Risk Management, Veritelos & the Wisdom of the Oracle

Blog

Tuesday, May 5, 2020. I’m interviewing for another part-time job at the home improvement today: sales associate, plumbing. Shift? I don’t know except that it’s not overnight and that’s all that matters. Angie says this shift is killing her, too, because she can’t sleep well. And she describes my predicament exactly: it’s only twenty hours but the recovery time is making it seem like a full time job. Right on. I’ve become almost as consumed by this little warehouse job as by any damn job and none of it is good: I’m not editing, I’m barely reading, I’m doing too much ranting instead of writing in the DOP and I’m physically and mentally exhausted. And I’m crappy at the damn job – I spent thirty minutes last night restocking half a lumber order that I thought was laying around waiting to be shelved. I could’ve asked but it never occurred to me, there was nothing to indicate the stuff had been picked for a customer, seeing as the cart was at the back of the store, in an aisle, with no paperwork, not even a strip of tape with “Customer Order, Don’t Restock” or what have you stuck to it. And asking really isn’t the culture there, either – we all just go about our business, more or less keeping to ourselves and trying to stay busy until quitting time. But then the night shift inevitably attracts the loners, misfits and malcontents. So to some extent I fit right in.

But there’s not an employment scenario on Earth that would be a good fit for me. I’ve proven this. So that there I am doing my best to one-hundred percent engage in spite of myself, in spite of knowing the job rather expects the opposite and that in the end there’s no room for anyone who seeks to change it, fix it and make it better. That is to say, things are the way they are because the folks working there want it that way or, if they don’t, they don’t want to rock any boats. I get it. The pay doesn’t justify devoting yourself to engaging the hassles. No job pays enough, in the end. It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn but I’ve assimilated enough of it – it will remain counter to my intuition, so be it – to fake it and keeping a job at part time helps a lot. Usually. Except in this case.

Otherwise, besides enduring a continually disrupted body and mind because of this crazy shift, I expect to eventually but heads with leadership over how things are done. (1) The store as I see it is a fucking mess: variously dirty, perpetually disheveled, with slipshod inventory control, a weirdly indifferent vibe and, as usual, dubious compliance with safety protocols. And I don’t mean anything to do with the bullshit virus, screw that crap. Rather, there’s a cavalier attitude, again as usual, to the operation of the mechanical material movement equipment:

  1. A little group of long timers tend to drive the forks trucks recklessly. A full timer told me last night that the manager, the guy listed as my boss enjoys driving the fork truck so fast over the loading ramp attached to the delivery truck that the damn vehicle gets airborne! Frankly, given the weight and limited speed of the things (I’ve spent some time operating them myself) I find it hard to imagine that you can even do such a thing. Meanwhile, he supposedly makes a habit of being reckless in this way to the point where he’s routinely allowing boxes of product to topple onto the floor and break open. Not only can you hurt somebody this way but you risk damaging product and if nothing else, wasting people’s time (and the company’s money) having to clean up the mess.
  2. The narrow aisle fork truck is incompatible with the inevitably uneven warehouse floor – the concrete slabs, if they were level in the beginning, have variously shifted over time, understandably, so that this machine with its low-riding profile and smooth, hard wheels routinely gets stuck, drive wheel spinning, with a pallet of goods suspended twenty feet overhead, half on the storage rack and half off and heaven knows I’ve had to go for help twice already because one of the operators was in dire straits with a load suspended while stuck in the figurative mud.
  3. The so-called picker – a narrow-profile, combination manlift and unpalletized product hoist in which an operator, secured by a retractable lanyard to an overhead rail, makes his way down the aisles and overstocks, a.k.a. “flies” product onto the high racking. There’s at least one experienced guy who I’ve watched essentially exit the unit at twenty feet in the air, near the ceiling of the warehouse and stand on the product boxes to further stack overstock. “You’re tied off,” he says, “so what could happen?” Besides tipping the damn machine over and toppling onto the concrete from twenty feet up, right? And it turns out this guy got hurt early last night, before my shift, helping to unload the trailer: one of the cavalier fork truck drivers who likes to speed around almost ran over the guy’s leg, instead merely scraping his heel badly enough that he yelled and then was afraid to take his sock off to look at the damage. Did he go to the clinic? Was it a lost time accident? Well, the dude wasn’t on shift when I got there, so I’m thinking, yes. And he’s lucky.

