Finding a Way


Tuesday, March 24, 2020. The virus news, not that I’m following it closely, at least seems to have finally tipped towards including analysis of the economic devastation about to unfold as the result of all this so-called shelter-in-place lunacy. I won’t go on about it, it sucks. Except to say that Angie very likely had it in January, before it had a name, catching it from her family during a Christmas party that I didn’t attend. Her sister had it and who knows who else? The only thing unusual about it was the severity and duration of her bronchial trials. Coughing for weeks. Badly enough that she eventually injured herself – she had aches and pains in her rib area and considered seeing a physician about it because it didn’t seem related to the cough. Well, it was, because soon after she quit coughing her other pain away. After a couple of weeks I suffered a very mild case of respiratory troubles, perhaps I caught a version from Angie, but then again I’ve had respiratory troubles all my life what with my lousy allergies. I never make it a year without some sort of nasal or bronchial health hassle, so I’m used to it. Seeking medical help? Forget it. What does a doctor ever do for you except dole out a prescription for who knows what unrelated symptom? The only time in my life that I ever recall feeling like a physician’s care was necessary and in fact did me any noticeable good was after I was bitten by a dog a couple of years ago and needed nine stitches – I couldn’t have fixed that emergency on my own or by waiting it out. But enough of the virus. We need to quit destroying the economy over it, that’s all I’ll say.

Findaway Voices sent me their narrator recommendations, two of which were very good and one especially was spot on – I couldn’t believe I was listening to this guy narrate in an Arabic accent and then, in an unbelievable coincidence (synchronicity?) he was referring to a character named, of all things, Bab, the name described as “a gate” just like in Time Crime. The other handful of narrators taught me a lot about what it is I was seeking without knowing it; that is to say, I don’t like the youngish, thirty-something masculine swagger type (I wasn’t provided any female narrators, oddly enough) nor the manner in which, at least in my experience of the samples, some of the guys, professional as they may be, somehow projected their personality or, perhaps more accurately, a personality of some type into the reading. I don’t mean to imply that any of it is even conscious, I just very quickly noticed that three of seven narrators, one who was English, the other two American, all middle-aged, possessed what can only be described as a “readerly” voice. As opposed to a talking voice, I suppose. Aside from notably clear diction, which all but one of the seven possessed, the “readerliness” of the three I liked best had a quality of moderation and deliberate pacing even when they were emphasizing something or changing voices; whether they were narrating dialogue or description, I found myself listening to the writing, as it were, instead of the voice. At one point I thought, I get it, I have to be capable of listening to the story without being distracted by the voice.

And so, as with everything, it seems, that is most important to me, that I’m one-hundred percent immersed in and devoted to, that has to do with my VAPM and my talents, such as they are in the area of discernment, my first choice, D.S., presented himself immediately. He was the last narrator on the list and, like I said, when he started with an Arabic accent and mentioned a character named Bab it was almost already decided for me. Nonetheless, being aware of my inexperience with audiobooks to say nothing of narrators, I allowed myself to go back through all of them, testing different stories they’d produced and then whinnied it down to the English guy – who doesn’t enjoy an English accent? –  and D.S. But TC1, though it contains many opportunities for foreign accents, including English (Flinders Petrie) and the setting is of course global (cosmic, in fact!), the story is not at heart British in perspective. I’m convinced its authenticity rather requires an American base of operations, so to say. That, coupled with the amazing linguistic versatility of D.S. quickly made my choice unequivocal. And that D.S.’s fee happened to be the second to lowest per hour, well, it all seems to come together when you let it.

Too bad the money is a problem. I was proceeding with an intuition that the $2,500 – $3,000 would be doable but things change, financial pressures rise and fall (mostly rise) and now I’m faced with trying to cobble together the money. The first thing I did was apply to the market nearby – part time work within walking distance, a grocery discount and the fact that they’re not fucking closed on behalf of the virus means their lousy pay scale (there’s no money in the food business, you don’t have to remind me) might be tolerable if I have this funding goal to focus me. A person can put up with almost anything, after all, any lousy job, if there’s a goal in mind and an end in sight. But especially with me, throughout my life, wanting a job and getting one have notoriously been two very disparate things. But there are other places to work, despite the economic pressures of this ridiculous pandemic scare and I have to stay positive, not allowing despair to overtake or override my zeal, bliss and dreams. Is creating an audiobook doomed to demonstrate what it means to throw good money after bad in terms of the marketing flop that Time Crime has so far been? Frankly, if it turns out to be, I don’t care. Time Crime is all that matters to me. If it sucks, I can’t see it. To me it’s worthy of all that I have to give. It is all I have to give. I know what I want, other people have done it and I’m driven to do what it takes, to spend the money on it until there’s nothing left to do, no avenue left untrodden, no lead left. I want it to be as successful as it deserves to be which is a hell of a long way past a big fat zero.

