Failing Forward

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020. My shift, or at least my presence on the shift was cancelled last night – no truck, no goods, no work. The night before when I had to fuss around trying to keep myself busy for five hours (misery) they only had half a truck of product. Nobody’s buying anything according to plan. Which is to say that historically, apparently, they would have five semi-trailers of product to unload and stock at this time of year. That the virus has killed business, then, goes without saying. What will happen? Will business somehow bounce back as soon as the quarantine craziness is lifted? I doubt it. It makes sense to assume there will be temporary but also permanent damage or at least change (depending upon where fate happened to position you) in the marketplace. Restaurants, gyms, public pools, schools, athletics, concert venues and movie theaters, libraries, the military for that matter – certain workplaces where people are shoulder to shoulder on a routine basis, all these environments are thrown into question in terms of their epidemiological risk.

Me? I think it’s all an outrageous overreaction – what is life if not risk management and we can hardly walk through life outfitted in personal protective equipment (PPE as it’s referred to in the health and safety field) or fret about so-called epidemics. Epidemics are part of history and will be part of the future. Trying to forestall the risk makes sense but only within reason. Why ten-thousand deaths per year from influenza was considered more than acceptable for hundreds of years but not now, that somehow every single life is more important than the quality of life for all is a curious cultural study in itself. I venture to say it has something to do with the queer effect of social media and the manner in which the news media exploits the instantaneous transmission of information. So that people who pay attention to the news, for example, find themselves subject to a distorted perception of the value of things and of life, including their own, skewed by too much me-ness. We can tweak our lives to focus on our own idiosyncrasies to such a degree that we lose the perspective of our proper place in the world. So that, again, one’s strengths take you directly into your weaknesses: being who you are which is a strength, can, if abused, so to say, result in suffering from being too much who you are. We become entangled within a distorted experience of our own self-concern. Life is difficult balance in this way. I ought to know.

May you live in interesting times. The Chinese curse. One understands the depths of the idea in such circumstances as these. But good comes of bad, always, at least if you give it time and in the case of the virus debacle we see the Earth itself benefitting from the relaxing of the human population’s abusive, energy-mad, carbon footprint craziness. Oil tankers are supposedly parked out at sea, unable to deliver their crude for lack of demand. The airlines – people’s belching jet fumes across the heavens willy-nilly to satisfy their craving for travel – stifled. The fuel is saved, the exhaust isn’t exhausted, the planet literally breathes a sigh of relief. Will it all go back to what it was – people zooming pointlessly from here to there just to satisfy their thoughtless yearnings and oversized desires? I had a boss that seemed to rely upon jet travel to Asia as the defining, legitimizing aspect of her career, as if it somehow made her life worth living. “Skymiles,” upgrades to first class, hanging out in frequent flyer airport lounges, all that bullshit.  I suspect she disliked most of the other aspects of her job, including of course being tasked with managing me.

Meanwhile it’s all worthlessly irrelevant: what business can’t be done via electronic means these days? Sure, some manufacturing and otherwise hands on functions of the marketplace require face-to-face and feet-on-the-ground presence to properly manage. But if you’re running your business efficiently you’re not sending employees who live in America to manage operations that are occurring in China. I’ll stop. Mostly because I don’t care, it’s not my work, it’s somebody else’s job to fix. And that’s not me passing the buck because I do my best to minimize my carbon footprint. And there’s a job for everybody, including the job of fossil fuel management and what might already be termed energy engineering. If that’s your thing, your personal mythology, go to it, folks.

My job, then? I remain scheduled for my next shift in a couple days but something tells me there’s a good chance I’ll be let go soon for lack of work. These places that are assuming that after April 30th, the arbitrary restart date for most of the States (besides this one!) everything will surge back to normal economically are kidding themselves. Frankly I think we’ve just screwed ourselves into a severe recession. All the governmental handouts and draconian social distancing weirdness will have to be paid for and we the people are going to be doing the paying. It comes down to money. And this wild overreaction to this otherwise minor virus will cost us.

