Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
“‘Life is a like a river,’ Bhishma told Yudhishthira. ‘You may try your best to change its course, but eventually it will go its own way. Bathe in it, drink from it, and refresh yourself in this river of life. Learn from life, and do your utmost to enjoy it, but never get attached to it.’”
And of course what does DOP1 begin with as an epigraph?
“In the book of life, each page has two sides. On one side are our aspirations; on the other side is what is meant for us. Seldom are the two the same.”
So that the world’s mythologies, hence all of humanity, share this refined perspective, each iteration of course supplying its idiosyncratic seasoning; in the case of India, the idea that life is to be, ultimately, refused in favor of unification with the Divine. In the West, the personality survives death and achieves cohabitation, as it were, with the Divinity – a life in Heaven. East versus West. Oriental versus Occidental. The East with its cycle of time and the West with its linear, unidirectional interpretation. There are advantages to both views and I’m keen to legitimize each.
Last Friday I noticed that a paperback had shipped. This data applies only to U.S. Amazon orders. When was it sold? Who bought it? Where is it going? That somebody is getting their copy of Time Crime is great but it sure would be nice to know the date of sale, at least. That global sales aren’t compile together is beyond me but then non-compatible databases within the various divisions of companies, least of all a company as large as Amazon, seems inevitable. Oh well. Will it lead to a good review?
Meanwhile, the job plods along. Or I plod along within the job. There’s a lot to learn to say the least and while I try not to get uptight about mostly not knowing what I’m doing and only helping a handful of customers in a day on my own, I can’t help but feel discouraged. I don’t like not knowing. I don’t like spending a whole shift being nothing but a burden to everybody else who has to help me with everything. I’m a learner but the learning curve, when it’s steep, wears me out and makes me long for being good at something. Anything. And I can’t even rely on my writing for that because, again, whether anyone besides Angie thinks Time Crime is any good remains an ongoing mystery, despite having sold books. I endure the sense of having been a lousy, non-value-add employee all these years along with having accomplished nothing as a writer, least of all as an author. Ever since goddamn JCI in 2010 for shit’s sake it seems I’ve been bungling things, not getting it done, underachieving, not holding up my end, not succeeding in any convincing, lasting manner at all. For eight Goddamn years – closer to ten goddamn years – I’ve been nothing but a wannabe and a flop. Or the new guy who’s a bother and a pain in the ass. Mastery? Of anything? Nope. I’m just a perpetually inexperienced newbie in an old man’s body. That people don’t find me impossibly tiresome is beyond me. Perhaps they do and they’re merely too polite to say so. Who cares? My ego has been demolished – pulverized – so often I’m surprised to find that I still have one. But, oh, how I’d like to succeed at something before I croak.
Little Ruby, from what we’re told, opened her eyes last night. The breeder says Aussie puppies all have cloudy blue eyes at first but we’ve all seen those spooky or dramatic (depending upon your impression) pale blue eyes common to the breed and only time will tell. For the record, I’m guessing brown, but as I haven’t seen her parents, who knows? Meanwhile, she has a nice puppy face and white makes for being able to better see her features. Her fur is a nice cocoa brown, too – I can imagine her as an adult having a pleasant balance to her coloring. She’s just over two weeks old so we’ve still six or seven weeks until we pick her up. Personality? We’re just rolling the dice which presents a significant risk, as we’ve unfortunately learned, but the mini Aussie market is apparently akin to a hot housing market – hem and haw and lose out. And finding an adult within reasonable driving distance and possessing all the attributes of agreeable temperament along with a desire to fetch, a willingness to be crated (not that she’ll be crated much) and to not fear thunderstorms or firecrackers or suffer separation anxiety or get car sick or bark obsessively or chew up rugs or suffer fear aggression, what have you, that sounds easy enough but it isn’t. So a puppy is where we ended up again, so be it, we’ll do our best and the Cosmos will have to help out, come what may. She’ll be our last dog, certainly – when she’s fifteen I’ll be seventy years old, a crazy thought. But nothing and nobody is perfect and Ruby doesn’t have to be – we’re only hoping she’ll be perfect for us. Angie asked if I was excited about the pupdates, seeing as I didn’t want another dog and I could only say, “Yes, I’m excited – hell, nothing’s gone to plan yet, so I’m just taking it as it comes.”