Meanwhile, it’s so easy just to give up on it, to let it go, let the book die and be done with the money and the effort and the banging my head against the wall. To get caught up in a doomsday attitude where so-called disposable income somehow vanishes and a modern Depression hits. To lament and chew glass over the failure of TC1 to earn back its expenses and show a measly $3K profit that would pay for its own audiobook version, to quit running at a fucking major financial loss for fuck’s sake. To participate in the world, properly as a damn worthy novel. Is that too much to goddamn ask, just a fucking break even scenario on this damn book?

Yes, apparently. And I know there are a zillion other wannabe successful authors out there as disappointed and bad off, which is to say as mired in obscurity, as me. I know the odds for wannabe professional novelists are so bad that there may as well not be any odds, any statistics at all. But I am not giving up, come silly virus or modern Depression or fuck if I know. I can only do this, now, it’s all that I am and all that I want. And perhaps by way of my devotion, I’ve become blind to how things are and blind to my place in the world, blind to my lack of talent and blind to what it takes to enter the pantheon of legitimate novelists. So be it. A man has only so many talents, so many hats to try on, so many entrepreneurial efforts in him. This feels like it to me. And desperation does not beget success with any regularity, I know. To be desperate is, yes, to throw good money after bad, to make bad bets, to grasp at something that is perhaps already gone or that never had a chance. But I know what it is to hold on till the last knot in the rope. Something good comes of wholeheartedness, of faith in oneself and one’s legitimate, heartfelt place in the world. Something good will come of this writing of mine unless I die before it happens. I’m good enough. I just need to make that break.

All that said, I’m prepared to resort to pitching the project by way of Findaway’s shared ownership program to perhaps cut the bill in half, despite not having any sales of the book whatsoever that might entice a narrator to risk such a venture. Nevertheless, if the job thing hangs me up, if I can’t get one soon and it comes down to it, if the cash isn’t there, before I let it go I’ll inquire about it, selling away half my rights or what have you, ugh, I’ll make them tell me no. Whatever moves it forward. Who knows what someone is willing to take a chance on, especially now? I just wish that someday I could be gifted (empowered) with the time and money to do my thing, all of it, without concern for the nickels and dimes.

It grinds the fuck out of me that my last job would’ve paid for this audiobook in ten days of work – two weeks! And now, if I can manage to get $15/hour for a 20-hour work week, so I can keep editing TC2 while paying for TC1’s latest outlay, I’m looking at ten weeks – two and a half months of labor and god knows how much frustration related to that. If the reader is shocked at my seeming aversion to employment I can only say that the story of me working for somebody else speaks for itself and no writing takes place during the hellish schism that ensues. And I’m writer. I’m not lazy. I know the meaning work and if I haven’t worked at least as hard and often harder as anyone reading this, employed or self-employed, then, well, you’re free to quit reading and to consider me a slacker or anything else because I know who I am and what my vocation is. It took me decades, most of my life to learn it, name it and claim and damned if I’m ever giving up my vocation, my VAPM, again.

Meanwhile, if you’re still on board, dear reader, the entire story is here within the DOP, journal entry by journal entry, day after day, year after year for ten years worth. Ongoing. Hey, I never said this ride was going to be pretty.

