What does it say about me that I read something I wrote twenty years ago

What does it say about me that I read something I wrote twenty years ago and found it both hilarious and completely disgusting? I remember grossing out my friend K with the story, and he was someone who was hard to one up when it came to irreverence and disgusting literature. I didn’t have the balls back then to turn it in as a short story for a creative writing class, and I’m not sure I will have the balls to post it on my main blog as I go back in time and try to post almost everything I’ve written in one place. I suppose that now, it’s not so much about having the balls or not, but about shaming my son–I’d hate for him to walk through life under the shadow of a dad with a reputation for having once attempted to write in the splatterpunk genre.

Reading what I wrote ten years ago, I have a different sort of response–I was whiny and full of myself and paralyzed from getting out of so many mucky holes I’d dug for myself financially, relationship-wise, career-wise, etc. You might not have gotten the impression I would ever amount to anything at all, having read some of this stuff.

The silver lining in all of it is that there is proof that people can change throughout their adult lives, even after they’ve stopped growing physically and educationally, and their careers are more or less incrementally improving. People can change no matter what is said about their personality traits or so-called ingrained characteristics. People do change in spite of themselves, sometimes, not because of any dedicated effort on their parts.

I suppose after I am long dead and gone, it will hardly matter what of my writing gets published, but I am somewhat apprehensive that the representative sample will be skewed to something salacious, titillating or downright offensive to almost anyone who reads it–something I wrote at the age of 20 with the sole purpose of hoping to offend everyone, including my unflappable best friend.

Of course, I could delete it. I’ve tried to delete every instance of one particular story, but I’d apparently embedded it in a massive file that had a collection of all my unfinished short stories, and that file has continually been copied over and over again each time I back things up.

On the other hand, I could optimistically hope for a future generation of humanity that is more forgiving than this one is. People screw up, make mistakes, say stupid things when they are young and many times when they are not-so-young, and these things aren’t necessarily reflective of their core character. Sometimes they probably are, as in the case of a repeat offender–but, not always. Then again, the only real forgiveness that will matter comes from above.

Sure, I could just go through all copies of stuff I wrote in the late 90s, and delete it all. I mean, it’s not like anyone at this point cares who I am or what I’ve written. Or, I could just let Fate take it where it will after I’ve died.

It remains to be determined what will happen.

Think hyperlocal

If you are reading this, it means you are probably getting to know me from the vantage point of hundreds of years from this moment that I’m writing it.

Or perhaps, time means nothing to you.

There are a lot of things I want to write to you about, since you will be mostly unfamiliar with the ways of my people. But, I have to warn you, that I am frankly kind of unfamiliar with their ways myself.

For a time, the media in which we mostly lived was not text. I am assuming that words have come back into vogue in your time, or you are a specialist who knows how to read the printed word.

Either way, I am going to make the assumption that you delight in reading the written word, and living inside the worlds created by it. I wish I could tell you that I am a master storyteller, one of the great bards with a rich, deep vocabulary and command of the various ages of our poetry and drama.

I am a great being, nonetheless, as I discovered one morning when I stepped out of the shower. What I actually discovered was that all living things are great beings. You probably know this more completely even than I do, but I am just at the start of my journey of understanding.

I went on to pursue what it means to know a thing. To know a living being. To know a great text. To know myself. I wanted to know everything there is to know, and then I discovered that you could know everything, and still know nothing about everything.

What was needed was a deeper exploration of an individual concept, to examine it beyond the superficial understanding that I thought was so profound.

For example, what does it mean to be someone who would choose to cut open a bag of almonds he purchased at the store, and leave the extra plastic that was clipped off of the bag on the counter for someone else, presumably his future self, to deal with? Compare and contrast that to someone who would choose to take the moment to throw it into the trash so that nobody has to deal with it in the future. Or, compare these two fellows to someone who purchases almonds from a local health food store where he brings his own container, and doesn’t leave behind any waste materials. But then, you might argue that an even more virtuous fellow would grow his own almonds, or buy only locally-grown, seasonal nuts, to reduce the amount of carbon emissions caused by transporting the nuts to the health food store. However, the fellow that grows his own nuts is still creating a drain on the ecosystem, by destroying natural habitats and draining the aquifer to grow them.

The most virtuous fellow wouldn’t bother to disturb the land at all for his food, clothing and shelter, only scavenging dead matter for clothing and shelter, and eating the windfall nuts. But this fellow, when dropped into my culture, would probably behave mostly like the first fellow, who offered the path of least resistance to get his nuts, because he was wholly unconscious of the impact his actions had.

The story of my life has been one of taking the path of least resistance, and finding much to my chagrin that this upsets people the most. So, I’ve become more adjusted socially to my culture, striving to keep up with the other males my age, and do my best to hit milestones like career titles, buying houses, getting married and having children.

In my time, it is easier to take a path of least resistance. Only in my lifetime, have people started to wake up to comprehend how their choices about food and lifestyle impact the rest of the globe. I have lived my life mostly not questioning where my food comes from or how my clothes got to the store where I had easy access to them, without needing to kill animals or struggle for years at a low wage job to save up for my clothes. I don’t ask if my clothes arrived at the expense of horribly polluting the earth and causing tens of thousands of children to work for next to nothing in factories.

It is easier not to think about the sheer amount of suffering enacted upon the animals who gave up their lives to get to my table. I don’t care about these things because nobody has really required that I care about them.

On most days of the week, the chances that I would be able to survive in my society with even a modicum of a lifestyle similar to others of my age, gender and family background without at least partly leaving a destructive footprint–these are very slim chances indeed.