 Bushra Ahmed, Rajrupa Das, Medha Gupta, Hina Jain, Seetha Natesh, Rupa Rao, eds. The Illustrated Mahabharata: The Definitive Guide to India’s Greatest Epic, (New York: DK Publishing, 2017), 373.
 Diane Wolkstein, “Layla and Majnun,” Parabola, Spring 2010, Vol. 35, No.1, 37.
DOP1 VINTAGE POST:
Wednesday, September 26, 2012. I wrote out a long list of shit I want to experiment with letting go of. Once I started, the list kept going and going until I had about fifty or sixty “things” – anything from material stuff like my F150 to my so-called “vocations.” Whether I thought it was sustaining me or hindering me, as long as it was important to me, I wrote it down. My past, my future, jobs, emotions, people, places, habits, dreams, debts, even my Mandala. I’m experimenting with letting it all go and seeing what might come back. I even meditated on it. I laid on my back (corpse pose) for what turned out to be thirty minutes just trying to get “above” the stuff I thought I needed or didn’t need. I got further “up” than I’d ever been before in meditation – usually my best efforts get me in a jet plane looking out the window at the clouds below – that’s my mental vision. But this time, I saw myself from above – I saw the jet plane with me in it as something traveling below and there was another “me” above the atmosphere and then above the earth, and finally, I spiraled out into space. This is a different process than chucking the biophycomythological “rocks” out of my backpack – I’ve written about that much earlier in this book. Rocks are stuff that you know is negative, that you sense the burden of without question. I’m working here on digging deeper and, at the risk of losing some things that I might wish that I’d held onto, chucking them over the side (to mix metaphors). I’m including the rocks, but also that stuff that I’ve been carrying around because I think it’s been helping me. I’m also discarding my “plans” – who I think I want to be and all the ways I planned on “getting there.” I’m confident the things that are true to my myth will return, or otherwise remain and I can use those things to go forward; into the life that Campbell describes as “waiting” for me. Otherwise I’m stuck.
Of course this is another mythological “death.” I’m dying to myself in order to live. The “corpse pose” in kundalini is an apt description because it’s in that pose – lying flat on your back – that the yogis return you to after the more strenuous poses and movements. The idea is to lie there peacefully, thoughtfully, resting, “checking yourself out” as Narvair Kulsa says, or to “adjust to these changes” as Maya Fiennes says. Maya suggests that it’s at this time, in a state of resting from more strenuous movements, that you can “ask yourself any question” so as to be open to the answers (cite this). The idea that fatigue, physical or mental, opens you to change and influence is of course well-known to any athlete, military boot-camp trainee or, unfortunately, an interrogated prisoner who’s kept answering questions day and night under duress. The practice of fatiguing yourself on purpose, breaking yourself down physically and, in the case of your mind, biochemically, in order to help release the hold of your ego or whatever rational part of you that is holding or blocking what needs to be expressed or accepted, is good self-work. It works with animals too – any good dog trainer knows the animal is more receptive to training after a walk. The internal conflict, disconnect or schism between the strategies of your mind – the “plans” your intellect is continually making – so often has to do with survival verus thrival – “surviving your life” so to speak – and the dreams or visions of your heart Kabat-Zinn calls it “full catastrophe living” for a reason. He tells us that you have to embrace and accept the “full catastrophe” of all that occurs and goes on in your life in order to heal yourself. The “catastrophe” angle helps by acknowledging how life can really feel sometimes – there’s no denying that it has this traumatic, catastrophic quality – the hindu “sorrow” and all that. And the hindu says “everything is as it should be.” How do we accept the sorrow? As Campbell’s master told him in India regarding evil in the world: “For you and me, we say yes.” (reference)
Doors open this way, as Campbell says, where there weren’t any before and where there weren’t any for anybody else. This is how you live your own version of a myth and it’s a “problem” I’ve been struggling with especially lately – this business of me feeling like I’m just writing some book that’s already been written and not living authentically – that I’m just immersed in how my guides live their lives and that I’m just fucking up trying to reproduce some version of those lives in mine. I’m getting carried away with the idea of guides – you don’t walk their path – that’s somebody else’s path – you let them guide you. You take clues and suggestions and a hand on your shoulder that turns you in the right direction but you keep enough technical and strategic distance or space to allow your own permutation of transcendence take place. You emerge from Amaratsua’s cave with your own boon – your own version of light to express. You don’t associate or assimilate completely with any one of your guides just like you don’t associate or assimilate or take literally any of the myths. The metaphors are guides that empower you to go your own way wholeheartedly. Angie and me are beginning to get this “right” – if she sees that I’m better writing and home-cooking, at least for now, then that’s a door for me which I didn’t even recognize as one until recently: it’s an opportunity to be who I am though it may seem unacceptable from the perspective of that part of me that wants to succeed in ways more typically acknowledged by my society. It’s a door, an opportunity, a call, that has presented itself outside of my preconceived vision of a door – my projected future and the opportunities of the present can be seen to conflict with each other, but only insofar as I refuse the call, the opportunity of the present and remain stuck, frozen, in the context of the future. Living in the context of the future or the past is, of course, the mistake we make of refusing the present, inviting schism and its manifestations: a sense of distance from oneself and the world and an inability to engage one’s energies; it can be cause for impatience and consternation that life proceeds regardless of your full participation in it – it goes along, frustratingly, without us, which only adds to our suffering.
