Monday, March 9, 2020. It may seem odd that I can generate such a glut of words about such an ordinary life. The spurts of unconventionality and modest vocational adventure don’t add up to much of a story besides that of a fairly pedestrian version of everybody else’s story. Which I suppose is the point, in the end: that my story, your story, our stories, with the exception of those famously and infamously singular lives that end up defining eras and appearing in biographies and history books express a more or less remarkable unremarkableness. Or an unremarkable remarkableness. Unremarkable because none of it is every really new or original and remarkable because it’s never exactly the same as what came before or afterwards.
Why write it? Because it gets me through. Especially when I’m feeling adrift or mired in between things, between phases or nodes; when vanishing points seem to loom and storms of banality and crushing compromise and bitter failure threaten. My book being stuck in the mud, for instance. Trampled underfoot. A non-starter. A big dream and a big flop, another goddamn fiasco. I write myself through these things. The handful of folks that have read TC1 and haven’t had a thing to say about it, that says a lot. By way of saying nothing at all. Sure, I need to give it some time, right? – give folks time to read the thing and get behind it enough to, heaven help me, post a review somewhere. But if it were really any good it wouldn’t take a lucky break or a sympathetic reader or a kindhearted review to get a buzz going. I know this. Perhaps the only future for Time Crime, then, the only chance to generate a fan base is by way of the brick-by-brick building up of a series, to keep writing? And somehow throwing money at indie publishing. I don’t know. I can’t know. I do know that this sucks, this sense of having flopped. What to do? Not panic. Try to enjoy something about life. Look for a paying job, I suppose. Move on. Or just keep at it in this way, immersed within my vocations (vocations and VAPM and how it all fits together are discussed throughout the DOP).
Angie and I walked downtown last night to see the Cowboy Junkies at The Ark, a band I recall from when The Trinity Sessions was released way back in 1988 or so. Sweet Jane and all that. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same song or one long song that they’ve been doing since. That they’ve enjoyed a remarkable thirty-five year career of considerable success and unusually sympathetic treatment from critics – they are, after all, a one-trick pony if there ever was one and, arguably, guilty of purveying innocuousness – can’t be dismissed. They’ve outlasted how many bands? They sold out this show. Sure, The Ark only holds 400 people but the last two shows I’ve attended there – Radney Foster & Kim Richey and the Exile Follies haven’t been anywhere near sell-outs. So, they’re doing something right. They are well liked and successful at what they do. Margo has a compelling voice. The band understands their sleepy groove. She refers to their music as “sad” – “If you’re not into sad music,” she declared last night, “you’re in the wrong place.” I rather think she was making fun of their image because I wouldn’t describe the music that way. Sad to me equates to pained and on a bad day, dreary. The Junkies are an atmosphere. They’re not my cup of tea but here’s to them for getting it done. How else to describe vocational success? It’s what I seek. To do what I do and get paid to do it. It’s a sustainability equation that I have not managed to get right. At all. Not even close.
I start getting confessional and I think, better not do that, people won’t like it, nobody wants to know what’s wrong inside your head. Joe Campbell said (the citation is somewhere in the DOP), that nobody needs a confession besides a priest. So that I’m pretty certain he wouldn’t have been a fan of the DOP or this blog. Hey, just because you consider someone your guide, which in the case of Campbell I obviously do, doesn’t mean they’d want to have anything to do with you in real life. And that nobody wants to read your sh*t is the reality for most of us. Positive vibes, upbeat stuff, that’s the only thing that will get you noticed as a writer or a blogger. Provide answers. Fill a need. Solve a problem.
F*ck that. All I can do is what I do. The DOP is an exercise in trying to get my own house in order and thereby honor the cosmos and my place in it. If that helps anyone else get through their predicament, the predicament of life, then so be it, I’ve contributed. I have big dreams. That they don’t come true probably isn’t a story many folks will want to read. Again, so be it. I’d love to be communicating the break-through success of my foray into indie authorpreneurship, let me tell you. Look! It worked! I wrote a book, it sold and now I’m somebody! This is how I did it and you can do it, too!
If the Junkies aren’t my cup of musical tea, what was I doing there? My brother-in-law is a fan, he had the tickets but it turns out he couldn’t attend and he offered them to the wife and me. He’s got ten years on me and his health has always been an issue, at least as long as I’ve known him, which amounts to twenty-six years or so. He had heart surgery a couple years ago after years of various cardiovascular procedures – stints and what have you. He recently told Angie they found some spots on his liver and other organs. But the reason he couldn’t attend the concert was because he’s recovering from brain surgery, of all things. Enough said about it, though, as it’s all too tenuous of a situation.
My brother tells me that people are buying VHS tapes again via some dubious data promulgated by internet news sites. For the record, I don’t watch, listen to or read the so-called news. I don’t subscribe to a television service and haven’t since 2009 or so when it occurred to me that the late-arriving asshole trying to install the service for my new house in Texas didn’t need to be there. And that I didn’t need television. Least of all did I need to pay for it. There was a time, some of you may recall, that “cable television” as it was referred to in the early nineteen eighties, was commercial free. Because you were paying for the service. Commercials being the manner in which television broadcasters, in the past, made their money. How it became common practice and an expectation on behalf of the consumer, then, that years down the road, you not only paid for your television service but also had to tolerate advertisements is beyond me. Oh, I pay a corporate giant for five-hundred channels of worthless drivel AND I get to endure advertisements, too? So you can make even more money off of me? Ludicrous. Pure insanity. Oh, and there no such thing as cable television because the cable is connected, ultimately, to a satellite feed. So why not just get a satellite dish? That was my first transforming realization, a few years before I finally realized I was not only getting ripped off by paying for television twice, as it were, but also that the brain poison I’d been consuming for something like 40 years was completely optional. Which is to say unnecessary. I haven’t looked back. The only thing I miss about television is the occasional sporting event; a Stanley Cup series or a World Series kind of thing. Otherwise? Forget it.
Add this to the fetishization of vinyl records and I just about lose my mind with impatience over all this media based hooey. It’s nonsense, this unhinged nostalgia for inferiority, for childhood memories. What’s actually going on? Because, clearly, inferior technology, while it may seem quaint and curious to young folks and like a sweet little trip down memory lane for oldsters, sucks. Lousy quality. Painfully limited selection. Bulky, ugly, dust collecting crud. Destined for a landfill. I used to collect records. I had some two-hundred or so and I knew guys (always it’s us guys, never the women, I don’t know why) who had thousands. I sold them all, or most of them at least, in the days prior to my move to NYC. That’s when I’d lost my job at the compact disc store that soon after went out of business. They laid me off then promptly went under. Oh well. Frankly, they deserved it. The absentee owner was clueless. Surprise. But I digress. Because my brother sends me a news article that speaks to the supposed resurgence in VHS tape buying. The article, like most journalism, doesn’t have any reliable data to back up the eye-catching, fetish twiddling little headline it promotes to catch your distracted attention. VHS tapes? Huh, I remember those… let me check it out. Click. Cha-ching, the sale has been made. Thus perpetuating future “news” articles along that line. But VHS. If you are familiar with the technology then you know it sucks. It sucks worse than vinyl records suck. More bulky, wonky, glitchy sh*t that when it all went away, I for one rejoiced. Bring me CDs, then FLAC and hi-resolution audio. Bring me three or four million songs – bring me all the music (and movies) in the world in benchmarked, unmatched quality that exceeds the ability of my eyes and ears to fully appreciate. And it takes up no space! No, I don’t do earbuds and the lousy sonics of portable audio out of my smart phone. I’m not one to mow the lawn or take a stroll with headphones on. No. No, no, no. I listen to the outdoors when I’m outdoors. Unless it’s an outdoor concert. Film? I’m not a big fan of movies anymore, I much prefer my tunes and my reading but when I do enjoy a movie, I like streaming and the highest quality image and best aspect ratio available. Within reason, because I really can take or leave movies.
Well, mister modern, why is it that you fetishize the printed book? Am I being hypocritical? I suggest that the printed book is technologically superior to its impossibly claustrophobic and impossibly frustrating epub counterpart. The reading experience of a novel or a nonfiction title, especially a nonfiction title if you’re using it for scholarship or research of any type, is undeniably better. Yes, it sucks that printed books have mass and bulk. It sucks that you have to find space to store them. But they are easier on the eyes and they make for flipping back and forth and reading footnotes and endnotes and generally maintaining your orientation, your sense of being properly engaged with the writing. You can enter a book. A book is a realm. An epub is merely a version. Believe me, I see how I’m appearing contradictory. Frankly, if I didn’t find an eBook goddamn nearly impossible to get through I’d be all for eliminating print books, too. I don’t fetishize print books. They just work better. There’s a place for the epub and it may just be within the context of the otherwise disposable blog. I don’t know. Call me a hypocrite. I get that objects have value. Hell, there’s a whole psychology of things that makes for very interesting personal mythological study. We invest things with amazingly potent powers. And likewise, things, objects, be they within nature or manmade, affect us as if possessing their own power.
All of this refers to our sense of connectedness, the mysterious dynamic of which – the mystery of our sense of everyday connectedness – is recognized and celebrated, for its own sake, within the context of Shinto, for example, Japan’s original contemplative tradition, their earliest, culturally unique mythology that I particularly identify with. Within Shinto, it’s a kami-filled, tama-fueled world. I borrow these terms from Shinto: The Way Home, by Thomas P. Kasulis. It’s one of my very favorite books and my take on Shinto, namely existential or philosophical Shinto as opposed to so-called Shrine Shinto, will be extensively discussed in upcoming vintage blog posts. Look for the journal chapter entitled “Magokoro,” which appears late in DOP1, viz., December 04, 2012. Magokoro refers to, in so many words, pure heart and mind. But I won’t digress. Suffice it to say that within the context of this post and the idea of the power within things, within objects, there are certain examples that function more than others as holographic entry and return points, as torii gates – all this from Kasulis – objects that allow for spiritual departure and return and, ultimately, personal mythological orientation.
Otherwise, I’m feeling pretty out of sorts, what with the desperate flop of the book and all. Nicola’s bookstore. Gads. “If you want us to buy your book you’ll have to contact our buyers at the Grand Rapids location” and they direct me to the website and of course it’s a f*cking telephone number, no email. So that, what, I’m going to sales pitch my book over the phone to who knows whom? For f*ck’s sake, how damn backwards can shit be? No. My answer this time, in concert with my guts, is no. Keep your little closed world, keep it all to your little selves. I’m not here with my hat in my hand. I’m a professional. You’re just a little indie bookstore who doesn’t sell shit copies of anything to anybody. If you’re not interested, if you’re just going to pass me along and not respond to anything else regarding the content of my correspondence because, what? – you’re too busy? Or you’re just going to patronize me like the other shops, whatever the reason, I’ve concluded that this whole indie bookseller fantasy is just that. Sell what you’re comfortable selling. Consignment? Perhaps if you had indicated at all that you even considered reading and reviewing and the advantageous placing of my book, as I discussed, then I might considerate it. But, apparently, you didn’t. Free copies as proffered? No comment. No response. Apparently not at all interested. Not even anyone at a f*cking bookstore wants to read my shit. Meanwhile, when in doubt, this time, don’t give it out. Rather, I’m keen to feed the right wolf, as they say; to listen to my heart and abide by my sense of what feels empowering and what feels like its opposite. These effed up bookstores? Disempowering. Not feeding the right wolf. Making me feel beholden. Screw yourselves. I don’t shop at bookstores. I guess it all adds up to not belonging together. And I’ve long held to the wisdom, also, that if it’d meant to be, you can’t f*ck it up. It seems to me that this ain’t meant to be. So be it. Enough of all the lousy vibes.
Today’s Vintage Post introduces what will be stand as a potent, pervasive and guiding theme throughout the rest of the vintage DOP volumes and into my current writing: Joseph Campbell. We’ve all got our guides, he is one of mine, come what may, and just to forewarn anyone, if you’re not on board with his vision, or not at least curious about it, you may want to consider getting off at this stop on the train, no harm, no foul, thanks for your time, have a nice life. Otherwise, it’s here that the story, for what it’s worth, really begins. Hence, I really struggled with myself regarding not posting this stuff. It’s confessional. It’s self-work. The content has been written better by any number of other writers. But it was still very early in my journal experiment and I was trying on the wannabe author hat. But I said in the beginning of this blogging project that it wasn’t going to be pretty and my gut tells me that if I start editing myself now, trying to present a more palatable version of myself to my readers (my imagined audience), picking and choosing what to include or not, then I won’t know where my authenticity ends and my bullshit begins. And when in doubt, give it out. Hell, Campbell himself said:
“In my writing and my thinking and my work I’ve thought of myself as addressing artists and poets and writers. The rest of the world can take it or leave it as far as I’m concerned” (jcf.org).
DOP1 VINTAGE POST – Surrender to Adventure et al.