DOP1 (2010-11) VINTAGE POST:

Mojo Mining

Some of my earliest memories involve thinking about who or what I was going to “be.” There’s nothing unusual about that I suppose, unless I think about how intense the feelings were – I could see myself on stage, or playing baseball, or whatever, and it was always a compelling, forceful vision – the scenes played out in my mind like movie shorts or music videos, whatever, several minutes of this full-color vision of myself as being something. Looking back, what may have been unusual about this obsession with my future vocation, what I know now to be an aspect of my biophycomythology, was that it was always painful instead of joyful. It was painful because there was always a disconnect between my dreams and my skill set, or at least that’s what I perceived. Most of the time my dreams and aspirations seemed to be impossibly stuck in the dream stage – the very beginning of the idea – I seemed to have no fucking clue as to how to make my self materialize, to manifest any particular vocation. Everything about my life always seemed to be in the context of my parents, teachers or coaches. Maybe that’s normal for a kid growing up with mindful parents in a mindful suburb and maybe it isn’t. When I say mindful I refer not so much to yogic awareness as much as intensely involved and engaged, almost obsessively so, with kids, houses, cars, attending school and sports. I remember believing, completely trusting, that these people had 1) my best interests in mind and 2) that they knew what the fuck I was good at and should be doing; that they were paying attention to those things and had some wisdom and perception regarding them. That’s why it was such a soul-crushing shock to find, beginning in my teenage years, that adults are not to be trusted with your life – any part of your life at all – let alone your dreams.

It was an almost continual life lesson in betrayal for me to be in high school. I felt the adults in positions of leadership, ones I ignorantly assumed had the life experience, wisdom, joy, drive, creativity, courage and passion to guide me, almost continually let me down. They never failed to provide heavy doses of reality I guess in the form of indifference, ham-handed guidance, insensitivity, stupidity and bald-faced self-interest. I don’t recall how I got so bound up in their “system” while ignoring my own heart. First, I believed in them and trusted them wholeheartedly, as I believed in and trusted my parents. Then, I resented them so deeply for damaging me and not seeming to give a shit that I’ve never really got over it. I don’t carry the pain, but I still think I carry the scars. It’s taken me decades to realize that they, for the most part, held no ill will towards me or any other kid; it’s just that their own schism made them blind to the schism in the youth that was in their charge and that they had the power and influence to really help through the struggles of life. As fucked up adults with their own fucked up marriages, kids and jobs, they had no business being in positionis of leadership, as mentors working with adolescents or teenagers; they were fucked up enough themselves to actually fuck young people up, because some of us listened to them, at least for awhile. I always wondered why some kids didn’t listen, didn’t want to do what they were told and fought everything any teacher or coach or parent told them. I didn’t see why you wouldn’t assume, like I still often do, that age and the associated experience meant you knew something about life. I just respected and tried to listen and do what I was told. At least until I was a teenager. I really fucked that part up – while there are some kids who could’ve benefitted from towing the line, I don’t think I really ever did. I have within me a desire to please, but it’s more than that – I’ve been intuitive and sensitive from as far back as I can remember and that’s something I never understood how to use until now, in my fucking late forties for christ’s sake. What an enormous waste of time. I respected and admired my parents. That’s how it started. It seemed obvious to me that they knew what the fuck they were doing and knew how the world worked and knew everything really. It’s my fault for putting them on a pedestal, but I always remember thinking, What kid wouldn’t? I try to remember how my father was when I was young and all I remember is that I thought he was great. I never once thought some other kid had a better dad than me. I see now, with the perspective of adulthood, that he’s a man who had no heros himself and still doesn’t. I don’t remember him talking about anybody at all whom he admired or aspired to be like, to emulate in any way whatsover. Not even the professional golfers he spent so much time watching on t.v. He never, ever talked about his dreams; I don’t know if he ever had dreams and visions of his future, though I feel he must have. As a kid I somehow thought I knew my dad inside and out and now I can’t believe I thought that way because he’s become at least somewhat of a mystery to me. Maybe he’s just always been more in the moment than me. I do believe that the circumstances of his life and his heart had to have been pretty much in synch most of his life. His biophycomythology didn’t ever seem to be a mystery to him, though how would I know – he never fucking talked about any of that shit. His life just seemed to “be,” and it still does. It just goes along somehow, without drama, without the drama of any passion. It goes along like a home appliance goes along, humming like a refrigerator in the middle of the kitchen. He’s not a cipher, not a wall flower, not a diminuative hideaway by any means. He’s out there in the world, albeit his little mid-western-automobile-company-engineer-world; he’s a part of the everyday business of getting through the days; as I said, just like a home appliance. His rewards must be, since he’s never said otherwise, commensurate with his efforts. His own father might have seemed like a failure – I think my grandfather was a failed entrepreneur several times over – and maybe he just wanted not to be like him.