Just being able to reside in a modest dwelling, like a low income apartment, requires that I consume gallons of water and create tons of carbon emissions to drive to a job of meager salary. This inevitably means that I must buy foods that will come heavily processed and packaged, and I will generate a lot of additional waste from consuming barely enough to stay alive. In order to embark upon a more natural lifestyle, I will make a hard choice to leave behind much of what I was raised to take for granted as being mine by birthright.

I am, in effect, a prince of the world, albeit a minor one. The feudal system is still largely intact, but the number of kings and princes has expanded to encompass more people who live under the illusion that they are part of a middle class or middle income group. In actuality, they are part of the top 10% of the most wealthy people on the planet, when the entire planet is taken into consideration.

I am not exactly sure how the problems of global growth will be solved. If you are reading this, I am certain that they have been solved either through the annihilation of millions of people (naturally or through wars), or they have been solved through smarter planning and more cooperation across nations.

We had a saying for awhile that was en vogue about twenty years prior to me writing this “Think globally, act locally.” It was a nice, pithy saying that summed up a good mindset for understanding the consequences of our actions on a global scale, but I don’t think it was widely received by many of the people who needed to understand it the most.

Across the globe, we continue to think and act mostly locally, and then get up in arms now and then if our particular nation state feels threatened. There are clear different points of view about the way human beings should conduct themselves that are in constant conflict with each other, but the primary obsession for most people who seek to control others is the lust for power and resources itself. To some degree, our capitalist system, coupled with a lot of athletic and other entertainment distractions, has pacified most of these people.

It has done a better job of pacifying the power and resource hungry than any other system humans have proposed and executed. The problem is that it has effectively made a larger group of people into little lords and ladies of the earth, but it this has happened at the expense of 90% of the earth’s population.

The answer to changing it is probably one of replicating the system at a more hyperlocal level, so that regions of differing opinions about moral conduct can have their autonomy and see growth that they own. Effectively, our capitalist system as it is set up today, flows most of the wealth into the hands of a few, because the super rich are possessed of a kind of disorder that is similar to the drug addict or the morbidly obese food addict.

The answer in most cases is probably not isolation and religious tribes warring with each other, and the answer is probably not a resurrection of socialism or communism.

Really, the mindset of the very people living in different parts of the world needs to change. Just because something is cheaper and easier to obtain at a large box store doesn’t mean that it is the most healthy thing for your community. But, it might be, if you don’t have the natural resources in your region to obtain the raw materials to create, for example, a bunch of tools and lumber for your own hyperlocal hardware store.

So, the real trick is getting more local communities to really see what they are potentially good at, not just good at. Does this mean that every region in the world should start strip mining and tearing down their trees to make raw supplies that they in turn use themselves? Certainly not. The fact may be that the most valuable resources in a community are human, and the humans don’t even know their own potential for what they could trade on a market in exchange for the raw materials needed to build their own tools and homes, and farm their own food.

The problem with most government-driven initiatives to stimulate the economy is that they are run by people who can only think at the macro level, whether they are in favor or opposition to these initiatives. The interest rate is tweaked, banks receive bailouts, maybe a few large companies get some subsidies or bailouts as well. People in local regions don’t feel empowered because they don’t have any say in the matter. They get upset and form movements like the Tea Party Movement or OWS which are both movements born from a similar feeling of frustration.

The next highly successful and popular President will be someone who “gets” the need for hyperlocal economic stimulation. Often, this can come in the form of public service announcements, heavy marketing, and contests which do not offer exorbitant sums for prizes, but are more catalysts to stimulate local entrepreneurship and growth. So far, most presidential candidates in recent years have appeared to be highly unaware of this, likely because they are like most people who are very successful in getting that far–their eyes are on the prize of being able to control a nation state, and in the case of the U.S., much of the world. So, they are only locally focused for as long and as much as it takes to do the retail politicking required to win the primary elections in the states that matter.

A good hyperlocal President will study the regions in the U.S. and look at both the surprisingly successful for and non-profit businesses that have sprung up in these areas. Instead of thinking that all Kentucky has to offer is coal and horses, this President will dig deeper and talk about hemp and biotech.

The other change in our government that could go a long way to helping the U.S., is to have a President entirely focused on economic affairs, and one focused entirely on matters of national security as it pertains to defense and the military. This would alleviate a lot of the strain on a single person, and allow for Democrats, who typically win big on domestic issues, to generally put up a solid economic-focused President, and Republicans to put up a solid national security President.

The big deciding factor in making this happen would be, of course, the need to cease the relentlessly unhelpful mantra that Democrats want more taxation and socialization. I see Democrats evolving into becoming Technocrats who act pragmatically in building economic relationships with foreign business and government entities, and Republicans evolving into becoming Militocrats who make sure that these relationships aren’t dangerous to national security. Each has to seek approval of congress for his or her budget, and each President only has control over a budget that pertains to his/her subject matter area. So, if you run as a Militocrat, then you shut the hell up about the economy and the relationships that big businesses have with the government, and if you run as a Technocrat, you shut up about how we are crafting our Foreign Policy and where we are sending our troops.

This would also provide oversight to problems of the large, industrial/military complex that has often caused more tax dollars to be spent on government contractors than on the troops.

We will also see progress if we can allow people to opt-in, a la carte, to the services that they want to pay for privately or publicly. Do you want you and your family to be sent to a government-run prison if you ever happen to get in trouble with the law? Opt in to it. Do you want your kids to have their education paid for at a good-enough state school? Opt in to it. You are given the option to opt in or out on your tax forms, by household, every eight years or if you have recently become an independent or divorced adult. Most of these opt-in services will come in chunks: protection and safety, healthcare, education, parks and wildlife, highways and other infrastructure. If you are caught using any of these services that you haven’t opted in to pay taxes for, you are fined at a reasonable rate above and beyond what you paid for. If you opt in at a crucial time, like only after your kids are old enough to go to school, you pay a higher up-front fee than if you’d opted in eight, sixteen, etc. years prior to the date.