If McCarthy had an overabundance of fear, then maybe I’ve burdened myself with an overabundance of duty; to myself as well as others. The duty to others is the easy part – that obligation we all feel (at some point at least) to do as we’re told, or do as we’re expected to do by our family and the particular society into which we’re born or into which we move ourselves into – it’s the desire to please and be accepted as part of the tribe, the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” – those seemingly impenetrable scales on the dragon representing your fears and limits. The Buddha, when tested with the accusation that he’d left his kingdom (and his wife and child) without a king – that he’d failed to perform his duty – simply touched the ground with his hand as he sat beneath the bodhi tree to indicate that he was exactly where he should be, and the universe responded in acknowledgement.
You must discover the story or stories – the myths – that unlock your psyche and it can be a formidable task for those of us unaccustomed to living mythologically. How can you respond to the teachings of myth if you’ve not had instruction? Campbell believed we needed instruction and that’s what his own myth – his own hero journey – turned out to be: teaching. His own life was in fact a demonstration of a hero journey and it’s reassuring to those of us who don’t trust the process that he “walked what he talked” so to say. It’s legitimizing to see it “work” for others but it’s a cause for suffering to have to experiment on oneself, through trial and error. I’ve been impatient to realize my own myth as I’ve seen it realized in others – I’ve driven myself to study and analyze, making the very mistake Campbell cautions us against, of considering life as a “problem to be solved” instead of a “mystery to be lived.” I’ve been strangling my potential by becoming obsessed with figuring it out instead of living it out.
So I’m trying now to “be” more than “do” and this can get dicey – you fake yourself out into thinking you are being and not getting obsessed with doing when in fact you’re just getting more and more insidiously attached to doing. Doing unattached, the work you have to do, as expressed in the Gita, doesn’t make much sense when you don’t know the nature of your work, your true work. And you won’t know it until you get clear on what you in fact spend your time doing and thinking about. For example, looking at my situation right now as an unemployed failure, a fucked-up schmuck who keeps getting life “wrong,” a spoiled suburbanite getting what he deserves for expecting too much out of life, blah, blah is one way to look at things. The other is to take happiness when you find it and quit questioning it. Angie and me are happier now with me not working. We are not in dire financial straits, we are not at each other’s throats, we’re having fun, enjoying each other’s company, enjoying our days and breathing easier so to say – we’re finding some peace. It’s the same peace we found after I got fired from JCI; we spent our days in 3409 working together to move forward in life and we had struggles of course, but the majority of our time there in the end was hero journey stuff. The “progress” we made down there – overcoming our marriage problems, practicing Kundalini, starting a business, writing, deciding to move back to A2 – all these good things came from the good work we were doing; work that was in line or at least more in line with our personal myths. The business of hh became a biophycomythological fiasco but that’s how it goes: we risked a great deal and lost commensurately – the adventure ended in fiasco. But, because of that fiasco and the inevitable lessons learned, I’m writing this stuff today about letting go and moving forward, of doors opening where before there were none and how those doors are specific to me, to my myth, so that I’m not just “acting as if” all the time; I’m doing more than just aping the lives of others. I’m making my way through the forest adventurous again. This is important to me, to live authentically, according to my myth. It’s also important to me to connect to the world-of-action – to participate socially and culturally in the world versus just reading and writing about it. One can have an overabundance of anything and it’s difficult to remain aware, mindful, of how that excess can derail one’s biophycomythological progress. The troublesome, insidious nature overabundance – too much of anything – like fear for Andrew McCarthy, becomes “a clever opponent.”
