,  years later, the mediocre man made great by the greatness of his voyage. Not to say any person is mediocre – that is to say, not mediocre in the downcast view the bourgeois have of their self-imposed fate – no, when I say mediocre, I say it with reverence, I refer to the Latin mediocris, meaning: moderate, ordinary, from medius: middle. Great men were no more than ordinary men who took great voyages. The voyage great, simply because it was made. The anchor of mediocrity that weighs the ordinary man down is not his lack of greatness, but his lack of courage to venture forth into greatness from mediocrity, for it is not the greatness of the man that makes him great but the greatness of his will. How many men build and beat on their craft only to turn back at the rising tide of time!?  For there is an eternal winter from whence only the willingness to be mediocre can lead one to greener pastures. How the sun might shine resplendent on the faces of the mediocre if only they would go! Swim across the damning bank for the sake of living, will ye.

In the book Into The Wild, Christopher McCandless reaches such a bank. After months in the wilderness he prepares to egress, only to reach the river and turn back after judging his swimming skills inadequate to cross. The author remarks that had he simply walked a few miles downstream he would have reached a spot where he could have safely navigated tamer, shallower waters. Of course, this is an easy observation, and we know what tragic fate young Mr. McCandless meets; needless to say, he does not die a drowning death.

I hope I am forgiven in using this anecdote – for I only use it as metaphor and the story of Christopher McCandless has doubtless inspired countless youth to venture forth from the banks of mediocrity into greatness – for Christopher McCandless crossed many such banks before he found the one he dared not cross.

And I write this standing on the edge of my own banks – staring into the abyss of possibility – beating on my own craft: my business, my writing, my concept of self, all works in progress, all mediocre, all inadequate, all laden with excuses for not doing the damn thing.

So it is, I write this to call myself to account. I’m still young and through the process of self-honesty I have staved off the eternal winter of mediocrity, but I am not as young as I might be had I crossed this river sooner. Now I am thirty. That age when men stand in the river of time whether they dare chance it or not. A man at thirty faces his possibilities and whether he belives in himself or not, he knows in his heart what he might be.

I don’t want to grow old standing in the cold bank of the river. I know that luck is not preperation meeting opportunity, but action creating it. The needle of probability which directs our fate is controlled by each of us. Whether we take action, moving chance from unlikely to likely, or whether we stand in the evermore freezing banks of the river, our craft decaying in the eternal winter of preperation, we hold our future in our own hands. I personally have never in all my life failed at anything, except relationships and those ventures I did not undertake. And only the latter of the two I regret.

In ten years I will be forty, and in less than a year’s time I will be thirty one. Perchance I could speak to him, what would my great grandfather say to me?

I’d like to imagine he would encourage me to venture forth from as many banks as I could as fast as I may. He would tell me not to strive to be great but, rather, to strive to do great things. The doer of great things being the one who does them.

I have a friend who makes half a million dollars a month. He did not attain this through perfectionism – he did it by casting off the lines from the dock and putting his ideas to sea. His compass – his needle of probability – pointing
straight to likely, while mine, so long as my ideas do not sail forth, will remain on the banks of mediocrity – my needle pointing straight to mediocrity.

I challenge myself (Having no other choice in the face of such hard truths) to set sail. Every idea, every dream, every plan, is no more than a mist, a vapor, a fog. The only measurable and worthy idea – the only plan or dream that may come to fruition, being the one we deem worthy of releasing into the world. Until then, they lie buried beneath the crushing weight of our egos, decaying with an increasing tide of self-consciousness. A plan is a dream with a deadline. A failure is one whose time either passes or never comes. What are you afraid of? What are you afraid of?

Money meet mouth. For mediocrity is a river, possibility an abyss. Only action and its palpable results, only what may be called good enough and done, may be called great.  While you are here be not a master architect or shipbuilder; be a sailor, mediocre as your untested craft may be.

Passages: Inner Reaches of Outer Space, Joseph Campbell

Prologue: Introducing Passages

I have begun sharing select literary passages on Facebook as of late, where, despite my small list of friends, I have received a substantial amount of positive feedback in the form of likes, shares, and comments. Prompted by this experiment, and spurred by my desire to champion good literature, I will be publishing a series of entries entitled Passages, where I will share my favorite prose and wisdom within a given book.

I’m excited about this. As a writer, I’ll get to transcribe the passages I enjoy most, endearing their texture and syntax evermore deeply to me; and as a reader, this practice will foster more thoughtful, perceptive reading – something I am duly more conscientious of, having just read Mortimer J. Adler’s and Charles Van Doren’s classic literacy manual: How to Read a Book.

As I embark on this journey of transcribing these beautiful bits of books, I offer a caveat and a disclaimer: Passages are not CliffsNotes, nor it is not my wish to contribute to the pseudo-intellectual culture promulgated by the internet and television; that which gives the viewer a false sense of knowing, without any background, context, or experience, the same stacking of facts that allows people to quote so-and-so without ever actually having read blah-blah-blah.

I am not one who espouses highbrow elitism; however, I believe the world would be a better place if people read more books, for few things have profited my soul as time spent between pages.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy these selected passages.

Inner Reaches of Outer Space, Joseph Campbell

Passages excepted from the 1988 Harper and Row Edition

The inner, transformational world of myth

“The seat of the soul is there, where the outer and inner worlds meet. That is the wonder-land (sic) of myth. From the outer world the senses carry images to the mind, which do not become myth, however, until there transformed by fusion with accordant insights, awakened as imagination from the inner world of the body.”

– p. 31


The borderless omnipresence of the holy land

“The holy land is no special place. It is every place that has ever been recognized and mythologized by any people as home.”

– p. 44


The transcendent, larger than life power of story

” …as noticed in the Chhāndogya Upanishad: “Just as those who do not know the spot might pass, time and time again, over a hidden treasure of gold without discovering it, so do all creatures of this world pass daily into that Brahmā world [in deep sleep], without discovering it, distracted as they are by false ideas.” The distinguishing first function of a properly read mythology is to release the mind from its naive fixation upon such false ideas, which are of material things as things-in-themselves [vs. metaphor]. Hence, the figurations of myth are metaphorical (as dreams normally are not) in two senses simultaneously, as bearing (1) psychological, but at the same time (2) metaphysical, connotations. By way of this dual focus the psychologically significant features of any social order, environment, or supposed history can be transformed through myth into transparencies revelatory of transcendence.”