Anyway, I’ve always endured this intuitive risk analysis bug and frankly I wish I didn’t have it. Because it does me no good. I’ve learned, by way of working in the field (previous DOP volumes describe my career history) that people are either (1) neurotically obsessed with safety (see the Covid craziness) as a control mechanism to foist upon their coworkers, or (2) categorically indifferent to risk. And the suggestion that it requires an emotionally impactful occurrence – namely, an injury to oneself or a significant other, be it friend or family – to change anyone’s perspective let alone behavior in terms of risk management is true. Otherwise, there’s no changing people. So that having a career as a so-called H&S manager, for example, is appropriate only for folks that correspondingly enjoy being a roadblocking, rule-obsessed, micromanager type or they make a career out of looking the other way.

Meanwhile, I remain in between these extremes; in possession, somehow, of an internal risk meter of sorts that presents the scenario within a reasonable perspective of its hazard. And ticky-tack safety shit like wearing safety glasses or helmets everywhere merely on principle (see a typical construction site) or donning face masks on behalf of Covid is just the kind of thing that diminishes any properly attention to truly high-risk, high-consequence activities. So that working at BP in Texas City was a goddamn nightmare of ridiculous, ludicrous inefficiencies – I’ll never forget the five-page work permit required for literally anything and everything – operating alongside a subculture of confusion, misinterpretation and inevitable resistance to the restrictions. That said, I was fortunate enough during my tenure in the H&S field to never endure a recordable injury on my watch. Let alone a serious injury. And I’m convinced it would’ve been my last day on the job because injuries and gore and hospitals are not my thing. There’s a job for everybody and that is not mine. In the end, then, I wouldn’t recommend the H&S field to anyone unless you enjoy being a babysitter, a nurse, a roadblock to progress and a cop. Or all of it combined.

What am I saying? Just that it’s already indeed time for me to move on, perhaps to this day shift plumbing associate gig, just to get some additional distance from the night shift indifference. And then of course I’ll run smack into its opposite what with the virus silliness, I know – it’ll all go too far in the other direction. Argh, it’s impossible, me on the job, and it always will be. I just need to hold to my dream, to furthering Time Crime, to my writing and scholarship, to home cooking, walking, music appreciation, to my other vocations, to the things I’m good at. Collect my money and let the rest go.

How I long, then, to properly engage my proper work. How I long to write and earn and experience my right livelihood. How I long to individuate myself in this way. I never could have comprehended how impossibly difficult it seems to be to realize one’s dreams. It’s so tempting to give up. And then it’s impossible to give because why else would I get up in the morning than to pursue my vision and the experience of being properly alive, of individuation? Time. Pressure. The advice to start as early as you can with your entrepreneurial strategies is priceless: it takes so long to overcome the trials and inevitable mistakes and failures, the vanishing points. I believe that I can indeed get to where I want to be but I’m not convinced I’ll live long enough with enough money behind me to overcome the resistances. Despite my oracle. I have that and oftentimes it seems like all I have. Hexagram 10. Treading. I’ll transcribe my paraphrased version from the famous Wilhelm/Baynes/Bollingen version of the I Ching (and skip the footnote) yet again. My question: Will TIME CRIME be published to success in my lifetime?

Treading upon the tail of the tiger. It does not bite the man. Success. Strong, central and correct, he conducts himself (treads) into the place of the ruler and remains without blame, uncontested. His light shines bright. Inner strength with outward mindfulness leads to good fortune.

To ask “When?” is to further (and ungraciously) tempt fate. I’m to accept this as sufficient. Why I insist upon doubting things merely has to do with my lack of faith in my own faith, as it were. We have to believe in something, something inherently mythological. Mysticism, spirituality, religion, the devoted reader will eventually become familiar with my usages of the terms. Know for now that for me, mythology encompasses all these things, all the contemplative traditions, all the philosophies, all the so-called belief systems ancient and modern. It’s all a version of mythology in the classic or philologically romantic sense of the word: namely, a true fiction. In both personal and cultural terms. And a mythology, personal or cultural, just as J.C. suggests, is either functional or dysfunctional within the context of its four functions: (1) A source of awe, (2) a cosmology that supports that awe, (3) a sociology that provides for ethics and cultural mores, and (4) a pedagogical, supporting psychology. In specifically personal terms, one’s mythological functionality has to do with veritelic[1] authenticity, with being who you are in the most wholehearted, heart-minded (see Shinto, for example) terms possible. And here I’ve gone off yet again, dear reader, with attempting to express my vision and my life’s work.


