Thursday, November 22, 2012

To have been, or to yet be

The following is a message sent to a friend whose mind I like to probe from time to time. But you can have some too.

i've always been caught up in this problem which i've realized can be compared - loosely - to reason wrestling with the theories surrounding the space and time continuum.

let me start with an example.

tonight, i decided to watch the abe lincoln, vampire hunter movie.

(totally a side note: did the word movie come from the idea that the pictures move, and so we called it a movie in the same we call something cute, a cutey? petty)

anyhow, the film was not intellectually captivating, and so my mind was left to wander while half-heartedly holding the thread for the spinner of the plot. i could feel it move through my hand, but i was only just aware and focused enough of and on the thread so as to ensure that it continued on its way to the loom, and that i would be able to realize any gaps, kinks etc in the plot.

somewhere in the unguided wanderings of the rest of my consciousness, my mind thought on lincoln, so i wiki'd him real quick for a few facts. I found this: "While preparing for the nuptials and feeling anxiety again, Lincoln, when asked where he was going, replied, 'To hell, I suppose.'"

In imagining the character of Abe as though I were actually meeting him, the thread still running through my hand showed a scene near the end where Abe was looking for his hat, and wouldn't leave the house without it. Though I seem to recall that men of the time were collectively much more attached to the idea of a hat being a fashion necessity, I conjured up in my image of Abe, the idea that he was a real man, you know, tangibly human. He has a dog, swears occasionally, enjoys sex, knows a few dirty jokes, etc, all in an effort to try and grasp and - perhaps - idolize the man. Here was a man who, though his accomplishments transcend such characteristics, was humanly passionate about having his hat.

The continuum relevance comes where I am always trying to learn from these wanderings, actually take some truth from it, you know. So of course, I should be like Lincoln, in the way that Adam Smith suggested I should be the everyman, who would be as any man should be, as an ideal man. Ben Franklin famously indicated that, in his pursuit of perfection, he found it necessary to not actually be perfect, so as to maintain a  sort of symbiotic relationship with those around him. I should be real, and have those "flaws" in my character that are important to have only in principle, not in individual worth. To complete the task of learning from my sculpted image of good sir Abe, I must at some point find a place for my learnings from this past, in the present day. So a modern version would be "humanly passionate" about having a mac vs pc, or about always eating after a certain diet, wearing north face, et al.

Anyhow, this all happened in the mind in a moment, and I have forgotten some of the feel of that original thought. But the thought is this, that if I am not naturally that way, do not naturally have those humanly passionate inclinations, does forcing it do anything? In the same vein, that awareness of a different point in time may greatly change the present, but may also have no effect, as well as many other theories.

So does it do any good to be aware of the principles that could define me as a better man, or should I rely on a more natural, moral compass?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dream On

Where are my dreams? At 17, I could have seized this world and all it wanted to give me. With a touch of instruction and opportunity, it would have been no difficult thing to flourish my talents before many, and hopefully help people in the process. I don't mean to bemoan my own decisions, nor seem ungrateful for a blessed life. But I do wonder: what good have these last years been?

I was a lad of impressive quality; primarily, this was a result of my upbringing. I was of stout enough heart and keen enough mind to reach up and grab the stars, but somehow chose not to. I dabbled as a young man, here and there, in events and activities that could have ended up being the precipice from which I would fling myself into the whoosh of personal progress. But I finished high school, went to a year of college, served - as expected - a two year mission for my church, returned to a year of school, and have since been working low-end jobs in the hopes of returning to some sort of education.

Truth is, I'm sick of being told, and want to start telling.

Many moments of greatness have passed me by. They were so close at times I could have painted each fleck on the hull of each ship that could have bore me to the heavens. I fell in love with a woman who would have had me, but went instead on that mission for two years. Shortly after my return, she was married. I have met at least three gents who offered me chances to join up and tour: a sound tech for the blue man group, a drum roady for aerosmith, a sound engineer in Boston. But I wouldn't have any of it. Not for lack of interest, and I could never look them in the eye and say I really believed I had a better plan. I just always felt that there should be.

I feel selfish talking about myself at all, let alone about what I want. The one quality I do like about myself is I abhor myself. It sounds like paving the road to your death with quicksand; beautiful in a way that doesn't serve you a bit, with a touch of bewilderment. I've never been comfortable with the idea of being praised. As a performer, I always bowed for the sake of the audience, trying to ignore the idea that I was supposed to be accepting a compliment.

It was never about me (ye fools), but you.

I'm a bit useless to most people these days, unfortunately. I'm not as sharp as I once was, nor as warm and social, and I don't like people much. But I do love them, still. I've certainly no money to spare, nor wealth of any other fashion. Can I be of meaningful service to others, if I refuse to serve myself? I remember a paper I wrote years ago, in which I asserted that to best serve altruistically, one must first live a bit egoistically; to feed the poor, you must first pack your own larders.

Sometimes, I feel that I'm on the verge of defining the new and best way to serve others; one at a time, and usually in the least noticeable way. To even speak of it does of course detract from the goal and purpose. But what if giants lived among men, hidden except to those who invited them in? To truly help someone, the helping must result in the individuals own elevated sense of potential. If Hercules pulls your wagon out of the mud, he does you a disservice. If he helps you pull your wagon out of the mud, you are reminded that you're not up to the task alone, and may feel that you may never be. If he pulls it out when you're not looking, you'd probably wonder: how did I not notice a team of horses pull up, examine my state, attach several cords to my cart, pull, detach, and drive off? I'd like to know how to do whatever just happened.

A short story:

A young Tibetan cares for his dying grandmother. Bereft of proper parentage, he has only learned enough to scrounge up enough to support himself and his mother; he is certainly capable of as much as anyone in the planes that soar up in the sky, though he knows not what a plane is. He lives next to a mountain of jagged rocks and daily blizzards. His grandmother speaks of the days when her young lover, a mighty man, would climb this mountain to fetch her the blossom of a rare and hardy weed which grew at the summit. The young boy was always fascinated to hear about this giant of a man, capable of such feats as to bound up such slopes, while in truth the man was of diminutive stature, and found the courage to climb only in his love for his wife. A group of german mountaineers passes by the hut on a stormy evening, their presence hid by the howling wind. One curious gent peers into the hut, unbeknownst to the boy and his and grandmother. He listens as the grandmother tells her story of her beloved blossoms, and how she would love to see one before she passes. He hears the boy weep and say he wishes he could get it, and how she comforts the boy, and assures him he is of ample service to her failing heart. The stranger, though he has climbed this way many times, has never before looked into the hut, nor even noticed the boy or his patient. To his recollection, he has only ever looked out from the summit of the mountain, at the vast expanse before his eyes, and never down at his feet where the weeds grow in the cracks of the mountain. Sure enough, he finds them atop the peak a few days later, and carefully plucks one for the odd pair he witnessed a few days before. Passing by once more, he stops to visit the hut. Never entering, never speaking, he simply beckons to the boy, and hands him the flower. One year later, the mountaineer visits once more, finding the hut a-shambles, the boy nowhere to be found, and a burial mound covered in the weeds of the mountain.

I don't know how to do best whatever it is I'm supposed to do. But I suppose I better make sure I'm doing it.