This way, the wealthy can stop whining about how unfair it is that they are paying the lion’s share of taxes for moochers–but they will have to pay for all things private, not just their kids’ K-12 education. If their children get convicted of a crime, then they will go to the private prison system if they had opted out of paying for publicly-funded prisons.

Everyone gets to have the government they want to have and the president they want to have.

There could be a base tax that covers essential government services. It would be too difficult to cordon off something as granular as a city for the purpose of avoiding providing, for example, military defense of that particular city because they had raised a private militia and didn’t want to fund the next war. But, we could seriously look into creating entire “zones of freedom,” where people are permitted to live as close to being purely Libertarian, or at the other end of the spectrum, purely communist. These zones could see representation in government as a formality similar the way D.C. has a token representative to vote on certain matters in Congress. Perhaps the representation could be extended beyond what D.C. is offered.

On the cessation of Time

There is a persistent notion inside of me that time ceased to function properly after September 11, 2001. There is this feeling that the world I’ve been living in has not really moved on from that day, and that time itself had really started to wind down after January 15, 1999.

I have days where I feel like one of the characters in the movie Inception who are inhabiting someone else’s unconscious mind, and all of the members of that mind start to turn on them because they know that person shouldn’t be there. So many days go by where I feel like a took a wrong turn for good, and have been slowly descending into hell.

I’ve never been especially good about setting my own goals and sticking to them. I can occasionally work toward a medium-sized goal, like running a half marathon, but even that was mostly driven by the hope that some lady would learn of my achievement and fall madly in love with me for it. After getting engaged, my ability to be motivated to do much of anything for the long term pretty much ceased altogether.

So, I think part of my struggle with time after 1/15 or 9/11 has to do with the broader relation of my own life to these dates. Up until I graduated from college, I had a clear series of milestones I needed to hit. It was almost impossible not to hit them. I had to work really hard to miss a milestone. Therefore, time was easy to keep track of in discrete packages. There was pre-K, K, 1-6, 7-8, 9-12, college. I could look back on life and measure time according to the events that transpired on a yearly basis.

After college, it was kicked wide open. I had a vague idea that I would live with my parents, pay off my debt, save up some money and go to NYC or travel the country. Then, I met Olivia, then, Roy died. Then, I moved to Austin, then I broke up with Olvia. Then, I got mixed up in the Ahmis drinking crowd. Then, 9/11 happened, and the world seemed to grow dark.

I stopped setting any real goals of value. I had vague notions of suddenly becoming successful at something, or stumbling upon a job that paid so much more than Ahmis did. By then, I was in the kind of debt that would have sent most people into bankruptcy, and I had no real course set up to work my way out of it. I spent a total of eight years at Ahmis Communications, before finally going on a binge of mini-goal setting around volunteering and seeking work at a non-profit.

I felt like I’d accomplished something great, but I was really just doing the same shit as before, but at a non-profit and making less money at it.

It never occurred to me to take a step back from everything, set clear goals around going back to school or carving out a career, or finishing a novel and getting it published. It has only come to sink in slowly just how easy life can pull you away from whatever path you try to put yourself upon, when you are no longer under the watchful care of mommy and daddy.

I started to put a stake in the ground this past month, that I would quit my full-time job completely, and take freelance jobs here and there, and begin working on a novel and taking care of my newborn son when he arrives. Immediately, my boss called me and tried to talk me into getting a raise, and staying on, even working part-time through the first few months of my son’s new life. I almost fell for it. My boss sounded pathetic, and that’s always going to make me a sucker over someone yelling at me or telling me how I could be doing better and taking more responsibility for myself. He praised and flattered my ego. And, I was ready to move forward with staying on with my current employer part time. But then, he went on vacation, and suddenly all of the reasons I don’t want to continue to work for a company made themselves manifest. All of the little cooks in the kitchen with their little fiefdoms thinking they know what’s best to make the company successful–and all of them telling me to shut up and just push out the emails.

And I realized that I was allowing, yet again, somebody else to make me stray from my dreams. The last phone call I had with my dad certainly didn’t help, either. He was his usual overly cautious self, clearly skeptical about my decision to go freelance right before the birth of my first son.

I had this pithy insight just now while walking the dog as to why things were so different after college.

The milestones of completing grades and various blocks of grades were all practically set in stone. The milestones of what happened after getting the Bachelor’s degree were not, although they appeared deceptively so at first. I think I had in my head, unshakeably and persistent even after the notion was refuted time and again, that finding my wife was just going to happen–ideally, some fall or spring morning on the campus quad, I would just bump into her and it would be effortless. Fate would bring us together, and I would hit the mileston of marriage within two-three years after college, after hitting the milestone of the summer European backpacking vacation and the internship at a creative agency in NY or SF.

I became desperate in my quicksand of reality when I realized that such milestones weren’t going to just happen, and they weren’t complete givens the way finishing high school or college had been. I began to claw every which way and sink even further, faster, as I tried to get out and get back on some semblance of a track.

I think I have never even completely faced the fact of how comforting it has been to finally meet my wife, and again be hitting “set in stone” milestones, like engagement, marriage, first home together, and now first child. I also think that I am utterly bewildered as to what my own personal milestones will look like between now and the age of retirement. For, aside from the inevitable ones that will come with the raising of the child or children, everything else is still up to me.

If I don’t figure out how to set a hard milestone that is truly etched in stone around completing this novel, it will never get written. And, I honestly have no idea how to do it. I can create schedule-filled spreadsheets that look like GANT charts with the best of them for how I should spend my time to complete it, but I can also tell you that I will stop opening the spreadsheets within three days, and it will all go out the window. I have never developed the ability to formulate a persistent belief in my head that completing a project I create for myself is just as inevitable as the ones that life and other people create for me.

