I feel uncommon, running in the woods.
Well, the word “running” applies less and less, these days. But I blame that on Time, as it seems like every month or so I lose one more spring out of the once bouncy mattress of my step. But I do what I can.
As I was saying. Uncommon.
I don’t follow paths. In moments, that bores me. It’s “the road less traveled” and all that, even though when you leave the path altogether, you’re no longer on ANY kind of road, and the path you tread, taken as a whole, has NEVER been traveled. The heart of true creativity has a lot to do with it. I find it easy to create, and find myself fearless in it, and I’m not someone who doesn’t see connections between similar aspects of the self.
Do I hunger to try new things in writing? Yes. In baking? Yes. And does that relate to a hunger to try new paths in life generally? I think so.
The other day, my father and I talked about the prospect of visiting national parks. He’s only ever been to Acadia, in Maine. I’ve never been to any at all, but after watching the below-pictured PBS documentary series…
…I have a craving to see more.
My father and talked about what people usually do at such places. See all the sights in the usual way. Take the tours. Join the crowds. Buy the souvenirs. Snap the photographs, while standing erect and smiling at the camera, to prove to others you were there.
And we both talked about how that’s not for us.
“Let me wander off somewhere wild,” I said.
Of course, you’re often alone when you don’t follow the path. You see what no one else sees because you go where no one else goes. And then you find yourself more isolated, even when you return, because less and less does your experience match up with the experience of others. You cut yourself off from the ordinary, to mix with the true dynamism of things, only to lose frames of reference with Humanity.
I shouldn’t say “only.” There are benefits. In particular I like seeing how Nature does just fine all on its own. It’ doesn’t need to be “redeemed,” as the US Census Service used to call the tumbling westward acres of land once the frontier swallowed them up.
A garden, you see, for all its grandeur, can instill a kind of god complex in a person. You partake, but you don’t feel insignificant.
This life exists because I planted it.
This life continues because I weed out the encroaching wilderness of weeds.
This life ends because I need flowers and flour.
One of the most clear things to me about Humanity’s relationship with Nature is that… we have to deflate and move aside our sense of tremendous centrality in it. All of our stories sing to us, over and over, from birth, that only Humanity matters. And stories build us. Of course, we can use logic to push back against the song that is everywhere, but how many people, when push comes to shove, operate on rationality? Rationality, for all but a tiny minority in this massive democracy, is an armchair warrior’s game.
Just look at what happened to people after 9/11.
Does seeing that image, again, remind you how many people (as a friend of mine once put it), “want to build a wall around Afghanistan and fill it with water”?
And, now that things have calmed down, how many people still feel that way?
We, we Americans, put Japanese citizens in a concentration camp, after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. And many wanted to do that to anyone that looked like a “towel head” in the wake of 9/11.
Why take the risk? They MIGHT be anxious to kill our loved ones….
They might even destroy our national parks.
The Grand Canyon.
And so, perhaps, preemptive strikes are the best thing….
Being able to… step out of the emotional tide at such times is, I think, partly contingent on having practice stepping out of the tide generally. How often do you yearn to not “go with the flow”? How often do you put yourself in a position to feel that, at the moment, you are not partaking of this grand communal civilization? How often do you step off the path in the woods and remember that, for 99.999% percent of the history of the Earth, life did just fine. And, in fact, we would not exist if that were not the case.
And then there’s the fact that this is, as John Muir put it while defending the lands of Yosemite in California, “the morning of creation.” Creation is not done. It is not completed, ready for us to take the reins at last and to reign at last.
What kind of sentient life might evolve from other life forms, were we not creating the 6th great global extinction in Earth’s history? What might Humanity become? How might it further be polished, in the forge of Evolution?
Are there pictures beyond this? Are there more to be drawn?
And is it even a progression from “worse” to “better”? Is it just “change” and “experimentation” in the forge of life?
Sometimes when I run in the woods, I feel uncommon.
I often crouch on top of a rock, watching the distant path when people run by, in that monotonous, jogging way that makes certain the exercise of no more than the minimum muscles. The exact same pace. The exact same course. No change. No dynamism. No creativity.
No partaking of what exists off the path, other than the occasional “what a nice view” glances at the background scenery.
No communion WITH the scenery.