Surrender to Adventure
Joseph Campbell, the comparative mythologist who has written and lectured compellingly on myth and its application to one’s own life, (he coined the term “follow your bliss”) describes what he calls the “hero’s journey” as “an archetypal story that springs from the collective unconscious.” “Its motifs” he says, “appear not only in myth and literature, but, if you are sensitive to it, in the working out of the plot of your own life.”
The basic story of the hero journey involves giving up where you are, going into the realm of adventure, coming to some kind of symbolically rendered realization, and then returning to the field of normal life. The first stage is leaving where you are, whatever the environment. You may leave because the environment is too repressive and you are consciously eager to leave. Or it may be that a call to adventure, and alluring temptation, comes and draws you out. In European myths this call is frequently represented by some animal – a stag or boar – that manages to elude a hunter and brings him into a part of the forest that he doesn’t recognize. And he doesn’t know where he is, how to get out, or where he should go. And then the adventure begins.
First only figuratively – psychologically, emotionally, intellectually – I left were I was. Then, under duress – officially resigned but technically fired, I took my body with me and walked out of the refinery’s main security gate, leaving my career and the sixteen years it took to create it, behind. I had been stuck, like so many of us after years and years of hard but unrewarding work, in a job that felt, in more ways than one, like two steps from the grave. I had followed an alluring temptation. Perhaps, like one of Campbell’s heros, it was a stag or a boar, but whatever it was, I was lured deep into the forest – too deep – far beyond my capacity to find my way back, far beyond the point of no return….
What I still remember from that fateful day in the early fall of 2008, is sitting in my shared office at the General Motors Proving Ground in Milford, Michigan, listening eagerly to a voice mail from my boss. Keenly aware of how desperately ambitious I was, how impatiently anxious to move on I was, his voice told me of a new job opportunity in Texas City, Texas. Our company, a 36-billion-dollar, 120,000-employee multinational behemoth, still growing, had a new account at a BP oil refinery and they needed help starting up the account. The fact that the help involved being the Health & Safety Manager, a task I was already spending at least half of my unhappy time at here in Michigan doing, didn’t dampen my excitement. Maybe it should have. I loathed Health & Safety. Absolutely loathed it. I wanted nothing more than to escape it, to do just about anything else within facility management, or even my old career standby: industrial waste management. But, although I’d been almost continually looking for another job outside my company for the six years I’d already been there (I felt underpaid, underappreciated and underemployed) I felt like Jay Gatz in the The Great Gatsby: the world up until then had seemed impossibly indifferent to the drums of my destiny.
I believed that I saw the opportunity in Texas City clearly: not as a job offer, but a chance to escape the chains of my existing prison – a chance to prove myself in a new environment and maybe do well enough to get offered a job down there as things progressed. I knew full well, through years of hard-won experience, how most companies worked: once you got into a place, in any fashion, doing anything to help, and you weren’t brain dead, they usually found a way to take you on permanently, rather than let you go, thereby losing all your new-found, hands-on experience, while they go about the impossibly troublesome task of hiring somebody else and hoping they’ll fit in half as well as you did. Hell, that’s what I would do if I was them. I knew I’d make it work in Texas City – I had to – I had to get the fuck out of my frustrating, stifling existence at GM and get going with my career and my life. This was my chance; this was the call.
Of course I knew nothing about refineries and even less about the Gulf Coast of Texas which only made the idea more enticing, more of an adventure. I’d been telling myself – and anyone else who’d listen – that I wanted to live and work “on the coasts” as I put it, meaning the East or West coast, where I felt the culture and vibe would fit me. Ann Arbor, the university town where I’d been living for thirteen years, had literally saved me I felt, with its forward-thinking urbanity and hip worldliness, from those same “interminable inquisitions” that F. Scott Fitzgerald describes in The Great Gatsby; the inescapable part of life in the Midwest. I had fled, like Nick, to the East; to New York City for adventure and success and had, also like Nick, found at least a job there and a place to live; a new life, new friends. Only to have been once again derailed by own fumbled and desperate ambitions, my attempts at a “career,” and eventually forced to return to Michigan a jobless failure. “God, what a mess,” as Paul Westerberg once sang, “on the ladder of success….”
Ann Arbor, that city I first experienced when I was in High School, with a friend who knew something about this funky enclave, with its vibrant clusters of record stores, arcades, movie theaters, bookstores, bars, pizza joints, frat parties, cars with license plates from every state in the union, ancient slate-shingled dormitories, rental houses with couches on the sagging front porches, its comforting anonymity, its students walking, reading, talking, even in the evening. It was a real city. Tall buildings, plazas, people with purpose, eating, drinking, discussing. Interested, life-loving, engaged inhabitants and visitors, learning and experiencing for the joy of it – it’s still the only place I’ve ever been where you will see someone walking down the street, even all by themselves, smiling, as if they’ve tapped into the divine and were experiencing it right then and there in their tennis shoes, blue jeans and t-shirt. The city has both a stimulating intellectual bounty (not present in other college towns), and an abiding charm, a result I think of its accordance with architecture, people and nature. It’s a city of beautiful trees, turn-of-the-century neighborhoods, innumerable cherished parks, walkable streets, gathering places, band shells, concert halls, galleries, libraries, art fairs, bead shops, tattoo parlors, an enormously monstrous medical center, terribly earnest public art (awful), a glorious arboretum, a very famous deli, clean but curious alleyways, and a lazy river. You can walk from corner to corner and back again, following your whim for a whole day, stopping at a bar on the way home for a pint, a burger and a bowl of water for your dog.
So unlike my rigid, dull, restrained, predictable, self-satisfied, protective, accusatory, fearful, retreating police state of false sanctity and ridiculous aped tokens of historical and urban substance that passed for my hometown suburburn enclave of Plymouth. The curfews. The kitschy downtown with its silly worthless frame shops and party stores, the one bar, the one theatre, the single hotel, all unused except as a creepy backdrop to the evening cruisings of the stupefied youth – as loud and overreved as their carefully rebuilt muscle-cars – up and down the contrived main street, back and forth until someone squealed their tires, got caught buying beer underage, started a fight or otherwise provided the blunt-brained predatory police with an opportunity to hit the lights, hit the gas, and reveal just how malicious and sad an adult with a crappy city job and a gun can be. Don’t get me started on small town cops….
We’d meander home to our quiet subdivisions, romantic visions dashed, unfulfilled again, longing for substance, longing for a date, not knowing any more about how to get whatever it was we wanted than we did when we started. The subdivisions, as orderly as they were architecturally and culturally ignorant; the hissing sprinklers watering the trim lawns in the middle of the night, the trill of crickets, and the silence – cherished by our parents, our early-rising fathers with their long drives to their engineering jobs the next morning, our home-making mothers determined to be satisfied with the safe bet they’d made, to lose themselves in their children and the exhausting care-giving. It all made for an exercise in the restraint of one’s passions, shame for one’s desires, and intolerance for anything but what had already come before. We learned very well how to compromise and conform; to fight against our own hearts, baffled to be at once so comfortable, so safe, so well-taken-care-of, so full of promise and opportunity, and at the same time so incredibly, achingly, desperately lost and closed off from the world that we knew must be out there.
Ann Arbor came to be my intuitive connection to the rest of the world. I would often return there, even on my own, in the evening, miserable and desperate again from some churning angst, some smoldering schism stoked by my suburbia and my impossible ambition to get beyond it. I would park in the center of town and just walk, mostly around the “the diag” area, a central campus plaza surrounded by a graduate library and other university buildings, and in close proximity to the city’s bars, shops and restaurants. It was sometimes the only thing I could think of doing to assuage the roiling turmoil in my soul, a pathetically romantic diversion.
Back to my new job opportunity in Texas City. I made my way down there to the gulf coast of Texas, led by a job, and the promise of adventure. For most of my life I’d believed that a job and what it may bring – money, acceptance, purpose – guided me through life. Except that it never really felt like I was being guided – it was always more like being pushed around, or led astray. Or, on the worst days, tortured. Whatever it is that I’d been looking for in a job had, until then, not been forthcoming, and I was beginning to learn, so painfully gradually, why this might be so.
First, when you work for someone else you may find yourself on the coat tails so to say of someone else’s dream – you might only be along for their ride, through their hero’s journey. It could be the owner of the company that you work for, or if you’ve worked for gigantic, faceless corporations like I have, it could be just your boss. If you don’t like the term “hero’s journey,” you can call it something else – personal legend, purpose in life, path, bliss, joy, dream, calling or destiny, whatever – it’s a timeless struggle, this working out of our own lives in tune with our nature. Anyway, the most important part is that your path is indeed your path, not somebody else’s; you can’t wear another man’s hat.
If you’re going to work for somebody else – if that’s your “hat” to wear – you’ll know its right for you because you’ll feel it, you’ll know it – the hat fits. You’ll be engaged and energized by the work, and though it may be hard work, or difficult, it won’t be draining, defeating, disappointing or demoralizing; it won’t crush you. Instead, it will nourish and build you. There’s a movie – Julie & Julia – that has a scene with Julia Child, as played by Meryl Streep, after she’s enrolled in the Cordon Bleu in Paris. Julia’s alarm clock wakes her up in the morning and she literally jumps out of bed – she’s so anxious to get to her classes that she obviously can’t hardly wait to get the day started and get cooking, pun intended. THAT’S what life is all about – engaged, captivated, captured – surrendering to your master passions (Canfield).
Another example of “surrendering” in even a more dramatic fashion, is John Muir, the famous naturalist who did so much for the national parks, especially Yellowstone, through his incredibly vibrant and galvanized connection – an obsession if you will – to certain natural spaces. Muir’s calling to the natural world was so strong and impassioned that he gave up his engineering job in the Northeast – he was an accomplished, inventive and successful engineer – walked across vast portions of the U.S. countryside, directionless except for his intuition, and ended up in the area that was to become Yellowstone National Park. He was so awestruck and enraptured by the experience – the majesty of nature – that he decided to live there, in the wild. He built a cabin that incorporated a section of a creek – literally running through his cabin – so that he could enjoy the sound of the water even while he slept. There are stories of him climbing tall trees during thunder storms and high winds, just so he could experience the event like the trees did. Crazy? It’s the best kind of crazy if you ask me. You can, in reading about his life, almost feel the energy that he must have felt – while most folks, when they see mountains and rivers and waterfalls and wildlife indeed feel restored, connected, inspired, etc. THIS guy basically became transcendent – he walked the razor’s edge, the sword bridge, from his engineering job to his new life and was enlightened – he didn’t just put his fingers on the toes of the transcendent god – he grabbed the god and kissed her on the mouth.
Energy is what it’s all about – you give it out, but your life has to give it back. When you’re following your bliss, your energy centers, or chakras if you’re into yoga, will be aligned and spinning away like mad; your energy channels, or nadis, will be open. You’ll have your fingers on the toes of the transcendent, and you’ll be looking for more. I’m tossing around different words and metaphors, from Eastern and Western philosophies to describe the same thing; these ideas are primal and basic, essential components of how people live. The mythic symbols may be different – a stag, a buffalo, a serpent, a dragon, a winged horse, a Greek god, Jesus, Buddha whatever. But the idea that we require those symbols, require myths to help us get through, get along, walk the razor’s edge, the sword bridge, towards enlightenment, towards the acting out of your own personal myth, seems not only compelling, but essential.
Alternatively, you can be like I was at work. In a form of schism, to borrow Campbell’s term, between my bliss and my job. Compromising my heart, joy, faith, hope, charity, bliss – all the sustaining things in life – for what? I don’t really know for sure. Approval from family and friends. Approval from myself. Fame, fortune, love, hope, sex and dreams; all the things that keep life from just being an exercise in survival.
All this makes me think I had it wrong when I said a pig may have led me from Ann Arbor to Texas. It was a job that did that. I looked for a path to adventure and found one, but it wasn’t my own. But it felt, like it has at other times in my life, like the right path, and I did get something back from these adventures. But not enough. My job-chasing is not limited to this latest fiasco – I’ve gone through this crashing-burning-starting-over thing more than several times over twenty-five years. Big companies, small companies, here, there, I’ve even gone back to school earlier in my career to try to get it right. A night-school graduate degree wasn’t easy, but I did it, and it changed my path in life, for the better I thought. For the next fifteen years, I made very slow, but steady progress with my career – I felt like I had a career, which was a new thing for me, and I was, to a large extent, proud of my job. I thought other people were impressed enough too, so that I could think of myself as becoming successful. I had compromised myself to obtain approval from others, and I believed I was receiving that approval. I had both feet, my mind and my heart all firmly, I thought, established on a path.
