Think About The Way XX

Think About The Way XX

The twentieth of a never-ending series

By Doctor Gonzo

3 July 2006

Minneapolis — "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"Follow your bliss."

One question, one statement, both intimately intertwined with each other. Few people want to be miserable when they grow up, if that indeed ever occurs, so following your bliss is hopefully an integral part of life. If you aren't following your bliss in what you do on a daily basis, then you probably will not be a very happy person.

Trying to determine how best to follow your bliss and be something good when you grow, that's the real problem. As a wise man once said (almost) hundreds of years ago, if it were easy, then everybody and their brother would already be doing it. Given the state of the world today, it's not a likely bet that the majority of the world is successfully following their bliss. People are too busy following other things, or not following anything at all.

Since it was not easy, I was having a bit of a problem finding it exactly. Although there is still some debate as to whether it is the unexamined or the examined life that is not worth living, the life that has no higher purpose, a life that does not have a goal to be traveling towards, is also not terribly useful. After reaching the point where it could no longer be ignored, when there was nothing else to drown out the voices that questioned me, I realized that I had to figure it out. But what?

Some obvious answers would no longer work. I was on my own, no doubt about it. Only I could figure out what I had to do with my life, and no one else could live it for me. That is not always an easy thing to face; I have the feeling that most people either don't care about these things, or simply let life happen to them and then deal with the consequences later. I didn't like the chances that those options gave me, so I hoped that I would be able to be a bit more proactive. Find it myself before it happened to me, before I was trapped in something that I didn't care for. It was a tall order.

The pieces fell away, leaving nothing at all but indifference, ambivalence. Everybody's potential was reset to zero. There was no longer anybody to envy, anybody to suck up to, anybody to idolize. We were either all in a world of one, or a world of everybody; either way, everybody was equal and there was nothing.

Nothing: the abyss was inside, and that abyss was either the foundation upon which to build a new way of seeing things, or a hole into which any new ideas would instantly fall. But nothingness it was, a nothingness that could not be ignored.

A bit later, I was looking over all of these things. Past writings, past articles, TATW, Daily columns, all of it. Part of the reason was that I was looking for topics and inspiration for the statements and essays I would have to write in order to apply to law school. But inspiration wasn't only for applications. It was also of a personal sort, which made it all the more disappointing the more I read.

It was almost all shite. Pure and simple, I could hardly stand to read most of what I had written before. Most of my newspaper columns were the product of somebody who was too arrogant and too sure of having all of the right answers. Many of the other things I had written were philosophic tomes that had little bearing on the life that I was too glad let slip by; I felt much safer inside the Zen walls I had built around myself, to keep the nastiness of the world out.

Oh, sure, not everything pissed me off; there were a few article and stream-of-consciousness rants that were typically the result of alcohol and dipping my toe into that thing called real life. But by and large, it was not something I felt particularly happy to be looking back upon. I certainly could not turn to any of this for inspiration as to what I should be following in my life. Maybe I could use a lot of it to map the paths that I did not want to follow, but simply avoiding things is no way to reach a goal. Besides, avoiding things was what had caused the problem in the first place.

Why? I didn't realize when I started poking around in the remains of my short life that things may have changed, that I may have changed, so much in such a relatively short span of time. Even more puzzling was the fact that I would reject so completely everything that I had written about, and thus experienced, before. I am not so distant from those times that I have completely changed who I am, or is that wrong? Could that be the case?

I don't know; I don't think so. While many things have changed, as they must when life gives way, I can still see a foundation, the bits and pieces that make up the core. They have been rearranged, though, and the things that I once valued, those things that I was able to value, have changed. Taken as a whole, I think it was a good thing.

I lost my second conscience years and years ago...six years to be exact. The last time we had been in the same place physically, I was talking about being in love and he was talking about being in like. My situation went on to become arguably the largest part of my life from that point on, and his was to sadly go nowhere. When all was said and done, a big part of my life was gone, another big part was just starting, and the innocence of the College Experience was gone in more than one way.

