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"ERISED"

[written November 26, 2001]
"The only currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone when you're uncool."

-Lester Bangs, "Almost Famous"

The problem with the above quote is that it can be manipulated to appeal to people it never had any intention of appealing to. The problem is that you have people who are socially inept yet do nothing productive for anyone, let alone themselves and justified it by saying they are just different and misunderstood. Or you have people who have never done anything creative in their life and have always kowtowed to the pop culture ideal, yet consider themselves to be better than or unique from others. Yet they'll all use a quote like this because it appeals to the burning modern desire to be entirely unique and different, but at the same time, tremendously cool on some large universal scale that most people don't follow. "I'm cool, it's just that no one realizes it yet." It can validate one's sense of self-importance.

The true value in the quote applies to those who do not hide from what they are and what flaws they have and what their history is. It's not about whether you're cool or uncool or not on a superficial level. It's about, at least in my opinion, the fact that everyone has a façade that they put up to influence others' opinions of them (and even the opinion they hold of themselves) and that the most important moments in life are those rare times when you talk to someone who's revealing their truth to you with full acknowledgement of their flaws. These are the moments when people truly change, inflection points in our long, nonsensical lives.

When I look at society, all I see are these façades.

When I look at peoples' web sites, I am not seeing who they really are. I am seeing what they want me to see. I am seeing the most exciting and socially inflating details of their lives exaggerated and dressed up to impress. They talk about obscure musicians that they might have maybe listened to, or go on and on about how their local bands make the mainstream MTV bands look like garbage. Or how this or that small publication press academia book is far superior to more conventional books on the subject. Panning popular things seems to be a favorite of the ambitious blogger seeking to make a name for herself. I see those sites and I see people seeking validation for their own bloated self-images.

Nowhere is this more particularly grating than when I go to a young girl's site which is full of pictures of herself, she knowing full well that dressing skimpy and seductively draws instant favor from a vast network of other attention-seeking girls and horny boys. Then she will complain about how hard her life is, and will talk about a crush she has on some boy who doesn't know that she exists, and she'll lower a strap of her halter top to show to all the voyeurs in the process.

When I look at businesses, I do not see a person who started a company with a dream to do something he always dreamed of doing. Am I supposed to believe that your life's dream is to develop a customer relations management platform to squeeze out maximum profitability and reduce costs and customer frustration? Am I to think that you want to become an independent lawyer with your own firm just so that you can preserve the laws of your great country and the exercise of those laws? Is it your dying wish to see that your established soap's new scent now smells invigorating as well as discreet enough for a woman? Sure, there are exceptions, like Mark Cuban, who has basically done everything just so he could make watching basketball easier. That makes sense to me. Or diplomats or relief workers or grade school teachers or sane, well-adjusted mothers. (note the qualification) They want to make the world better, for whole nations or even just for their offspring. They don't do it for the money, that's for sure.

When I look at celebrities, models, athletes, musicians, etc. doing interviews, I almost want to cry. To see them talk about how hard their lives are, how exhausting it is, blah blah blah, or to see them talking about how they trained for a role for three months in a strip club, just empties the world of its goodness. These people do things like go around with 90 person entourages, refuse to drink tap water, join Scientology, run away from NYC in a crisis, sleep around shamelessly, and act as though what they are doing really makes a difference. Now, there is something to be said for true artists who worked on their stuff long before it ever made them any money and moved them into the celebrity life and all that. My basic point is that they have all constructed images for themselves that have caught the attention of someone along the way, and that only the truly genuine people made it because of their unique character and drive to do something no matter what the sacrifice. Those people last over time and don't go away after their second or third project.

When I meet people, it doesn't take many life details to figure out whether they're full of shit or not. If you think about it, the path of progress for most people is relatively simple until they start getting into their 30's and 40's. School takes up most of one's young life, and with that comes a sort of myopic, ignorant, simple path that is supposed to get them to where they eventually want to go, even if there's no way in hell they'd have any idea that was the case unless other people told them so. My parents want me to be to be a rich doctor, so I'll do pre-med in college with some other natural science degree like biology or chemistry. Then I'll go to med school after taking my MCATs. Then I'll do residency etc. etc. Or maybe I want to be a writer. I'll go to school and be taught how to write by literature professors who give me their favorite books to read. And so on.

You can tell by what people tried to study and what the result ended up being whether they meant it or not. Once people get far away from their school days, then you see if they really are genuine people or not, because by that point, they either found something they were good at, or they found out a way to get by even if they didn't find something they were good at.

And that's another thing. You hear famous people always thanking God and whatnot. What the fuck? Famous people have a very distorted way of looking at life. While I admire many of them because many had difficulties early on in their lives like living in cars, and that being pivotal towards developing their personalities and false images, eventually they found the golden brick road and it was up and up after that. Praising God for their victories is akin to praising one of those failed dotbombs at the height of the bull market when the stock prices reached highly inflated levels. Every investor is a winner in a bull market. But these people still thank God when they win a music award or the Superbowl. God apparently only cares about famous people. The rest of us are heathens, uninvited to the Ultimate Party. Terrorists thank God as well, for all those infidels dying. Those Christian missionaries (er, sorry, LOVERS OF POOR PEOPLE) thank God for saving them from trying to convert people in a radical fundamentalist country. God gets all the good credit and none of the bad. He should run for governor.