The truth is, I have already had so many days over the past week where I’ve veered off course. I’ve started to place the mostly unrealistic idea of me creating my own business out of my freelance work as top billing in my mind. I’ve even flirted around with the thought that maybe I wasn’t “made” to write this novel, but I should be teaching myself to play piano or getting back into painting with a fully serious notion that I will one day be good enough to have a gallery opening. Thankfully, I haven’t gone so far as to descend into the arena of pretending that I could and should learn computer programming skills and get a high paying job as a Python/Hadoop big data wizard at some financial company.

But, I’ve definitely had more than a few moments where I’ve allowed the sense of the inevitability of the birth of the novel to almost completely fade away.

The problem is one that I’ll attempt to analyze in further detail.
1. I relied almost exclusively on external events and other people to dictate what I was supposed to be doing with my time, from the age of 0-22.
2. Even after getting some indication that I needed to take my own initiative to derive success in life, the picture wasn’t completely and painfully clear until about the end of 2001–and I was now 25 at this point.
3. Even then, the fact that I was now in the driver’s seat wasn’t enough–the mere existence of the fact didn’t enlighten me as to the HOW of changing myself to fit this new role.
4. Today, the words of others can still have more of an impact on what I do next than the words inside my own head. It is too easy to hear the naysayers more loudly and clearly, and make decisions that I hope will please and quiet them, than to actually produce a crystal clear voice, ie, my own true voice, letting myself constantly know that I am, in fact, a writer first and foremost when making any professional considerations.

It is a tough road to walk because I have never had my writing validated by others to a degree where I can write away without any doubt whatsoever as to the rightness of my undertaking. I can’t say for certain that I won’t die and leave behind a pile of words that history treats as the work of a writer manque or hobbyist writer, or even more terrible: a mere graphomaniac.

I’ve kept my writing mostly hidden in the workplace, only producing a professional blog entry or white paper when absolute necessity dictates it. At first, this was completely due to a fragile ego, and then it became a serious mission–to keep what I do in the temporary professional arena separate from my one day profession and true calling. I wanted my marketing and web design work to be no different than the series of odd jobs struggling writers of the past took on to make ends meet until they got their break. But now, things have come full circle, especially as young people without these kind of principles enter the workplace and gladly take on any writing or editing job thrown at them. Having my writing or creative input heavily critiqued or even worse, completely ignored, seems to sting my ego all the more. Having people fifteen years younger than me send me copy that I am told to shut up and cut and paste and send out is utterly unsatisfying.

I think that my opportunity to write as much as I would like, and dive into dozens of novels I need to read to get back into the groove of writing fiction, may be less available to me than I would like to think it will be. If my wife decides that she doesn’t really want to go back to work, then I’ll have to accept a full-time job doing this kind of work I’ve come to hate, but can make money doing. However, I also think that I’ve come to allow too many windows of free time to pass in states of ennui–drifting in and out of a nap or TV coma while pretending that I was meditating or researching American culture.

I like this under-explored notion of seeing the birth of my novel as being inevitable, so much to the point that the existence of it becomes as much due to my efforts as the existence of my own son will be. In other words, I plant the seed, I tend to the Muse who is nurturing the novel, but she does all of the work. I get the “baby’s room” ready–I prepare the way for the novel by researching the best editors to contact when you are completely unknown and take the time to reach out to them. But, at the end of the day, once the novel is birthed and released into the world, he is his own living thing apart from me, and only mine in the sense that he carries some of my DNA and ideas and beliefs.

As much as my parents raising me and teaching me things was about me being conditioned to be an acceptable mate for someone so that I could pass on the family DNA, so has been my conditioning and “training” in life for the moment when I am finally ready to seriously put forth a work that comes from the metaphorical loins of my mind. Perhaps that’s too much metaphor in the wrong direction.

But, I do want this to seem inevitable. I relish the idea of the inevitable. I think that I am often too easily caught up in creating situations for myself where I think: okay, this is it, from this moment henceforth, I will never again X, Y or Z. And then, I find myself backsliding, quitting, giving up and completely changing course. I remember that the initial reason for my volunteering on a political campaign was to give me something to put on my resume after I completed the prerequisite courses at the local community college and was filling out the applications to get into one of the top public policy schools for my master’s degree. This was back when I had just turned 30. But then, the undercurrents of life, plus the headiness of the political campaign, got the better of me, and I suddenly found myself being fired from my sales job I’d talked myself into at Ahmis, and making the tough decision not to schmooze with the friends of the candidate at a much later date after she inevitably lost (she was a Democrat running for statewide office in Texas).

I had completely lost site of taking the prerequisite classes at the community college, forgotten about the goal of getting the public policy degree, and suddenly, the only thing that seemed inevitable was that I would continue to fall in and out of love with the lady I was off and on dating, and I would hopefully find my way out of Ahmis but for good. In other words, there were no great milestones of inevitability ahead for me, but simply ones of hoping that the negative stuff in my life would eventually go away. I also made deals with God during that period, that if he would heal my mom of cancer, then I would stop some of my more unsavory vices. Of course, I couldn’t hold up my end of the bargain for more than a week, and I guess God decided not to hold up his end, either.