– p. 56 | note: I find Campbell’s normally eloquent and succinct writing a bit obtuse here but if you can discern what he is saying – there is a lot to take away from this passage on happiness and the transcendent, larger than life power of story. To quote Gabriel Garcia Marquez from One Hundred Years of Solitude (a book I could not get into): “It’s not so much what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” In other words, the story we tell ourselves matters more than the plot of our lives, for the story shapes the plot.


The metaphorical, transcendent nature of G-d

“…the term and concept “God” is itself but a metaphor of the unknowing mind, connotative, not only beyond itself, but beyond thought.”

– p. 57


Cross-cultural archetypes in myth and identification with the sacred

“The first task of any systematic comparison of the myths and religions of mankind should therefore be (it seemed to me) to identify these universals (or, as C.G. Jung termed them, archetypes of the unconscious) and as far as possible to interpret them; and the second task then should be to recognize and interpret the various locally and historically conditioned transformations of the metaphorical images through which these universals have been rendered. Since the archetypes are not limited in their distributions by cultural or even linguistic boundaries, they cannot be defined as culturally determined. However, the local metaphors by which they have been everywhere connoted, the local ways of experiencing and applying their force, are indeed socially conditioned and defined. Bastian termed such local figurations ” ethnic ideas,” völkergedanken, and Mircea Eliade has termed them “heirophanies” (from hieros-, “powerful, supernatural, holy, sacred,” plus phainein, “to reveal, show, make known.”).

“The very dialectic of the sacred,” Eliade declares, “tends to repeat a series of archetypes, so that a heirophany realized at a certain historical moment is structurally equivalent to a heirophany a thousand years earlier or later.”

The Elementary idea is grounded in the psyche; the Ethnic Idea through which it is rendered, in local geography, history, and society. A heirophany occurs when through some detail, whether of a local landscape, artifact, social custom, historical memory, or individual biography, a psychological archetype or elementary idea is reflected. The object so informed becomes thereby sacralized, or mythologized. Correspondingly, a religious experience will be realized when there is felt an immediate sense of identification with the revelation. The sense of a mere relationship is not the same. In popular cult the experience of relationship is frequently all that is intended. Thereby a sense of social solidarity may be rendered. Through identification, however, a transformation of character is effected.”

– p. 100


Schopenhauer on the synchronicity that shapes a life

“Schopenhauer, in his bold and really magnificent “Transcendent Speculation upon an Apparent Intention in The Fate of the Individual” (1850), takes up the idea, remarking that in the later years of a lifetime, looking back over the course of one’s days and noticing how encounters and events that appeared at the time to be accidental became the crucial structuring features of an unintended lifestory through which the potentialities of one’s character were fostered to fulfillment, one may find it difficult to resist the notion of the course of one’s biography as compatible to that of a clearly constructed novel, wondering who the author of the surprising plot can have been; considering further, that as the shaping of one’s own life was largely an effect of personalities accidentally encountered, so, too, one must have oneself worked effects upon others.

It is one great dream dream dreamed by a single being, but in such a way that all the characters dream too. Hence, everything links and accords with everything else.

– pp. 110-111


The restrictive, mechanistic, religious view of the sacred

“From the standpoint of an exclusively mechanistic view of human experience and action, any such attribution to nature of, “a presence… far more deeply interfused” as that of Wordsworth’s poetic lines of meditation written above Tintern Abbey, or of Schopenhauer’s “Will in Nature,” must be qualified in the derogatory sense as feelings; the so called pathetic fallacy: a sentimental projection of the imagination like Don Quixote’s morbid fantasy of a magician’s work in a windmill. Anthropologists, in the same vein, describe as “animism” the attribution in tribal mythologies, not only of consciousness, but also of a discreet indwelling spirit, to every material form of reality, whether it be animal, plant, stone, star, moon, sun, or cyclone. While in the vocabulary of Judeo-Christian theology, diabolism is the word for such beliefs.

For already in the Old Testament, as in post-Gallilean sciences, there is in nature itself no divinity. There is no god in all of earth but in Israel (II Kings 5:15), and the gods of the gentiles are devils. The texts of Christian missionaries to this same point in justification of their labors are legion, Satan himself being there recognized as even literally present in the idols, sacraments, sorceries, and miracles of every worship but the mission’s own.”

– p. 114


The priest vs. the artist and the artist as innovator

“Carl Jung somewhere has written that the function of religion is to protect us from an experience of God.

The priest’s practical maxims and metaphorical rites moderate transcendent light to secular conditions, intending harmony and enrichment, not disquietude and dissolution. In contrast, the mystic deliberately offers himself to the blast and may go to pieces.

Like the priest, the artist is a master of metaphorical language. The priest, however, is vocationally committed to a vocabulary already coined, of which he is the representative. He is a performing artist executing scripts already perfectly wrought, and his art is in the execution. Creative artists, in contrast, are creative only in so far as they are innovative. And of their innovations, two degrees are readily distinguished. One, the more immediately obvious, has to do with technical innovations; the other with innovative insights.”

– p. 121


The pornographic nature of art intended to foster desire

“Art that excites desire Joyce calls pornographic. All advertising art is in this sense pornographic, since it is intended that the viewer should desire to possess in some manner the object represented.”

– p. 123


The “proper” artist as revolutionary prophet, and mirror for the social mask

“For nature, as we know, is at once without and within us. Art is the mirror at the interface. So too is ritual; so also myth. These, too, ” bring out the grand lines of nature,” and in doing so, reestablish us in our own deep truth, which is at one with that of all being.

So that the artist, functioning in this “proper” way, is the true seer and prophet of his century, the justifier of life and as such, of course, a revolutionary far more fundamental in his penetration of the social mask of the day than any idealist fanatic spilling blood over the pavement in the name simply of another unnatural mask.”