[1] “Veritelos” is my neologism for one’s true nature.

DOP1 2012 VINTAGE POST:

The End of the Beginning

Sunday, March 04, 2012. I feel as if I’m outside of myself in some weird way. While at the gym, Angie noticed that a treadmill had a television screen showing an episode of the well-known Bill Moyers interviews with Joseph Campbell – The Power of Myth series. What are the odds? Is it an omen? I think so because being as fucked up as I am right now – not in schism so much as off-center – it’s timely. Especially since it was such a brief snippet too – somebody came along after about ten minutes, hopped on the treadmill and changed the channel (of course). I should have got on it myself I guess. I just feel out of sorts. Moyers and Campbell were at the point in the interview of talking about the very beginning of the hero journey, showing movie clips from Star Wars, scenes in the cantina and in the garbage compactor. The cantina according to Campbell was an example of the transition from the hero’s former world to the new world of adventure – he pointed out that there’s often this jumping off point where one is first exposed to folks and things from the world of adventure outside the experience of the hero; they can sometimes be interpreted as threshold guardians. In any case, you’re now hanging out with folks who’ve had their own journeys and come back – they’ve experienced being beyond the threshold of normal existence and they may appear like grizzled sea captains or warriors – experienced adventurers. Some may be considered masters of the two worlds. It’s like a warm-up phase for the new hero to see that that world is real and to feel some of the anxiety and energy of what might be in store. It also reminds the hero I think that his or her adventure, while it’s unique, is not happening in a vacuum but amongst the adventures of many other “heros.” People are coming and going all the time in the universe, in the world-of-action, playing out their own myths. It’s just that now, instead of remaining in your previous world, you’ve chosen to answer the call and you’ve placed yourself among these people (or creatures); it’s new, unknown, scary and exciting. It’s like going on the most important, most hazardous long-distance trip of your life: you don’t know if you’ll be coming back. You aren’t really even sure that you want to go, especially when you’re confronted with the reality of these adventurers – can you and indeed do you want to, be like them, changed as they are forever from the trials of their experience?

This snippet of Campbell couldn’t have been more apropos because while I’ve been feeling lost again and unable to go back the way I’ve come – too far into the woods, too far out to sea – I also have the sensation of being both at the beginning and the end of something. I can’t seem to find my place within my own adventure. I can’t tell whether I’m coming or going – am I returning or leaving? Have I never left? Have I mistakenly been on someone else’s path? There’s some sense too, of having made a mistake. Campbell went on to talk about an Iroquois myth that involved the refusal of the call scenario – an Indian girl was refusing all suitors and thus angering her mother, (similar to the situation in the Arabian Nights story that Campbell relates in The Hero With a Thousand Faces.)[1] Mythic imagery and metaphor abounds in this story of course: when the heroine and her mother enter the forest to gather fire wood, a magical darkness descends, then a magical “suitor” appears and asks for the girl’s hand in marriage – this is the level of experience, the plane of adventure that the girl has been waiting for – the opportunity to respond to the deeper, higher, richer need, the “waiting void within” her.[2] That’s what the appearance of this ideal suitor represents. So, the heroine goes for it: the suitor is accepted and she’s taken into her new husband’s world. Time passes, strange things happen – events that cause her to question her new situation and to venture out beyond her new wigwam. Something’s not quite right in her new world and in fact when she encounters seven snakes basking on rocks in the sunshine, she has the uncomfortable sensation of wanting to return home – to go back to her old life and people. I really identify with the woman’s perception of things not being right at this point, even though she’s accepted the adventure and seems well into it – there’s something going wrong or unresolved or changing – she’s having second thoughts. It’s like the indication of an impending fiasco, as if she’s made a mistake (I’m of course describing myself now) but the signals aren’t by any means clear. In the story, it’s now time for the appearance of the magical “helper,” this time in the form of a curious, diminutive old man with a crazy-looking, red-colored, mask-like face. He tells her that she has actually married a magician or spirit of some type and that he’s a shape-changer that has been appearing as a snake sometimes, along with his six or seven brothers – they’re the snakes lying there in the sun and their hearts are not within their bodies – the hearts of these beings are kept in a bag in the wigwam. The woman is inspired by the magic helper, for whatever reason, to take the bag of hearts and flee – she does and is pursued by the snakes who want their hearts and she ends up in the water somehow, struggling to keep from drowning (it’s strange and odd how the American Indian stories often seem to contain great leaps of logic in terms of time, space and continuity of story). Anyway, here she is struggling in the water, which Campbell tells us is typically representing the unconscious in psychological terms – you descend into the belly of the whale, the Star Wars garbage compactor, what have you, and for this Indian woman it’s simply a body of water – you have to emerge from this, you have to save yourself from possibly inescapable death. Jonah is expelled from the whale’s belly onto the beach, Luke Skywalker and his friends are saved from the garbage compactor by R2D2 shutting it down, and this Indian adventuress is offered help from the water-threat by this magical, red-faced man. That’s all I know about the story and I’m curious to know the outcome.