Interestingly, the next couple of years would be looked upon favorably by one party as an ideal to go back to, while for me, I could only see laziness and apathy. I had achieved much of what most people would aspire to, and God-damn did I phone it in for the longest time. Not always professionally and not always personally, but by and large it was a time when TV and jumps off of the raft and Lake Ann and biking were just about all there was, and that center simply cannot hold for any length of time.

Biking...that's the perfect example. I was biking once again today, along West River Parkway in Minneapolis for the hundredth or thousandth time, and I realized, that holy shit, I had been biking along this route for damn well over nine year. Nine fucking years! Over and over, seeing the same curves, the same scenery, tacking on the same miles to my journal over and over. That one example metastasized into a hundred more. Repeating the same old garbage, doing the same thing over and over, seeking solace in routine. From cheap nasty-tasting instant coffee in the mornings to Earl Grey tea and Hot Tamales in the evenings to the same Grand Round path, the structure changed but the need for it remained the same.

This was broken in many respects by the failure of a good portion of the life that I had achieved; necessity forced me to start taking a look at what I was doing. I couldn't change everything at once, of course, as such tasks are only possible for the most enlightened of us. But by and large, I realized that if I was going to find something worth living for and living at again, I would have to leave the comforts that I had gotten used to behind, and venture out once again.

This is probably the reason I was so disgusted by the written records of my life before. Oh, sure, I played a good game, the college student who was so much better than his peers, the unstained prophet who was seeking the answer to life, the One to which all is reduced. It allowed me to fill with rhetoric those parts of my life I was afraid to fill with me falling on my face and getting back up again. In the end, though, rhetoric won't get you much; it is experience that counts.

The philosophical chains that had sounded so appealing and comforting lost their luster. I saw them for what they were: chains. The unemotional, dispassionate life sounded suspiciously like death. Pretending that I was sitting on a cloud, observing from afar that Great Game that I would only in certain circumstances debase myself to join, no longer seemed to bring me happiness. Not doing was worse than doing, even if doing meant failure.

Instead, I tried to do where I would not do before. It became a question not of What Would Jesus Do, but What Would Sculptor Sam Insult Me Less For Doing? So far, I think that it has worked much better than what I was doing before, even if not all the changes can be appreciated by everybody. It was more real, at least. I touched the world and it did not crumble; more importantly, I did not crumble.

That's probably why I could not relate to what I had written. Instead of delicately dissembling the reality that I so disdained, I was actually doing something. I was fucking up, yes, but sometimes you have to hurt yourself to see if you still feel. As long as the trips don't get too out of control, and I don't think that any have done so yet, then experiencing and learning beat pontificating every day. My past life pretending I was Buddha no longer seemed appealing.

Blonde-curled thin-lipped schlampe with no sense of personal space, angling for attention that comes only perfunctorily...this is expected, not shunned.

No help on what to do when asked to comment on strangers' body parts. Play along, listen to the music, the sun is not yet yellow, but simply chicken.

Sipa-playing stoners standing and sidling outside of yet another modern opium den, buy the ticket and take the ride, they are all the same so why not hop on? Whatever reticence once existed is long gone, a principle that lost all weight and disappeared into the æther, not that it did much good anyway.

Summer smells, the same as in decades past, in the middle of a city or tearing around county roads in the middle of a lightning storm, but now the impermanence cannot be ignored, the mortality that means that there are a finite number of drizzling summer nights ahead.

No, I haven't yet found my bliss. Such big prizes are not found immediately. I do think, though, that I am closer than I have been in a long time. I have lost much along the way; sometimes it feels like I have lost so much that it is not worth fighting for. But I look at the alternatives and they are far worse. I will just keep on, erring on the side of doing as opposed to not. Whatever happens, I think that is the way to go.

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