Unfortunately, it was somebody else’s path. AGAIN. The “again” part was killing me. I had a myth, but it was the Myth of Sisyphus. You know, the Greek hero who defied the gods and put death in chains so that no human had to die? Death, as was to be expected, was eventually liberated, and when it came time for Sisyphus himself to die, he escaped the underworld by concocting a deceit. This guy really loved life and really hated death. His punishment, decreed by the vengeful gods, was to push a rock up a mountain, only to have it fall back down as soon as he got to the top. For eternity. Albert Camus wrote an essay using our man Sisyphus, to discuss pointless toil as a metaphor for the working life. Camus said that, like Sisyphus, “The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious.”
Okay, so I’m certainly conscious of my own tragedy at this point. Another failed career path. What was going wrong? I don’t know who said this, but it described me: “He redoubled his efforts while losing sight of the goal.” I was missing my life, not all of it, but the part that felt the most important, all while expending Sisyphean effort to get my rock up the mountain only to watch it fall back again. I was aware of the worst kind of betrayal – that of a man against his own heart. How can this happen?
The progress at work, the promotions and raises, always involved a desperate search for more, because whatever I needed, I wasn’t getting it. I didn’t know what it was, or I’d have done a better job going about how to get it. All I could be sure of was what I didn’t want. It reminds me of a line in the biography of the Irish writer Samuel Beckett, “It was the signpost at last, on the road he had travelled for so long and so blindly, with nothing to guide him except the belief that all other ways were wrong.” This method of living can be impossibly difficult, incredibly time consuming and can ultimately leave you too old and tired to get anywhere near where you supposedly want to go. One can see death, maybe like Sisyphus began to see it, as an advantage – at least it’s an end to the absurdity.
But I’ve learned that there are guides. Sometimes you follow them almost without knowing, perhaps steered by your heart, even when your mind is off somewhere else. The stag or the wild boar may have led you into the woods, but there’s a way out, a way through it, a path. You may have entered at the darkest point, where there is no path, but that’s a good thing, because now it’s up to you to find your own path, to live your adventure, your personal myth. But it’s important that you don’t proceed blindly – as Campbell says, life can be treated as a labyrinth, where you dig and plow your way through as if no one has been there before. “Where there’s a way or path, it is someone else’s path….” Neither are you looking to hack and dig your way through, snagged by thorns, stumbling over tangled undergrowth, felling trees – you’re instead looking to follow a guide through the woods, through the trees – a way that is in line with your heartfelt and intuitive nature, the way the seems best to you when you take some time to think and carefully look, maybe only a short distance forward, in a direction that feels right, a way that allows you to enjoy the journey. I can tell you that it often seems like there is no guide; that you’re on your own and you get that panic, almost like someone indeed lost in the woods – you start walking, backwards, forwards, around and around, looking for anything familiar, something that you recognize, even if you know it sucks. Familiar misery is better than the unknown. You quit listening to your heart, you “think” it through, asking yourself “What would somebody else do in this situation – what would they want me to do?” Crazy. So stop. Listen. Inside and out. Your guide is up there or out there, trying to get your attention, waving like hell; if you’d just look around a little you’d see him. Your heart is listening. Get your brain in line. Wake up to yourself and start moving again. When the “bliss cuts off, try to find it again,” as Campbell says. Trust it.
There’s really nothing else to be done, no other way to live. You may find yourself compelled towards a direction but not necessarily comfortable with it – it should be scary in a good way – you’re tapping into yourself and then you’ll have to actually get somewhere and change. Sometimes just thinking about it, miserable as that makes you, seems better than the pain of attempting the possible fiasco, as Campbell calls; of actually taking action towards your goals. Yes, following your guides, living your personal legend, playing out your personal myth may be hard, dangerous, and you might still get lost and beat up by it. Just look and listen, your guide or guides are in your heart and you can get back on the path you’re following. Remember, the path is not obvious, because it’s not someone else’s, it hasn’t been walked before, it’s not like it’s paved for Christ’s sake – it’s a an unmarked path, it’s your path. Someone coming behind you may recognize it; you can look behind and make it out probably, but the point is to just keep listening and moving forward. Try to enjoy it!
Who or what should be your guide? I don’t think you have a choice in this, it’s just your job to identify what or who it is, which isn’t necessarily easy – again, there’s the necessity to “surrender” to something, which for many folks, including me, is counterintuitive – one can believe that life is about overcoming obstacles, conquering resistance, dominating, beating back, winning or at least surviving battles. Surrendering can feel, initially at least, a little like losing, giving in. Why else would anyone fight this? It would have to contain at least the appearance of negativity, of something to be resisted. For most of my life I have erred on the side of fighting versus surrendering and it’s cost me, many years I think – decades even – time that could have been spent engaging my passions more fully, integrating them into my life and getting better at doing what it is that I’m supposed to be doing. You see people, (often the most visible examples are artists), who have not battled their intuition, who have surrendered very early, probably unconsciously, or without awareness of the magnitude of the decision, and enjoyed a life-long immersion in their joy, their master passions.
I’ve been listening to an interview that Keith Richards gave to Terri Gross recently. Richards is a man who obviously surrendered, long ago, to his passions and it’s inspiring to hear his vitality for what he does and what he’s done. It’s interesting to me how people who’ve spent a lifetime immersed in their passions can connect so easily to events of their past – they’re not trying to forget them – when the topic is what drives them. We’ve all got things in our lives that, if given the chance, we’d delete from the record. But for those who are a slave to their master passions, I think there’s more of a healthy continuity between the past, a mindful present, and the future. The past is not a burden, the present is energizing and the future is not to be feared, and also not to be leapt into – you let it play out, it comes to you as it will, but you’re in the moment, so the future isn’t to be yearned for – it comes naturally as a result of fully engaging the present. Projecting out seems to be a more youthful pursuit, born of struggle, of not having things and wanting things to be different.
One might wonder why a person like Keith Richards, successful at an early age – an age where most of us were struggling desperately to become something, somebody, some version of the success that we imagined for ourselves – still “bothers” to make music and play on stage – after all, he’s “got everything” so why not retire? Why be in a rock band approaching the age of seventy, with all the cultural pressure that challenges our beliefs of what it means to be young versus old, accused of trying to deceive yourself and embarrass yourself if you grab your guitar and do the thing you’ve done well your whole life? To folks immersed and engaged in their master passions, time doesn’t mean the same thing as it does to those not so engaged. Paul Willis, Keith Richards, Ari Weinzweig, you could name any number of people considered to be at a point in their life or career that they should or could be “slowing down,” thinking about retirement, or indeed becoming retired or otherwise abandoning their passions for the rocking chair on the porch so to say. Except they all seem as young or younger as anyone half their age – their mental youth more than makes up for their physical age. Their vitality is not so much making up for anything that age is taking away – that’s not the way to look at it – they’re simply getting better and better and being who they are, they’re better at hitting the target of the transcendent.
If you’re Keith Richards, people may accuse you of being past it, of having written your best songs in your youth, of not having the chops anymore. I’m guilty of this, I’ve been an arm-chair rock critic my whole life, and have taken pride in my ruthless judgment of what’s good and what’s bad. It’s no longer a life for me, I’ve slid over to the creative side, surrendered, finally, and tuned in, to what it is I’m supposed to be doing and it turns out to be closer to what the creative folks, including business owners, are up to. I’m not a critic, journalist, or memoirist as much as a phycomythologist (a word I made up) – I’m interested in describing what it is to be lost and the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of various techniques, processes and brain-changing activities in finding your way. So back to guides, you can look at the Keith Richard’s of the world, who are still making fine, fun and passionate music, and enjoying their past accomplishments – when Terri Gross asked him which song he wanted her to play – Jumpin’ Jack Flash or Street Fighting Man – Richards deferred, clearly uncomfortable with the question, not out of boredom with the question, or the music itself, which I sort of expected, but with as he said, “being asked to cut babies in half.” That he cherishes his songs like that shows that bitterness and jaded rock-superstardom has not affected his affection for his own songs. The burdens of fame and riches don’t tarnish the master passions of those fortunate enough to have decided to still pursue them, to remain connected to them. Richards, Willis, Weinzweig, are all young men in their middle and old age; inspiring, energizing people – it’s not the body, it’s the brain. And it makes the world seem young and fresh to me, young in the best way – forward-looking, joyous and expectant – that great things are to come and meanwhile this is great, so let’s enjoy it.
I have been painfully aware of the schism between what I’m doing, working at, trying to make a vocation of, and what some other part of me (which I can now identify most effectively as my “heart” or “heart-mind”) seems to be “saying.” I see this now as ignoring, or not listening to my heart. It’s a curious thing to not want to hear what it has to say. I’ve suffered with this schism for decades – why? Why the struggle? Why the fight against myself? Again, for some of us, surrendering seems too much like giving in, giving up, or losing in some way; it translates as a fomr of weakness. This can be a critical, devastating error – a misinterpretation of your core being, of reacting without proper consideration and understanding of the details, the obvious details which just don’t seem so obvious to people like me. Why do we ignore our hearts? We ask the right questions: What ought I to do? Who do I want to be? Where do I belong? Who am I? Yet when the heart answers, we choose to hear only what we want to hear, as if our hearts were somehow strangers to us, and strangers we don’t agree with at that. It’s baffling, until one considers how life works (or doesn’t work). Your heart must compete with the outside world – the accidents of your existence so to speak – and you can think, given the conflict between what you see as real and what you feel to be real (what your heart is telling you to do), that your heart must be nuts – fucking crazy.
It’s here that I should quit being so cavalier with the word “crazy” because psychology (an psychiatry) is an important part of how we become ungrounded, distanced from our true self and suffering. I begin with Joseph Campbell and Pathways To Bliss – Mythology and Personal Transformation, an example of adept transcription and masterful editing by David Kudler of Campbells’s lectures on the topic, with special emphasis on Jungian psychology – a cornerstone of Campbell’s thinking on personal myth. Campbell describes a neurotic as “a person functioning in the world with a working, conscious orientation to life, but who is troubled by an inadequate relationship to the unconscious system.” This strikes me as a way to describe more than half of the people I’ve ever met, undoubtedly applying to myself as well. “A psychotic, on the other hand, is someone who is cracked off entirely.” This concept of neurosis then, (which I will no longer refer to as craziness), shares an undeniable similarity with people who are passionately engaged in their master passions. How often are creative innovators, in any endeavor, from cars to computers, from sculptors to soccer players, seen as nutty, “out there,” absurd, “out of it,” delusional, dreamers, impractical, etc.? Maybe they get lucky or survive long enough to gain some public acceptance; considered then to be “ahead-of-their-time,” creative, revolutionary geniuses, canonized for the very contributions that were at first demonized or at least ignored? You must ignore everyone, as Hugh MacLeod suggests, but one can’t help but require input from the real world – some form of acknowledgement, some little thing – in order to hold one’s personal legend, master passion – one’s bliss. It’s where the schism is – that’s where the energy should go – into resolving the clash between reality outside and our reality inside that threatens to knock us of our path, to abandon ourselves, our master passions, as irrelevant, absurd, useless, unproductive, inappropriate, unworthy. Life is not a victory over yourself or others; rather, it’s a surrender – not to others, but to yourself. You will pay a price for this – you may lose money, lose material comforts, lose friends, even lose spouses and family members – there will be people who don’t understand what you’re doing and that won’t want to help. Mostly because they don’t know how to help.
So the struggle can be a lonely one, but only without guides – and your guides may not be immediately apparent to you; you may think you have plenty – your parents, your boss, your friends, your wife – but be careful to listen to your heart on this point. Your guides may in fact be somebody who wrote a book that you liked, a musician that you enjoy listening to, a cook that cooks great food, a gardener, a roofer, a scientist, a philosopher – you must suspend your preconceptions of what it is you’re looking for so as to not interfere with your ability to listen to your heart. Quit looking out for something to come in. Begin within. Begin at the beginning. Impatience will only further delay you. Try kundalini yoga. Learn to meditate. Get in better physical shape. As Jack Canfield says, (this simple statement struck a chord within me and helped me tremendously to move forward): “Do more of what is working, do less of what isn’t, and try on new behaviors to see if they produce a better result.”
There’s nothing more important to me than being who I am. Joseph Campbell said “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” But trying to figure out how to do this – how to properly manifest yourself – how to live as who you are, doesn’t happen in a flash. I’ve gone to great lengths to discuss how my own process did not begin with a blinding flash or a revelation. It’s been a gradual awakening, a slow turning, sometimes just finally saying “yes” to myself. I’ve worked hard to legitimize my thoughts to myself instead of spending so much time and energy trying to legitimize them to others. Or worse, assuming they aren’t legitimate and never will be to others. I’ve had to learn to just begin, to take the first step with the idea of working out the details later. What is my heart telling me to do? Joseph Campbell suggests two ways of working through this. The first is in retrospect; looking back through your life and identifying the patterns that you find, the things you always find yourself doing, no matter what the immediate circumstances; the things you keep returning to, even if not deliberately. The second way is to imagine your life post-catastrophe if you will – after you’ve lost everything that you think means anything to you. “You might ask yourself this question,” suggests Campbell:
[I]f I were confronted with a situation of total disaster, if everything I loved and thought I lived for were devastated, what would I live for? What would lead me to know that I could go on living and not just crack up and quit? What is the great thing for which you would sacrifice your life? What makes you do what you do; what is the call of your life to you – do you know it?