My paternal grandfather was a house painter for awhile, until he hurt his back falling off a ladder, or at least that’s story I remember. My dad never really talked about his dad and as a result I know very, very little about him. I never asked any questions about him. I found out later, after my grandfather died and my dad revealed a little bit about him, that he served in the army during WWII, in some weird glider division, where a giant glider plane containing troops was supposed to be towed by a bigger plane then cut loose, flying silently and below radar I guess, entering enemy territory with a cargo of soldiers, undetected. Supposedly the glider campaign never came to anything – I think the war pretty much ended before gliders ever became a factor – and my grandfather never saw any action. My dad made a wooden plaque and affixed my grandfather’s army pins and some photos to it and hung in on our family room wall.

When we were in Hawaii last year, waiting for dinner one evening, my dad and I got on the subject of small business. He mentioned the two service stations my grandfather owned, both of which came to nothing apparently because my grandfather spent his last several years living in a trailer park in Wixom, Michigan – a worthless, pointless city about an hour or more northwest of Detroit. (I should know because I lived in some junky apartment out there, rooming with my brother Kevin, when I first moved out of my parent’s house). Anyway, here’s my dad talking about my grandfather for once and it’s classic Ewing-talk. Passionless. Completely void of either negative or positive energy. My dad never said anything to the effect of “Man, what a fuck-up your grandfather was,” or, “His gas stations sucked because of this or that, or he couldn’t manage this or that or didn’t like this or that.” Neither did he say how cool it was, or that it was what my grandfather always wanted to do, to own his own business, or just fix cars or sell gasoline or get rich or be his own boss or whatever. My dad did say that the first gas station failed and my grandfather for some reason opened another one soon after. He said one guy would screw my grandfather over by not paying him for repairing his truck, the implication being that my grandfather’s good will led to being a bad businessman, or something like that. My dad never gave an opinion of my grandfather or my grandfather’s business ventures either way except to imply, very vaguely, that it’s tough to be in business for yourself.

Financial sustainability is of course topic number one for anybody going into business. Ari discusses the obvious fact that no idea is good enough to survive a lack of cash. Yet, people seem to start and then hang onto businesses anyway, which is his point I guess. Businesses are often the expression of a dream and not just a dream for money. “The best reason to start an organization,” declares Kawasaki, “is to make meaning – to create a product or service that makes the world a better place.”[1]

Meaning is not about money, power or prestige. It’s not even about creating a fun place to work. Among the meanings of “meaning” are to:

  • Make the world a better place.
  • Increase the quality of life.
  • Right a terrible wrong.
  • Prevent the end of something good.[2]

So, regardless of so-called “sound financials,” you forge ahead and see what happens; you struggle and keep going unti you attain victory or the vanishing point. Sometimes it’s doomed from the beginning and I’ve always been fascinated by the process from a distance, in the way some organizations immediately fill a need, as if the world has been waiting for them all along, how for others it becomes a long, slow grind to success, and finally, how even great ideas, full of meaning, stumble and fail almost immediately, no matter how much support, financial or otherwise, they receive. We impose and the world disposes…. I’ve always done a “mojo” check on each new business I see or read about. I’m borrowing “mojo” from Bo Burlingham, the author of Small Giants among other things – he’s the journalist for Inc., a magazine that focuses on the business world. ZCoB is one of Bo’s examples of a successful business with plenty of “mojo” – that vibe and energy and authenticity that draws customers and great employees and invariably leads to at least some form of success before the mojo disappears. How mojo is lost seems pretty obvious after it’s gone (crash analysis), but while you’re losing it, you can either be blind to what’s happening or distracted by other things (like things you’re not any good at) or by the pressures and ambitions to grow your business. What I find compelling is how much of Bo’s book and this mojo idea applies to your own life. Yeah, your business needs mojo but hell, your LIFE is what really needs it and that’s what your business should reflect, or you’re probably destined to be unfulfilled by it whether it makes your rich, famous, rich and famous, or otherwise. Bo talks about all of this most effectively in the introduction to Small Giants. It’s stuff I’m now keenly aware of as I begin the HH adventure. Some good quotes come from Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group (a restaurant biz based in NYC):