And no, I am not innocent of putting up an image for people to see. When it comes to discussing my future goals in life, much of it really is bullshit like it is for most people. I don't know what the hell I want to do. What I love to do will never make me a living, and in the eyes of most people, it will never define who I am in society. However, I do maintain that when I give my opinion on things (and not defending myself) that I don't sugarcoat things or compromise myself like others do. I still maintain I am an honest writer.

I'm just guilty of rationalizing things in my life to fit whatever little false image I've concocted for myself. You see everyone do it. You see people staying with people who abuse them and don't love them, yet they will sit there and justify why their spouse or lover is so great. You see people unhappy in shitty jobs and they'll say how they love to do programming or whatnot. One of the tragedies I see in our society is that it is highly unlikely that most people will be able to do that over-used and trite expression, "being adventurous and doing what you love." People have to pay their bills, and further their careers. Even if many people weren't too scared to take a risk, the likelihood of them succeeding in dropping everything and following something they REALLY enjoy, and making a living off of it, is very improbable. I heard that a very high percentage of people in America are always engaged in some sort of entrepreneurial pursuit. This proves that the system does allow for people to venture out. But the risk involved for truly undertaking something daring is too great. People do those things in the time they have remaining AFTER their family and their money-making job.

Do you do a job that you would do if NO one else ever saw your work, or knew that you or it existed? Would you program code for yourself, for the love, if no one else recognized it as yours? Would you perform law for free, without any reputation? Would you research genetic engineering for fun? Would you raise your child with unadulterated love if you both were stranded alone on an island? Do you do what you do because you love doing it, or because it was the first thing you found you could make money at? Are you going to have a child just to ensure you have someone who genuinely needs and loves you no matter what? Do you feel like you rationalize your feelings by modifying them based on what you do currently? Are you inspired? Happy? Satisfied? Fulfilled?

You think about the old days, when artists would have patrons, or people would only have to tend to their land to support themselves, and not pay the small portion of the large part they contributed by working for a company to OTHER people for bills and rent, that people who chose a creative and artistic profession would be able to seriously pursue it. I think it really is sad that artists these days have REAL jobs, or that actors in NYC and LA and whatnot have to work menial jobs to get by. What if Raphael had to go to a 9 to 5 job calling up people to see if they wanted to switch to another phone plan?

Sometimes I react violently against existentialism, and consider it the worst thing to happen to philosophy in the last century. Other times I feel that we only love to read books or watch movies or follow a religion just so we can extract those fantastic visions and ideal worlds and so we can feel like our pathetically limited cubicle lives have some greater purpose. Not seeing the stuff of legends and fantasy in our own lives, our minds develop the image of how we would like the world to be, even though deep down in our hearts, we know that it is really an empty and soulless world out there. The tragedy, of course, is that this keeps us from feeling hope and determination to MAKE our realities legendary and fantastic. If our imaginations are the opium of the masses, it's because it keeps us bed-ridden and hopped up on crack so that we don't actually do something productive with our lives. Aristotle pointed out to the world, Plato pointed up to the caelum. Unfortunately, it seems after a couple thousand years, Plato has drowned out what Aristotle said.

It goes back to the quote at the top. I've been told for most of my more recent life that I need to get out and meet more people. These suggestions are, of course, right, just as Anna told me ages ago that she just wanted to be my friend, and nothing more. I wasn't listening then. I don't understand these things until I figure them out on my own, regardless of how many times someone will tell me. We all suffer from that slight.

I realize that the greatest flaw I have right now is that I am socially behind other people my age by, at the least, a few years. I have accumulated knowledge that would be immensely beneficial to someone who knew how to incorporate it into social settings. I have to improve on that.

I really don't know what I'm going to do to make money, and that I make a stark distinction between how I'm going to be fiscally comfortable and how I'm going to be creatively fulfilled. I don't know enough about myself yet. I have a lot of interests, but no perspective from others. I'm properly motivated now to learn, something I didn't entirely have while I was actually IN school. I mean, I'd get okay grades, and get a lot out of the course, but I didn't take part in the social interaction enough to make the education more meaningful and stickier in my mind.

I realized how important my parents are to me, and how much I want to make them proud of me, and to make their lives as comfortable as I can now that I have the responsibility and age to do so. I realized that the person I loved most in this world is someone who is now a memory. I realized that I don't know what my path in life is yet, and I'm not going to make one up at this point just to keep the self-deception game afoot. I realized that I want to have fun while I'm young. I realized that I am pretty open to learning right now, more so than ever. I realized that I'm pretty intuitive, and I'm getting better at trusting that intuition. I realized that success and happiness aren't given for free, and that you have to work for them. (being spoiled as a child, that was less obvious to me than you might think) I realized that I am more human than I thought and just as prone to human weaknesses as anyone before me.

One day I will do something great. It may not last long, and it may go completely unnoticed. I feel as though it might be a book. Right now I can't think of much that I could write a whole book about. But that should come with age and experience. I think I've written more in toto at 23 than most people ever will in their whole lifetime though. I do feel as though I have something truly and profoundly great somewhere inside me. Something I was meant to do, that will help a lot of people, and will be remembered to some degree for a very long time. I just wish I knew what it was.

I think I know it will be great once I complete it, because it'll be the first thing I've felt that I WAS actually done with, and it'd be something I'd actually be proud of being the creator of.

In the meantime, though, they say that you don't have to be a great man, just a man. And that means helping those around you. For someone who is trying to find out what will inspire him the rest of his life, that sounds like something good to do. I like to think I've helped those around me a little already, in varying ways.



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