It’s not like you get this right as soon as you start contemplating this stuff – even listening to your heart takes practice, the path never becomes clear – you don’t surrender to your master passions and suddenly see clearings in the forest and the end point of your path; the woods get dense, get almost too difficult to pass through; you lose track of your guides and you’re lost – you’re on the adventure – and you’re going to experience the trials of the hero journey. You have to trust that it’s your heart that has led you astray so to say from your previously insufficient endeavors – your schism. Within these woods is your bliss. Should you find yourself suddenly without it – without bliss – you must stop moving, stop blundering forth and try to be aware, as Campbell says, of your bliss cutting off, in which case you have to try to find it again, “…and that will be your Hermes guide, the dog that can follow the invisible trail for you.” If you started out happy, and now you find yourself miserable, it’s because you’ve lost your guide, your bliss, you’re not following your guides, you’re off track, lost in the woods and wandering, not making forward progress, just like a person who’s actually lost in the woods will panic and keeping moving, even running, trying to find something familiar – to not be lost anymore – here’s where the analogy of what to do when you’re lost in the woods is exactly true to reality – you’re advise to STOP, and wait, and then the odds of you being found increase dramatically because you’ve stopped moving farther and farther away from your last known position – it’ll be easier for you to be found.
Now, when you’re pursuing your own bliss and you become lost, other people aren’t looking for you, at least immediately, but your guides will not abandon you; when you lose your bliss, you only need to listen again to your heart, maybe more closely, and trust in your guides. It’s a leap of faith in yourself, and it takes courage, as all the writers will tell you. Campbell describes it well:
Now, it’s not always easy or possible to know by what it is that you are seized. You find yourself doing silly things, and you have been seized but you don’t know what the dynamics are.
What must you know about yourself; what is it exactly within you that you are surrendering to? The answers are always inside you – your heart knows the answers posed by your mind and body – but you have to accept the answers. Trying to make your life play out like you’re the director of the movie isn’t going to work – you’re the executive producer – the guy that knows what they want out of it, and enjoys the ride, but isn’t caught up in the minute-by-minute decisions, the internal arguments, the conflict between the actors, the script and the bad weather. That you can’t identify yourself with anything but the self is an idea again, from Jung. “For Jung, the self encompasses all of the possibilities of your life, the energies, the potentialities – everything that your are capable of becoming.” The executive producer is the self; your ego is the director – Campbell calls him “the little captain on the bridge.” You’re happy when the compass is pointed in the right direction and you take pleasure in the unpredictable nature of the unfolding production of your life.
For example, as I said, I felt convinced that my destiny lay on the East or West Coast – I told myself I wanted to live on the coasts. However, this job opportunity, while certainly on a coast, was not on eitherof those coasts. I attempted to rationalize it by proposing that I simply wasn’t including enough coasts in the equation, that hey, the Gulf Coast was indeed a coast, so I should remain positive and open-minded; this was still my break. But I hadn’t been listening carefully enough, and this is how one steps off their path and gets lost in the woods again. You can believe you’re on your path, but if you’re out of practice listening to your heart, it can appear to deceive you – you can get distracted and start following different so-called “guides” false guides, born of your past struggles, agonies, challenges, wounds, selfish desires, material wants, and habits.
Also, what is your responsibility – your duty – to other things besides your bliss? If you’ve got a job, a family, children in school, parents you’re taking care of, a position in life that appears important to others and that is obviously providing something that others need? Can you simply abandon these things? Yes. Should you? Yes, but be prepared for the consequences. I’ve been coming to it fairly slowly, with various degrees of halting progress, the progress coming more quickly as I get more practice and continue to build support within myself (and from others). It’s more important by the way, because you will naturally do far more good for others, if that’s what you’re worried about, by connecting all your piano wires and being who you are, in the fullest, most completely blissful way, than you ever will by trying to be something you’re not. This theme is critical and Campbell demonstrates it through his personal struggles as a young man out of college yet still yearning to decipher what it is he’s “looking for.” He concludes that whatever it is, he must work on himself to find it, thereby referencing Krishna’s dictum, “The best way to help mankind is through the perfection of yourself.” But the break, as I’ve talked about, with your current life can be dramatic and even traumatic, moreso for some (like me) than others. Joseph Campbell describes the life of Paul Gauguin as an example:
He was a perfectly prosperous businessman with a family and a house then he simply became fascinated by what began to open up for him in painting. You start doodling with things like painting and they might doodle you out of your life – that’s what happened to Gauguin. He just went off on this adventure, forgot his family and everything else. His awakening led him to Tahiti and all those beautiful paintings.
Hugh MacLeod, in his book Ignore Everybody, mentions some advice he received when he was graduating from college and first began considering the creative life – it happened to come from Tim Burton – the director – who lived above the flat that Hugh was house sitting for. Apparently they got to know each other, and the subject of Hugh’s direction in life came up in conversation one evening. Hugh says, “Back then I was a bit apprehensive about doing the “creative” thing for a living…in my family people always had “real” jobs in corporations and banks, etc. and the idea of breaking with tradition made me pretty nervous.” Tim responded,
If you have the creative bug, it isn’t ever going to go away. I’d just get used to the idea of dealing with it.
My wife Angie once said something that became sort of a mantra for us after I got fired in 2010: “The key to happiness is an unconventional life.” I think an unconventional life is a life of zeal and bliss despite the doubts and judgments – from within and without – the life that some folks seemed to lead outside of the so-called normal ways and means. Whether musicians, painters, or businessmen, it was obvious to us, within our middle age, and after having worked for so many years in what can only be called the “wrong jobs,” that the folks who appeared to have abandoned the conventional life (working and saving and then retiring), were often the ones that suffered less angst and in fact often seemed supremely happy, despite life’s struggles. These are the people who are interested in life and have thereby become themselves, interesting; they seem so actively engaged, often right up to the very last moments of their lives. [provide examples??]
I made a small graphic, from computer clip art and text that portrayed a small man with tiny feet wearing an enormous red mask in the shape of a skull – he appeared to be kicking his heels or dancing. Above it I placed the phrase (in goofy, wrong-sized and colorful letters) “Unconventional.” I taped it to the door of our pantry, and there it remained for weeks – a source of inspiration for us both to keep carrying on in a new way; to not abandon the opportunity for fulfilling change – for bliss – with yet another corporate job. I wanted to finally learn from my mistakes. So we decided to let things ride so to speak until we spent more time together, Angie working at home and me pursuing my heartfelt interests. At that time, I wanted to re-engage my somewhat lapsed commitment to home cooking, which is both a comfort and a challenge. I don’t think writing had come back to me yet. But seeing that quirky little man with the funny phrase above his head every morning on the pantry door really seemed to help us. Now, close to a year later, I can see that that was, intuitively, one of our first tries at visioning – of keeping a desired future in the forefront of our consciousness each day by simply having that compelling image to look at that phrase to read. And it validated the type of advice that Hugh MacLeod received about getting used to being creative. Indeed, a commitment to creativity would come later for me but now, I was just getting used to the idea of an unconventional life of any sort – it was only just beginning to seem possible….
The following is an example of how I tried to begin what I describe much later as “self-work.” Failure had distanced me from myself. When it’s bad enough, severe enough, you can lose faith in the legitimacy of your own thoughts and find it difficult to define your feelings. Reality destabilizes, as if it can’t be trusted, as if everything is subjective, a creation of your unreliable thoughts. It’s neurosis on the road to psychosis. Here, I’m simply writing out who I am, what I still understood and liked about myself, retreating inwards to the only ground I could establish:
I enjoy the anticipation of discovery that walking encourages in me. I enjoy the strategizing of the routes and destinations according to my intuition. I enjoy how the future seems to unfold when I have these destinations and strategies to work with. I enjoy the unexpected results from these adventures, the observations and physical exercise; the using of my energy, seeing how far I can go, overcoming my fatigue, enjoying how my fatigue provides focus, clarity and relief from the suffering of a busy mind. Fatigue and fresh air makes things taste better. I enjoy looking at the landscapes, flora, fauna, clouds, sky, architecture, businesses, buildings, construction sites (the structures, the machines, the plans, the changes to the environment and spaces/places). I don’t enjoy the cars, but I accept them because I realize they bring me and other people into and out of the spaces and places that I like – without them I’d be isolated. The world seems welcoming and engaging when I walk. If I’m ungrounded and lacking in confidence, by the end of a walk I’ve returned to myself. I enjoy the experience of coming home physically tired, but with my mind full of the day’s experiences. Walking somehow reestablishes my connection to the world-of-action, reversing the effects of distance and doubt that result from a busy mind. It’s a form of meditation.
Home is a place to recharge from physical activity, and is a sanctuary for my relaxation, research and exploration of my interests, including most importantly listening to music, cooking and writing. I enjoy watching dvds of my choice versus suffering through the abusive cable and satellite services (they’re all actually satellite services). I enjoy the quality sound and video that a good AV system provides, so I need space and sonic isolation from my neighbors so we don’t bother each other sonically. I like my truck but want to minimize the use of it – I’d like to walk to work and start our walks/hikes from our front door vs. having to drive to trail heads. The community where I live needs an interesting downtown within walking distance of my home (4 – 6 miles), and at least 120K people so that I can have anonymity and autonomy without the obligations and pressures of familiarity (unless I seek it out). I enjoy forward-thinking urbanity in a city. I enjoy attractive architecture that creates interesting urban spaces and accommodates walking. My city also accommodates natural features like rivers, elevation changes, and views of the surrounding landscape composed of hills and even mountains.
There are things that don’t matter to me: Teaching and training people on the job. I find it stressful and draining because it seems like I’m trying to convince people of my views or that this is the way things are or should be and that they don’t necessarily want to learn it, don’t want to be there, discuss it, or even care about it. I’m not interested in demonstrating what I know to a group, large or small – I’m neither a teacher, a trainer, a performer, nor a critic (therefore I’m not a trainer, music critic, book critic, video host, cooking show personality, seminar speaker, classroom teacher, presenter, coach, etc.) I will teach others only in the service of my own learning – only in a form and environment that empowers me and improves or fixes something – once fixed, I move on, I’m not interested in reiterating, repeating or otherwise broadcasting to others. I’m neither a reporter nor journalist and I’m not interested in explaining my knowledge, insights, plans, creations, accomplishments or achievements to the world unless they are intuitively drawn to them already – I’m not interested in convincing people. (Thankfully I never pursued a law degree). I’m critical, but not in the role of expressing my critiques formally and in writing for others to read – I’m not interested in designing unassailable “arguments” about my ideas and opinions for or with people who do not, in general, share my tastes, my culture, my knowledge or my vision. I am competitive only in the sense that I want to succeed as a person vs. fail (no happiness, no money, no home, no partner, no purpose, no vision, no adventure, no joy, etc.) and if a competition involves “victory,” it is in actualizing me. I enjoy the victories of others when they’ve demonstrated their skills and talents (vs. luck, subterfuge, cunning or contrivance); I see them as legitimate, justified, earned, and in line with the world order.
I’m interested in discovering how I fit into the world. I’m interested in beginnings, but not necessarily historical beginnings (I’m not a student of history, rather, I want to utilize history to avoid future mistakes and minimize risk of failure. Also, there are things and events from the past that add value to the present and the future and I’m interested in helping to retain these. I feel more confident in learning and becoming an expert when I know where, when and how things I’m interested in began. I enjoy researching music, food, visual arts, literature, science & technology, places & spaces, people’s lives (biographies), and other vocations as it relates to my interests and my place in the world. Through this research I learn and create my own particular collection of the best of things as I see them (not necessarily the “finest” of things – I’m not an epicure – I search out the best examples of things that I want to include in my life; this is how I connect to the world. I need archives, museums and libraries as potential resources for me because I see how such stores of knowledge and information may become useful at some future time as we continue to improve our inner worlds and the world at large.
I enjoy appreciating the talents of others, very often as an end in itself, without any particular purpose or desired outcome other than experiencing that connection – appreciating talents seems to tie the world together for me. I enjoy the “collecting” of experiences and repeating them – I listen to the same songs again and again because it’s fun; it energizes my dreams, provides a sense of motion, momentum and unlimitedness to my world – that limitlessness is inspiring and energizing – it means there’s more to do and know and I can continue to collect the experiences and expand myself into the world. Appreciating the work of others helps answer my questions about life – connections appear or are created, things seem to fit together – if not immediately, then in an enjoyably unknown or mysterious way, with the promise of future solutions, answers, connections, and successes.