“It’s not something dealt with once, then left in the past. It grows more subtle, more cunning, masquerading as exhaustion, disinterest – even good sense.”
So perhaps I’ve felt an overabundance of duty to my potential – to be all I can be so to speak as quickly and completely as possible and excepting nothing less than the full expression of all my possibilities. It’s ironic then that I end up again in the same out-of-work fiasco – the opposite of the achievement I long for – that I’ve found myself in so many times before. Convinced that I was changing my R in the E + R = O equation, I find myself with the same O again and again. What’s wrong? I’ve not changed, that’s what’s wrong; I’ve not transformed at all. I’ve just piled more biophycomythological requirements – more plans – on myself without discarding anything to make room for that stuff. I kept trying to acquire, to pile on, to accumulate. What? Knowledge. Character. Strength. Compassion. Joy. Experiences. Stuff. As Robert Walter describes in Finding Joe, when you finally quit fighting the dragon for whatever it is you think you want so badly, and by that he means fighting yourself – whatever it is you’re fighting for – the dragon “gives it to you.” For me, it’s the act of living as myself, of being who I am, and being fully present within that reality – not overthinking it to the point of becoming distant from it, from my moment-to-moment existence, that has been the fundamental challenge.
“Of course it will move you on the level of a human being. And it should move you in a way appropriate to your stage of life. You must learn to know what the archetype of your stage of life is and live it. Trying to live the archetype of the stage you’ve left behind is one of the basic causes of neurotic troubles.”
I’m neither an adolescent nor an old man. I’m a middle-aged man, on the downside of the arc of my life in terms of lifespan. But as Campbell assures us, there are rewards to be found on the way down too. So rather than hanging onto the idea of being young, or trying to hang onto the drive, potential and earnest pursuit of being everything you can be, I can try to let go of those stages that I’ve left behind. Because they are indeed behind me. The spirit of the mystery that you realize in the fullness of your life, whenever you achieve it, is not something to give up, but something to carry with you continually. Maybe, I’ve made the mistake of trying to live like it’s 10am so to speak when it’s actually 2pm; like a twenty or thirty-something when I’m actually fucking forty-something. Indeed, I’ve been struggling lately with that exact realization – that I’m living outside of my time in many ways and mostly focusing on the “bad” aspects of that situation: the lack of a successful career; the lack of a job of any type that I can even begin to think of living with. The jobs I’ve had lately: running a food cart business or the zmo job for example, are not the jobs appropriate to a man with my experience, skills and talents; not by a long shot. I don’t belong in those places, obviously, and the associated threshold guardians of those endeavors, those vocations, have legitimately refused me entry.
Thursday, September 27, 2012. I recently discovered Parabola magazine, which has been published by The Society for the Study of Myth and Tradition for something like thirty-five years. I read an interview online between Richard Whittaker, the magazine’s west coast editor, and Jacob Needleman, a philosopher and author who eschewed a career in the medical field some forty years ago and who has a new book entitled An Unknown Earth. He’s interested, like most of the writers that appear in Parabola, in the nature of the self, epistemology (philosophy of knowledge) and ontology (the study of metaphysics and the nature of existence – of being). It was intellectually robust and reminded me of my Oakland University days in the late eighties when I was a philosophy major and had finally immersed myself in something I gave a shit about; something that came naturally, and that I had a flair for. Why didn’t I stick with it? For the same reason I’ve never “stuck with” anything: the interpersonal dynamics. I showed some promise to a couple of professors and just like me, I expected them to help me along as I learned my way through myself and the business of becoming a “professional” philosopher. They did help I suppose, but they couldn’t read my mind and I didn’t fully commit to philosophy, so we all just kept each other at arms length, I graduated and that was that. For one very brief period, I was up for some sort of scholarship or something – one of my professors asked me to apply for it – but for whatever reason, it never materialized for me and the scholarship was awarded to a blind guy in the program. Yes, he was blind: I didn’t have a chance. I remember that one professor liked one of my papers so much that he organized a whole class session around it (which seemed to accomplish nothing except to irritate the other class members). Maybe I irritated the faculty too. After all, one of my professors told me that I was “one of those people who wasn’t really interested in anything.” I remember taking offense to that, but I couldn’t argue the point with him even if I’d wanted to: I remember thinking that