– p. 132


The sublime nature of art that cleanses

“The word ” catharsis” (Greek katharsis; from kathairein, “to cleanse”) which in Aristotle’s usage denotes the effect of tragedy as “effecting through pity and terror a katharsis of these emotions,” was a term which referred in the Greek religious vocabulary to a spiritual transformation brought about by participation in a rite. The mind, “cleansed” of attachments may merely secular aims, desires, and fears, is released to a spiritual rapture. Plato writes of katharsis, for example, as a “defeat of the sensation of pleasure.” The ultimate effect, that is to say, is not to be of beauty (which when seen pleases), but of the sublime (outreaching human comprehension).”

– p. 134


The degradation of art, myth, and religion, and the artist as deliverer

“The question finally at issue, however, is not of individual psychology, alienation, and resentment, but of the irreducible conflict of metaphysics vis-à-vis morals within the jurisdiction, not only of art, but of myth, religion, and social action as well. For during the course of the nineteenth century, the separation of those two opposed orders of human experience, concern, and fulfillment became in the west exaggerated to such a degree by the radical materialism of the increasingly industrialized megalopolitan centers of mass intelligence and democratization, that anything like the functional grounding of a social order in a mythology (so that individuals of whatever social class, participating in the metaphorical festivals, should become joined with all in a profoundly shared experience of the ground and sense of their lives) simple disappeared into irrelevance. And with that, the proper artist lost his function. Today’s pitiful contracts to invent monuments commemorating local-historical events and personages are hardly compatible to the earlier challenges of art, to break through the walls of a culture to eternity. Thus, the only true service of a proper artist today will have to be to individuals: returning them to forgotten archetypes, les grandes lignes de la nature, which have been lost to view behind a cloud contending Jeremy Benthamoid philosophies of the greatest [economic] good to the greatest number.

– p. 144

Reset, Move Forward, Follow Folly

In order to write the book you want to write, in the end you have to become the person you need to become to write that book.
– Junot Díaz

Today was an important day; I needed today, I needed a reset. Hence, walk to park with blanket and books in bag, and call Marquitos – my best friend going on fourteen years – to come join me.

After a couple slow and beautiful hours of accomplishing little besides reading intermittently and skipping through my music selection, I ended up striking up a conversation with a nearby beachgoer, which turned into one of those great and expansive “think aloud” sessions full of life-affirming truths – new and old.

We talked of love and religion, of morality, of family, of small-talk that’s not small, and of our mutual dislike for [New England] Patriots fans.

For our time together she was my muse, stepping into the real with me and drawing out the song in my heart – a song of yearning and optimism, of ideals, of hope.

I recall and write of our conversation because it was a catalyst for me; I left knowing I would not forget the things we spoke of – but I was also given clarity, thine eyes to see – it was not unlike the feeling I experience after yoga, mind blowing sex, or meditation. She had given me le petit mort and I felt confident and free.

Afterwards I came home to nap but could not, the sunset was calling – and so, intent on staying in the real, I walked down to the water’s edge with headphones and journal in hand.

Admittedly it has been awhile, weeks actually, since I’ve journaled. I had filled my previous journal but for some reason didn’t maintain continuity in writing daily in the new notebook – perhaps having something to do with the fact that it was a gift from my ex-girlfriend, complete with a personalized inscription, signed with her love. Regardless, I was eager to resume the ritual of daily journaling, a practice that is immensely fulfilling and deeply centering. True ‘connect to your inner voice’ / authentic-self type stuff.

Now, I’d like to tell you I wrote in my notebook and that it was good – only I didn’t – I did something else; I walked along the shoreline in a thoughtful and deliberate fashion, thinking of my plans as a writer and making big decisions about the future of this blog.

Up until now I have written on a myriad of topics over the five years I’ve been writing here. To give you a little backstory – this blog began merely as a medium for me to document the lessons I wanted to impart upon my future generations – part of my legacy in a sense; however, it naturally became something more, something cathartic, something central to my identity. And so it was, last year, when I made these major life shifts and decided to devote my life to writing that I began self-publishing poems and becoming once again [as I was for years past] a literary minded person; although, this blog of course still did not have a central theme – beyond the vast, Grand Canyon of my most haunting thoughts and feelings – thoughts and feelings which have at times seemed to have almost climbed their way over the walls of my mind.

If you’re reading this – thank you, particularly if you are a follower or email subscriber. My followers have thus far come via word of mouth and I have never promoted 7Saturdays beyond casually informing friends and acquaintances of it’s existence – an existence made all the more bleak by it’s spartan, almost featureless design.

In addition to properly skinning this site with a customized theme, I’ll also soon be changing my writing approach. Instead of haphazardly publishing everything I write here, I’ll be focusing on publishing my poetry, essays, and short stories exclusively in journals and magazines, while I continue working on the two novels I am writing, leaving 7Saturdays to be the new home of my Journal. No more privatization of my innermost thoughts. Think of me as Hemingway meets Carrie Bradshaw. Part of my mission is to show people what it means to be a fucking human being, and to do that I’m going to need to bleed a little – I’m going to need to put some skin in the game.

I desire to be a prolific writer. But I’m not one of those writers who merely likes to hear himself think. Having just recently started reading through my previous journal and reflecting on it’s contents, I see that the focus of my journal entries is on my relationship to my thoughts and to the world – on being a better, more whole person. And just as I did in my journal, I may write 50 words some days – while others I may write 500. It depends on what I need to iron out, what thoughts of mine need exercising, and what silent inner dialogues need to be brought to life.

I want to do my best to remain authentic and true to my own self – a duty Shakespeare described as our most important in life – that being said, my entries may read like Hank Moody’s personal escapades, and frankly my dear: I don’t give a fuck. This is not to say I’m apathetic to my actions, but I am a real person – I make mistakes, I sometimes do stupid things; I’m a human being, but I try to be more human than my mistakes, and that’s what I reach for in my writing – humanity, what’s Good, Beautiful, and True.

These aesthetic and moral tenets are the foundation of my art. I believe as John Gardner did, that good art is life affirming, that it seeks to improve life, rather than debase it.