I’ve never had a stronger sense of inevitability about me walking away from any sort of appearance of having a career in Marketing or Sales, than the sense I have of it today. My vision of the legacy I leave behind is one where all of the years I worked for these companies and the non-profit will mostly be a side note to the substance of my life work. I have this sense that much of what has happened with web companies in the past twenty years is ephemeral to the nth degree, and yet so much of it seems to be the same rehashed thing on a new platform or device that everyone rushes to try. I understand that there is a solid shift in our way of living and thinking brought on by these technologies, and a few of them will be around in a hundred years if there is still civilization and an economy to support them. But, for me, the act of writing just feels more permanent and trustworthy than the act of designing a web page or creating a piece of marketing collateral or engaging with a new app or device. I have no pretensions about writing using old tech–for me, it’s whatever works. But, the act itself is now at least five thousand years old, if not many more years than that. The moment of seeing what was simply a thought in your head appear etched in some kind of physical medium is still a moment clothed in power, magic and mystery.

Nobody who thinks they knew me over the past twenty years would guess that I am such a traditionalist. The older I get, the more I love things that are classical and have held up to the test of human history and fads. I seek out books and stories that communicate universal truths–truths that I can still relate to today, and see men still relating to a hundred years from now. I have no idea how much of the new technology and trends of the past twenty years will be around at the start of next century. I couldn’t even begin to guess. But, I do know that any website or piece of marketing collateral I created will be long gone. Even stuff that was created last year is generally considered extremely old in my business. People crave everything that is brand new, because they want to be a part of something the way others were a part of past tech companies at the height of their success. It’s perfectly understandable, but it’s also damn tiresome. By the time I finally got a handle on making a decent website controlled entirely by DIVs, CSS and sitting on a 960 grid, responsive design was just a few years around the corner.

I can feel deep inside that I’ve reached that age where I really am becoming the old dog that doesn’t want to learn new tricks. Especially when the new tricks look a lot like the old tricks, but gussied up in new terminology and pretty new clothes. If I really had my way, I would go back to building websites to be so stripped down to just text and the occasional image, hand coded in kindergarten HTML, and missing any flash or pizzazz.

I’ve found that I probably use about 30% of my smart phone for what it’s worth. I use email and internet, and might download the occasional news or weather app. I would be quite content to simply placing a few bookmark icons on the home screen to sites if I could–if I wasn’t constantly bombarded with requests to download everyone’s useless app. I almost never text message, and only use the camera when I’m on vacation. I could get by on having a phone that had only the internet, text messaging and camera in addition to the phone itself, and not miss any of the other apps.

I wonder what all of these older Millennials will think when they turn 40, and the younger Millennials and kids from the next generation are up and coming with ideas for apps and technologies that they can’t or won’t keep up with? Naturally, a selection of them will do their best to pretend they aren’t getting old, and a fair number of them will probably just be lost altogether.

But, the area of being a traditionalist that I never really thought I would explore is the one that I think I need to examine the most. It has nothing to do with new vs. old technologies, or new vs. old morals and values, but it has more to do with the deep need to have life where I’m taken care of by my community, my family, my institutions, my expected milestones. When I turned 30, I began to get scared about never finding my wife, and never having children. Now that I’m almost 40, I’m terrified about being close to retirement age when they go off to college. Where I live now, my being out of sync with the expected milestones is even more keenly felt. In Austin, you could throw a stone and hit ten Peter Pans who were entering their forties and not married yet. In this small Texas town, I find that being 30 and not married with children is odd.

You have know idea how much I wish I could go back to college and join more of the clubs, and sing the fight song at more games, and attend my graduation ceremony. The feeling of always having missed out on something certainly didn’t start in college, but it always seems to land back on that time period when I start to have it strongly. Night after night I dream about being late for a class or test, or having missed out on most of the class throughout the semester, or I’m returning to college to finally complete my degree or get a “real” degree.

In part, I was utterly overwhelmed to the point of being catatonic when I started college. I was so terribly excited at all of the possible nights of partying, drinking, sex and epic college experiences, that I couldn’t really get myself together. I was feverish with anticipation at being in such a large city for the first time on my own (Murphy Falls had 2500 people when I graduated and Columbia has about 35000) — Columbia had a Mosque and an Asian food market. I might as well have been dropped into London or NYC for what it was worth. I spent a lot of time just wandering about town on my own, hoping to catch the eye of some girl, or stumble on to some kind of multicultural happening. In truth, I was utterly terrified and felt like I was a six year old dropped into a world of grownups.

In some ways, at least as social experiences were concerned, I probably was about six years old. I had never attended a school dance, and could only boast of two girlfriends, one of which had gotten semi-serious. I had never had to walk up to a group of guys and make them see that I could be a good, solid heterobuddy, or bro as they now say. I was 100% convinced that religion was going to get me nowhere, and alcohol was going to take me everywhere I wanted to be. So, I ignored my mom’s endless pleas to go to one of the church events where they were giving away free food to incoming freshman and offering something lame like a volleyball game or cookout. I was ready to be a man of the world, damnit, and I was certain that once I got a little drunk, the world would open up for me.

***

The idea of creating a hard milestone that I stick to, one that is wholly generated by myself, seems to be an utter impossibility. I can look back and see that any achievement I had while in school or at work, or the success of finding a wife and starting a family–all came from me deciding to stick with the program. But, the milestones were rigidly implanted in me from the outside at an early age. The inevitableness of marriage and children, of work after college and leaving a current workplace for a better opportunity comes with the territory of my culture. But, a hard goal like–I will run a marathon in one year from now, or I will be fluent in Spanish in one year, or I will publish my novel in one year–these are hard goals that remain on the surface and are easily run over by life itself.

In order for such a goal to take, I have to figure out how to plant it somewhere deep inside of me so that it feels inevitable. I think they got a lot wrong in that Inception movie, and one thing they really got wrong was that the idea had to be his idea in order for him to carry through with it. I tend to think for a lot of us, it’s just the opposite. We want to do something if it smacks of fate. If I know that it’s inevitable that I will publish a novel, then my habits and routines start to change to align with this inevitable thing. On days when the last thing I want to do is get up and write, or do the more important research to create believable characters and dialogue, if I am resigned to my task with a sense of fatalism on those days, then I will continue to work when I least feel like it.

