I kept up my old tradition of not writing once life became busy. I didn’t know where to start. I quit my job, giving almost a full month’s notice. Then, on the fifteen year anniversary of my little brother’s death, my wife confirmed a second positive pregnancy test. Then, a company in Austin, with an opportunity I’d been on the fence about pursuing, offered me a full-time job. Then, my current employer started acting like they were going to make a play for me to stay. But, I’m pretty much gone from there.
I’m pretty much checked out of being a marketer, period.
The question is, do I want to pursue something much more hardcore nerdy, than all this flirting I’ve done with computer stuff throughout my career, while playing it safe as a soft-headed marketer, or do I want to go all soft and fuzzy and become a poet?
I have a year to think about this and work from home, and prepare for fatherhood. I have the opportunity to be one of those stay-at-home dads who takes random freelance assignments here and there, working when the kid’s asleep, and cleaning diapers when he/she’s not.
I’m at peace with this.
I thought a lot about my manhood again, about my identity, about the possibility of reincarnation. Who am I at the core? What am I? Some days, I hardly feel human, and other days I feel like I’m simply not well-suited for my culture, and other days, I don’t feel especially masculine at all. But then, I’m not extremely girly, either. Whatever identity is, may very well be a thing that is meant to be created from a single deciding point moving forward. Perhaps we all make too much of being who we are based on an entire pile of half-remembered things that could just as easily be shelved for something new. Is the notion that there is some kind of core, changeless I informing an ephemeral Me an absurd one?
I only tend to think that there is just because so many people I’ve known seem to have figured out who they are at the core by the time they were twenty. Either they are just fooling themselves, and unquestioningly accepting their cultural realities “as is,” or they are profoundly more adept at being human than I’ve ever been.
I’d like to have the privilege of growing quite old, but I can’t ever assume that this is going to be a given. Some days, I hate the thought of growing old. My mother had this superstition about not declaring that you never wanted to grow old–to declare such a thing meant you would die young. But, she died pretty young–relative to other people from her time and culture.
But then, I think that being old would actually be a profound experience, one that shouldn’t be missed. I’ve already started to note some of the differences taking place in me as I careen towards 40. I’m less full of energetic motivation to go for a run and lift weights. Part of that motivation was certainly due to being single, but I can sense a certain lack of energy in me. I stopped dyeing my hair about five years ago, and that alone has made a difference in how people interact with me. I’ve been blessed or cursed with premature gray hair, finding my first white one at age sixteen. The reaction I get, especially from people in their twenties is one either of contempt for a much older man still hanging around stealing work that should be theirs to have, or one of cold respect, as if they are back in the classroom or at home, falling into remembered roles of childhood obeisance.
Overall, being older and grayer has been a valuable tool for me. I no longer entertain any sort of myths about who I am. What you see is what you get.
I’m at an age where I would really like to use the rest of my time on this earth to help a few souls find success in life–namely my own child(ren) plus any individuals I encounter while volunteering. Then, the other side of the coin would be this examination of the inner life, and the continued attempts to purge the unwanted thoughts before I pass into whatever realm lies beyond.
If we do experience reincarnation, then the most pressing thing to ask would be: how do we remember what we remember and why do we forget what we forget? If you assume reincarnation is for real, then you can readily explain any number of child prodigies. You can explain why kids seem to learn so rapidly what it is they are supposed to be doing in social situations, and you can even explain why some can’t pick things up–perhaps they lived in a completely different culture in a past life. You can even explain some manifestations of homosexuality with reincarnation–if you were a woman who loved a lot of men in a past life, and you are now a man, then those feelings might have carried over.
One certainly can’t expect memories in the intellectual sense to carry over, since none of us can honestly recall a past life event in any detail. What seems to be more readily convincing for the argument of reincarnation are the ways in which humans at a very early age can know and do so much with very little parental guidance. The memories that get carried over into another life may be ones more closely related to emotionally charged events–great traumas of war and abuse, and moments of intense sexual bonding with others.
Of course, the argument to completely stop trying to think about existence on these terms is also a compelling one. For, if we were meant to see ourselves in terms of who we’ve been through the millenia, wouldn’t we be given better insight and richer, fuller memories of those past lives? One could argue that we are made to forget on purpose, because the entire point of being here is to develop and grow from the point of view of starting over again with a clean slate. If you are successful in ressurecting some of your past life memories, then you are simply mucking up your new path of progress.
When seized by that kind of argument, I tend to take it to an even greater extreme — why not start each day anew, each moment anew–why bother holding near and dear to yourself the things in the past that you accomplished or screwed up?
Such is the point of creating my new narrative, but such an implementation can be almost impossible. Where do I begin? It’s like I’m getting ready to operate on somebody, and I don’t have any training on where to make the first cut, or even how deep the first cut should be. Should I begin a new narrative of how I stopped worrying about how to become great and learned to love just being alive? Or should I continue to try to find that one single thing that I can spend the rest of my life obsessing over and getting good at?
The idea of learning a programming language or database or operating system or something has its appeal in that it is completely divorced from any sense of being vital to the health of the soul or humanity. It’s the modern equivalent of learning to be a skilled factory worker or mechanic. You plug in, chug away at it, unplug, and who you really are and what you do is defined by how you spend your time away from work. You go hang out with friends, you play with your kids, you play video games, you get caught up in the simple sensual delights of being a middle-class American in this century. You don’t take yourself too seriously, nor do you fret too much about the environment or the economy. You are checked out of feeling as if you share responsibility with everyone else to fix the planet.
You are no longer walking around with the world on your shoulders, and anyone who would criticize you for taking this approach is probably still quite charmingly young and full of ideals, or frighteningly old and full of ideals.