To improve life, the world, I am going to have to take the advice of Joseph Campbell and teach people how to live in it. That means focusing on things I think matter. Thankfully the timing for my writing career to begin couldn’t be better, as the initial and perhaps even the central and lasting themes of my work are beginning to show themselves in my dominating thoughts. These themes include the impact of society on the individual, technological “progress”, love, wellbeing, human development, sexuality, gender, race, spirituality, philosophy, and self-actualization. There’s a lot more to my ethos than a handful of broad topics can encompass, but I’m really interested in fiction as a vehicle for something larger than itself. Fiction as myth and myth as mirror for the ego, as Joseph Campbell once quipped.

I can’t describe what it’s like having the stories and the messages inside of me that I do.

William Faulkner described the plight of the born writer well:

“The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies.”

And so it’s been that many of the things I once held dear have gone by the wayside. In the past six months I’ve said goodbye to a three year love, and moved out of a place I could no longer afford to live in. As J.K. Rowling once said of her pre Harry Potter life, Rock Bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

Two-thousand fourteen was the most significant year of my life; I became whole in twenty-fourteen, and as Carl Jung said – I’d rather be whole than good.

I had to let down a lot of people this past year to clear the decks so I could redefine myself, but I had to let myself down most of all; I had to let go of the life I had planned to make way for the life I wanted. In twenty-fifteen, this means being Lawrence Black the writer – the iconoclast – the only man I will ever be for as long as I live.

I believe in literature. I believe in story. I believe in human fulfillment over the narrowness of having to choose between fear and pleasure. I believe in living beyond the chains of the Amygdala, from a place of authentic inner-truth – a place of beauty, a place of good. This is not an impossible place to reach, but living in the real requires knowing when to reset, move forward, aynd follow folly. It’s not easy, but the reward is tasting of death but once.

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I was one who seeks, and I still am, but I no longer seek in the stars or in books; I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me. My story isn’t pleasant, it’s not sweet and harmonious like the invented stories; it tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves.

– Hermann Hesse, Demian

Real Life Inspiration: Prince Ea on The State of The World, Technological Disconnection, and Love

Note: I first want to preface this with the declaration that I do not subscribe to the cult of personality. Particularly, in a day and age where – as Prince Ea says: “Our role models today – sixty years ago would have been examples of what not to be”.

I simply do not believe in placing people on a pedestal (hero worship) because I believe that living things are inherently equal – and while that’s an entirely separate topic, the point I want to drive home to you is that you are as worthy of your love as your heroes are; you are as capable as they are. This is why I occasionally highlight some of my role models under the heading of Real Life Inspiration, because we should not worship people, nor compare ourselves to them, but rather – we should be inspired by their choices and their message, which should empower our own sense of choice and control over our lives. I’d like to think Prince Ea would cosign this message.


Hip-hop artist and poet Prince Ea grew up in St. Louis “I grew up in the worst part of the worst city in the world – statistically; the Eastside of St. Louis”. Having graduated with a degree in anthropology, Prince Ea said he combines anthropology with his music to provide social analysis. His messages are refreshing and they echo insights and truths that lie behind the facade of society – the deeper truths many people don’t see.

Where he is – his internal state and emotional resonance – that’s a beautiful place to be.

After gaining increased exposure with the following video on the state of the world, Prince Ea was recently featured on Glenn Beck, which can be viewed here (the video is completely non-political and focused on Prince Ea’s message of Love). The interview really showcases how grounded Prince Ea is. We can all learn from his messages. Below I’ve included three of Prince Ea’s best video’s to date. Pay attention to what he is saying.

Prince Ea on The State of The World

It’s easy to dismiss this kind of thing as another video designed to go viral, but there are so many things he says that are just completely true. One of my favorite lines might be pride is at an all time high, humility is at an all time low.


 

Prince Ea on Technological Disconnection

This youtube comment a viewer posted to the video says it all:

It makes me sick to my stomach. Try MeetUp instead. Get out and connect. Touch each other. Look each other in the eye, and pay attention to the other person’s soul. 

We are electric beings that were meant to connect–not connect through electric devices but to each other by touch and proximity.


 

Prince Ea on Love

The lessons Prince Ea offers on love are brilliant. Many people never discover these truths, or only do after years and years of pain.

See, the truth is, we have forgotten what love is. Our ideas about love come from storybooks, romantic comedies, popular songs, facebook memes – and they all show this fuzzy romantic type of love, and as you are aware, in your own life, these ideas have led to more anxiety and pain then true pleasure [fullfilment] and happiness… because these ideas themselves are flawed, they are based on ownership and selfishness “You are my bae, my boo, my sweetheart; I love you – but only if you’re with me”. That’s a possessive type of love, that’s a love with strings attached, that’s an impure type of love.

Ask yourself this question: who do you hate? It’s probably somebody you used to love right.

Thinking that somebody can fix you or that you can fix somebody else is just plain wrong. See, love is an inside job. In order to love others we must first love ourselves. We have to mature in a way that we can take care of our own emotional needs –  we can help ourselves – and that way, we accept the flaws in our partner because we have already accepted the flaws in ourselves.

There’s no more anger or controlling clinginess in this type of love, there’s a relaxed acceptance, there’s kindness, there’s tenderness, there’s vulnerability.

And when you are reflecting your true self, your true soul, you’re no longer reflecting anger, pain, your past failures, and your ego – that’s when love can blossom because the souls only expression is pure love.

And I think when two people, when two souls come to this understanding – that’s rare, that’s beautiful, and that’s something we should all strive for

So word to the wise, if you don’t know how to love, you will ultimately destroy it.

 

Sage, sage words. This is one of those instances where I get a strange sense of reassurance at the fact that someone else has independently arrived at the same conclusions I have. If you watched the Glenn Beck interview with Prince Ea, you’ll have seen Glen Beck ask Prince Ea, ‘Where is this coming from?’, to which Prince Ea answered:

It comes from inside, it comes from me looking inside of myself… It just comes from me sitting alone, and looking inward at what is the solution, what makes me happy, looking at the world, what makes me happy, and it’s love it’s peace it’s compassion, the most basic idea that permeate all religions – but not a lot of people seem to adopt; it came from me looking inside, from introspection. 

