I made this video in celebration of today’s holiday – enjoy!
Waking up Sunday morning, feeling a little emo…thought I’d post this.
Thoughts? Does this hold true?
This is indeed something that has changed in my worldview over the last few years: the idea that I’m special and need to do something amazing to be worth anything. I’m not sure when the shift in thinking started, but it was crystallized and articulated for the first time when I heard the song sharing the title of this blog post: Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes. I don’t remember when it was I first listened to it, but I do know it took a couple listens for it to finally resonate.
According to iTunes I added it in July of 2012, before I first arrived in Hawaii, so I’d been in the Navy for a little over half a year by that point. Also according to iTunes I’ve played it 22 times – that doesn’t count any mix CDs I may have included it on.
It’s the first two verses that really grab me:
I was raised up believing
I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes
Unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinkin’
I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery
Serving something beyond me
At first glance it seems kind of antithetical to the American Way, doesn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to carve our own way, forge our own path and whatnot? There’s a big emphasis on independence coming from the ‘Merica PR department. Of course, I think the original intent wasn’t to emphasize and separate individuals, though I do recall learning about the proponents of individualism being a big part of the curriculum in U.S. History back in my high school days; rather, wasn’t the original intent simply to declare independence from England, to simply become an autonomous nation?
Oh, and civil rights and such; the Bill of Rights (here’s my William of Lefts!) – we all need to demand and assert our rights as humans and especially as American citizens! Well…United States of America citizens! After all, American citizens could also mean citizens of Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, and all because it could mean North America, Central America or South America (though I am well aware of the common use of language referring to citizens of our country as simply Americans). Vespucci’d be proud, no?
Anyway, something I’ve experienced and have observed in myriad folks in my generation and even a few prior to mine is that with all that freedom and whatnot – “You can be whatever you want!” “Even President?” “No, Suzy, don’t be silly.” – there’s hardly, if any, guidance in what to do, what to be. “But you can do anything!”
Sure, but…what’s the point? To what end am I doing anything? Why do I do what I do?
Animals have it easy: beavers build dams, dogs bark and pee on fire hydrants, foxes say stuff.
What does the human do? I doubt hamsters have such existential crises….
Well, as vets of this blog know, I grew up in the Judeo-Christian Church (Yay, Jesus!). One of the main doctrines taught in there is that each Christian is a part of a whole – we’re compared to bricks in a temple, parts of a body, branches grafted into a tree. We’re never meant to be alone.
I see that echoed out as a universal law in humanity – we naturally gravitate to groups, groups that share common interests. It’s good to be in community! Ideas are shared, resources pass from one to another; and it’s here where the uniqueness does come out!
In the animal kingdom the common interest is survival. A pod of whales hangs out together to protect the calves and each other; monkeys share info on where the good bananas are hanging; cats…chase yarn (?) and stuff. Anyway, with humans it’s not just about survival – we’re not grouping up to protect ourselves from any kind of physical threat – well…at least not in places where violence is going on all the time like in parts of the Middle East or where freedom of expression is against the law, punishable by death depending on what mood the arresting official is in like in North Korea. Hm…
At humanity’s best, we’re able to group up for purposes beyond mere survival instincts and needs. And yet, that need for community is an advanced expression of the survival instinct. When you’re hanging with other folks who like the same stuff you do you can tell them about what it was like for you the first time you drove down the highway at 88 miles per hour or dish on the plot details from the latest episode of Sherlock (yes, we missed you; you know who you are….). If there’s no one to share anything with then what’s the point in getting excited about anything? Yay! I’m 33 today! And no one is around to care about it….
Being in community helps us spur and encourage each other on to greater things. It also helps us be accountable to others – what fun is that? Well, none really, certainly not in the moment of accountability, but it does serve a good purpose. Like if you’re trying to quit alcoholism or a porn addiction – any addiction! Peers help us take a stand against internal and external foes – addictions and actual threats of violence – because we know we’re not alone.
People affirm life; we affirm in each other that we are alive and that we do indeed matter. That’s why there’s so many of us!
And I’m not advocating finding a group of like-minded individuals and sticking with them and only them; that’s how Crusades and Nazis happen. It is good to have a core group of such folks, but also recognize that, as a society, we are indeed parts of a bigger whole. Like in biology, each person is a cell and a bunch of cells make a tissue; a bunch of tissue makes organs and organs, with the right organization, make a body! A culture, if you will! Can I get a “eureka” from any of my scientist homies?