I enjoy cooking. I enjoy the flavors of the final result, which so often seem better and more satisfying than meals available in restaurants. It is challenging, satisfying and comforting to prepare food. I enjoy shopping for food. I enjoy discussing and reading about food in all aspects (farm-to-table). I enjoy attempting new recipes and techniques to increase my skill-set because I appreciate the value a good meal adds to my own life and the lives of others. Cooking connects me to the things, spaces, places and people that I enjoy, respect and want to spend more time with. The kitchen space itself comforts and inspires me – the equipment and science is interesting. The changes that the raw ingredients undergo during preparation and cooking is fascinating. My “failures” encourage me to pursue solutions and I can imagine the improvements in the next attempt. I enjoy the rewards of cooking which seem commensurate with my efforts.
I am breaking through
I am breaking free
My foot is off the brake
I am leaving the past behind me
I am climbing over
I have found my master passions
I am following my master passions
My rewards are commensurate with my efforts
I have aligned myself with my talents
Today would have been my eight-year anniversary working for JCI, a thirty-two-billion-dollar facility management service provider that also manufactured automotive interiors and batteries. The founder of the 100+ year-old company invented the electric thermostat. It was the first time I ever worked for a company I was really proud of. People I respected knew the company I worked for and that somehow made me feel respectable too. It was also the first time I worked for a company that was profitable – all my other jobs involved working for companies that were in some stage of going into bankruptcy or emerging (or re-emerging) from it. That should have told me something about ever wanting to go into business for myself, but more about that later….
I was hired on October 28th, 2002. It’s the only job I ever had where I was proud to remember my hire date. I was proud and even proud of being proud. It had felt like magic and miraculous good fortune to have recovered in such a grand way from the blow of being fired seven long months earlier. I had been mired in the impossibly frustrating routine of looking for work, full of doubt and humiliated to find myself out of work yet again. One day I received a word-of-mouth tip from a guy I used to work with. We were only acquaintences, yet here he was telling me to get my resume to a certain someone because they were looking for a certain something and he personally thought I’d be a good fit. I made the introductory phone call, sent my resume out immediately and waited. Sure enough, I got a phone call – an interview! – and within a couple weeks of the touch-and-go nervous anticipation that accompanies all such endeavors, I got the job. It didn’t even matter that I had to accept a three-thousand dollar pay cut from my previous salary. I was glad to be getting on board with a real company, one that wasn’t just an environmental and industrial-service long-shot or has-been, but a company that was truly diversified into manufacturing and service and was making money and growing like gang-busters. In the seven years I worked there, they went from $26B and 102K employees to $32B and 140K employees. I had gone global and the corporate sky was the limit. I remember thinking with great relief and pleasure that this was a place I could retire from. I had a real job and a real future after all these years of dead-end, disappointing bullshit. The miserable interviewing hell was over, and I was convinced I’d never have to go through it again. You can imagine, by dint of the sheer intensity of my expectations and glee, that the future held other plans for me besides unbridled success, but more on that later. The lead-up to this glorious event is a story in itself. Or maybe not, but here it is anyway:
I was getting nowhere in the job search and, in desperation, had once again resorted to applying to a temporary-help environmental service provider. They often go temp-to-hire, and I had actually been permanently hired on for my first environmental job (in Ann Arbor) after a six-month stint as a temp, so I knew the drill and the potential – it wasn’t a waste of time to get hooked up with work like this. However, this time, I was going in at the very bottom, as temporary help on an oil-spill clean-up crew. I was to be part of a bunch of laborers subcontracted through the so-called “tier-one contractor” running the clean-up on behalf of the EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (who administers the EPA programs for the State): Marine Pollution Control a.k.a. MPC, who had some renown as one of the most well-known oil spill clean-up companies around – they’d been part of the Exxon-Valdez clean-up in Alaska.
The spill, caused by an unknown industrial firm in Detroit had dumped, or leaked -nobody knew yet – some unknown thousands of gallons of industrial oil into the Rouge River, a tributary of the Detroit River. The Rouge runs through the heart of the industrial wasteland that is metro Detroit. There is nothing pretty or even pleasant about about the area; it’s just miles of burned out, scummy, smelly, ugly industry. Responsible for contaminating this little river since as far back as anyone can remember, the industries here still “accidentally” spill their crud into it, and go through the motions to clean it up. I don’t know if they ever found the company (or companies) who were responsible for this spill – nobody was fessing up during the clean-up anyway.
To start work, I had to update my stupid HAZWOPER 40-hour training. Hazardous Waste Site Operations and Emergency Response, that’s what it stands for – it’s an OSHA regulation that is meant for workers at EPA Superfund sites, which involve hazardous waste clean up. It’s not meant for oil spills or any other waste clean-ups that don’t involve hazardous waste, but since there’s hardly anyone in the industry that really knows anything about regulations and isn’t academic enough to fucking figure it out themselves or, heaven forbid, ask (and trust) a guy like me (a master’s degree? – who the fuck cares, right?) we all had to be updated on this check-the-box joke of an “eight hour” training session. The intentions of the training are admirable, as most of the EPA and OSHA regs are – they’re all in place as a result of some real event or industrial fuck-up from the past – the shit isn’t just made up to be difficult like some folks like to think. But the implementation of the regs and programs always seems to leave something to be desired; little start-up companies see a financial opportunity (never lucrative) to provide this training, and the government of course needs them because they certainly can’t provide the training to everyone who needs it themselves – who would pay for the manpower required? Anyway, if you can walk and chew gum at the same time, as they say, you can get through this training. I heard somewhere that for any “training” to be effective, it has to be presented at the grade school level or something like that – you have to “dumb it down” so that a moron can get through it. I never agreed with this; my attitude is that any topic should be taught to the level of detail and complexity that is appropriate to it. However, in the world of work that I know, training is just looked at as something you get people through – the box to check, like I said. I did some environmental health & safety training myself. I fucking hated it, but, probably because of that, I was good at it – I never wanted my training sessions to put people to sleep like the ones I’d sat through; I always put my heart into it.
Okay, so I’ve got my updated training – I’ve been “refreshed” on the concepts of hazardous materials and personal protective equipment (PPE) and all that – stuff I already know like the back of my hand. Anyway, this clean-up was a twenty-four-hour operation and I was to start work at 5:00PM. I didn’t really know how long I’d be working – this type of work can unfortunately go on and on – but I tried to hope for the best while expecting the worst. An environmental clean-up quickly turns into a money-grab – every industrial service vendor in the area (and even outside it) tries to get in on the government money flowing non-stop until the job is done. The vendors have the upper hand, at least in the beginning when the environmental risk is greatest, because they’ve got what what the government needs – a classic supply-and-demand scenario. There’s nothing wrong with that on the face of it, but I’ve never been an opportunist – my mind just doesn’t work that way – it almost seems to work in the opposite way. Maybe I’m a counter opportunist; if I sense the “gold rush” mentality, I’m immediately thinking about getting out and doing something else.
For two days, it seemed like I just worked and slept, working about fourteen hours a day, from 5PM until 7AM. Physically brutal and incredibly dull work. We started when it was light out, it got dark, it got light again, and we were still working. I hate that shit. What I always want to know is “when are we getting the fuck out of this shithole?” I’m going to work hard and well, but then I’m gone and I need to be able to look forward to when that is. This isn’t my dream, this isn’t my vision, this isn’t my passion or my idea of a good fucking time. I don’t enjoy working for someone else, no matter what the job. I’ve learned, through hard lessons as you’re hopefully finding out by reading this, that it’s not so much the work, it’s the working for somebody else that sucks. I need to be the boss. But when I’m conforming and compromising myself for money, then I can fake it and work for the man and do a good job, at least for a short while. So, that’s what I did on this oil clean-up. I worked my fucking ass off alongside these other poor fuckers from the city, good folks for the most part, used to the worst jobs around. My group of five or six folks contained a boyfriend-girlfriend duo where the guy wanted to work but the girl was a lazy nag who wanted to quit and go home. She couldn’t cut the miserable conditions, the PPE, the smell, the sweat, the filth, the noise, the hours. It certainly did suck. It might go down as the worst job I ever had. But I needed it to get my ass going in a positive direction, to keep my feet moving, and I figured I’d tough it out just to see if I could do it. I never want to be perceived as a pussy. This attitude has gotten me into trouble by diverting me from my mater passions, and fucking up my biophycomythology more than once. This time, I was as far from improving my biophycomythology as I’ve ever been, but there I was, on the job anyway.
It was hell. This was not a job for anybody who had any inclination towards being any kind of professional. One of the kids I worked with reminded me of me – he had a degree and was trying like hell to get experience in the environmental field because he had none – the same struggle I had breaking into the field. There’s something about this field that does not do well with internships, recruiting, etc. – it’s all about you finding some way on your own to get in. It’s funny, because the field doesn’t pay shit, and everyone else in it with experience usually just “fell into it.” By the way, I fucking HATE that statement and want to ring anybody’s neck who claims that they just “fell into” something: what, are you not fucking paying attention to what you’re doing? You can’t see that this is a job that will suck the life out of you and destroy your soul? Listen to me talk. Joe Bullshit. I’m the biggest example alive of somebody who isn’t paying attention.
This job was pure manual labor. They needed bodies to soak up, vacuum, bag up, shovel up and otherwise remediate the zillion gallons of emulsified oil that floated on the water in a smelly, sludgy, opaque, brownish one-eighth-inch-thick scum. Waste industrial oil always smells like a stomach-turning combination of body odor and burnt toast. Emulsification, for those who don’t know, just means that the oil has at least partially combined with the water – you learn that everything is at least partially soluable in everything else – even oil and water (think vinegar & olive oil salad dressing).
Anyway, a government-run remediation money-grab is composed of any variation of the following: vacuum trucks, oil/water separators, tankers, semi-trailers, skimmers, booms, boats, absorbents, PPE, 55-gallon drums, 4-millimeter thick plastic bags, night-lighting, piles of fast food to keep the troops moving and anything else that can be billed to whatever branch of state or federal government that’s going to pay for it. This gold-rush mentality hasn’t changed a bit since my experience with it in 2002 – just look at the recent record-setting BP spill in the Gulf and the money-grab that went on there. Hopefully BP pays through the nose for the rest of their existence, the bastards. The EPA or the state-run environmental programs (not all states have their own environmental management programs that are EPA-approved, so some states are controlled directly by the EPA) are then tasked with trying to track down the responsible parties -the culprits – if they haven’t come forward, and legally try to recover the costs of the clean-up and any penalties from them. Meanwhile, local folks lives are changed forever, businesses fail, ground water can become contaminated, natural vegetation and wildlife is harmed, and habitats destroyed or damaged, sometimes permanently. In this case, in Detroit, I don’t think anybody really gave a shit.
Environmental impact? It looks bad on news shows, but I can tell you that it looks (and smells) worse in person. Oil mixes with the water, as I said, and this muck gravitates towards the shoreline, clinging to anything and everything; any solid object, coating pylons, buoys, boat hulls, sand, dirt, trees, plants along the shore, soaking into the soil, and of course covering any living thing unfortunate enough to come into contact with it. The one advantage of this tendency of oil to cling to things is that it also clings to absorbent booms, pads, itself and other stuff designed to collect and contain it. It’s only soluable in water to a certain point, after which is just hangs out as this smelly sludge, and it can only move so far along a river before eventually (depending on the volume of the spill of course) getting caught up and stuck to everything on the shore line – oil doesn’t like to stay in one place nor does it like to stay in open water – the science of molecules dictates that it will move towards something to stick to. And of course, over extended periods of time, maybe decades, the natural ecological and biological systems do their miraculous part in helping to clean up the mess too. Bacteria indeed consume some hydrocarbons as food, and sunlight and wave action do their part to break down and disperse the contaminants. It helps to remember that hydrocarbons are created naturally – that’s where the oil fields come from obviously, and that it makes sense that “mother nature” has ways and means to deal with its own messes. It’s just that man, in synthesizing other, non-naturally-occurring hydrocarbons, and it managing to release way more natural hydrocarbons into the environment at one time than mother nature ever would, skews the balance, upsets the apple cart. We as a species always seem to take things too far, use too much, create too much, take too much from the natural order. We move too fast and we use too much.
To clean off plants and animals that are coated with this stuff is damn near impossible – we’ve all seen the scenes of wildlife rescue folks trying to carefully wash water birds with diluted dish soap by hand, one feather at a time (a huge trauma in itself for a wild animal, to be handled like that) and then hopefully released with a chance to survive. During my clean-up in Detroit, we only found one dead fish which we had to put in a plastic bag and deliver to our supervisors (they supposedly used a dead animal count to help quanitify the pending fines). Plants? Rip ‘em out, dig ‘em up, and throw them in a landfill – that’s all you can do. Soil? Same thing: dig it up, put it in a landfill designed to keep the oil from leaching out into groundwater (or incinerate it and bury it – yes, burn and then bury dirt). A terrible thing, what man’s endeavors does to the world, scarring the planet like we do.