In my own relationship with inner peace and unconditional, abundant love, I too found this truth looking inward.


Be sure to follow Prince Ea on facebook and carry his message forward in your life. Be the love that you are – the love you wish to see in the world.

I’ll leave you with two more soundbites from Prince Ea (via Glenn Beck):

I’m an artist that wants to connect with people’s hearts because I think the individual is everything. If you want to change – if you’re in a movie theater and you don’t like the movie, you don’t go up to the movie and start beating up the projection on the screen – you go and change the film. So I believe that in order to have external peace, we have to have internal; peace in ourselves before any change is possible.

I honestly think that – that within everyone – that pure love, that pure consciousness is who we really are. I think that finding out who you really are is the key.

 

What David Foster Wallace Taught Me: Art as an Anesthetic for Loneliness

DFW

We’re existentially alone on the planet. I can’t know what you’re thinking and feeling and you can’t know what I’m thinking and feeling. And the very best works construct a bridge across that abyss of human loneliness.

David Foster Wallace David Foster Wallace wrote that “Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.”

Tonight, I thought of this as I watched a dog awaken from his slumber beneath a patio dining table with the sullen look in his eyes of a lonely child who wakes up to an empty room.

Seated above him was a family of four, warm and loving, noshing on their sushi and quietly enjoying the evening together. The dog, while surely a member of the family, was physically present but gave off the energy of someone deep in their own world – like catching a glimpse of someone on a walk alone, a snapshot of a face far away in thought – and whatever the subject of his thoughts may have been, like all thoughts, they were encoded in a cryptic language, their contents known only to the thinker himself; a citizen of his own skull; a box of bones no one else would ever know.

For a moment I saw what an outward projection of that unspoken belief [that deep down we are different] looked like. The dog knew that he was different from everybody else; he was – to me – a self-aware animal; he was not like the others, the others weren’t sleeping on the sidewalk during dinner. How I wanted to take that dog home and make him my equal. Maybe I would talk to him on long walks along the shore, nice thoughts.

Perhaps he was a spirit animal, a guide destined to remind me of some ancient ineffable truth; perhaps it was written that I witness him wake up and look around at the cool lonely evening. Maybe my perception of his disposition was merely a projection of my own. Questions that can only be answered by the ether of the universe, playful questions.

Would the dog have reminded David Foster Wallace of the loneliness of his own existence – as it had reminded me of mine?

David Foster Wallace wrote a lot of beautiful things on loneliness as it was an element of his life which his psyche would render him deeply familiar with [1] . And while I never knew him – I feel like I did. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer who is fond of illustrating “what it means to be a fucking human being” – or maybe, in borrowing the words of TLC’s Fanmail – it’s because Just like you, I get lonely too. Either way, his ghost haunts me because he was not altogether unlike me.

He was a messenger, someone who could speak for a certain intellectual sect of the populous in quirky and unapologetic sentences that tested the limits of the English language. He did not apologize for this, nor did he filter his writing to sanitize his output for easier digestion. Just watching an interview with him, it’s apparent that his mind had a few more gears than most. Now, I can hypothesize as to what the accompanying costs of a mind like that would have been, but even in my own hubris I do not claim to match the intellect of the late Mr. Wallace; however, I can only imagine the psychic burden of possessing such a deeply philosophical and analytical mind – especially one that ran at a pace as electric as Mr. Wallace’s.

And nonetheless, I entertain myself in asking whether – instead of taking this transportive journey in my head to some timeless space where the present reality becomes a lens through which I see the world – were I a different person with a different mind, would the thought merely have been: “cute dog”?

I suppose I’m parsing my thought process into an existential hypothesis that really has no bearing here beyond hemming and hawing over my own cognition. In light of the fact that I’ll never be able to comparatively measure my own thinking against anything other than behavioral output, I must admit that this has no application beyond a speculative thought exercise. I suppose the real tangible benefit then is whether this somehow is going to allow me to better understand my own psychology – a quest which I pursue through my writing in order to more effectively manage my own psyche.

I guess what it boils down to is that life can be a bit more mentally all-consuming for those quote intense thinkers for whom paradigms abound and life is constantly being interpreted through new lenses, moment by moment. Whether this contributes to loneliness, I’m not sure – but, as David Foster Wallace did, I too have struggled to reconcile with certain aspects of my psyche – namely a sort of sexual-like frustration at not getting out my thoughts and feelings, a condition David Foster Wallace described as being ‘marooned in our own skulls‘. Comparing a kind of intellectual loneliness to sexual frustration is an odd and potentially perverse choice of similes to the non-artist I suppose – but to the individual who regularly seeks le petit mort / catharsis / actualization through art, I hardly think drawing a parallel between sexual frustration and a sort of enigmatic artistic frustration is by any means a stretch of the imagination. Is the means to the end of each [art and sex] not meant to stave off loneliness – to recharge some fleeting part of our sanity by discharging our emotions? Are we not touching at the heart of Freudian catharsis?

I recognize that the previous paragraph is borderline mental masturbation [2] – save for the fact that it’s a clever reminder to the importance of creative expression – but, my point is: creative function serves to produce more than the output of creative works; it’s the act of creating itself which allows the artist to reconcile the tangled meaning of his inner-world through his conscious expression in the outer world. If he fails to do this, who will understand him? How will he fully understand himself? Will he not be lonely? Will he not then be left to chase away the loneliness he has failed to confront in his art? As I grow older the value of leaning on art (both composing poetry, and prose, and digesting it + music) has become one of the paramount pillars of my mind – allowing me to deal with feelings and moods too dark to chase away in the real world.

In arguably one of the David Foster Wallace’s greatest quotes, he distinguishes between things that chase away loneliness and things that treat it:

Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties — all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion — these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.

As someone who has personally found solace in precisely the things which David Foster Wallace lists as places where loneliness can be treated, I find this quote reflects a universal truth about the choice we have, our personal agency in deciding whether we are going to chase away loneliness or confront it, transfigure it, and treat it.