I really didn’t know what he meant. Now, I realize he was looking for an intuition of scholarship to go with the intimation of talent. I know this only because I’ve finally learned what a scholar is: someone devoted to a field of interest and the mastery of the material with the intention of eventually adding to it. Looking back, I’m convinced that instead of not being interested anything, I was actually interested in everything: people, places, ideas, experiences, knowledge, pop culture, etc., without a commensurate maturity to be able to contextualize any of my interests into vocational destiny. What I think I needed was a mentor and at least at O.U., there was none forthcoming; I wasn’t fortunate enough to encounter a faculty member with the patience, vision or interest in negotiating my youthful misdirections in service of my scholarly potential. I really didn’t have any idea that there was such a thing as a scholarly life, that one could dedicate themselves to reading and writing for example and make a living at it; I simply never understood what it was to study outside the context of getting grades and passing classes, even though I had been passionately studying many things – music, drinking, partying, staying out late, girls, being an asshole, blah, blah. I had been impossibly unhinged by my middle school and high school experiences – the all-too-common effect of the sensitive mind and heart getting chewed up in the grinding wheel of the brutally unforgiving and intolerant social mileu of school and life: of growing up – and by the time I got to college, I was in a schism beyond my depth, beyond any means I had at the time to manage my predicament. I’ll never forget the sense of distance from everything I thought mattered most to me: girls, sports, manhood, pleasing people, friends et al. This is the tragedy of an unfocused, distracted youth; the price one pays for not knowing who they are early enough to make the most of those ineffably transitory, fleeting opportunites to get on with one’s proper adventure. Instead of diligent, deliberate practice and dedication to my talents, to the craft of them, I chose to bend my efforts towards fitting in. It’s hardly an interesting, let alone unique, story.
In those days I was experimenting with long hair (hilarious to think about it now), ridiculous amounts of drinking and “partying” and was otherwise busy figuring myself out at the expense of a girlfriend and my long-suffering parents. To the man I am now, the age my professors were then, any potential I possessed was likely to be seen as being squandered in hopeless immaturity. I needed a mentor in more areas than philosophical scholarship and they weren’t any of them prepared to do that. I was uncommitted, and from what I’ve learned about the academic field, it’s as much or more (and my brother Kevin’s struggles with a career as a college teacher with a Masters degree just reinforces all this bile) about stacking up credentials and getting the right people to like you as any other field of endeavor. I like Campbell for his indifference to academia – the way he told them to basically fuck off when they wouldn’t allow him to expand his comparative mythology research for his PhD. He never got the PhD. and didn’t look back, good for him.
Right place, wrong time. Right time wrong place. This “problem” is something I like to hang my hat on when I’m feeling especially frustrated and sorry for myself that the world has failed to properly receive my boons. It’s not my fault, right? It’s just bad breaks and bad luck and unfortunate circumstances. Bullshit, because such things are the same for practically everybody, excluding of course Gladwell’s outliers. The truth is that there is no place in this world for anyone who is exploring broadly – I had a job placement guy in NYC actually empathize with me about being a “renaissance man” in a world where such people are not useful; at least not useful enough to place in a temporary job. Specialization is almost worshipped in twenty-first-century America. What and who you are must be digestible in one sentence or sound bite and if you can’t hack that, then go fuck yourself into oblivion, nobody cares. Nobody has time to care. Nobody should care. It’s eat or be eaten. But none of this has really changed has it? It always irritates me when somebody refers to “modern times” and how “fast-paced” and “busy” life is “today.” And how the fuck is it any different than any other period in our history? The pressure to conform, succeed and give the people what they fucking want has always been there – throughout the ages – it’s always been eat or be eaten. The pace of it all? Who cares? Speed, like anything, is both good and bad. As Whyte says:
“Speed in work has compensations. Speed gets noticed. Speed is praised by others. Speed is self-important. Speed absolves us. Speed…appears to elevate us above the ground of our labors.
“Speed is also a warning, a throbbing, insistent indicator that some cliff edge or other is very near, a sure diagnostic sign that we are living someone else’s life and doing someone else’s work.”
What speed doesn’t have anything to do with is what Whyte and others call attaining “mastery” in a given field. As Whyte implies, speed can be a result of mastery, but never the method.