At the very least, I am working to get rid of all the things that are terrible that I tend to feel are inevitable. Like, oh, it’s inevitable that I’m going to lose my temper, do that vice, find myself in another shit job pushing buttons. Same old same old. Why not create in my head a sense of fatalism about a bunch of good things? Well, it’s inevitable that I’m going to be rich in the next few years and have to live in a swank apartment overlooking Central Park. It’s inevitable that I’m going to be traveling a lot, and speaking to rooms packed with adoring fans. I better start getting ready for it, because it’s coming whether I want it to or not. Well, I guess I’m resigned to my bank account full of money, and all of the responsibility that comes with having to spend my money on good food, clothes, scotch, travel, etc.

Now, I realize that there is a potentially dangerous path that can be taken if I am not really aligning my every day actions to dovetail with the future state of being successful. In other words, I fall into an oft-repeated habit of spending money I don’t have because, “who cares, I’ll be rich enough to pay this credit card off ten times over here in a few months!” I guess there is a difference between living like success is one day inevitable and living like it already happened. If I’d attempted to run away from home at the age of 14 and live in a big city as if I already had my college degree and I was 22-23, I probably wouldn’t have been able to pull it off.

People tend to accept you as you are, but if you feel too much like an undeserving fraud, it will inevitably come through, and your actions won’t align with your words or with your body language.

***

I don’t want to believe in Time as an objective contsruct. I don’t want to believe that aging and death are inevitable. I’m not ready to yet. If Time is an objective contstruct, much the same as the table my foot is resting on, then why can’t it be traversed or circumvented in like fashion? I’m too old, though, to really believe that I could potentially go to bed tonight and wake up in a different time period of my own life, or somebody else’s life. I’ve never experienced even a hint of evidence that it could be so. But, I still hold a glimmer of hope somewhere in the back of my mind, in case there is a tiny possibility.

I have long since lost the kind of mystery and awe that comes with experiencing new things in the world. I hope to vicariously get some of this back when my newborn son arrives. I do have to wonder just exactly what God had in mind when he made the world the way he did. It can at turns seem utterly obvious, and then become confusing and frighteningly chaotic.

When does the new narrative begin?

Did it begin with this blog, did it begin ten years ago? What moment of what decision can I state unequivocally that the new narrative began? Or is it yet to begin even still? I could suggest that the new narrative begins each time I sit down to write inside a fresh, white WYSIWYG box. Maybe it will begin with my newborn son arriving in the world.

My new narrative definitely doesn’t include bellyaching about the past. Whining about the way others mistreated me, or what someone said or did fifteen years ago that hurt my feelings and was just plain wrong, is an activity for some other blog, but not this one. I have to apologize if that whining has come up on this blog, because it’s not supposed to.

More recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that my new narrative isn’t about making plans, predictions and prophecies, either. Of course, I have a sense of the future, and that sense is always one of hard times. But, I thought for sure that the passing of the Patriot Act would end my life as I knew it, and that the Iraq War would turn Bush into a dictator. I was just plain wrong about this. So, when I hear people go on and on about how terrible Obama is, I tend to think that he’s probably not much better or worse than Bush was. Which is to say, that overall, both did what they had to do, and it hasn’t always looked like what your or I would have done if we were in the driver’s seat. I think I will be okay with the next President being Rand Paul or being Hillary Clinton. I’d be a little concerned if the President were Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, but I’m okay with Chris Christie or Jeb Bush. Frankly, I just don’t care as much as I used to about any of it.

My new narrative isn’t about me as a political man, or me as a man with an overarching plan to one day publish the Great American Novel, or one day finally realize my dream of running a marathon or having people stop by my tent at an art fair and purchase my paintings. I don’t want to make plans that I know I can’t keep. No more schedules, and reporting back on what I did in the last hour. But, my new narrative isn’t about me going back to sleep, either. Far from it.

I want to always be on, all the time, even when I’m physically sleeping. I want to be perpetually stuck in a mode of creating, writing, pushing outward instead of living the role of the passive consumer. Even when I’m watching a movie or reading a book, I want my mind to be actively engaged–turned on, pushing outward, making stuff, even if it’s not very good stuff. Does this mean I will start to appear to be a graphomaniac? Probably, but probably only slightly more so than I already do.

The vision is one of me, the true me, the core incorruptible Self, being this spirit from a greater Universe of higher dimensions infused and trapped inside a corrupt body and corrupt, limited world. I’m here to get an education, but I’m also here to leave something behind. As much as I possibly can, I must leave behind my scratching evidence on the walls of the dark cave, but also leave as much of an imprint of this place etched upon my incorruptible Self–a Self that is but a tiny point of light immersed in the sea of the Great Light that is the Lord. In the process, I must cease all thoughts related to harming others. No matter what others do to me, I can’t create negative, destructive energy. I only act in violence to defend my family, and I do this impartially, without malice to the other human being, whose acts of violence impinging upon me and my family are either born out of a purely animal nature, or born out of a demonic presence. If it’s the former, then carrying more than the minimal amount of self defense in my violent response will turn me into an animal as well. If it’s the latter, then I will be sucked into the ways of the demonic, which I know of all too well, when vengeance courses through my head and heart.

But in all honesty, I hope to never be tested or tried in such a situation. Rather, it’s simply stated as part of this pseudo-manifesto so that it is clear that while I’m a man with a wife and child I can’t act as a completely pacific monk.