Loneliness untreated is a ticking time bomb, and there will be consequences to yourself and to those you love should you attempt to chase it away rather than treat it. The habit of chasing away loneliness is simply not something one can sustainably maintain; eventually every shred of the false comfort and security that you manufacture by chasing away loneliness is ripped away upon your inevitable and necessary return to reality. And when you have been stripped of the temporary refuge you sought, you will be left facing the very same loneliness you tried escaping: the scab comes off, you bleed again.

Ugly words, but not nearly as gripping as David Foster Wallace’s description of facing substance addiction from Infinite Jest:

–and then you’re in serious trouble, very serious trouble, and you know it, finally, deadly serious trouble, because this Substance you thought was your one true friend, that you gave up all for, gladly, that for so long gave you relief from the pain of the Losses your love of that relief caused, your mother and lover and god and compadre, has finally removed its smily-face mask to reveal centerless eyes and a ravening maw, and canines down to here, it’s the Face In The Floor, the grinning root-white face of your worst nightmares, and the face is your own face in the mirror, now, it’s you, the Substance has devoured or replaced and become you, and the puke-, drool- and Substance-crusted T-shirt you’ve both worn for weeks now gets torn off and you stand there looking and in the root-white chest where your heart (given away to It) should be beating, in its exposed chest’s center and centerless eyes is just a lightless hole, more teeth, and a beckoning taloned hand dangling something irresistible, and now you see you’ve been had, screwed royal, stripped and fucked and tossed to the side like some stuffed toy to lie for all time in the posture you land in. You see now that It’s your enemy and your worst personal nightmare and the trouble It’s gotten you into is undeniable and you still can’t stop.

The quest to chase away loneliness is indeed a slippery slope for many, one that can easily morph into the kind of toxic and dangerous, enslaving type vices; before too long, your escape becomes your morphine and you become a mouse seeking more of that substance / thing / feeling on your quest for an even mental keel. Vicious cycles are one of the few things that prevail in the battle to combat loneliness.

As David Foster Wallace further elucidates in Infinite Jest: Most Substance-addicted people are also addicted to thinking, meaning they have a compulsive and unhealthy relationship with their own thinking.

It’s one of those opaque truths that define the way we operate in life: our relationship with our own thinking and whether we are in the habit of chasing away loneliness or treating it. David Foster Wallace talked about how to prevent going through life alone by choosing how to construct meaning from experience, by ‘learning how to think’:

Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliche about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.” This, like many cliches so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger. And I submit that this is what the real, no-bull- value of your liberal-arts education is supposed to be about: How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default-setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out.

But what happens when you fail at this? As Dave Wallace said, you will be totally hosed.

I imagine that for those beautiful minds who fail to live in a way that effectively treats their loneliness, they simply arrive in the place that many find unendurable.

For someone like David Foster Wallace, who had battled severe depression, this meant hanging himself and betraying the words he had once written: “That no single, individual moment is in and of itself unendurable.”

For the millions of Heath Ledgers and Junior Seaus of the world, single moments indeed are unendurable. And it’s not just chasing away loneliness that can be disastrous – but perhaps even viewing the world in a way that gives way to loneliness.

In saying: Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else, was David Foster Wallace projecting his own egocentric paradigm, which reflected his personal thoughts and belief that deep down he was different from everybody else? It’s our differences that separate us and it’s separation that creates loneliness. And so it’s tragically ironic that David Foster Wallace himself told once an interviewer:

“The parts of me that used to think I was different or smarter or whatever, almost made me die.”

I certainly do not presume to decipher someone’s suicide, nor do I desire to; there exists a certain smugness to the idea of laying claim to knowing why someone choose to end their own life that I just don’t like, but David Foster Wallace didn’t cloak his struggle with depression in secrecy – something I find very brave of him. He eloquently describes both depression and loneliness throughout his writing, so much so that Salon.com called him The defining voice of depression.

It’s rare that minds like his open up, but when they do it becomes a doorway for the rest of us to journey into a world within ourselves that we wouldn’t otherwise be capable of understanding. This is quite a gift – as only someone who has passed through the mental gates of their own personal hell can accurately describe what the unrelenting grip of depression and loneliness feels like; without people like David Foster Wallace, depression and loneliness remain the elephant in the room; it’s there, but no one dare talk about it or try to transform it.

It’s this aspect of inherent generosity within David Foster Wallace’s writing that has benefited me in my attempt to better understand my own life. And because of this the substance of his writing remains an asset do me; it makes me less lonely. An objective which he had intentionally strived to achieve:

There are a few books I have read that I’ve never been the same after, and I think all good writing somehow address the concern of and acts as an anodyne against loneliness. We’re all terribly, terribly lonely. And there’s a way, at least in prose fiction, that can allow you to be intimate with the world and with a mind and with characters that you just can’t be in the real world. I don’t know what you’re thinking. I don’t that know that much about you as I don’t know that much about my parents or my lover or my sister, but a piece of fiction that’s really true allows you to be intimate with … I don’t want to say people, but it allows you to be intimate with a world that resembles our own in enough emotional particulars so that the way different things must feel is carried out with into the real world. I think what I would like my stuff to do is make people less lonely.

When we think of loneliness we construct our understanding of it around proximity and relationships, but as DFW wrote, “Loneliness is not a function of solitude”, and loneliness is not remedied when two people from subjective viewpoints intersect at the same point in space and time. Loneliness is something we experience when we are unable to express our inner-world; when we can’t reconcile the meaning of our internal truths through the lens of our external relationship with reality.

As Carl Jung stated in his biography:

Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.

David Foster Wallace echoes Jung’s sentiment about communicating the unseen in his views on writing fiction:

…writing fiction becomes a way to go deep inside yourself and illuminate precisely the stuff you don’t want to see or let anyone else see, and this stuff usually turns out (paradoxically) to be precisely the stuff all writers and readers share and respond to, feel.