When you launch a business, your job as the entrepreneur is to say, “Here’s a value proposition that I believe in. Here’s where I’m coming from. This is my point of view. At first it’s a monologue. Gradually it becomes a dialogue and then a real conversation.[3]

I like how Meyer compares a new biz to a baseball glove, saying:

You can’t will a baseball glove to be broken in; you have to use it. Well, you have to use a new business, too. You have to break it in. If you move on to the next thing too quickly, it will never develop its soul.[4]

“Soul” could be another word for “mojo.” It’s something I need to remember as HH moves forward. Yes, I have a VOG that contains much more than a food cart – there’s the pig farm and the public house. But it’s probably a good move to start with this small expression and to stick with it awhile, for the several years it will take to pay off the cart for example, that’s a good place to start and that’s part of my biz plan. Jumping into owning or leasing farmland before I get good at my food cart is probably not a wise thing to do. Ari thinks it takes several years to get good at something and about five years I think he said before you start getting great at something. Being forty-six years old and chomping at the bit to finally start living my personal myth can set me up for some over-anxious decision-making I know, so I need to focus on this small food cart and see how well I can keep it close to my heart while hopefully connecting with others. I’ve already felt the well-intentioned pressure of the ideas of others to do things a certain way. One guy mentioned that I’m going to need to get a good-looking girl to sell the food because, and I think he was serious, it’s not going to work with just me selling it. Ouch. Point taken, but I’m used to folks ripping on how I look or act or whatever. I’ve learned over many heartbreaking years that some folks like me and some don’t and fuck the ones who don’t. One of the things HH is doing is allowing me to go through life without Jung’s “mask.” I need to be me and see what happens. HH can fail, and I can still consider myself a success. This needs to be done my way, while I ponder the advice of others without being distracted by it. I have to stay true to the HH vog, otherwise I’ll be starting as falsely as I’ve started any other job.

Burlingham defines mojo by describing seven things that companies with mojo do. This was a compelling part of the book for me because it really shows biophycomythology in action – taking Campbell’s “left-hand-path,” listening to your heart, following your guides, all this stuff that applies most importantly to your life apart from your business. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to live your business instead of it living you, then there’s a chance it can become the expression of who you are, as it should be. Otherwise, it’s just another way to make a living. The money is a tool to keep it moving forward, but it’s not the goal, and I feel better about HH each time I remind myself of that. I know the food cart is not a money-maker; it’s an opportunity-maker, that’s what I truly believe. I don’t expect to generate much more income out of the cart than what I need to pay expenses and generate opportunities for me to continue to express my biophycomythology, for me to continue to write, cook, walk, audiophile, phycomythologize, and pig farm – my six vocations. Of all the vocations, the pig farming is the one I’m not doing yet, so that’s the one that requires the longer-term vision and effort and in the end, it may not remain a vocational pursuit for me, but I want it in there to push myself and most importantly, because pigs have been my guides and for some reason they remain my guides. So that’s how I keep them in there, by thinking about farming them. Thinking about them in the fields calms my mind and focuses my vision. So be it. I don’t question these things as much anymore, and if I keep working at it, maybe I won’t question my intuition and heart at all some day.

Bo’s second description of mojo is especially compelling to me. As much as anything, it describes how I feel about my life up until I got fired from JCI:

The leaders had overcome the enormous pressures on successful companies to take paths they had not chosen and did not necessarily want to follow. The people in charge had remained in control, or had regained control, by doing a lot of soul searching, rejecting a lot of well-intentioned advice, charting their own course, and building the kind of business they wanted to live in, rather than accommodating themselves to a business shaped by outside forces.[5]