The point of my rambling is that when you answer the call to adventure, you necessarily face trials that challenge your will to continue and you may want to go back, but you can’t – you’re too far into the woods, too far out to sea, etc. In the myths, the way is forward. I feel like I’ve somehow lost the heart to continue, as I’ve said. It’s as if I’m stuck, not making any progress, and at risk of losing myself – my unconscious and all the demons and dragons and strange powers down there are threatening to drag me under. It’s like when the marriage counselor reminded me of the myth of the genie-in-the-bottle, explaining that when the genie grants your wish, you get everything else that comes with it. So here I am, like this Indian woman in the midst of her adventure, one that started out well, but is now looking like trouble….

I have the additional sensation of having been cut off from myself, possibly from my bliss. There’s no positive energy, no light to go towards, no reliable, trustworthy guides. I’m suspicious of my guides now, doubting everything again and it’s making everything I had faith in recede or darken or otherwise draw away from me, leaving me in some blank, lonely white space of inaction and inactivity, some dead zone. I can’t tell if it’s something I’ve done wrong – a wrong turn, an incorrect action, a misjudgment or misstep of some kind, or whether I’m merely in a part of the ocean or the forest that is not meant to be fully revealed to me yet – that the silence may be a “testing fire.” But where’s my magical helper, my burning bush, my Obi Wan Kenobi, my little old man with the red face?

Maybe it’s Campbell himself, “appearing” literally from nowhere, in the midst of my workout at the gym of all places, on a treadmill TV screen in a rebroadcast of his famous interviews with Moyers and speaking about just these things – an incongruously odd place and time in which to “see” one of my guides. How is he helping me?

The war is often within I guess. Maybe I’m too busy looking outside for the problem again or not recognizing that I’m indeed amongst the adventurers, in their magical realm and that I’m just still not used to it; it all seems so strange, unsettling and impossible some times, so unnatural and ultimately so unlike what I’ve been accustomed to throughout my many years of non-adventuring. I have to, like MacLeod says, “get used to being creative” and indeed get used to being among these strange-looking, strange-acting “creatures” in this strange world that I’ve supposedly chosen for myself – this entry point of my own choosing into the forest adventurous. Is this what Campbell’s trying to tell me? Maybe. I keep wanting to find reasons – people’s actions, events of some sort – that “tell me” or give me an excuse to quit this adventure, to not go on, to go back to a life that’s more familiar (a nicer place to live, a dog, more money, old jobs, etc.) to not continue and to not complete the personal transformation, to really abandon the new me and to return to the familiar and conventional. Safety and security: the first chakra.