I sometimes feel like that method of exercise is the perfect symbol for Humanity’s manner of interacting with the natural World. It is safe. It is comfortable. And it seems profoundly limiting.
Sometimes I wish I had others to run my exact route with me, the way I run, or rather the way I aggressively wander. Over rocks and under branches. Around bushes and through ravines. And beneath the canopy that dwarfs me. The green leaves the color of money, but as yet not transformed into it. The music of the wind in the trees where the birds, out of sight, add their un-monied notes.
Yes. Sometimes I wish I were not the only human being, seeing what I see in the way and order I do.
And, then, sometimes I do not.
It’s so nice to be happy. Don’t you agree? I agree, and I’m just me.
Isn’t life grand? Isn’t life a spectacular smorgasbord of awesomeness? I mean, there are rainbows, sunbeams, friends, puppies, and arts.
It’s almost like life is a banquet. We just have to know that food is what we need.
I mean, there’s work. Don’t we all love work?
And there’s the World. Aren’t we all just grateful that it’s so stable?
And then there are romantic relationships. Aren’t they amazing and fulfilling and dependable?
I mean, just imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have all these things? Wouldn’t life be awful?
Of course, the most dependable and awesome thing is one’s self. One’s best friend. Life is really all about one’s self. One’s soul. One’s own soul. When it comes down to it, nothing else really matters. Not relationships, not puppies, and not the transient physical Earth.
One has to figure out one’s own issues. One has to process one’s issues. And one has to do it alone.
But it’s OK. It’s grand, in fact. Because we’re not alone ever: we have the Great Bond to Reality. We’re never alone, even when we are.
And we have all other life. One of the great crimes is how Humanity believes that only Humanity matters. I mean seriously: spiders even are life, and company for us on Spaceship Earth. Moss. Microbes. We’re never alone with our 80 proof spirit and our videogames. Never.
It’s not even possible to be alone, the way we imagine it. Life is all interconnected, like reality. Even when we have no other human beings around, we have reality. We have microbes. We have life, all on the evolutionary journey toward our precious sentience. And aren’t we a comfort to each other?
And isn’t television awesome?
Not terrible television, but good TV, with merit.
And then there’s the joy in knowing that Humanity is behaving like a gestating global extinction event. Isn’t that nice? Isn’t that vital? Isn’t that… important? It’s nice to be important. It’s nice to be significant, like the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs.
And children. Who needs children? The meteor didn’t have them. The meteor had the opposite. Although actually, the meteor did, if you think long term..
It wiped out competitors, and over millions of years, it made room for us.
So here’s to being happy. Here’s to the loneliness of a meteor streaking through space and waiting for the day when it can strike a planet and “make room” for the future. There’s nothing like the beauty of being alone.
Well, does the presence of ants mean you aren’t alone?
How do you hear the word “worry”?
What kinds of it are there?
Which are bad and which are good?
I know we’re all aware of clearly bad and unhealthy worry. Worrying about bills, say, like the main above. Does it help? Not usually. Does it make the task more scary? Often. So why not just do what can be done, not worry about what can’t be controlled, and not let emotions torture us?
Another kind, sort of, is a kind experienced by some women I’ve known. Worry about… being a hostess. Guests are coming, and the whole preparation, and even much of the affair, becomes fraught with worry. Is the party good enough? This was always torture for me because… it makes having friends over something that… I’d often rather avoid. And “company” should be easy. I have few friends who’d cast me, or women I know, out because they weren’t “super hostess.”
But I like to think of another kind of worry. It’s a kind that often gets blended in with love, and hence seems… good.
Say you have a loved one who’s unhappy, or who doesn’t have his or her life together, or who you merely think has these problems. But you also don’t want to communicate with him or her about it because it… might be uncomfortable.
So what do you do? Do you worry? And does the worry make you feel loving?
It sometimes reminds me of a few sayings:
“Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.”
“Don’t complain about your problems: fix them.”
“Get busy living or get busy dying.”
Worry is a bit like judgment sometimes, too, especially about a person you aren’t willing to take the time to get to know better. It’s always dicy to believe you understand another person, particularly if you’re sealed off from interaction that could reveal misunderstanding. Of course you can’t just spend your whole life trying to understand more, without every doing anything with the understanding you think you have, but neither should the learning process stop to “save Time” or anything.