Since most of the emulsified oil, as I said, remains within the first few millimeters of the water’s surface and tends to migrate, sooner or later, to the shoreline, it is there, on the shore, where you can park vacuum trucks – vehicles outfitted, most often, with a 1500 or 3000-gallon tank (sometimes 5000-gallon tanks or more) and an infinite supply of three-inch-diameter flexible plastic hose – to literally vacuum the oil off the surface of the water. That was the main job of our crew: holding on the business end of this three-inch hose, dipping it into the sludge on the water’s surface and allowing the powerful vacuum of the vac-truck – with its roaring diesel engine and the yowl of the vacuum hose making it impossible to communicate with anyone except by hand signals – do its work. “Stop the fucking the vacuum – something’s stuck in the hose!” was a common refrain. “Stop!” “Cut it off!” “Shut.” “It.” “The.” “Fuck.” “Off!!!” It didn’t take long to learn the proper hand signal of slashing your hand across your throat. The power of these trucks is impressive – the vacuum can suck the gloves off your hands, the tyvek off your back, your safety glasses off your face or any smallish rock, stone, piece of wood, beer can, soda bottle, dead fish, nut, bolt or anything else that isn’t literally tied the fuck down right into the business end of this hose and, like a shot, into the belly of the monster tank on shore. You have to see it to believeit. There was some technique involved because you were there to suck up oil, not the river, nor any of the dirt, rocks, plants and debris. Filling the vac truck with anything but oil was just making the day longer and the clean up less efficient (though it probably made somebody more money). You couldn’t help sucking up some water, but too much just created two problems: (1) you filled the vac-truck tank more quickly, which meant it had to drive off, unload and come back, while you waited, and (2) it made for more water that had to be skimmed, filtered or otherwise treated within other parts of the clean-up operation – you were adding time (and cost) to the operation. The gold-rush, after a few days of hellish filth and noise, didn’t seem worth it to anybody – we just all wanted to get the job done and get the fuck out of there.
The other fantastic part of this work that deserves to be recorded for posterity involved your PPE. Your tyvek body suit – made of the same material that they now use to “wrap” your house in when the build it – is designed to be impermeable, that’s why they wrap your house in it – to keep out wind and water. To improve this impermeability even further, some genius found a way to coat a tyvek jumpsuit (which actually does “breathe” just a little bit, mostly through its seams) with a polymer, a plastic coating. Thus, the seams are sealed against the possibility of chemical entry. Thus, the worker is protected even further. Thus, nothing gets in. Thus, unfortunately for the poor worker, nothing likewise get out; no body heat, no sweat. Where does the body heat and sweat go? Even in moderate temperatures like we worked in, say seventy-five degrees F, it’s an awful experience to sealed into a chemically resistant suit, gloves and boots. The boots were knee-high black rubber. We wore two layers of gloves: one of thin blue-colored nitrile, (like surgeons wear) and another thick, heavy-duty latex glove over that. Goodbye sense of touch. Then, to further seal yourself against contaminants, all the openings that exist where your boots and gloves meet the tyvek body suit – there’s no seal there of course – must be duct-taped, literally, together, sealing you in. Great, you’re safe from chemical contaminants. Except now you’ve got new problems. As you’ve eliminated any chance of your body performing a routine task like evaporation of perspiration and the natural release of metabolic heat, you get to experiment with where it’s all going to go, which turns out to be nowhere. Once in a while, with the rivers of sweat pouring down your face – making it impossible to keep your safety glasses clear – and down your back and otherwise directly into your boots – where the hell else would it go? – you change position, causing all the hot damp off-gasses trapped within your suit to blow out the only escape valve in the whole get-up – your neck area – the collar that thank Thor, isn’t duct-taped to your neck and allows at least this brief blast of heat and moisture to escape as if from Old Faithful. At these moments, you give thanks that you’re not in what is called “level A” PPE, where you are hermetically sealed from head to toe – as in a space suit. I’ve been in these get ups too, during training; they’re designed to protect you from even more toxic and dangerous environments and you carry supplied air, like scuba divers. But that’s another story.
Back to the heat and moisture venting out of your sticky, filthy collar. It doesn’t really help. The only relief comes when the vac-truck fills up and drives off, leaving everyone free time to tear off all their shit, (with the help of everybody else of course). You can imagine all the desperate ripping and tearing that went on. Everyone looks, and maybe smells, the same: saturated from neck to toes with their own sweat. Everyone takes their boots off and pours a mini-river of sweat onto the ground, like when a trumpet player opens the spit valve and blows out the collected spit at the end of his horn. If you had a tear (otherwise known as a “vent” yippee) in your suit, maybe you’ve got the added bonus of filth and sludge ground into your saturated shirt or pants – the same ones that you’re now trying to dry off in the breeze as much as possible before the vac-truck returns and you’ve got to suit up again. Did I tell you about lunch? Oh yeah, you eat lunch, whatever your animal-handlers bring in from the outside world, and you enjoy it in the now-familiar environment of your filthy hell, sitting on a concrete block or maybe a tree stump in your sweat-saturated, oil-scum-smudged clothing, that won’t be coming off for another ten hours. All this joy, with the added comfort and industrial beauty provided by the gas fires in the distance. “This could be mars,” you think to yourself, voraciously cramming your Big Mac into your mouth as fast as you can before the truck gets back. My hard-hat is off to all the poor souls I’ve worked with in these conditions, even those that couldn’t hack it, like the boyfriend-girlfriend who quit half-way through. I wouldn’t wish that work on anyone, but somebody has to do it.
In fact, that’s just what one of the guys I worked with said – he was a better man than me. I’m tough when I have to be, and determined, and will do a lot to avoid being labeled a pussy, but in this environment, I was at my limit. We all have one, but it sucks to be forced to reach it. I remember our group had just moved to a new area, having cleaned up the previous spot as best we could. We all stared down at the shoreline, saturated with smelly muck and saw all the tangled vegetation, brambles and tree branches, the beer cans, trash and the steep slope down to the water. The one dead fish we found bumping up against the shore was there. We all seemed to lose heart at the sight. I thought about quitting, I’m telling you. I was feeling at that point like I had done my part and now I was done; this was too much to ask. How were we going to even get down there without breaking our necks and tearing up our suits? Blah, blah. I was like a little baby whining and crying, inside at least. I was on the precipice of becoming a pussy. Anyway, we’re all standing there with this job to do, looking down at the disaster area below us, already sweaty, dirty and tired, and we’re sort of stuck, mentally and physically. Then this guy – I don’t remember his name or I’d be proud to write it here – a big black guy, easy-going and a steady-eddy type says, “Somebody’s gotta do it.” He grabs the hose and starts making his way down towards the oily shore. It almost brings tears to my eyes every time I think about that moment, even now. I figured he lived in the area, somewhere in metro Detroit at least, and that he’d never had any cushy office job like I’d had, let alone any party life away at a fancy college, or your whole life in front of you, money in your pocket and more in your future. He’d probably had more than one shit job like this. Maybe not. But it just seemed like a real honorable and noble thing to do right then, and I guess I didn’t expect it from anybody there, even from myself. Until then, we were just getting by, doing our time, as if we were all in prison. The man’s actions humbled me and I think everyone else there too, and it snapped us all out of it. We’d chosen to be there after all and we were getting paid, such as it was. We organized ourselves, got the vac-truck cranked up, got all our PPE adjusted as best we could, helped with the hose, picked up the trash, all the same shit we’d been doing, rotating the jobs amongst ourselves to keep from giving one guy or girl all the super-shitty work. We cleaned that shit- hole up; we vacuumed the oil and picked up the trash and oil-contaminated stuff and when we were done, it still looked like hell. But a cleaner hell. Here’s to you my co-worker and friend; I hope you’re doing okay all these years later, and may the road rise to meet you….
I finished up my tenure on this clean-up after three days. The last day was a joke: I spent most of my time standing around watching everybody else work. We were in a State Park where oil had made it’s way into the wetlands and the reed beds were blackened with sludge. The “everbody else” by the way, were all Spanish-speaking folks. We “white-guys” were looked upon by the guys in charge as higher up the food chain so to say – I’m not kidding! – early on, I volunteered to get in a boat and was told I didn’t have to do that work! So I just stood and watched as the “lesser” folks (men and women mind you) were required to get in the three-man boats, row out to the reed bads and peform the back-breaking labor of cutting back the contaminated plants, stuffing the gloppy mess into thick 55-gallon plastic bags, and rowing back to shore; over and over again, all fucking day. I just had to help toss the bags into the roll offs that came and went. My heart went out to these people, but I just kept my mouth shut and prayed for the day to end, what the fuck else could I do, make a one-man stand against racial discrimination? The Mexicans themselves would’ve fucking jumped me – they wanted to get paid and were taking all the work they could get – the last thing they wanted was anybody getting in the way of that, discrimination or not.
So this oily muck makes it way into the cattail beds and other marsh plants, and it sticks there, not moving – it won’t ever move now, it will remain, killing the plants, suffocating or poisoning them, or both, until time, or man does something to return the environment back to something resembling what it used to be. In my case, on my third glorious day of remediation team work, I was broken off from my group, which, by the way got kudos from our supervisors, god bless them, for busting our assess and doing good work, going beyond the call and showing some real dedication to the job. I know they communicated to the higher ups, at least the operations manager for MPC that was on site in our area did. So maybe we got reassigned to lighter work, I’ll never know. I was down in some state recreation area that was hit by the oil – it was in the marshes and obviously it was going to make the recreation area a mess for a long time. There were about fifty folks working in this area, mostly Spanish-speaking, and this is where I learned that these folks can work harder and longer than just about anyone else. Small groups of them were instructed to use small boats, with oars, to get out into the cattails and marsh grasses, and cut and pull any plants that were coated with oil out, stuff them into the large, 55-gallon-drum-size clear plastic bags that the industry uses, and then guys like me on the shore, standing around doing nothing, just watching – there wasn’t anything else to do – would chuck these bags into a twenty-five-cubic-yard roll-off (one of those big metal rectangular “boxes” for trash and waste) until it was full and it was changed-out with another one. It’s called a roll-off container because the tractor-trailer that picks them up, unloads them and moves them around does so by attaching a heavy steel cable to one end with a hook, and then the box, which has metal wheels on each corner, is pulled, or “rolled” on or off the truck and into position.
This was a cushy job. Boring as hell, but I got the picture very quickly as to what was going on, racially, when I tried to volunteer, out of guilt, to help with the boat work and was told by a supervisor, quietly, that I was there more to supervise the folks doing that work, they didn’t want me doing that stuff, just the easier loading and standing around work. You don’t have to tell me twice. But it sucked. For me, “It was a hard day of nothing much at all,” to borrow a line from a Replacements song, but for the Spanish-speaking folks, it was a long day of hard-ass work. But at least it ended before dark this time, and I wasn’t a physical wreck, I was getting paid, I had gotten off my unemployed ass for a few days, and I wasn’t complaining. I went home and for a time the small success of getting back into the working world, even as a day laborer, made me feel human again – I felt like I could hold my head up. Work does that for me, and this need to feel like I’m contributing, earning my keep is both something I’m proud of and also something that I’ve learned has been, sometimes, a curse – it has diverted my attention from my own heart. I’ve wanted too badly sometimes to work at anything, just to be working, rather than focusing on my biophycomythology, and it’s cost me.
Mired, Fired & Un-Retired
Those who’ve never been fired may wonder what it’s like. I’ve been fired three times. It’s humiliating, unsulting and usually leaves you feeling both angry or relived at the same time. It’s usually something you see coming well before it happens, but not always. I was fired, or “let-go” as they euphemistically refer to it, for the first time in my mid-twenties, from my assistant manager position at a soon-to-be-defunct store that sold compact discs exclusively. I’d worked there for two years and the business never caught on with the public, but I got a great education in music I’d never have been able to listen for free, the idea, besides selling only compact discs, was that customers could listen to any of the cds in the store. It’s where I developed my taste for jazz. Anyway, as the writing-on-the-wall so to speak approached and the owner tired of losing money, he started looking for ways to cut costs, first by reducing the stock of music we carried (promptly pissing me off – why else have a music store if you’re not going to carry everything?) and then firing me. I’m sure he wasn’t too enamored of my intolerant attitude towards him cutting stock, so maybe it also made him feel good to dump me. It was a futile attempt to keep going – he went out of business within a few months thereafter and in the end, unfortunately, I felt he deserved it. Of note, it was this event that prompted me to pack up and try my fortunes in New York City, but more on that adventure later. For the purposes of this chapter, I ended up getting fired from my job there too. For calling in sick without a doctor’s note – ha! – but I digress.