Why do I find myself journaling about speed? I think it’s my habitual impatience. My impatience won’t die – it’s a tenacious and formidable foe. It’s one of my dragons that I need to quit fighting. If impatience is part of me, then maybe I can quit trying to purge myself of it – maybe it’s something I’ve let go of, but which has already come back. In which case, it’s “meant” to come back and it might be my job to find ways in which it can serve me instead of limit me. I like that idea, of the dragon giving me what I want once I stop fighting it. If patience is a virtue, then does it follow that impatience is the opposite? Maybe not. Is there anything to be said for impatience? How can it serve me? Impatience is a form of energy, perhaps energy from my shadow. Carefully managed, it may indeed have some use. Too often, I let it carry into intolerance. But what if I could stop at impatience, with myself and others? Impatience tells me that I already know something (or think I know) – what I want or don’t want, what’s happening or is going to happen, what should be done, etc. – I want to skip the bullshit and cut to the chase so to say. I want the result that I can already envision. I have a sense of urgency about it, which can lead to exactly the kind of focused intensity and immersion that I crave in life – the experience of being properly alive. I’m not interested in the journey because I’ve already traveled it in my mind – I’ve already envisioned my desired outcome. Or I assume I have. A manifestation of this impatience is intolerance for the trials and challenges of others, at least unless it somehow benefits me. It’s always about me and I know this is yet another limit. What if I listened and watched more mindfully and with greater compassion? How would that hurt me?
I give so little to people. I give only with condition. The condition that it serves me in the end. Unless, oddly enough, I’m at work, in which case I give too much to too many peole, even those that don’t deserve it. Why? Even writing this dribble, I fantasize about how one day some great number of people will recognize my value to them and therefore hand over their money to me for the privilege of experiencing the me-ness of me. I’m false, dishonest, self-serving and ambitious and that’s what’s been picked up on by anybody with any influence to really help me get to those lofty places I desire. They see through my passion into my selfish ego. The passion isn’t disengenous, it’s real as hell, but I’ve obfuscated it with an off-putting obsession with becoming somebody, being somebody. I’m impatient to be. It annoys people just like it would annoy me if I saw this tendency in others. So I don’t give much out, do I? It makes sense then, if you believe in the “law of attraction” or just that “you get what you pay for” or “you reap what you sow” that I don’t get much in return from life. Because I want my return, my reward, only on my terms, only in the way I’ve envisioned it since being a zit-faced adolescent. Riches and fame; adulation; acceptance; legitimization. Blah, blah how fucking boring.
Back to impatience and how it can serve me. Can it? Hell, I’m typing away, held to the computer today and impatient with it; impatient with how it’s holding me here and “preventing” me from doing whatever else it is that I think I’m supposed to be doing today. What? Like going for a long walk? Like submitting articles to magazines and looking for pats on the back; for the praise and acceptance I long for? God almighty what a backsliding fuck-ass I am. There’s going to come a day when I’ll likely be practically praying for such energetic inspiration to write, at least if I’m not careful about where I’m going with this stuff. When will I learn to take what I learn and keep it? Instead of trying to bend knowledge to my own ends? Why can’t I just be? How annoying is this relentless focus on myself? I write what is impossible to read. My therapy. Ugh. But I must do it – I know somehow that the way out is the way in, so I keep going in. Always hoping to get out of myself someday and in the place, as Whyte describes it, “where the self meets the world.”
Again, impatience and how it can serve me. If it’s here to stay – if it’s determined to keep coming back in spite of my efforts to discard it, then I better learn more about how to work with it. Patience is a virtue, but it’s not one that I possess in any quantity – it’s not a strength for me so I can expect less-than-substantial returns from my considerable efforts to change, to be more patient. So I’m becoming convinced that the fight is wasting my time and energy. What a mess, what a cluster-fuck. Let it go? Keep some aspect of it? Hell. Impatience is energy. Impatience makes me feel alive. Impatience makes me want to get up and do shit. Impatience is related to my skills and talents because what I’m really good at puts me out in front of a lot of other folks doing it, right? Bullshit, that’s not it. Because I’m the most impatient with two kinds of people: those whom I work for and those whom I’m close to. What do they have in common? Why do they both make me nuts with impatience? Tellingly perhaps, I even get impatient writing, as if it’s some irritating chore and not one of my preferred vocations, probably because I feel compelled to write about shit that I don’t want to read. I don’t want to review my problems, my limitations, my screw-ups and weaknesses. I don’t want to write a journal, I want to write my Hero with a Thousand Fiascos that finds its place on Time Magazine’s list of the “Top 100 Non-Fiction Books of All Time.” When will I write what I want to read? Does every “writer” go through this? The criticism is certainly getting in front of the creativity lately. Sometimes I think that’s all I have to offer: criticism. And not any useful criticism like that of music releases, books or movies, no. I just flop around in the mud criticizing myself. To my own disgust and disappointment. Day of Pigs is an impossible-to-read rant. It’s nothing else. Why can’t I quit? Am I afraid of being absolutely nothing at all? Of being not only out of work, but out of ideas about what work to do? Am I simply afraid of vanishing?