Of course, in this kind of situation where a loved one seems to “need” worry, love is behind it. And love feels good. It feels noble. It feels like worry, in this case, is “doing something.”
But it’s a bit like me… worrying about the environment (and I worry a lot), but never doing the hard work to do anything about it.
In my experience, worry is a bit like fear. Or anger.
And judgment just LOVES to hide in the shadow of love. It doesn’t get noticed there, very often. Assumptions. Jumping to the Island of Conclusions (to reference “The Phantom Tollbooth”).
Worry can be false productivity. It relies, often, on assumption. And you know what happens when you assume: you make and “ass” out of “u” and “me.”
Worry can be like a crutch.
Now there’s a guy we need to worry about.
It takes hard work, skill, and patience to really talk to someone about hard things. It takes lack of judgment. It takes a true interest in “what’s really going on” and not just in maintaining propriety and comfort. It takes an understanding that many of us are lonely and isolated partly because we insist on avoiding what’s “really going on.”
Work for greater understanding. It can lead to more helpful things than worry. Nobody wants chemotherapy for their worry cancer.
Would that be… Prozac?
Thoughts? I’m well aware that… my “actual blog entries” get no feedback or likes. But I’d love to start a conversation.
You? It’s how we learn. And maybe you’d end up worrying about me less. 😉
I’m gonna write a post about something spicy.
Part of the reason is because it’s been on my mind. But the other part of the reason is that, as any media-savvy person knows, is that it’s good for business to “stir the pot.” So, even though it’ll stir men’s pots in very different ways than it’ll stir women’s pots, I’ll whip out my stirrer and stir away.
They have a different mindset than regular women. Life teaches them to have a different one. They have different standards. They, having so many men at their fingertips, can afford to be cavalier with the men that come their way. They can discard any man at a moment’s notice, vanishing without a trace, confident in the knowledge that a flock (or gaggle) of other men will be waiting around the corner, from which they can choose another prime slice of fowl.
It’s an interesting mindset to run into. Normal people have learned that, to understand a person, one needs to get to know them and not jump to conclusions. Normal people don’t have infinite choices for mates. So, unlike the way we all can be when it comes to which restaurant to eat at, we benefit from… cutting people a little slack.
Have you run into a beautiful woman who, at the first whiff of imperfection in you, immediately began to treat you as invisible, or worse, like a mosquito buzzing around her ear if you did not obligingly vanish in an instant and forever?
It’s not just about restaurants, for normal people.
Normal people have this problem with many things. Think of movies. Think of television. Think of games. Think of books. Think of music. Think of all the things that we have so many choices to choose from that we have to be LOOKING for ways to judge and discard.
But then imagine what it would be like if it were that way with romance? Imagine, fellow “Normies,” what it would be like to walk down the street and find that every member of the opposite sex, and ten percent of the same sex, just can’t take their eyes off you? Think about how you would have to handle that, and how you would choose?
It reminds me of the few interactions I’ve had with famous-for-intellectual-reasons people. Me? I don’t get much attention, so I assume that giving my intelligent attention to, say, an author with a famous book, would be of value to them.
But, alas, no. My attention means nothing. And if I take up one more second of their time than they feel like giving, they will (while perhaps wishing me well), proceed as though I do not exist.
You see what I did there?
I added two photos of the books by the two “famous” people I’m talking about. One quickly ignored me… while the other treated me like an asshole the moment I phrased something imperfectly. You know: instead of taking a moment to see if there was a misunderstanding.
Which there was.
I’ll leave you to guess which author was which (both interactions happened by email). Guessing games are fun!
Anyway. Wasn’t I talking about beautiful women?
While I am willing to “put on a mask” and stir the pot, I am UNwilling to give the impression that I have a narrow view of beauty. A great many things, women included, are beautiful. And, if you’ve read “Ishmael,” you’ll have already suspected that I might swoon over “primitive” beauty.
Note the quotation marks!
But I should get back onto the topic of intolerance.
It’s not so bad to be intolerant of things that aren’t alive. Movies like “One Hour Photo” with Robin Williams don’t care if we dismiss them unjustly. Videogames like “Just Cause 2” don’t mind if we never buy them. And books like “Winter’s Bone” don’t feel hurt if we never lay our fingers on their textures or even our eyes on their film version’s greatness.