Isn’t that called vulnerability? Okay, I’ll give it a try:

Having previously admitted this – yes, I sometimes get lonely; however, I do not over indulge in self-pity (at least I feel compelled to have to tell myself this). I might indulge in under and over sleeping, in mild agoraphobia, and in occasional culinary gluttony (an Oreo shake sounds delightful right now), but I do these things with a healthy dose of balancing guilt that prevents them from evolving into something more than unhealthy and immature defense mechanisms. We all slip up (don’t we?). For me, the cycle might be: 1. Feels like crap > 2. neglects health > 3. Feels guilt for neglecting health, gets ‘back on track’. Perhaps that’s simply self-abandonment, self-neglect. Either way, I’m not adverse to discussing the parts of me that make me human. As an adult I realize that there is no such thing as a hero without flaws. It’s not that I celebrate my flaws, but I believe in self-honesty; unfortunately, as David Foster Wallace one remarked: Genuine pathological openness is about as seductive as Tourette’s Syndrome.

Now obviously that’s simply the ego driven part of me acknowledging that sometimes my writing goes to places vulnerable that I cannot go to in real life (outside the bubble of a therapist’s office), and that by nature this kind of free, unmasked prose is antithetical to the ethos of American success culture and American machismo, but so far I am unable to produce this kind of writing without inserting an apologetic and excusatory clause such as this; although, I suppose I apologize in vain, as I long ago accepted that I would not be the kind of person who cared more about outward appearances than the authenticity of his own art; alas, the emperor knows he wears no clothes, for I am naked but only slightly ashamed.

But that’s what you sacrifice in art, you sacrifice what you have to to not be lonely.

Footnotes:

1. I’m taking a lot of liberty in saying this, and were he a living writer would I say this? I don’t know. I don’t query myself this because of his suicide, but rather because it’s typically not couth to draw inferences about someone’s real life from their fiction. David Foster Wallace had been in treatment for depression for twenty years and wrote beautifully on loneliness in a way that has connected with me deeply; he painted loneliness as only the lonely artist can.

2. Sorry for another seemingly hyperbolic innuendo, but yes – “mental masturbation” really is the linguistically correct choice here.

A Golden Brick in The Road: Steve Roggenbuck

Have you ever encountered someone who makes you feel like a blind-drunk imitating a master ballet dancer?

I have.

The resulting feelings are thus:

I’m breathless and deflated and rising like a balloon excreting it’s worth and I’m bleeding with all of the oozing of a soul that’s just seen itself in the full chiaroscuro of a hand held in front of the bright light that makes everything in the dark take a new shape.

Backing up a thousand days for a moment. I’m a tech entrepreneur with a background in journalism-lite and a pedigree of sweet-and-sour romances. The successes and failures in each of these has shaped me much in the way that the wind shapes the desert. I’m a product of my environment and my experiences and now I’m typing this because as an artist I’ve come to a Golden Brick in The Road.

A golden brick in the road is that thing/person/book/idea that you come across and upon finding it you’re never the same. It’s spiritual alchemy. Real world meaning – understanding given to feeling, feeling given to ideas, new ideas, new understandings, new questions; answers to unasked questions having lurked too long in the recesses of your heart. A golden brick in the road is a pirate’s telescope for the soul. We experience it and we see distant lands and possibilities that quiver in the wind like palms on the shore of our dreams.

Tonight, taking a break from menial computer labor [coding and design], I saw a post on facebook by The New Yorker highlighting a one Steve Roggenbuck.

As someone who writes poetry – and who pretentiously likes to believe I have the soul of a poet – I was intrigued by this self-described ‘internet poet’ because personally I tend to feel that I was born in the wrong era as far as being an artist; as I recently wrote as part of a short story I am working on:

There was no place in the world for men born in the wrong era. Troubled men, men with confused consciences and selfish empathies. Impulsive men, men with vices and opinions which caused suffering in equal measures to themselves and those foolish enough to love the idealistic fools, the artists; the reckless intellectuals.

Admittedly this was relatively biographical and while I’m sure I may end up regretting that admission, I just have to claim it because lately my identity as an artist has been wrapped up in the dark and brooding misery that almost all artists surely experience at one time or another. And it’s the misery of not feeling able to communicate the inadmissible truths: the Jungian loneliness of being full of feeling and having little medium to express it in a manner that others in turn relate to and validate.

Because how the fuck can I express myself with the full double rainbow of my tears and my fears and my hopes and my dreams in 2014 – how is that possible today outside of journals and academia and people who actively seek out and read literature? How will this be appreciated beyond the posterity of my potential progeny reading this in the year 2153?

Then tonight, as I watched this video suddenly all of that complex and frustrated emotion became rather illusory:

And watching another video of his, the impasse within me continued to dissolve:

What can I say, I mean, I think the characteristic quality of this golden brick in the road was that, like all golden bricks in life, it expanded my idea of what was possible. Particularly what I felt was possible with art – and while I may not be quite as Andy Milonakis / Lil B as some of Steve Roggenbuck’s art is, I’d like to think I’ve got a sort of David Foster Wallace / Phillip K. Dick / Hemingway / Terry Gilliam / whoknowswhothefuck vibe to my writing, but the truth is, I’m as unique and bizarre, and average, and different as you are, and I’m definitely full blown ENFP as far as personality types go – but the point is, that in a world where we have to have so many schemas for interacting with life (i.e., ‘who we are’ at work, ‘who we are’ at a bar with our friends, ‘who we are’ with strangers) it’s especially trying as an artist to try and create your art and to cultivate yourself as an artist in a manner that balances authenticity with integrity; because the danger isn’t in failing to create but in creating in a manner that fails to communicate who you are and what you want to say. If you fail to do that, you’ve failed as an artist.

What I found so endearing about the work of Steve Roggenbuck is that it felt fearless and to me that’s where real authenticity in art exists, in the ability of the artist to express himself honestly – despite expectations and styles and rules. That’s what makes Roggenbuck original; that’s what slapped me in the face tonight: the fear of my own failure to do so. Because the truth is, that like you, I want to be liked, I want to be accepted, but the real truth is, that in life, that’s simply not living; that’s being a puddle sitting in a pothole in the road and thinking the world was made just for you – and it wasn’t made for you to conform to, it was made for you to shape. So… what are you going to do? Be you.