That said, I believe many folks like it this way. So that a wholesale return to things as they were will likely not happen for the reason that many folks will resist it. They perhaps always hated their job or hated their lifestyle and for them things have changed for the better: they’re at home more, they see their family more, they get to walk the dog and enjoy their surroundings, reconnect with nature or even reconnect with their personal mythology. Or discover it. Again, for all the bad there are good things that come of it.

Meanwhile, unless Time Crime goes viral in France (!) and the money starts rolling in it looks like I’ll be looking for another job. I’ve got to keep driving to pay for the audiobook. I’ve got a little unemployment left but the long term solution to keeping my authorpreneurship venture alive until it manages to pay for itself remains the focus. Pressure and time requires money. Editing TC2, for instance, is a doomed prospect unless I can pay for its eventual publication. This is the dream. This is the strategy.

But the clicks have ceased in the US and UK. Why? After the ad went dead in the US because my monthly budget was blown and I stuffed more money into it to get it going again, all the action stopped. Weird. It saves me money not paying for advertising that isn’t leading to sales, but I’m wondering what happened and hence how to proceed. Let it ride? Blame the inactivity on the virus? How? People are suddenly not browsing Amazon for books? No. I’m convinced that I need to try my best to stay on top of things – that is, without clicks there’s no hope of sales so things have to change. This is the one advantage to Amazon: the fact that you can get information about how your product is being received by your potential market. B&N? A complete mystery as to what goes on; I feel utterly helpless regarding influencing sales there. Hence, I naturally focus on the things I can control. And it’s probably time for a new advertisement. The facts speak for themselves.

I spent an hour or so typing up a question for The Red Hand Files, Nick Cave’s forum and then the damn thing wouldn’t send even after I reloaded the page and to hell with it, the guy doesn’t need any more questions, least of all from me. Here it is anyway:

A while back I asked, “What is your relationship to mythology?” The question probably seemed loaded. You know, as if I were trying to poke my finger at a perceived vulnerability versus asking a legitimately heartfelt question. I should have explained my own take on mythology, namely, that in its fully functional form, wherever and whenever you find it, it’s a true fiction. Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, Carl Jung, all good places to find the idea, as you probably know, that religion resides beneath the sheltering sky of mythology. That mythology or myth in its original context (versus the colloquial version) isn’t necessarily intended to describe untruth or embellishment but rather its opposite: veracity and authenticity. German (Jena) Romanticism in particular speaks to this but I’m not here to spew a dull lecture. I’m just interested in folks like myself (I’m an indie-published SF author) whom I consider to be advancing mythology, to be otherwise immersed within the business figuratively and literally of creating new or modern myths.

(1) Awe, (2) a cosmology that supports that awe, (3) sociology as a source of ethics, (4) a pedagogical psychology – these are the four functions of any fully functional mythology, the idea of which I ripped off from Campbell. Because especially when anyone loses their religion (by way of selecting a so-called spiritual-but-not-religious stance, for instance) they seek the functionality of mythology elsewhere. We all have to fill the mythology vacuum or suffer. We can’t get by otherwise. Rock concerts are merely modern rituals (see Campbell meets the Grateful Dead), rituals being an expression of immersion in a mythology. All my life instead of going to church I’ve been going to rock shows. And I more or less get what I need.

On that note, I’m still looking forward to your tour despite the Covid craziness (Masonic in Detroit). I’ve never been to a Nick Cave show, with the Seeds or otherwise. But this latest record of yours, wow, mythology rich! And that cover is a whole conversation: it comes off at first as a parody, of course. But there’s not a jaded, mean spirited bone in the record’s body. It’s all heart, all vulnerability, all courage, really, for what is courage besides being afraid and doing it anyway, as they say. Anyway, GHOSTEEN’s heart came as a shock to me – I kept waiting for the “just kidding” hardee har jab. Meanwhile, I can tell you I’ve encountered that light, enough said.