The people behind those artistic projects may mind, may fail to gather the income necessary to make more great art, but the art itself is not offended if we turn away at the box office, game shop, or book store. So we are not… bad people.
Time makes criminals of us all.
I like to think that. If we all had infinite time, wouldn’t we give our time to everything deserving? Every movie? Every book? Every game? Every song? Every person?
But since we don’t have infinite time, nor even enough, don’t we daily battle with personal injustice in the euphemistic name of “following our heart,” or “living our life,” or “doing what we have to do,” or “taking care of our family,” or “keeping our job”? And don’t we have to suppress a great deal of guilt because of it?
I know that when I’m on a dating site and manage to start an interaction with a “beautiful” woman, it’s only a matter of time before the other shoe drops. I’m too much of an odd duck. I’ll trip over one or the other of their million tripwires that’ll make their voices go dead, their communication go silent, and their interest go to the Moon where it’ll asphyxiate in the vacuum. So I just laugh, reciting “The Universe, Man. Hilarious.” to myself, just so that I’m ready.
I know I’m being shortchanged, or that I will be. I know I deserve better. And I know it might be a wonderful learning experience for many people to get to know me, if only they weren’t in such a hurry to discard me.
But it’s not going to happen.
It just isn’t.
There just isn’t enough time for justice to be done to me.
So, instead, I focus on how to do justice to others. Of course, in this sense, it’s impossible. I don’t have infinite time either. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking I can do justice to everyone by sealing myself away from so many people, so much of the World, that I find all of a sudden that I just DO have all the time anyone who wants a piece of me needs. It’s a little pleasure, in the short term.
And, luckily, the “beautiful” things out there, be they women or whatever, are not necessarily where the (or any unusual) value lies. As a monk might say, beauty is everywhere, if only we know where to look.
And where is that?
Why, everywhere. Not just at the beautiful women. Even garbage can be beautiful, as Ricky Fitz taught us in the film “American Beauty.”,
And it doesn’t require beer goggles to see beauty where many can’t.
Why? Perhaps because you’re not seeing the real beauty? Just booze’s beauty?
Can money do it too?
Lemme see if I can find a picture of a beautiful woman kissing an ugly rich man….
Well, “fat” doesn’t equal “ugly,” but sometimes even a Google image search can let a man down.
I’m off track again.
Beauty is everywhere. Being thankful is good for the soul. The World is like a banquet, and we are like starving people. If only we can learn that food is what we need.
But… I do have to admit that, just as when I gaze into the abyss and the abyss gazes back at me, I can’t help but wish that, sometimes, when I stare at a beautiful women, she would stare back at me.
And see me.
Really see me.
A man can only fight Evolution so hard.
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Like a lot of men of my generation, perhaps especially those who don’t have children of their own (yet), I struggle to figure out what videogames mean to me at this point in life.
I’m 37, and more than half way to 38. I’m no longer the child that grew to love them. And in many ways videogames are seen as a child’s medium. To be sure, from the earliest days of my childhood, they got their hands around my throat, brain and heart and just would not let go. Sometimes I asked them to let go, because I needed to do school work, or my mind. Sometimes I merely felt they should let go but couldn’t get up the nerve (or air) to ask.
And yet… their sensual, squeezing touch….
When I was young, had no money, and had a family without much money, it was the early 80s. Arcades were huge then, before the “Great Video Game Crash of ’83.”
I have all these memories of my father, or mother, as my brother and I were fresh into a new Sunday, under ignored bright sunlight and in a crisp but unsavored summer breeze, when I’d go into fits of joy because they deigned to give us a few dollars worth of shiny silver quarters for slipping into slots under light and sound. There was a kind of five year old sexual thrill in that penetration. And after a little death it was all over far too soon….
It often kept me from wanting to eat. The disease was in my blood.
From the beginning of consciousness I was fascinated by the video game capacity to create animate with their interactive worlds inside an inanimate, non-interactive piece of technology. A television. An arcade cabinet. A tiny watch. Yes, books create worlds. And yes, televisions create movies. But none of those were interactive in the way early videogames were. I couldn’t control “my” character in a book or a film. I was (and you were) a vicarious hanger-on, someone trailing along beside another life, perhaps even pretending it was my life in an act of empathy and transformation.
And that has value. Truly it does. But it’s a different value, and that’s part of the reason why the “art” of videogames has been hard for many to grasp. If the consumer is in control of the story, how could the artist be creating art with only an assist to the telling?
