So, I’ve been digging through my old posts and realizing my life was much more interesting a couple years ago. There were crazy nights of rejection followed by monsoon-drenched sex, late-night outdoor blowjobs underneath the Verrazano, roof parties and stairwell sex, lots of fucking laughs, aaaandd…. a whole bunch of other shit. You get it.
Turns out I’ve lived a fucking lot. At least compared to some?
Who cares. What’s it got me? Maybe I’ll super duper SEO those stories and somehow unleash the power of Google, thereby harnessing millions of fresh, unjudging eyeballz, magically get recognized as a literary powermachine and have tons of fame tossed my way. All the fame. Anyway. I was listening to a lot of old Memphis early rock n roll recordings recently for a job and discovered this gem by Johnny Cash:
I’ve tried to get into J Cash in the past, but I can’t ever get much deeper than the hits. Almost anything after 1957 is really tough to get through; there’s a weird sheen on the productions that feels very 80s white Christian gospel to me. And I feel that like Johnny, my blog, my life, was better, more interesting when I first started writing it than here mid-stride.
The conventional life-path wisdom passed to us kidz in the 80s/90s by our parents, and Hollywood, was to take your time. Sample as much of life as you can before choosing the path that feels right. Religion, romance, career, the logic was basically this: “How can you know what you want until you compare it to every possible option?” Seems pretty reasonable. It’s bullshit, unfortunately.
Turns out it takes discipline, focus, and time to develop true passion and competence in a subject. There’s not only massive amounts of pop-pseudo-intellectual literature on the subject, it’s backed up by research and shit. But I don’t really need a book by Gladwell to convince me that repeated consistent effort leads to mastery, and that mastery and passion sort of sub in for each other at various points along an arc of rewarding experience within the subject one has dedicated oneself to. Nor do I, at this late late point, need yet another social scientist to point out that too much choice erodes our capability to actually decide shit, and to enjoy the fruits/consequences of those decisions. I’ve lived it. I’ve dated my way right through it. The only choices I think I’ve made in life were either to STOP doing something (swim team, playing the sax, singing in a band, writing ANYTHING), or to go with the flow life’s handed me (you need me to work a dead-end soul-suck? Sure, I guess I’ll do it. you want to be my girlfriend? Let’s try it out, if you insist).
And by now, I think this trend has completely inundated our society. It’s pretty damn easy to picture a world where not a single young person is happy in their job/career/lot because they just aren’t sure what they’re doing is their “true passion.” And anyway we’re all just waiting for our random discovery moment to deliver us to fame and advertising riches, right?
We Are DOOMED
Where was this “you can do anything you dream of” shit of my parents’ generation coming from? Well, I mean, mine grew up in the 50s and hit the fan in the 60s. Their lives basically went from the most-repressed, restrictive vanilla lives possible to most-rebellious, liberated, expansive imaginable (at the time). They started with this unshakable faith in the march of industry and science and doing one’s part and conservative values, and then it all cracked up to shit and turned on its head for a bit. They hardly went to college; they had paper routes and sock hops and babies in their early 20s. And they all turned out GREAT. Baby boomers. High earners all (minus anyone sent to Vietnam). Why did they then spend so much effort convincing the next generation to go slow with the life commitments? To take your time deciding?
They probably hated their kids.
A lot of philosophers (especially right after WWII?) wrote about how the modern condition has stripped us of our senses of purpose and meaning. A world driven by post-industrial capitalism and absent a convincing religious faith kind of doesn’t encourage people to find much meaning in their existences. At least meaning beyond that derived from the thinking ego itself. And it turns out that ego focus is really bad for communities and us little cogs that make it up. Suicides skyrocket, ennui blossoms, despair gains a foothold.
OH MY GOD STOP RANTING
I can only imagine how difficult it must be for anyone born in the last 20 years to value anything or focus on anything. I mean, as a kid I built shit in the garage with sticks and nails and biked outside and explored the crick out back, and made funny videos and “radio shows” with my friends and cousins, and all that shit, and I still managed to get snared by the low attention span, fame obsessed, internet-driven new American dream machine: I’m nearly incapable of experiencing unequivocal satisfaction in anything or focusing on anything longer than 2 minutes.
I wish I could go back and tell all those aunts and uncles and teachers and parents’ friends who told me “Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to be; take your time because you can do whatever you want,” that in reality, you can only be one thing at a goddamn time, and to even be that you gotta work.