It strikes me that you understand all this intuitively and perhaps that you’re even a closet mythographer (you study the historiography of mythology) and/or a comparative mythologist. In the sense that you’ve clearly engaged in not a little scholarship to be capable of rendering – expressing – the sonic and narrative images that you do. The mythology is what adds the reliable substance to any art-craft endeavor, after all, even when somebody doesn’t do it intentionally. Do you do it intentionally?

“Palaces of Montezuma” has popped up lately in the posts which to me just proves my point. Great song. It rings the mythological bell in terms of imagery but also renders some mythological symbols literally – you name drop quite a few beefy mythological themes. All in good fun, too. Every great myth contains humor, after all and your work has no shortage of that. What is your relationship to mythology, then? Perhaps I’ve just answered my own question, I don’t know. Rock on, Nick, thanks.

DOP1 2012 VINTAGE POST:

Vanishing Point

Friday, February 10, 2012. Yesterday I got the email from Mo F. saying he’d “pass” on the h-cheese. I felt it coming. Immense disappointment, but I’m glad the shoe has dropped. As I told Ari, I think this whole zcob/h-cheese thing dragged out at least a little too long. That’s not a good sign nor a good feeling – things just kept going back and forth with hh – desperation and struggle followed by progress and good omens, then back to dead ends and then back to possibilities – gads it was chewing me up.

Here I stand with my own kin

At the end of everything

Finally the dream is gone

I’ve had enough of hanging on….[1]

That’s really all I’ve been doing with hh for quite some time now: hanging on. With this blow, I’m done. Enough. I’m clearing out my shit from Union Hall this weekend and getting on with my life. There’s something about hh that doesn’t feel “done” or completely over with but right now, I don’t have a clear sense of where my guides are – I’m a little lost in the forest, but if I stop, drop and listen, I’ll figure out which way to go. Meanwhile, I’ll keep putting my time in at zmo – I’ll keep my biophycomythological feet moving and scrub floors so to say; doing my very best to help build somebody else’s cathedral for now, and spend some time asking myself what to do next. It’s been a crazy fucked up fiasco and a hell of a lot of work and money that I put into hh for what now seems like nothing. The adventure has turned into another fiasco. But I know that hh will only come back if I let it go.

In the film Finding Joe, Chungliang Al Huang, founder of Living Tao Foundation and Tai Ji Master, says:

“You want a new birth, new revelation, new insight into life as you grow as a human being. You will learn to keep dying.”

Metaphorical death being the opportunity for change. Humble Hogs as I envisioned it has died and along with it, my entire vog as I’d written it for spring 2012. This is difficult to assimilate right now because 1) all the effort over the past year that has gone into hh is hard to let go of, and 2) the idea that my entire vog has failed – that this adventure has turned into (yet another) fiasco is beyond disheartening – it’s left me blank. What the fuck do I do now? Nothing? Does it make sense to stay employed part-time at zcob for $8.25/hour? What is my new vog? I hate the feeling of retreat that trying to get a job that pays better even implies – it makes me sick, I can’t do that and live. Kristen, co-founder of the Sans Street food cart, recently quit to spend more time with her family, get a better paying job and have her own kid eventually, none of which can happen whilst buried under the grinding wheel of a small business start-up. Her decision to move on, to find work outside of the food business (she’s also leaving zcob after working at the deli for eight years) makes perfect sense to me and I told her that I’ve got overwhelming compassion for her decision. It’s difficult to abandon a dream even after it’s already died. I was at the Partners Group Meeting that ZCoB has every month where Kristen announced her decision and I saw, in the few painful moments that she spoke to the group, her countenance change from one of being a manager and a business person, to being someone else, someone that could be perceived in that environment as going from present to past; even to some extent as less. She went from being an insider to an outsider, and I read the relief in her face but also a wave of anguish that passed through her, setting her back in her chair as she finished, a distant look on her face.