The new narrative is largely about none of this, thank God. The new narrative is about being more awake. Each moment contains the will and effort to become more awake than the last. The new narrative is about accepting God’s grace and appreciating it, and also accepting God’s will if it must mean that I am not living my life precisely as I envisioned. The new narrative sees the conscious Self acting like a gestural artist, constantly scratching with the mind against the surface of this 3Dspace+1Dtime universe, while allowing for generous canvas space to reside inside to actively etch upon the soul the lessons that must be learned from living out my life as a human being, and a man of the 21st century.

The new narrative is a fusion of art, writing, existence and consciousness to become an almost new sort of being, a being unlike the one I was yesterday or years gone by. In those years, existence was simply carried out on autopilot, and oftentimes actions took place simply to gratify the flesh or make me feel good while believing I was doing God’s will. The new narrative is full of gratitude and prayer. The activities I will be doing a year from now will hopefully look quite different–I will not longer be employed in a relationship that is mostly one that sees me as a commodity in the modern capitalist marketplace. But if I am still generating an income as such, I will accept my role humbly, instead of waking up each Monday morning to scream at God for a better profession.

I refuse to make a one-year plan, and certainly not a five-year plan, because I have come to the conclusion that such activity fits me poorly, like a bad suit. Planning and goal-setting may be essential for others, and work wonders for them, but for me, these things only lead to unhappiness and guilt over everything I am not doing to contribute toward realization of the plan. When I die, the things I want to leave behind are mostly made of words, and not the things my children would want to sell in an estate sale. Such things can be created and realized at any time of day or night, and require very little in the way of income to make them appear.

I don’t seek to increase my vocabulary, or write beyond what is my level of education and intelligence. If I use a word, it means I am over 80% sure of the meaning, and would feel comfortable using the word in conversation with a stranger. I don’t need to embark upon a specialized path of study and writing. I think the value of my words, if there is any, will come from me speaking plainly and clearly, rather than seeing me attempt to emulate some great, dead philosopher.

The new narrative may not have begun yet, or perhaps it began with this post. Maybe it will begin on the day I am no longer employed in a full-time role, which will be a first in fifteen years. In spite of my lack of certainty about what the new narrative is or when it will begin, I am dead serious about bringing it forth, and using it to shape and mold me to make me a better person. The lack of structure is most decidedly not an indication that this is simply a hobby or a man in a mid-life crisis “playing around with words.” The lack of structure is there to maximize the amount of words that will come forth, and reduce the friction created by too many arbitrary boundaries.

The intense focus will be, if it’s not already crystal clear, on my own self and its movement in this world. The usefulness of this new narrative to others in the sense of the time-honored self help manual, may be limited or non-existent. This is not an accident. The time of taking my own personal struggles and character flaws and trying to turn them into a universal human condition where I recall flawed individuals I knew or create straw men to knock down–that time is pretty much over. Others are living their lives the way they see fit, doing with their time what they will, and so shall I.

…and you are declaring this to be the day that time travel ends.

People who like to think about time travel, which is to say, people like you, tend to envision some kind of time travel happening in which the motions of the planets are completely ignored. Time, when considered from the human vantage point, is always human-centric, even among the great cosmological thinkers. For example, someone proposes a time travel story that seems to be reasonably plausible. The protagonist wakes up ten years in the past in the same place on earth that he was when he departed from the present. Of course, we all have some rudimentary understanding of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. It doesn’t seem likely that you would end up in the exact same location in the known universe if you simply traveled through Time itself. The Earth might be on the other side of the sun, and you would just go falling through space, perhaps caught in the Sun’s gravitational pull, and then fried up from the Sun’s radiation with no space suit or atmosphere to protect you.

Which is all to say that people who think about time travel tend to think about it the same way that people used to think about the Earth itself. It was a flat object that all of the other bodies were drawn to. Humans, especially humans in their particular niche of the world, were at the center of all that God or the gods had in mind for the universe. Above us, heaven, below us, Hades. We tend to think that the Universe, when it comes to Time itself, is very much interested in our tattered little collections of memory artifacts we try to keep sewn together.

Never mind what a larger universal mind might think of Time some five hundred miles above the Earth, or some five hundred light years away from the Earth.

Of course, you could always make the argument that we are still, in fact, very much the center of the gods’ attention, and that all that stuff like the planets and galaxies and such is simply the extended backdrop of the stage, the main event, the front-and-center attraction which is us, we beautiful humans who are the perfect admixture of good and evil, free will and preset destiny. Therefore, any sort of traveling of the finer sort–be it Time travel or instantaneous space travel–is to be discovered primarily within the realm of human consciousness.

Fair enough, but then we are forced to ask the question: how? After decades of research into consciousness using pharmaceutical enhancements, sensory deprivation chambers, and hypnosis that leads to alleged astral projection onto planes that know no temporal localities, nobody has definitively developed a methodology we can use to repeatedly move forward and backward through Time. The best we are left with are stories and impressions that mystics have, and our own crude attempts to mimic time travel in word, art and film.

Then, there is your methodology of time travel that you have employed since before your mind was blown away by the story told in the movie Back to the Future. Where, on many a summer day, you’d find yourself wandering aimlessly through the neighborhood backyards in the rural area of your youth, where fences were only there to keep the cows in (or out). It didn’t take long before you were yearning to go back and repeat the summer trip to Florida that had just ended, or repeat one from a previous year or more if the present summer happened to be a summer in which Grandma no longer was there. You recreated everything in your mind with as much detail as you could muster, spending time to sit still and endure the three hour plane ride, which seemed like forever, and re-run the moment of standing at the baggage carousel listening to one of Grandfather Larry’s jokes.