How can my impatience serve me? Instead of checking myself and trying to correct myself whenever I find myself becoming impatient – of criticizing myself – how can I use it to my advantage? To emphasize what’s good about me instead of what’s bad? Is it possible? Impatience distances me from people – it makes me want to get the fuck away from them and the situation I find myself in. I just want to end it and stop the irritation. I want to run, which obviously does nothing to further my self-work. Impatience, almost by definition, isn’t concerned with the long view of life. It wants everyting right fucking now. I’m afraid of missing my life. Like that woman that Campbell writes about who, late in her life, ends up in a shrink’s office at the age of sixty-something with a disturbing sense of having missed her life. I can’t get over the tragedy of that – I fear it happening to me like I fear the spider in the bathtub. It’s the same creeping, alien, frightening, wrong-ness of it all. Yet, since I think about that shit all the time, by the law of attraction it makes sense that that is exactly the life I’m creating for myself. The world says “your wish is my command” and here I am at forty-seven and about as far from answering the call as anyone. No. That’s wrong. That’s incorrect. I am answering the call. I may have been answering the call my whole life and it’s just the “road of trials” the “initiation” that I’ve been working through. Listen to me rationalizing. I’m not where I want to be and that’s a fact. I don’t want to be sitting here in my kitchen babbling on with a journal, making no fucking money at all and being an unlegitimized version of everything I say I am. Now I’m finally a writer? I can tell myself that I’ve always been a writer, but what have I written that any other self-proclaimed writer hasn’t written? A fucking big fat journal? A biography of a boring life? I’m always finding myself covering overly-trodden ground. “Here’s Keith learning another life lesson as if he’s the first to do so.” Boring. Stupid. A sign of a lack of intelligence. Listen to me go: a professional self-critic. That’s what I have to offer. Again, unoriginal.
Impatience. The impatience I have for others is simply that which I have for myself. That’s obvious. The more impatient I am with my own life, the more I’m impatient with others. The more I retreat. Anxious for the outcome of my deeds and losing my place in the principle of eternity. I find a way to be impatient about damn near anything I put my mind to. Is there anything at all that I’m not impatient with? Maybe a clue to my salvation is exactly there? How about my own heart, my heartmind? There I indeed find some patience. Or do I? My impatience tarnishes, ruins my experience of everything. Can I be impatience even with my own heart? I can honestly say that I’ve never had an experience of being impatient with my heart – with that which is truly me. I’m impatient only with the world’s ignorance of me and of the world’s impatience with me. Have I created that impatience in the world? If I’m not being impatient, I often feel like I’m being lazy. Like I’m not doing enough to do enough. That I’m becoming Garbo’s version of a “mollusk.” I’m writing myself in circles today. Time to stop.
I better get used to this “writer” shit, because this is how it works. You work alone and inspiration comes and goes and leads you off into the wasteland when you want to be in the promised land. I can see where the thought of writing another word – anything at all – just about makes a person want to barf. It’s time for a fucking laugh – a fucking rocked-out guffaw!! I just jumped around the room like a rock star. Why? What happened? I’m not really sure except I picked up Julia child’s memoir looking for a quote and read a sentence or two about whatever and it instantly jazzed me. Whatever it is about her life seems to make sense in mine. I’m going to heat up my left-over lasagna, take a shower and re-read some of that book.