There’s always an aspect of despair in death and I think it comes from the mystery of why and what comes next. For me right now, I don’t see anything. This would typically be a time to panic, freak out and just retreat into old habits, looking for a corporate job for instance, but I’m not getting anything from my heart that tells me to go back to anything I was doing. My heart says keep chugging in some way with the things that I’m already doing, with the exception of hh. This doesn’t make much sense right now because it appears that everything jazzy about my vog depended utterly upon hh’s forward progress which to me translated to more customers and increased production of h-cheese. That’s clearly not going to happen and I need to accept the failure – the fiasco – of the adventure.

I’m losing faith in vogs. Could I have been so blind and attached to my desires that, even though I’ve worked like an ox over hh for the past year and had so much great “success” with it, I’ve in fact been wrong? I’ve felt so happy and convinced that I’ve finally found my vocations and can live my life working within them and yet here I am at another fucking vanishing point – standing stock still in the middle of the forest adventurous without a fucking clue as to where I’m going. Lost. Again. Have I been deluding myself – have I been in some kind of vocational fever? No. Fever is the compulsion that presages enantiodromia, I know this; it’s what I experienced in Texas. This experience isn’t the same; I truly enjoyed, with an emphasis on joy, the experience of owning hh and making h-cheese. The other stuff about the business – not jiving with Mark H., working in a multi-use kitchen, running the cart, washing dishes, cleaning the kitchen, spending all that money and making none, the fatigue, the physical pain, etc. – I can leave behind with no regrets, obviously. Despite my despair, my heart tells me things are okay, in much the same way it did sitting on the back patio with my dog the morning after I got fired from JCI. At the same time, I ask myself how the fuck I could be “okay” when I’ve got literally nothing to show for this fiasco except debt, the humiliation of a defunct business, a shitty rental house, a bunch of pig heads that I can’t use, cooking equipment I don’t need, a house in Texas that I can neither afford nor afford to sell, and a part-time job that wouldn’t support a college kid? How is it that I still feel like I’m doing “okay?” Wow. I need to really just ride this out for a few days or whatever it takes to get back in line with my guides. This isn’t schism, it’s shock; it’s paralysis. This must be just a new aspect of the hero’s journey – I’ve returned with my boon (or what I THOUGHT was my boon) and the world has given me, after the first excitement (to borrow Campbell’s phrase), something less than a lukewarm reception. I haven’t been ignored, but the world isn’t accepting the part of my boon that I like and want to continue with – it wants the part that resembles what they already have, like mac & cheese and beef brisket and a cute food cart. They like the h-cheese in that context, but it can’t sustain me. It’s an unsustainable business and I always knew that; it didn’t get me to the next step. What to do? How to proceed? How can a vog developed with such passion and connection to my own heart fail so spectacularly and completely? How can what appeared to be such a worthy adventure end with such an inaudible wimper?

Monday, February 13th, 2012. Humble Hogs has failed. We packed up the rest of our shit at union hall and moved out. The only thing I have there are some heads and the h-cheese I have frozen in my half of the commercial freezer. Angie put the cart up on craig’s list – we’re asking half of what we paid for it and I suspect we won’t get that. I’d be surprised if it sells at all. If we got two thousand for it I’d feel lucky. I feel empty. Baffled. Old. I feel typical and average and like an everyman. Which is to say I don’t feel unique or special or talented or anything but lost in the crowd again. I’m doubting everything and everybody, myself most of all of course. What the fuck is it about me that generates nothing but starts and stops, nothing but fiascos? Where is the continuity of a success? Do I sabotage myself? Am I still so fucking blind to myself that I must endure nothing but impossible beginnings followed by costly time-consuming failures? Do I give up too easily? Am I confusing vanishing points with unmet challenges?