As you grew older, you found other past events that gave rise to you yearning to revisit them. Scout trips, moments when it seemed like Susan Parker was actually interested in you, times when school didn’t seem to be a universe of bullies and other hateful people coming down upon you. At some point in college, you began to recognize just how poisonous it was to be always spending so much time either in the past or in a fantasy future that was highly improbable. Unfortunately, the act of using your imagination and memory to send you off to another world that wasn’t the here-and-now was an act akin to ingesting a narcotic. It left you in a state of woozy bliss, having your pleasure centers hit by a powerful vision of a pitch perfect environment.

So, you abandoned time travel, until the world began to grow dark and oppressive again. Your little brother died suddenly, your first real girlfriend turned mean and booted you out of her life, and the people you called friends became your captors or at least enablers in your state of bondage, which consisted of staying numbed by booze and stuck in a state of arrested development where you sought out work that was far beneath your intellect. Once again, it became a cozy little thing to imagine that somehow, through either the grace of God, or a trick of the mind, you could pick up your consciousness and drop it into a much younger version of yourself to obtain a magical do-over.

You spent inordinate amounts of time thinking about how you might study this or that subject with a fervor, to throw off all that was evil and immature about you, to become a world-class doctor, writer, priest, physicist, mathematician, pianist, etc. And, of course, in every time travel vision, there was the moment of saving Roy as the centerpiece of it all–how you would walk outside and slash the tires of that goddamn truck if that was what you had to do. It certainly didn’t help that you were reading Slaughterhouse Five about the time your mom was dying–oh the thought of being like that character who jumped to and fro to different moments in his life, but being able to jump back and just give your timeline a slight nudge to put you on a better course.

But, you woke up one evening on the bed that you share with your wife, with your ever-faithful dog at your feet, and the understanding that children would soon be on the way. You knew that if you were able to discover some time-travelling methodology that sent you back at least as far as fifteen years ago, that the odds of you being able to show up at Barton Springs on the exact evening your puppy was dumped, or waiting again through any number of temptations to be at the church where you met your wife on that first Sunday after Easter three years ago–the odds of you ending back up with them in your life as such would be slim to none. Therefore, you would be abandoning your wife, and more unseemly, abandoning your children. Of course, if Time simply works as this being THE timeline, then your wife would never be the wiser–but, just wait until you have children. Would you be prepared to accept the responsibility of consciously creating a world where they would never exist, just to go back and save your little brother from dying, and more pointedly, indulge yourself in leveraging an extra fifteen years’ worth of knowledge and wisdom to your benefit?

But, this might not even be the primary reason for abandoning your foolish quest once and for all. You don’t think the possibility of messing with God’s own plans has given you more than pause, either. What it really comes down to, is the simple fact that in all of your meditations on traveling through time, you have yet to budge a temporal inch. If even only once you were able to successfully drift into a trance and wake up, say, a day in the past–that would have been enough to spur you on to greater heights.

And, so it goes. Along with this endless beating of your head against the wall that you call writing, you are looking to abandon these other pursuits that happen mostly in your head and get you nowhere, nowhen different than where, when you end up going when you decide to just let you be.

…hating what you have, wanting what you can’t control.

A thing is a thing made for your contempt the day you own it, the day you master it. The natural reaction is to either seek more things to bring into your domain, and delight in the process of mastery–or, the reaction is to seek out a thing that will control you; a thing that you know for certain will always be more powerful than you, and give yourself over to it completely.

Such is a fool like you.

You were once much more inclined to have the latter reaction. All those books on meditation that worked so well back in college seem contemptible now. What the hell is the Buddha trying to say to Ananda, anyway? Why does Jesus speak in riddles? Such powerful beings, ones you’ve gladly given yourself over to in the past, should speak with even more authority and command of language than you.

You want a solid deity made of granite, who has held up even after thousands of years of his people chiseling away at him with their will to disobey and their inclinations toward skepticism. You want your deity to hand out commandments on tablets, not parables on the water. From these commandments, you then wish for a collection of minions, be they your future children or some imaginary subjects, who will follow your every word without question.

You want your words to bind you more tightly than flesh ever can. The flesh will continue to crinkle and flake away. The images will grow cloudy, the voices will dim. The music will become distant strains down the hall that you can’t hear loud enough to even whistle the tune to ask someone to remember it for you. But the words, if only the words can come out just right: etched upon your brain by an immortal Deity and brought forth by fingers under this Deity’s spell. These words must live somewhere outside of you, and outside of this medium as well.

You should meditate awhile upon your non-existence–not just death, but a state of being that includes all this is, was and ever will be, except for you. You’ve been erased from every single timeline in every single universe, and all that might remain are a few choice words that you can only hope will bind you.

…with an anatomy of identity like no other.

The core of Truth for most anyone is to know who they are and be able to assert it. Without this core, pretty much any other system of belief or reality remains a possibility to become the one that they adopt.

You take your identity as you believe you know it to be, and run with it. You do not question it. It becomes important to have this identity readily available when asked to do things you don’t ever want to be bothered to do “I’m just not good with numbers, I’m not much of a mechanical person, I don’t know a thing about cooking.”

Before you can even pause to ask if you are on the right track, the world is helping you craft and shape yourself, often without you consciously knowing it.

You are not who you think you are, no matter how much you cherish or despise your identity.

Do we need to repeat this to you?

You are plastic, malleable, flexible–infinitely so. At the same time, you move through the eons building a composite identity body that changes based on the amount of work you put into developing it.

You came here to this earth in this body for a reason. The Consultants worked hard with you to design the genetic makeup that your Self would interface with. For you to deny the body you are in, because you believe you know yourself to be someone or something else, is to spit on the Consultants. And, they don’t like that.

Of course, the Consultants have their arch enemies who are happy to whisper ideas into your head as well. It is up to you to grow a backbone to stand up to this, and a brain to know the difference between a Good Consultant in your head and an Evil Detractor.