There’s an Ian Hunter song on Welcome to the Club – his great live album from 1980 or ’81 – where, when he gets to the balls-out, crowd-roaring end of it, he yells the seeming non sequitor “I’m Ian Hunter and this is my bleep, bleep, bleep LIFE!” at the top of his lungs at which point the song barrels to its inevitable train wrecking crescendo of a conclusion. I like to think the uncensored version was “I’m Ian Hunter and this is MY FUCKING LIFE!!” Why is this important? Because it’s the “barbaric yawp” to misappropriate a term from some Robin Williams comedy sketch I listened to on record when I was a kid. This “YAWP!” is what we all do when our biophycomythology “clicks” with the rest of the world, when who we are succeeds in some big, wonderful way in the world of action. You don’t have to be a rocker to be able to “yawp!” There’s a scene from a French movie I rented where the heroine, a hotel-maid-becomes-chess-ace, wins her first competition – she’s the top chess player in her local “chess-off”and it makes her eligible to go abroad to compete at the next level. She goes off on her own to stand at the edge of the sea or whatever and yell her ass off in some barbaric “YAWP!” of accomplishment and self-actualization. It’s a movie, but I think it’s accurate. I’ve had some “yawps” in my day, one of the most memorable of which was when I first saw my h-cheese on the top shelf of Plum Market Ann Arbor. I felt I had both left this earth and arrived at the same fucking time. It was great. It didn’t last more than a ‘couple of weeks in the end, but hell, I know what it is and I’m pretty determined to get it back. That’s the world acknowledging the boon you’ve returned with.
Julia Child wisdom:
“But American supermarkets were also full of products labeled gourmet that were not: instant cake mixes, TV dinners, frozen vegetables, canned mushrooms, fish sticks, Jell-O salads, marshmallows, spray-can whipped cream, and other horrible glop. This gave me pause. Would there be a place in the U.S.A. for a book like ours? Were we hopelessly out of step with the times?”
“I decided to ignore my doubts and push on. There wasn’t much else I could do. Besides, I loved la cuisine bourgeoise, and perhaps a few others would too.”
“Simca, meanwhile, was suffering from la tension (high blood pressure and jumpy nerves). This was a sensitive subject for me, as my mother had died young of high blood pressure. “You must pay attention to your health,” I cautioned her. Simca didn’t take criticism well, so I tried to illustrate my point by telling her about Paul’s twin, Charlie Child: “Everything he does is at full speed, like a rocket taking off,” I wrote. He lived each moment “as if it were the supreme one, requiring every ounce of energy. You are the same. You have to let a few things… slip by you, rather than being pitched at the highest key…. Force yourself to relax at times. It is not necessary to do everything as though your life and honor depended on it.” I doubt my words had any effect on her.”
There’s much here to describe me unfortunately. Especially the “full speed” and as if “my life and honor depended on it” part. Not so much the “full speed” but a form of “full investment.” The “all in” aspect that of course relates directly to impatience. Because if I’m “all in” then I expect everybody else to be “all in” also. When they inevitably aren’t, at PSC, JCI or ZMO, I’m done with them.
Of course advice like Julia’s, however carefully and considerately delivered, indeed doesn’t usually have much effect on any of us on the receiving end. It’s criticism we’ve already applied to ourselves and we don’t much appreciate hearing it from someone else too. Even when it’s meant to help us. Forcing yourself to relax seems impossible for some us – how can you force relaxation? – the two words seem at odds with each other, an oxymoron. Yet, Kundalini has taught me that you can indeed “force” it. Because you’re not really. You may begin your meditations with the perspective of forcing yourself because maybe you have to start that way – it’s what you understand and you can’t relax into it before you just “act as if” or “try the hat on for size” first. Thankfully, the good things in life (I include meditation as a good thing despite its difficultly) seem to allow us to approach them in any whatever fucked-up way we can sometimes. Just trying is all some things ask in the beginning, just faking it. But I’ve written much about that already.
Julia’s ambition always has humor in it, where I get stuck in the frustration of it all. (This is self-criticism day and I’m running with it). Here she is after meeting John Valentine, a New York literary agent who represented James Beard among others, and beginning to strategize the introduction of their work “to our vast potential public.” Hilarious. Of course she’s prepared for the punch line of the joke: “He [Valentine] implied that the professional cooking world (both in the U.S. and in France) was a closed syndicate that was difficult to penetrate.” Again, hilarious. What a bunch of blowhards all these folks are with jobs that are supposed to expose great creative works to the world and end up just roadblocking anybody with anything to say into oblivion. Threshold guardians. Thanks, assholes. Julia, however, to her endearing credit, is both cheerfully undaunted and understatedly, patiently, enduringly confident. “So it may have been, but it was our intention to break into this group on a permanent basis.” She’s enough to make one stand up and cheer, isn’t she?
 Andrew McCarthy, National Geographic Traveler, October, 2012, 96.
 Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, 99.
 David Whyte, Crossing…, 117-18.
 Ibid., 119.
 Ibid., cover of book.
 Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, 113-14.
 Julia Child, My Life in France…, 226
 Ibid., p.232.