It’s the price of making this change so late in life maybe. But what can I do now except have courage and keep going, even if it feels unnatural, unfamiliar, too risky, too odd, too unproductive, too mysterious, too not me. It is me and I just have to get used to being me – to being who I am. These waves of uncertainty will come as challenges – how badly do I really want to transform? I still want to please other people, to be wanted, to be loved, to be accepted, to be part of the pack, to find my place, to be where I feel like I belong. I keep struggling with the zcob developments. This zmo job hasn’t seemed like the ticket. The jobs within zmo aren’t jazzy enough for me, I’m stuck in the lowest-level positions, the higher-level positions suck just as bad and they refused to sell my h-cheese. But am I meant to keep this zmo job and see what happens? Am I not seeing zmo or zcob for what it is – for the position or place it’s holding within my myth? Am I unconsciously denying my own progress within my myth, limiting myself, blocking or otherwise self-sabotaging myself? Are the answers and opportunities right in front of my fucking face? Am I immersed in the dream and simply refusing to accept it? Angst. Struggle. Anxiety. Confusion. Doubt.

I can’t get over thinking that Campbell is speaking directly to me – he’s the magical helper – right at the point where the hero is about to give up his quest; his dream, his myth, his personal legend. Books are almost always with me now – they’re laying all over the coffee table as I write this. I’m finally reading The Hero With a Thousand Faces for the first time and of course I’m always going back to Pathways to Bliss and I’m reading Ari’s stuff too, including one of his favorite anarchists, Gustav Landaur. All of these writers and thinkers are infusing my everyday life and thoughts – I’m immersed in biophycomythology and I yet I still flounder and ask if there’s not something else I should be doing. What the hell is wrong with me? I’ve got a good line on a full-time z-deli position – the interview is pending and I’ve had Lisa R, Ari and Kristen H. all put in good words for me I know so I’m really close to getting even more immersed in that world, which could really be my world if I just choose to accept it, but here I am in the “cantina,” on the mythic threshold, maybe farther in than that even, in the middle of the beginning or whatever, like the Iroquois heroine, surrounded by what may in fact be my true “family” my people and immersed in my culture, in my world, the world that I’ve been searching for to allow me to become who I am, and I get cold fucking feet. What the fuck? I need to just keep writing, thinking and not thinking, doing and not doing as best I can and just keep forging ahead, believing in myself, my progress, my guides and the process.

I visited Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory (sic) today for their open house and as usual I’m invited in wholeheartedly and feel right at home and I wrap my candy bar and I’m told “good job, that’s the best wrapping job we’ve seen today.” A statement like that will mean nothing to a person who’s not connected to their myth – it’s a toss-off, it’s hardly an omen, they say shit like that to everybody, right? Regardless of how many folks they say it to, it was said to me and it made me feel good and like I belonged. I had some good conversations and things just always seem to click along when I’m anywhere within zcob – I’m moving at a speed and ease that surprises even me sometimes. How much more fucking information and good vibes and omens do I need for cripes sake to be doing okay? It’s not supposed to feel like a place I’ve already been before, nor is it supposed to feel like a cataclysmic mythic event is unfolding with lightning bolts, flashing lights, gongs, choirs of angels, doves being released, bells tolling, blah, blah fucking blah – it’s just supposed to feel good. It’s that fucking simple. It can and maybe always will simply feel simple. I may in fact be experiencing success, just not in the form that I expected and maybe it’s just that I’m not used to it. Whyte does well to describe the “pitfalls” of success, of any arrival:

“The actual arrival at a goal always creates a turmoil unconnected to any previous imaginings. Once we cross the frontier from desire to actual fulfillment, we find that in order to inhabit that new world we have to slough off the identity that was so necessary to us as a seeker. At this point we may become, over the years, so much the seeker that we cannot put that ever-moving, never-stopping, always-searching identity down in order to pick up anything new. We find the image of the seeker has become our ultimate defense against the intimacy of any new arrival. The promised land we thought we wanted suddenly seems to ask for a simplification of our character that seems too much too soon. Almost by definition, any real arrival always seems to occur too soon.”[3]

I’m just now thinking that maybe I’m not so much embarking on the adventure as indeed arriving. Maybe I’m not experiencing the angst of departure or the struggles of the mid-adventure so much as experiencing the disappointment of disembarking at the end of the trip? Maybe I’ve arrived and now everything’s simpler and I miss my old fucked up but energized self. Could I have arrived and not know it? I doubt it. I might just be guilty of inventing complications, confusion and chaos simply because I find that state of mind more familiar.