After NYC, as you’ll later discover, I went through a rebuilding perios, getting back on my feet by living with my parents (at the age of twenty-seven or so) while I went to graduate school at Wayne State U. in Detroit, in their Hazardous Waste Management program. While attending grad school, my brother Kevin got me a job doing light industrial work manufacturing grocery store signage where he had a real job as a designer. After a ‘couple on-and-off years with that dump, I managed to get an offer for some additional pittance per hour from their competitor. I couldn’t get them to match the offer, so I quit and worked for the other folks. I won’t go into the type of work I was doing – it was just vinyl lettering application and sign assembly – the making of future landfill material, just junky, ugly crud that grocery stores plaster all over their stores, wati until it gets to dusty, grimy and dated-looking to be of use, then yank it, toss and buy new shit. Ugh, it makes me pissed just thinking about all the hours I wasted at those places doing bullshit, mindless, useless work for a fucking pittance.
After another two years or so at my first environmental job out of grad school, I finally managed to up my salary to a respectable (at the time) $37K by taking a promotion and transfer within the company. A year went by before I got fired (they usually wait until after the New Year – how nice of them, huh?) as a result of “reduction in force.” Yet again, I was working for a company that was either slowly or quickly going out of business and for whatever reason – probably salary and my lack of field experience, I got the axe. Since I was the only schmuck in the office of six or seven employees that got canned, I took it as a kick in the nuts.
Ultimately though, getting fired comes as a relief. That’s because, unless you’re completely out of it, or ignorant, or stupid, you see it coming from a mile off, and at least a few months away. You know when you’re no longer part of the “A-team” exactly because you used to be A-team, which meant you were tight with the bosses, looked highly upon by the customer, (who still had great expectations) and knew who not to put on the A-team. In the end, you fire yourself. I’m sitting here ranting on and on about why I think it sucks and it’s wrong and it’s not my fault and everybody else is an asshole, but in truth, it’s all my fault. I see the car wreck coming and I typically steer towards it with my foot on the gas.
As such, the last vignette for my last career involved what had become an extremely rare event: a phone call from my boss. We started out great. All good energy, accomplishments, dedication and like-minded in-it-to-win-it visions of greatness. At least it seemed that way to me. Before actually getting the job down in Texas I’d only been moonlighting at it for the couple weeks that they needed help starting up the new account. We all knew that the way these things worked was that other accounts did their political best to delicately cherry-pick some “volunteers” from existing accounts elsewhere in the country, get them ensconced in the new location, contributing, feeling jazzed and engaged, then so wrapped-around-the-axle that they’ve established their own positions or filled ones that were pending and then bing-bang-boom, you’re out of your old job and officially transferred to the new one. That’s exactly what my expectations were for this job – I wanted the hell out of my dull and inappropriate situation in Michigan. I was sick to death of my boss, my tasks, and the relentlessly idiotic bullshit from the customer, and looking to scram any way I could whilst remaining with the company.
I too the opportunity in the Gulf Coast to immediately ingratiate myself, to make the job permanent. I excelled and it was great because I didn’t have to spend all my time doing the health & safety crap that I fucking HATED. Health & Saftey is a job for morons. You’re a paid turd with an office. Nobody gives a shit about health & safety, least of all whomever you work for. They want the position filled and then they don’t want to ever hear from you again. Gilded cage? Right. The opportunity, as told to me, was that within a ‘couple years (their words), I was going to be earning over $100K a year. Looking at that amount now, knowing the level of compromise it was going to take to tolerate towing the line so to speak, I’d never have taken the bait. But by then I was well into transforming myself into a different person: a money-chasing, career-obsessed, bored-out-of-his-mind-and-looking-for-anything slave to the dollar. I’d never felt like I got paid what I deserved and here I was finally figuring out the system and beating it. Or so I thought. One-hundred-thousand dollars a year isn’t much at all – it’s selling out cheap when you’ve sold your soul to the devil. My unrestrained ambition had yet to become my total undoing but the stage, as soon as I took that first flight down to Houston, was set. The “fever” had just begun to overcome me, I would soon slip into a perilously seductive form of madness – enantiodromia – but for now the future was still a bright, shiny joy.
I got involved in everything – it was just me and the boss, starting everything up from scratch, we were the go-to for everything. It was, as they say, a time of asses and elbows. From setting up new office space to ordering new service vehicles; from training sessions and introductory meetings with the new customer, to sight tours, employee interviews, meetings with the labor union leaders, business lunches, business dinners and nights at the bar talking about it all over company-paid tequila, whiskey and Mexican food. I even took the occasional after-work call from my boss to hash this or that detail out before morning. I was in-it-to-win-it, totally immersed, engaged, hooked and up to my neck in everyting I thought I wanted. I was finally getting somewhere. That I couldn’t get through a night’s sleep without waking up with the sweats, or that I had started having what I know now to be anxiety attacks – overwhelmed by consuming boughts of panic – and suddenly convinced I couldn’t do this, that I wasn’t qualified, that I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, that everyone was going to catch on to the fact that I was incompetent, a fucking fake; that I was in over my head and I was going to lose this job, didn’t seem to bother me enough to make me think twice about going for it. I plowed through, I fucking forged ahead. I was often a nervous wreck, but I held it in; I was stressed out like I’d never been in my fucking life, but I was also jazzed and amped to finally be a part of something that seemed worthy of doing and that might provide rewards commensurate with my efforts. I was getting recognized, rising above the corporate wasteland of nobodies and I was directly connected to the top – I was high-profile – who knew how far I’d go? Yeah, Christ, it’s obnoxious, isn’t it? My wife had to endure the nut-case that I was becoming, but she must have figured I’d snap out of it. Besides, she’s game for a challenge, so she arranged to keep her job and work from home – something her company wouldn’t allow the first time I had a job opportunity out-of-state. Now, for whatever reason, things had changed (she’s always been well-regarded there – maybe they figured she deserved it) and we were free to move. Everything was working out in our favor.
A few weeks of back-n-forth from Texas to Michigan with me playing the game that the Texas gig was temporary when I’d actually already committed to it heart and mind, passed in a blur of activity. Things burned along at the new account, and I got in tighter with my boss to the point where he eventually pulled some strings to provide me with a job offer which included one of the two corporate relocation packages allotted to the account. I’d done it. My hard work and performance under fire had paid off. This was the offer: another five grand or so to my salary and the full corporate relo which, as my boss told me, was worth about $20K after all the moving services, real estate fees and assistance were totaled up. I don’t mind telling you that I considered it a worthy testament to my skills, dedication and performance, which I felt were at long last finally being recognized. Meanwhile the “fever” was peaking and I was suffering the associated delusions of grandeur. Long story short, I took the package, took the job (as undefined as it was in my mind), we got the house sold within two weeks at a fair price (given the lousy market), they packed up our stuff, I bought an almost completed new house, we drove down to a company-paid nice hotel room overlooking the Clear Lake area, near NASA, waited the couple weeks for the house to be completed, and moved in January 2009. I remember we spent our first night together (we hadn’t gone back home to pick up our dog yet) on a blanket on the floor of our brand new Friendswood, Texas family room, in front of our natural gas fireplace. We were excited and scared and couldn’t believe how much had changed in our lives so quickly, but we were happy too. At least I was.
The job “officially” started, and it was from here on, looking back, that things started to slide, but I couldn’t see it yet; it all still seemed like a success story to me. I’ll keep it short: there was physical and mental stress of which I’d never experienced – night sweats, muscle-spasms in my guts, a personality change that Angie noticed but I didn’t, and an unconsummated emotional relationship with another woman from work. I suppose the beginning of the end was when I was forced to hire an assistant whom I didn’t think was qualified. He was a charismatic ex-high-school-footballer who used to sell used cars and had a “degree” in H&S from an unaccredited school (I looked it up). A few years older then me, he was personable and a people person to a degree that I mistrusted. But when I declined the suggestion to hire him, I found my authority to be easily uspurped by the customer, who for some reason had made it a point to have may company hire this guy. Things began to go down hill from there and picked up speed as we went along. Determined as I was to creatd the job I wanted – as an operations manager – I found myself with less and less freedom to move and do things as we filled in more and more positions on the account. To my chagrain, I was being forced back into the senior health & safety position. The customer was a dumb-fuck bunch of ignorant and arrogant assholes – such an acute combination of lack of education, experience and training I’d never seen before and hope to never see again. I soured on the whole situation quickly, as is my nature as soon as I smell a rat and, as is also my nature, I began to let my displeasure become known. I was to learn later that most of the ninety-person staff, wanted to stick with me – some even went to the customer and asked to have me put in charge. As much as I felt honored by this and proud to be recognized as the true leader, I also couldn’t avoid feeling like it was tbe kiss-of-death.
What followed, predictably, as my boss “circled his wagons” (as my other boss related it to me before he also abandoned me – one of the things I always hated about my jobs was the fact of multiple bosses) was the calculated implementation of my demise. I became known as “the problem.” These were literally the words I heard, and probably came from the moronic boob of a customer – a completely egocentric and mind-fucked asshole who swallowed some crazy pill some years before and was a hopelessly ignorant corporate goon. He wasn’t even from the south – he was from fucking Chicago – yet he seemed to consider himself Ceasar. He was openly proud of having been given the responsibility of stepping in and firing just about everybody he fucking met,whether one of his own employees or demanding that JCI get rid of one of our own. I hated the fucker and as is my wont, I made no bones about challenging the ass on grounds of his being a fucking moron. Actually, I think I held back quite decorously, but this fucker needed his wings clipped. Too bad I didn’t have the authority to do it myself. This fuck was actually scared shitless (always the fear-aggression in these weak-hearted pansies) of being attacked while at work ostensibly because he’d fired so many people in so short an amount of time that he fucking feared for his life. I’m not kidding: this guy, when he attended any workplace picnic or other large gathering on site, had a fucking armed body guard with him. Total asshole. Anway, there was no place to run; gloriously supportive employees behind me, cowardly leadership in front of me: hopeless.
Anyway, I said I’d keep this short. One day I was point blank accused by the customer (by some asshole who didn’t even know me) of not doing my job and needless to say it fucking pissed me off. It was here that my boss abandoned me and so I abandoned him: I walked out. I asked for a week’s worth of vacation days and my boss gave it to me (they were my fucking days, what could he do, deny me?) but when I came back, it was already over. Burnt toast. My boss was pissed. He became a total dick. This was what really did me in and my demise, which I expected to occur at any time, occurred after five months. Relegation to a distant, grungy, dirty, dark office shared with my only employee – banishment in effect, to the ships hold with the sailors, who were still behind me and more so since I was now even closer to them. I began looking for another job, going balls out and even blowing $5K on a career search firm (a desperately dumb move) only to finally get the phone call one day to come up and talk to the boss. He hadn’t called me in months, so I immediately knew it was the end. I told my employee that I thought it was it, he naturally just raised his eyebrows and maybe he already knew, but I went in, saw the HR Director sitting there with the boss, and that was that: “We’re letting you go.”
Of note, my boss actually had the schmucky nerve to try to go on about me not being a good fit, that it was clear I didn’t want to do the job I was hired to do, blah, blah fucking blah. I cut him off by looking at the HR bitch and saying “What do I do?” Turn in your computer, phone, blah, blah fucking blah. I dropped all my gadgets on the desk, went to shake hands with a couple of my best technician buddies, told them I’m gone, turned in my computer and the boss walked me out. On the way to the security gate, he said “I’m sorry it had to be this way.” I remember thinking “Well, asshole, it doesn’t have to be this way, but you’re a fucking coward.” But I said nothing. I didn’t know what else to do besides take it like a man. I offered my hand shake, which to this day I’m glad I did, and we shook. I like to think that my boss might have had a momentary second thought about the whole thing, but I’ll never know. I turned and walked out; out of the refinery and out of the last real career I ever had. I told my now ex-employee, who wanted to know what to do with the rest of the stuff in my office, to throw it all out. Everything. Files, personal planner, even a picture of me and my wife at the company Xmas party (which one of the really cool HVAC techs tried to return to me but we were out of town – thanks Harrington B. – you’re rock solid my friend!). If they could’ve burned it instead of land-filling it, I would have done that. I told myself that was the last time, the very fucking last time, I ever let another asshole decide my fucking fate.
Speaking of the technicians – what an incredibly awesome bunch of folks they were. If they weren’t why I took the job, they were definitely why I stayed. And why I came back after I walked out. They were in the trenches of that shit-ass hell-hole of a refinery and they cranked the wrenches and put up with the lunatic customers day after fucking day, enduring no end of ludicrous and lunatic madness. Let’s just say that in this place, it could take, literally, two guys two days to change a fucking light bulb. It wasn’t the techs. It was the absolutely fucked up work permitting process these nut-cases had set up to appease OSHA who was breathing down their necks, deservedly, since they’d recently killed seventeen innocent contractors in one explosion in 2005 and were on a schedule of killing at least one employee per year ever since then. The work permit alone was worth quitting that shithole for. I never did figure the fucking thing out. Fve-plus legal-sized, multi-colored pageas of bureaucratic smoke-and-mirrors bullshit procedural absurdity that didn’t help anybody do anything, let alone do it safely.
