In Easy Rider

In Easy Rider, the scene where Peter Fonda asks Dennis Hopper if he’s ever wanted to be anyone else, and Dennis Hopper says glibly, “Daffy Duck,” and Peter Fonda says, “Not me man, I’ve never wanted to be anyone but me.” Or, something to that effect.

For that generation, it was the first time such a large group of people coming of age had the opportunity to be many different things. The ones who survived the 60s and 70s became yuppies who wanted to die with the most toys. You could have been a rocker, stoner, junkie, pool shark, traveler, hippie, and a middle manager of a large corporation–if your parents had the means and you had the will to stay alive and keep moving.

For my generation, we were the first generation where our parents could decide via the pill and legalized abortion whether they wanted us or not. It didn’t always work that way, of course, but many of us came of age as “starter children” to parents who would go on to have millennial younger siblings that received more attention and focus so they could succeed in school and life. These are, of course, broad strokes. Gen X came of age with computers that didn’t do much of anything and anyone serious about making movies needed access to a lot of expensive film. There was electronic music, but anyone who wanted to be a computer DJ would have to wait until processor speeds caught up and chips got small enough so you could tote around your DJ lab in your laptop.

The so-called millennial generation looks a lot more like the Baby Boomer generation in a lot of ways–but one way is how the technology came into their hands–mass-marketed consumer technology to make music and art and film seemed to arrive in a first wave in the sixties, and the Gen X generation mostly worked with improvements on it. Video wasn’t really a viable medium for serious storytelling until the digital format caught up, became HD, and techniques and tools became widely available to make video look less like video.

But, the principle still applies–the amount of time you have on your hands to become anyone you want to be is limited. If you have too many disparate things you want to do and be, you may very well end up being none of them.

I certainly strive to live with very little as I generally see most of the really nice things I would want to have being out of the reach of my paycheck and my current lifestyle as a father. The thought of owning a muscle car, a motorcycle and being able to pack up a truck and go camping when I feel like it is highly appealing, but it probably won’t happen in this lifetime.

Feeling good and going nowhere

It’s true that on some level, I just want to be happy. Being happy rather than unhappy at all times, is a nice way to be. 

There is also this sense I have of my Core Self. This is like those little colorful representations of hard drive data you couldn’t move back when it was interesting to watch Windows Disk Defrag run. In some moments of intense belief, I see this as a Self that was a blank slate when I arrived upon the earth, formed only by genetics and the chemistry of the womb. At other times, I detect that I was already full of strange memories that I couldn’t have possibly gotten from any person or television, having been raised in a home with a strict “no TV” policy, and remembering my older brothers scratch their heads in puzzlement at the dreams, memories and ideas I spewed forth.

Based on the series of paralyzing visions I had the summer I was 13, and the mystical jaunts I took in college into worlds that could only be described as more real and palpable than lucid dreams, I tend to posit that there was a Me before the me I know from memories of the present life.

Could this all be demonic illusion?

Absolutely. It could be the product of a brain gifted with an intense, unruly imagination that was able to trick the sensual memories. It could just about anything.

But, the point is, I tend to think that there was something I took with me from a past life that came through the great memory wash we all experience, and there will be things I take with me into the next life, for better or for worse. For worse, meaning that perhaps you’re not supposed to take anything at all, hence the prohibition against making graven images. Or, for better, in the sense that my Core Self, while not susceptible to the usual Defrag assaults, should still be modified via some means, and made nicer than it was when I arrived on this earth.

I am still full of so many of the bad things.

The tendency to overreact, especially letting my temper get the better of me. My will toward avoiding conflict even when it is necessary and responsible. My vices and bad habits, or a predilection for having some that I can cling to for comfort and escape from reality.

I look back on so much of my writing that was meant to be undertaken with an eye to improving this Core Self, and I see it as often devolving into being nothing more than another vice, a means of making myself feel comforted by seeing my thoughts printed out before me, while giving myself a warm, fuzzy mental pat on the back that I’m such a profound thinker.

It is, of course, navel gazing (or navel rubbing) at its best. I don’t deny it. I don’t go back to work the next week suddenly stronger and better equipped to handle situations that are outside of my comfort zone. I don’t change much.

Real change is almost impossible. You have to know what you’re supposed to be changing, and what is actually just you, the way God made you. Then, you have to set goals, or at least have some idea of who or what you want to become, because constantly dwelling on who you don’t want to be isn’t good enough. Then, you have to come up with tactics to reach those goals that might see you doing stuff that you’ve never done before. I get tired just thinking about real change.