Whyte continues his explanation of arrival:

“There is another historical reality close to the central themes of both pilgrimage and arriving. Most of the people who have arrived in a new world, in a new Jerusalem or Mecca, whether it is America, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, or Australia, found themselves, having scrimped and saved for the passage, and having been robbed blind by those who transported them, on the shore of the promised land without a penny in their pocket. It seems to be the nature of any new territory that we arrive on its borders flat broke. Any new world seems to demand dispossession and simplification. We look back in longing for our previous comforts, which, for all their smallness and poverty, at least had the richness of familiarity.”[4]

I suppose I could simply refer the reader to this entire chapter of Whyte’s book because it’s so apt. I’ve lived through empty pockets and longed for my previous comforts many times on many adventures and many fiascos; on college campuses, struggling to make ends meet in NYC or living in a motel in Texas City for over two months with none of my possessions.

After all this talk of arriving, I still remain suspicious of working for zcob – something just doesn’t feel right – maybe it has to do with the simple aspect of working for someone else. After all, I wholeheartedly believe in the idea, legitimized by one of my marriage counselors, that I need to “be the boss.” The food cart adventure was doomed to fiasco as soon as Mark H. revealed himself to in fact be the boss in addition to the landlord. “Lord” indeed, over everything related to that bullshit food court and kitchen and ultimately me. So fuck him and the horse he rode in on. But while I’d like to call him an asshole and me a victim, it’s really just another example of what happens when I work-for-the-man so to say. Maybe my days at zcob are numbered. Maybe, as I told my brother, I might just be a far better zcob customer than employee.

So, what to do? How to proceed? Accept my fate? Forge ahead with working for zcob? Ponder my entrepreneurial future if there is one? Am I just a bee versus a beekeeper? What the fuck is life telling me? Here I am, having asked a zillion versions of the same question in this chapter and written for hours trying to write the answer out of myself and onto the page, still asking the question. What the fuck? Campbell appearing on the t.v. this morning at the gym: that omen is just too freaky and spooky to ignore. If I can’t accept that clue, that advice and guidance, then I’d have to accept being just a stubborn, dumb fuckhead. It’s those that cannot accept any solution, any answer to a question or problem that indeed don’t want to be saved. They don’t want to change it, fix it and make it better. They don’t want to win. They want to be a bird without wings, talking about flying instead of flying because the reality fucks them up too much compared to the dream. I don’t want to be a dreamer – I want the golden fleece in my living room. I want the job, the business, the books, the money, the rewards, the awards, the houses, the travel, the mysteries and the adventures. I want none of it and I want all of it. I want what is the very best version of my life – I want what the fuck I want. And I want to take risks and see what the fuck happens. I’m going to take that z-deli job if it’s offered to me.[5] I’m going to do it all again, trying to get it right, trying to learn from my mistakes at least so I can make different ones. I’m going to try to get used to this unconventional life. I’m going to be afraid and go forward anyway, leaning into it. I’ll keep dying and being reborn. And I’m going to try to fucking enjoy it.

I’m not exactly sure then, at this point, whether I’m departing, arriving, returning, or stuck somewhere in the middle of an adventure. Sometimes it feels like all those things at once, if that’s fucking possible. Certainly it’s not physically possible, but certainly also, it must be biophycomythologically possible, because what I’m feeling right now is undeniably real. Campbell’s thoughts on departures and middle points, and Whyte’s thoughts on arrivals, all seem to ring true for where I’m at right now. But maybe a quote from Winston Churchill that Ari put in his introduction to GTGL2 says it best:

“Now,” he said as the British turned the tide of a very long war by defeating the Germans in Egypt in 1942, “this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”[6]


[1] Joseph Campbell, The Hero…, 54-56.

[2] Ibid., 53.

[3] David Whyte, Crossing…, 140-141.

[4] Ibid., 141.

[5] It remains tempting to edit out the contradictions as I find them. For example, as of 9.19.2013, as I write this, I don’t remember ever talking myself into taking that job, whatever it was, at the z-deli. I was in fact offered a position as a manager there, so maybe this is what the fuck I’m talking about here, but I turned it down, ostensibly because I was getting used to the part-time life and how it allowed time for me to write.

[6] Ari Weinzweig, GTGL2…, 27.