So, while it is good to be self-aware and to know one’s self, it’s better – and, I daresay, the natural progression – to do so in the context of being part of something bigger – the freakin’ human race.
= = = = = = = = =
And catch new episodes of Community Thursdays on NBC!
“If you’re a writer, then write.”
That pretty much sums up the advice from all writers who are asked the question, “How do you become a successful writer?” Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and on and on.
Well, if you write anything, you’ve succeeded! You sat down to write something, you did, success!
Of course, usually what people mean is, “How do I get to get paid for writing and not work a real job?”
Well…ain’t no such thing. If you want people to pay you money you have to render some kind of service and that takes work. Ask anyone who ever earned a penny in their life – there’s work preceding that. Or if you get an advance work is expected. You’re going to have to do something you don’t want or feel like doing.
YET, no one ever does anything they don’t want to do. Rephrase: everyone does exactly what they want to do. It may not be an ideal, but ideals are wholly unattainable. It will never be as you hope or expect once an ideal is attained; for that reason many folks say they’ve never attained them or those who have wisely now refer to them as goals. Once you attain an ideal you’ll discover it’s either better or worse than you imagined; usually, “It’s like nothing I could have imagined!” Of course! There’s no frame of reference; the frame of reference comes in the act of achieving goals or attaining ideals and you realize, unless it’s something you’ve done before, that you have no freakin’ clue what it could be like.
Plus, people usually look at goals and such as ends, as finish lines. “Once I get to this place” or “Once I get this thing” or “Once I achieve this status in such’n’such” then everything will be fine and dandy…until that wears off. Life doesn’t stop. The world doesn’t stop turning or tumbling through space around the sun; people don’t just stop living their lives – unless of course, they die, and THAT is life-changing in and of itself.
As cliche and as trite the adage has become, it’s true: Life isn’t about the destination; it’s about the journey. Once we all realize we’ll never “arrive” we’ll all be better off. And the key to that is being happy with who you are right now. Because we will always be who we are. We will never stop being who we are and become someone else. It may appear that way when you’re on the outside looking in, but as you experience life, life does change you. Sometimes drastically, sometimes slowly and geologically, but you’re always you and you always will be. Habits may come and habits may go, but you will always have your logic, your worldview. As you experience more, it does change, but you hardly have any, if indeed any, control over that. The only thing we can control is how we react, how we deal with things. And again, that’s a dubious concept in and of itself.
But enough philosophical rabbit hole diving; just learn to be happy with who you are. Easier said than done in most cases – I’m looking at you, man in the mirror – but it is entirely feasible.
Huh…more like rabbit trail navigating than rabbit hole diving – uh, writing, yes.
My advice as I continue to navigate this road: realize you know enough to start; START; realize you’ll never know everything; read lots of stuff; always be willing to learn and engage new and challenging ideas, i.e.: stuff you disagree with; WRITE.
I know I’ve been horrible about keeping up with this blog lately. Thing is, I got really excited about something last summer, I let it take over my blog and then when it fizzled it kind of took the blog with it.
I’ve been spending the last few months trying to figure out what to do next, where to go next, etc. I think I finally know and I’ve been working on it the last few weeks, this one in earnest.
You see, I needed to take some time to get back in touch with myself as I let myself get so wrapped up in that other thing as well as some other lesser things, but I’ve spent this past week on the Big Island of Hawaii, away from the hustle and bustle of Oahu, and I’m finally coming back into land in my spirit.
There are some things inside which needed to be done away with (fear’s commanding voice in orders of the day) and some things which needed beefing up and rearranging.
I’m working on a website with a blog, videos, photos, artwork and such and hopefully it’ll be up by summer – that’s the goal. Actually, that’s the absolute last deadline – I intend on having SOMETHING up by the end of this month. There are “real-life” things I have to deal with (the job that currently pays the bills) and I have to hustle around those priorities in order to make this other stuff work and someday make all of it the “real-life” job.
All I can say is when life hits you hard in the nuts, take a minute to catch your breath, but keep on moving forward.
And God is better than I deserve.
FINALLY!! THE PODCAST!! Episode one of PODCAST 01 is up!
It’s a prototype, it’s very dodgy, it’s something I’ve been putting off for over a year so finally I said to myself, “SELF, GET MOVIN’!” So I did and the first episode is up.
DOWNLOAD FOR ITUNES:
Show Me How To Live
The State of Massachusetts
Barrel of a Gun
Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
Don’t Mess Around With Jim