The risk is not in the wrong people not liking you. The risk is in the right people not loving you.

Thank you Steve Roggenbuck for helping me see what it means to be a poet today.

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Check out Steve Rogenbuck’s website to follow him on social media and across the web.

Saturday: And It’s only Just Begun

In summer’s thoughts and winter’s fears.

I turn back around and go down,

Reclining into my thoughts.

We’re all just doing our best I say,

But what I say doesn’t suffice [not for her].

Because in words sufficient I’m only perfect for a moment,

So I turn to my spiritual grandfathers to find better words.

Lennon, Watts, Mandela, Aurelius,

Give me the grace.

And then there’s music. Sweet music.

Songs speak for me and in lyrics I am understood,

Because I know that something isn’t right when all my heroes are in black and white.

If I had a pool I would dive in that motherfucker every morning,

An indoor pool like Garden State.

That soundtrack.

Garden State was my generation’s On The Road.

But I digress because the generation gap is getting smaller.

Now it’s Spring Breakers and that stupid child’s name that I will not say. Who gives a fuck about the VMAs anyway.

I never look back and watch 10 year old music videos thinking about how great they are.

I listened to Lorde’s entire album,

Royals was perhaps the least good thing on it.

And in my appreciation for it I came to the conclusion that all 17 year olds should be required to make an album,

Skizzy Mars I’m looking at you.

In what future can I make this a reality?

Maybe I’ll be a teacher one day and my class assignment will be as such.

Or maybe, like my book, I’ll be a member of some organic futuristic colony in New Zealand.

Haha – what a great sentence.

If only everything I wrote were as grandiose.

But then again, I might go insane,

I need some semblance of normalcy.

Hardwood floors and French doors. As my friend said recently, I don’t want a girl who does drugs, I just want a girl who tolerates me doing drugs.

I laughed my ass off.

I don’t care about drugs. But in that same way, I don’t want a girl who is eccentric, I just want a girl who tolerates me being so.

How lucky I’ve been in love.

Pause.

If angels exist, I’ve dated them. I don’t know why, I’ve just been the luckiest son of a bitch alive.

Because I’ve been a real SOB.

What more can I say,

Nothing could be sufficient to measure gratitude insufficient. My words fall short of the awe in my heart. Even now I feel stupid continuing to try and express what Shakespeare said best.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

And this is why I love the arts. Our own words don’t have to suffice for our feelings.

Even tortured souls lend grace to beautiful and awful things,

Because there are days when I want to fake it through the day with some help from Johnny Walker Red – oh Elliot Smith how I love you for singing those words.

And there are days when I need the cathartic inception of reading David Foster Wallace’s words:

Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties — all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion — these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.

And I am understood [by myself] again.

I learned something else about loneliness this year through the words of Carl Jung:

Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.

Can I get an amen.

So I countenance, stare down, transfigure, and treat my loneliness by communicating the inadmissible truths.

The truth – the truth in art. The truth in love. We all have our various ways and places where we face the truth in our souls,

Some of mine are guilty pleasures that few if any people alive know of. How I still listen to Fiona Apple. I wonder what happened to that 5th grade girlfriend of mine who idolized her. Can’t even remember her name. Wish I could.

Angels.

Art, man. Just art. Words. Like little acid tabs sometimes I feel like I’m frying because the tiny death I get from art massages the back of my eyes.

It’s an intellectual kind of sex.

I just got up and hung a blanket over that window that always let’s too much light in – lit a candle, burned 5 seconds of incense and put it out (the incense). Haha

This is the best kind of morning.

I’m listening to various soothing sounds, and I’m just laying on this chaise writing.

And I’m 28 years old.

How perfect would this have been had I ended at that. But I’m not that perfect. I’ve got to communicate what’s important to me,

Which, today – is art. The ways in which other people have used their humanity to create change and understanding in my own. There are few causes more noble than art.

Art can get you stoned. Lay back, wrap yourself in nothing but a sheet, place pillows in creative places to support your legs – put in some headphones. Listen to something emotive – and start writing.

Or Listen to this.

Or Read these.

Or maybe don’t.

I don’t know,

I just know I’m really high right now.

Don’t seize the day. Savor the day. As Alan Watts said, “It is your solemn duty to learn how to enjoy yourself.”

And I do. I’m a classic epicurean,

So I’ll enjoy everything I do today.

I’ll get up and wash my face or take a shower and pretend I’m James Bond. Then maybe I’ll eat pancakes.

I’ll do some work.

I’ll do some private writing on paper later.

Maybe a check will arrive in the mail. Maybe not and I’ll curse.

I’ll do whatever I want to do today because I have this day to take me closer to my dreams,

And it’s only just begun.

Four Favorite Films

Having just had the sublime pleasure of watching Shawshank Redemption for the first time in my adult life, I immediately knew it would forever be one of my favorite films.

There are exactly three other movies which occupy an equally special place in my heart. So special that they feel as if they are an intangible part of my identity somehow; an intrinsic piece of the meaning and inspiration that drives me to create the story of my own life.

Some remind me to turn left, some remind me to turn right in life. They all remind me to just keep going.

Here is a piece of each.

The Count of Monte Cristo

Based on The Alexandre Dumas Novel written in 1844, The Count of Monte Cristo is the kind of movie that I want to go back in time just to watch again for the first time.

I would provide the trailer; however, the full film is available on Youtube and a trailer just wouldn’t do it justice. Enjoy.

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Vanilla Sky

This movie is like a piece of art to me. Based on the Spanish film Abre Los Ojos, Vanilla Sky is like watching a music video – it’s simply beautiful.

Here is a scene that just chills my spine.

(incls spoilers;)

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The Great Gatsby

What can I say, whether in book form or in either of the novel’s onscreen iterations, The Great Gatsby is a jazzy, yet raw piece that tells a story that we can all learn from in some way.

Here is a creative redux trailer for the original Gatsby film, starring Robert Redford.

And a tribute to Baz Luhrman’s Gatsby – featuring one of the soundtrack’s highlights.

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Shawshank Redemption

There’s nothing I can say about this movie. It’s perfect.

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