It began so early, this business of me being in schism. I contemplated endlessly, and I still do, what the fuck I’m here to be doing. I listened, I observed, I read, I watched, I tried things. I can’t be accused of sitting on my ass in life – from the very first my parents made sure I did shit, got out in the world, played on organized sports teams after school and had odd jobs and tasks to earn pocket money. And I don’t remember ever not thinking about this shit intuitively. However, my mistake, as I see it now, is that I too often surrendered to pressures to take paths I had not chosen, to allow myself to be shaped my outside forces. I can’t blame any of this on youthful ignorance or naïveté. It was just something in me that didn’t trust my own heart, maybe because what my heart wanted wasn’t clear to me. For folks like me, finding what your heart wants isn’t straightforward, it isn’t clear. I suppose I thought I was happy, even though I wasn’t. I apparently didn’t know what happiness was. This is a key idea that explains much of my life-long schism. I honestly convinced myself that I was happy. How and why would I do this? I learned what happiness was from my parents and just about every other adult I was influenced by in the suburbs. Happiness for the southeast Michigan suburban adult was, and maybe still is, more like what the rest of us would call misery. These people are somehow happy being miserable – they’re miserably happy and happily miserable. This is how they interpret being properly alive. I’m not overstating the case. From what I can tell, all the adults, which were always parents, all maintained or otherwise tolerated this insidious paradox. True happiness, which I think involves the freedom to be who you are, is the bliss Campbell talks about: that intensely involved fulfilling life, doing the work you need to do (it has nothing to do with a vapid, temporary, blissed-out joy).

The last time I felt “happy” or in line with something was getting hired by JCI in 2002. I honestly believed that I’d finally, through much struggle, landed the job that I’d always needed or wanted; the one I’d retire from. I felt the search was finally over. And I fit in, sort of, at least for a time. I could tell my parents and anyone else who asked what I did, which in many parts of the world besides southeast Michigan, means who you are. At work, I had the education, experience and skills that I thought had finally brought commensurate reward, or, since I still didn’t make as the salary I thought I deserved, had the potential to provide commensurate reward. I had compromised, but it didn’t feel like a soul-crushing sacrifice. I had found what I thought was an acceptable middle ground between working for a living, earning enough money and having enough time and space – mentally and physically – to have a life outside of work. That I had made a desperately wrong move – a critical and eventually devasting biophycomythological mistake, was something I couldn’t have known then – I was too busy ignoring my heart in favor of pleasing others and accommodating my reason and skewed ambition.

Sometimes I think that if I was just shittier at everything I tried, all the crappy jobs that weren’t right for me, if it was just damn impossible for me to go on with the work, I’d have been much better off in the end; I wouldn’t have wasted so much fucking time. I’d have been forced to go another way, much earlier in life, and maybe I’d have started listening to my heart. Or, if I’d had some gift, some amazingly compelling, soul-defining, undeniable talent, like guitar playing, singing, sports, writing, inventing, science, math, public speaking – it all sounds fucking silly now – I’d have just ran with it. I continually berate myself for not listening to my heart during the first half of my life, yet I must have been listening to some extent – I don’t think it’s possible to transform into a completely rational being – that would be something resembling a computer, like artificial intelligence, or a Klingon. I’ve always had passions – the vocations I describe now are for the most part the ones I had then. I didn’t want to compromise when I was young any more or less than I do now – I wanted it all, everything life had to offer. Why couldn’t I see that the only way to manifest my aspirations was to carefully craft my life in line with that truth about myself? How the fuck did I manage to scramble – to mangle – the message from my heart? I was ignoring the music of the spheres so to speak at a very early age, considering wholeheartedness to be something to be won, attained out in the world; I had no intimation that it was an internal treasure, one to be nurtured from within.

So here I am, working out my problems by writing about them. Art therapy, although my writing isn’t art. Creative therapy is a more apt description of what I’m doing. Whatever it takes is my attitude now. I’m determined to try to find the truth of my existence, to quit making the mistake of diminishing the importance of my vocations, including writing. Just because I’m starting up a food cart doesn’t mean I have to abandon my other six vocations. My life needs to have room for all my vocations or it’s not life.

As far as finding, losing and regaining your mojo, how closely does that mirror what Campbell talks about regarding bliss and transcendent wisdom, and your personal myth? First you struggle to find it, and that can take some fucking doing in and of itself. Then, for all your fine efforts, you can lose the fucking bliss; lose the fucking mojo. Life is a constant test in this way and it bugs the fuck out of me sometimes that there isn’t any opportunity to coast – there’s no finish line, no final arrival.

[1] Guy Kawasaki, The Art of the Start…, 3.

[2] Ibid., 5.

[3] Bo Burlingham, Small Giants, (New York: Portfolio, 2005), xxvii.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., xxx.