It’s a little bit like the amazing scene in last year’s amazing film “Her” where a sentient female OS falls in love with a lovelorn man, and to give each other physical satisfaction, the OS calls in a female human being to be their “sexual surrogate.” The surrogate wears an earpiece, and a “mole” that is in fact a camera.
But the man can’t handle it. He’s too in love with imagination.
Do you have the stones (pick your female equivalent) to live a grand story yourself? Do you have the faith that you can live up? Videogames let you live up to greatness… but they can numb you to the dreary every day grind of un-great-full life.
In some ways, that’s what books, movies, television shows, and all non-videogame art are like to me. They’re like… not sexual surrogates, but… artistic surrogates. it’s like… I’m not capable of such beauty myself, so I must partake of it elsewhere and pretend that I’m participating.
But even as a young child, I sensed the “it is me” reality of videogames. And though while, just in their infancy as an art form, they did not take people to deep story or character or issue driven places, they did take YOU there, not a surrogate version of you.
In, say “Star Wars” (the good, original trilogy), you pretended you were Luke Skywalker and wanted to be Luke Skywalker, in “Super Mario Bros” or “The Legend of Zelda” you WERE Mario, or Luigi, or Link. YOU were stomping on those goombas. YOU were slashing those tektites. YOU were saving the World.
Of course “you” were still Mario, or Luigi, or Link, but “you” actually controlled them. You were not the surrogate. The game was YOUR surrogate.
Boy did I love playing the boy angel Pit, and donning the three sacred relics (the Mirror Shield, the Arrow of Light, and the Wings of Pegasus) and shooting down the giant form of Medusa while dodging stray, snaky strands of hair….
There was, and is, a certain appeal to videogames. And sometimes I find it… dangerous.
Because you are not a surrogate but rather the “one who lives,” the great videogames have a curious and powerful draw. They encourage one, at times, to forsake reality much more so than movies, television, books, or whatever. Because you ARE the story, not just an avid viewer, it can diminish the World proper.
I feel this daily. I still carry around with me, wherever I move, tubs and cases of all the great videogames systems that came after the Atari 2600. Life makes sense in videogames. And when you tie them to nostalgia, to a childish innocence and that fabulous sense that life was infinite and indestructible, there is almost nothing to beat it. Right now I have my spare Super Nintendo out, my “SNES,” and “Super Metroid” is the game jammed into the slot. I’ve never considered it a personal favorite, but the battle on Zebes with the metroids, Ridley, Kraid, Phantoon, Mother Brain, and strange jumping mechanics always tempt my desire to understand the uber classic joy of it.
And all the while “real life” is pushed to the background. It’s a danger. One has to make money. One has to have family. One has to live.
I’m like Peter Pan.
I don’t want to grow up.
Sometimes I wonder if, had I had children in my life, my love of videogames could’ve taken on some meaning. They would’ve been of the age that allowed for a natural love of escapism and gaming. I could’ve taught them all about these cultural touchstones. I could’ve been a mentor.
But at age 37.6, I have yet to do that. And I feel an emptiness. It’s a strange, existential feeling.
What is the RESULT of sitting in front of the television, as death approaches, and reliving these stories? What is the RESULT of these surrogate worlds that do not relate to my career, my financial independence, or my ability to have children?
Sometimes I don’t know.
But I keep playing, wondering what my life will look like to me as age changes my brain chemistry, my body, and my sense of what matters in the time I have left.
Will I have children?
What will it be like to be old, with eyes that can’t see videogames and partake of their worlds?
When can I be accused of arrested development?
It’s all a strange thing. I catch myself in my apartment, drinking vodka and writing on the computer when I could be out socializing and building employment connections. I could be working to make having children possible. But all around me, scattered about the apartment, are tubs full of classic video games and classic videogame systems. I have spark in my mind for them, and I feel like they deserve time, in order to justify my ownership. So I pull out “Super Metroid” and redo what I did twenty years ago, wondering if, this time, I will see the grandeur others spoke of with impassioned whispers.
How does one maintain a love of humdrum life when videogames grant access to legendary life? Real? Unreal? And what are we to make of the maturation of the art form, to the point where it does now deal in amazing character, story, and ideas?
I don’t have any answers.
But I welcome comments. As always