I could go on and on and on about that shit hole refinery, the great employees we had, the good times and heart-rending terrible times. I gave that job everything I had and it turned out to be far too much. I cost me in ways I’m still trying to figure out, assimilate and otherwise recover from. It cost Angie too. The whole experience almost cost us our marriage. I try not to be bitter.
Angie was always more relieved than me whenever I got fired. She inevitably said she always wished it would’ve happened sooner so I’d be less miserable. But I’m a knuckle-headed idealist and don’t like to quit on something, I really don’t, I want to change it, fix it, make it better. But that’s not what working for someone else is about. It’s been pounded into me. I get it now. I’ve learned my lesson. My dreams have nothing to do with being in the service of someone else’s dreams. It’s as much my fault as anyone else’s, I know. My counselor told me once: “You need to be in charge.” Right on. Besides, as Maynard Davies said in his book Adventures of a Bacon Curer, after he’d been let go from his part-time job at a large grocery store:
“That was it and I realized I was becoming unemployable and the only thing I could do was to work for myself. I thought to my self: I will set my own course with the stars and if it’s wrong, it’s wrong, and if it’s right, I will have the rewards. I decided from that day on I would work for myself and it was a good decision.
What happens to all the time one spends schmucking along in the service of someone else, ignoring your own dreams? All those years add up, and you would think they’d add up to something but really, they don’t. Jack Canfield does a good job of pointing out that everything you’ve done up until now has brought you to where you are, to this point in your life, for better or for worse, and taking 100% responsibility for this is the first step to reconciling with your past and accepting it. You accept that it’s chock full of bad things, disappointments, negatives, etc. but that in the end, you made the decisions, you accepted the decisions or opinions of others, you took the job, you married the girl, you bought the car, you tried to please your parents, you didn’t get an education, you got the wrong education – it all comes back to you, as it should, as it has to. As much as people and circumstances influence you, sometimes forcefully and almost beyond your ability to question them, you always had a choice to make and the opportunity to do something else was always there. What do you want to have? What do you want to do? Who do you want to be? If only I’d not been betraying my heart for so many years; I may have avoided the pain of so many hurtful fiascos.
I’m always trying to make up for lost time. As a person who naturally spends a lot of time projecting the future, my ambitions, desires, plans, accomplishments, etc. can run away with me, consuming too much of my mental energy so that I’m not spending enough mental time in the here and now. The symptoms, I’ve learned, are irritability, frustration, anxiety, mild depression, feelings of being stuck, held back, of wasting time, of being in the wrong place and time. Having vision and commitment to a better future, having ambition, seeing how things could be or should be can be a talent, and I know I’ve expressed it as such, but there’s nothing healthy about this “ability” (strength, talent, whatever) when you find yourself being an asshole – to others or to yourself. When I’m in this “fever-of-the-future,” I’ve stopped listening to my heart and I’ve gone back to my old habits of letting my mind rationalize itself too far into the future and right out of the present. You can really lock yourself up by coddling the future, by living too much in it – it’s as good of a “brake” on your plans as any bad “break” or false start can be. Back when I was struggling to get by in NYC, in the early nineties (see The Manhattan Dragon), I wrote some poetry and I’ve remembered this line: “…the past piling up out in front where your future should be.”
That’s what happens to me at least, when I’m obsessing about the future – I get this ironic twist of mental energy back into the morass of the past, re-experiencing all the failures, the disappointments, the mistakes (the good things never seem to make an appearance when one is in this frame of mind) and I get caught up in accusing myself, criticizing myself, doubting myself – it’s truly frustrating and it feeds on itself, these negative thoughts just seem to create more negative thoughts – it’s a death spiral of negativity. For me, the biggest negative is the waste of time that living in the future and the past can be.
Anything can function as a biophycomythological guide. It helps to remember that your guide or guides (you can certainly have more than one at a time) are not chosen through reason – your mind isn’t in charge of these decisions. The people, places and things that are your guides are chosen by your heart. If it helps to think, like I often do, of your heart as a being unto itself, as if it had its own mind, even its own body, then do that. It’s my own intuitive version of the Asian concept of “heart-mind” I suppose; in the midst of my most intense biophycomythological struggles I envision my heart as a cartoonish being, with eyes, arms, legs, etc. – like some stop-motion, clay-mation animated figure. It sounds “silly” to admit this but again, “silly” is just something that comes from what we think others will think. I’m o.k. with expressing it here, in this book, because it might help somebody.
The point is that your heart, in whatever form you perceive it, is legitimate; your heart, heart-mind, soul, true-self, or whatever you feel comfortable calling it is always “right.” You might, however, have difficulty accepting everything you find revealed there. You can betray your heart and it can betray you when you’re not communicating (see Surrender to Adventure for more on how you and your heart can betray each other). Your guides are your guides whether you choose to accept them or not. If you’d prefer to be guided by someone or something else, then you’ve got some work to do to get past the schism that you’re creating for yourself. How? Trial and error, my friend. Listen to yourself. This goes back to Joseph Campbell’s analogy of entering the forest at a point of your own choosing, at the darkest point; at the point of your own choosing, and if you see a path, it’s someone else’s path. You’re not looking for “paths” – those are routes already travelled by other people – they’re what other people create whilst following their own biophycomythological journeys – they only serve to show you where not to go. How do you know when you’re listening to your heart and not your rationalizations, or something else? You feel it. How do you recognize it? How do you know what to look for in yourself? If you’re at this point, which may seem like no point at all, and a frustrating road-that-leads-nowhere, and you feel like you’re too lost to be found, and how maybe how could you get so fucked up as to not be able to recognize what your heart is telling you, join the crowd. I’m there. You can get so turned around following the wrong dreams, someone else’s paths, year after year, decade after decade, that you can get pretty good at living pretty badly, out of step with yourself; in a state of biophycomythological schism.
It’s okay that you’re beginning at the beginning like this, despite how frustrating it may seem. It takes self-compassion to accept what’s already happened, the decisioins you’ve made, the mistakes and missteps that have landed you where you are. But taking 100% responsibility for all that is, as Canfield suggests, the first good thing to be doing. The following actions have helped me move along:
- Read one or all of the books I’ve talked about in this book – there’s much fantastic advice available from the folks who’ve been through some version f this before.
- When you find a book you like, something that you connect with, read it again. I read Jack Canfield’s book three times, and there are days I feel like doing it again. For me, it often takes that many reiterations to begin finding ways of implementing the ideas into my life.
- Eat wholesome food regularly, on a schedule: breakfast, lunch and dinner at least. If this sounds “silly” and ridiculously obvious then good, I hope you’re already doing it. Otherwise, I’ll bet you can ask just about any doctor why you need to eat properly to be able to think properly and ultimately to get the energy you need for personal transformation. Your body, of which your mind is an electrochemical part, requires good fuel at least several times each day in order to function at its best. I didn’t say “function,” I said “function at its best.” Big difference. Go ahead, disagree with me – skip breakfast, eat a huge lunch of deep-fried food every Monday through Friday at work, or skip lunch entirely, eat dinner early one day, then late the next, usually over the kitchen sink, without even sitting down, or at the bar. See how you feel.
- Get physical exercise. You can’t ignore this one either. Three to four times a week, do something physically enjoyable, but challenging – something that gets you breathing more deeply, your blood pumping more quickly, maybe even has you breaking a sweat. Begin by just getting off your ass and getting moving. Sex counts but it’s not enough. I won’t elaborate on the benefits and methods of physical activity – all the information is out there. I like to walk and hike. You’ll feel be tired, but as they say it’ll be “a good kind of tired.” You’ll feel rested and in need of rest at the same time. Food will taste better. Beer too. I’m not a health-nut, I just exercise for the balance it helps bring to my life: my anxieties don’t seem so intense, my worries tend to shrink to their proper size, my plans seem more doable, etc. Plus, it helps keep your weight down while you eat more of what you want to eat.
- Do Yoga. Any of the so-called “schools” of yoga that contain mind and body exercises with a goal of attaining well-being will help you change and grow. I enjoy Kundalini and Hatha and I’d probably like other versions too, but I’m not about getting obsessed by this stuff either. Yoga has this stigma, at least at the time I’m writing this, of being mostly mystical bullshit, full of ridiculous-looking poses and spiritual nonsense. Or that it’s just for women. I had this viewpoint. Dead wrong. It’s physical and mental exercise that we all need to do for our well-being. I don’t care if you don’t call it yoga, whatever. Just mindfully stretch your muscles, mindfully exercise your body, and (here’s a key) mindfully be mindful. Being mindful just means paying attention to your body and your thoughts (and not allowing yourself to be carried away by your thoughts) – staying focused on a task, like mowing the lawn for example, and not drifting off into the past or the future – it’s about simply being present. Yoga has helped a lot of people over its almost three-thousand-year history so chances are, it will help you too. You’ll be surprised how much time you spend not being in the moment. Animals live in the moment, and it’s an advantage they have over us.
- Spend more time doing what you want to do and less time doing what you don’t want to do. This is an idea, simple as it sounds, that I borrowed from Jack Canfield’s book. For some reason, too many of us grow up essentially trying to justify living in opposition to this concept. We create lives all about doing what we ought to do, should do, or avoiding what we feel we ought not do or shouldn’t do. Who says? Practice this a little and then consider spending one whole day – twenty-four hours – doing it. Most of us need practice doing what it is we want to do and reaping the benefits of it.
- Develop your personal vision-of-greatness – what you want to have, what you want to do and who you want to be – and record it in some way that feels appropriate to you. Write it down. Make a vision board with photos that you’ve cut from magazines. Draw your vision board using your own illustrations. Combine all or some of these things. Get used to expressing yourself in this way, at least for this task. You might have to try a couple things. For example, I like the visual aspect of the vision board and I have illustrations, pictures, clip art, etc. along with text that I print out from a computer and also that I hand write. My wife doesn’t connect with the vision-board and finds a simple list that she can keep close at hand to be more her style. The point of this is to start making some things concrete, to have something to reference when you lose focus or become ungrounded or troubled by doubt. Otherwise, our thoughts, dreams, visions, desires, goals, etc. tend to “swim around” in our mind, consuming energy and space, becoming larger and more complex than they actually are. Get your mental files organized by doing a vision-of-greatness. It will lighten your load and you’ll begin to find the time and space to work on actualizing it.
The effort to make these actions part of your life gets easier as you go along, as you practice. You’ll indeed find yourself listening to your heart. There’s no trick to this and it doesn’t ever completely click into place – letting go of the idea of getting your life exactly right is part of this. Your true guides will be revealed to you; your true refuges. You’ll tune into what works for you without judging yourself. You’ll become more intuitive. Jack Canfield even suggests faking it if you have to, refereeing to “living as if” and I whole heartedly support this – I’ve done it, it works. Sometimes it’s all you’ve got to work with, until you get a foothold into you own biophycomythology. There’s something about the way the mind and body work together, in concert with the rest of the world that requires us to set these expectations or models for ourselves that we then strive to be or to attain.
Repeating a lot of the biophycomythology initially concerned
me – writing this book sometimes makes me think that I need to keep moving,
keep talking about new things, but that’s bullshit. We all know the benefits of
repetition – the necessity of repetition; of practice. Talent and ideas benefit
from and become strengths only through the practice of them, which involves a
lot of repetition. They say good ideas
are worth repeating and I believe some of these well-worn “clichés” are
useful. Biophycomythology isn’t dime-store psychology, half-baked new-age
philosophical dreaminess, commercially-driven self-help slop; it’s taking
what’s good about all these fields of human thought – philosophy, psychology,
personal mythology and spirituality, the contemplative traditions, and blending
them into a useful personal system.
 Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss, (Novato: New World Library, 2004), 113.
 F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, (New York: Scribner, 2004 ), 99.
 Ibid., 176.
 The Replacements, Tim, “Left of the Dial,” Sire Records, 9 25330-2, New York: 1985.
 Widipedia.org, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” 11.7.2014.
 Samuel Beckett biography – Citation?
 Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, xvi.
 Ibid., xxvi.
 Ibid., xxiv.
 Ibid., 86.
 Jack Canfield, The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 17.
 Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion, (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991) p.15.
 Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, 112.
 Ibid., 88.
 Ibid., xxiv.
 Ibid., 89.
 Ibid., 68.
 Ibid., 70.
 Ibid., 188.
 Ibid., 90.
 Hugh MacLeod, Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity Portfolio, (New York: 2009), 121.
 Maynard Davies, Adventures of a Bacon Curer, (Shropehire: Merlin Unwin Books LTD, 2003), 143.