There’s an aspect to all of my fiascos that feels like progress. It’s called learning from your mistakes perhaps. But what the fuck am I learning? To what end? Just penurious old age and death? An embittered end? How can a person fail so many fucking times? The unconventional life. Money as a tool. The left-hand path. My vocations. My failed business. I guess what this latest fiasco was all about was everything besides the food cart, which really was a silly idea to get caught up in. What the whole adventure boiled down to was attempting, from my out-of-work condition in Texas, to combine my new-found biophycomythological aspirations with those of Angie, who wanted to return to Ann Arbor. The problem I have with the whole fucking thing is that it ended up being so fucking expensive – absurdly expensive – so fucking bone-crushingly physically difficult, and in the end so pathetically and embarrassingly futile. What a predictable and typical fiasco: guy loses job. Guy decides, in desperation, to go into business (the boss is dead!). Guy decides to turn a hobby into a business, thereby ruining what’s good about the hobby and also failing in business. What a fucking standard-issue total snore of a story. That’s not an adventure, a hero journey; that’s a fucking manual for failure. Christ. What a waste. All that unbelievable hell just to get back to Ann Arbor? And still be out of good-paying work? It stinks. It sucks. Ann Arbor wasn’t my vision; it wasn’t my mission. Food carts and restaurants, let alone gastro-farms, turned out not to be my vision and mission either. Ann Arbor “called” (biophycomythologically) but it feels like a wrong number – the phone call was for somebody else or a fucking crank call. Maybe I picked up somebody else’s phone call?

Again with the misdirected energy. A fucking food cart. I’m surprised I sold anything at all. I can cook, but I’m just not interested in cooking so-called “street food” which boils down to conveniently wrapped, salty, sweet or spicy. Which further boils down to ribs, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos and burritos. It’s also gotta be cheap, which will be the wake-up call everyone who continues on at the food court will have to deal with. It has to be something you can eat with your hands, standing up, it can’t be too serious and it has to seem like a good value. You can’t use high-quality ingredients in the food business unless you charge for them and hardly anyone can. You can only use the best ingredients when you cook at home, where you don’t have to mark shit up by seventy-percent. Otherwise it’s like eating at the French Laundry (which I haven’t): too fucking expensive to be worth it.

Here’s the real truth which is twisting in my guts: I wouldn’t eat at a food cart and I don’t like most restaurants. I wrote that in my mark’s carts application. Yet I forged ahead anyway out of some crazy, apparently blind ambition to set my heart free and get connected to my biophycomythology. Why am I writing this? Who the fuck cares? A failed food cart and h-cheese business. So the fuck what? Most businesses fail, some don’t and it’s usually only clear in retrospect as to why. Emma Goldman, the anarchist, opened two ice cream shops in her day and it shows how fucked up the food business is that the first one, which she opened on the suggestion of somebody else, and that she was indifferent to, only using it to generate quick cash, was actually a fucking hit.[2] Years later, when her boyfriend lost his job and they decided to open a biz (sound fucking familiar?) it was of course an ice cream shop and of course, since they put a shit-load of time, money and care into the opening of it, it flopped, a total miserable failure; they were in and out of business within three months.[3]

So is the key to life just not giving a shit? Talk about un-attachment. It always seems to be the thing you don’t give a shit about that everybody wants from you. If you’re a musician, it’s the song you tossed off and wish you never wrote. If you’re a writer, it’s the book you think sucks. If you’re a cook, it’s the dish that bores the hell out of you to make. If it’s your bullshit job, it’s the thing you least like doing e.g. health & safety. I cannot for the life of me figure this fucked up angle of life out – that what you really want and what you really need to give is just what the world remains completely indifferent to. Omens. Visions. Mandalas. Vocations. Reading. Writing. Walking. Cooking. Phycomythologizing. Love and hope and sex and dreams. What the fuck?! After five hundred and forty-five fucking pages of soul-searching I’m back at the fucking goddamn fucking beginning, argh.


[1] Big Country, Steeltown, “Steeltown,” Lyrics by Stuart Adamson, Phonogram/Mercury, 822 831-2, London: 1984.

[2] Emma Goldman, Living My Life, ISBN 9781461078456, pp.50-51. I purchased this book from Amazon in 2012 from Amazon.com and the only additional publishing information it contains is the following: Made in the USA, Lexington, KY, 16 January 2012.

[3] Ibid., page?