Monday, June 9, 2014

Edge Of Groundhog Day

When I created this blog, I was determined that it not become a diary. Each entry would at least have a driving theme or topic. That has worked well for me but you know what? It has been a long time since there has been any acknowledgment of anything I write here. That is not an indictment of those who have subscribed or anyone else that might have happened upon this page. It is merely an observation that brings me to the conclusion that it is not unlike a diary after all. Now that I am in a sharing mode, the last year has seen the recording and release of an album of songs written by yours truly, not to mention a graphic novel a decade in the making. Compared to the magnitude of self that was invested in those creations, there has been very little return to date. That is not to say I do not appreciate those who have remained at my side throughout. I have been broadcasting from a remote location all of my life and I am simply counting on collecting. Right now, I am conscious of a great deal of anger deep within from constant repression of the need for that signal to be heard. This anger can not and will not destroy me nor will it be allowed to manifest itself in any sort unhealthy outward expression.

If that is where I am, where am I going? I have always said that I've never been much for the past. Believe me, I want nothing more than to take a step forward in the direction I have fought so long to discover. So, this must be that idea of looking to the past to understand my future? Is that that the expression? I've never been good at these. Hold on. Oh, okay. It goes like this: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." That is a modification George Santayana made to Edmund Burke's "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it."  There, do you like that better? I added quotations and two names you probably never heard before. Ok, where was I? Oh yes, the past.

When I was seventeen years old, I had myself admitted to a psychiatric clinic because of what I could only assume were suicidal thoughts?  You could say I had a breakdown caused by exhaustion. However, I can tell you that I never wanted to die. I just did not want to be here. That may have just caused you a headache but you would be surprised at how effective that headache is when it comes to saving a life, namely my own.

Currently, I am 35 years old or 18,653,852 minutes old. Thank to for giving me a chance to impress my lady friends who love cats, the ones who love math and the ones who love both. I just returned from seeing the movie Edge Of  Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. It is based on a graphic novel entitled "All You Need Is Kill", which is a much better title. No need to cite that reference because it came from me. I have considerable geek cred. Where am I going with this? The movie just happened to be about discovering the ability to relive the same day and attempt to learn from it. That theme has already famously been explored in Groundhog Day, one of my favorite films of all time. The major difference is that Groundhog Day did not star Emily Blunt. So, one way or another, I was viewing this motion picture differently, with a certain scrutiny if you will. Tom Cruise, on the other hand, is an actor I feel has finally come into his own. That may sound cheeky but he has achieved a certain grit and gravitas since passing the big 5-0. Where was I? The past? How did I get here? Whoa.

I do not want to be here. I have been here many, many times in the last eighteen years. Around this time, back then, I was newly medicated and graduating high school with honors and accolades. You see, a psychiatric in-patient ward is kind of designed to be a pit stop in relation to, well, here. Few seem to get this but you learn that your life can come to an abrupt stop and yet you still live. You don't have to be committed to find this out. What can I say? I have a thick head. The only thing going on in that thick head at the time was a battle not unlike the ones Cruise's character, Bill Cage, wages a billion times against the aliens that wield the power to affect time. Every time Cage wakes up again, he faces the same challenge with a new level of experience. So, if I still don't want to be here but know full well that the world isn't going to end, what do I do? You may have something to say about movies just being movies. You'd be correct but your implication is not. I seem to remember questions asked of me by a doctor in that hospital about whether or not songs or movies speak to me. Their implication was not much different than yours but you're hypothetical and that doctor was very real. I was scared to say yes because it would make me "crazy". You know what? I may be but I don't give a shit. When I hear a song or watch a movie, the stories and messages don't just speak to me. In my way, I speak back. There is an exchange. I don't care what you call it but I call it my calling. 

Now, I know what I have to do but first, one more visit to the past. When I was reinserted back into the world, I suddenly found myself a college student and soon after that, member of a band with my three best friends. We had an unspoken agreement. Our musical group would run its course and each of us would go our separate ways. To varying degrees, that was precisely what happened. For some reasons, the others may have seen me as ahead of them but I was only a front man. I was right where I needed to be, in a band. It wouldn't be long before I began to fall further and further behind the others. One is lost to me. Another loves me like a brother but has the strongest sense of duty I have ever seen aside from my father. Both don't talk to me a whole lot. That leaves the one who has always known I was right where I was supposed to be. It seems he and anyone else like him have suffered the most over the years, watching me figure it out for myself.  He might tell you that he felt as directionless as me at one point but he never tried to be something he is not. He still doesn't. What separated me? What put me off course? This is the mystery I am working on as I write this. 

Believe me, when I first arrived at the conclusion that I have been off course, I immediately wanted to simply get back on course. It has not been that simple. Hence, we have this digging back so I can crawl forward routine. Who knows how long or how many times I have been at this? Some who know me would be rolling their eyes in a major way right now....if they were reading this. 

So how did things turn out for Bill Cage or Phil Connor at the end of their repetitive adventures? In both cases, all they ever wanted and what they end up with is that one person who remains a constant in a world that seems to reset itself.  It occurs to me how wonderful it would be if more of these Hollywood lessons and fairy tales featured people of various lifestyles but you know what? I'm a straight dude so I would love me an Emily Blunt. Andi Macdowell is never hard to look at either but the point is that I have to be worthy of that constant. I am not entitled to it. No matter how old I may feel or how daunting the past may be, each day is still a new day. All I have to do is face it like someone who has truly lived all of the ones before it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Here? Now?

Be here now. The phrase was the title of a book by yogi and spiritual teacher Ram Dass which inspired a song by George Harrison, on his 1971 album Living In A Material World. One of its suggested meanings has to do with George still feeling chained to his Beatles past and wanting to assert that he only lives in the now. Chained to your Beatles past, is that right, George? Well, I am  'here' and you know what? It fucking sucks!

If 'one is the loneliest number, then 'here' is the most desolate location. These damned gurus and visionaries do not seem to mention this! My own spirituality is Christian identification with a major assist from Buddhism. My origins are undoubtedly Catholic. My parents adopted me from a Catholic orphanage called Our Lady Of Victory. They swore to a judge that they'd raise me Catholic and went on to make sure I was baptized, received Holy Communion and finally confirmed by a real, live bishop. The bishop had blue eyes and snow white hair, thus making him identical to the Pope and most of his people, at least in my mind at the time. I thought it would be respectful to bow my head but I was reprimanded for not looking him in the eyes. Not too long after that, I achieved my black belt in tae kwon do at the age of fourteen and you could say that the martial arts replaced religion for a number of years, leaving the door open for Eastern thought but with plenty of room for Catholic guilt over replacing Jesus. It took a nervous breakdown and a hospital stay for me to return to Jesus. Doesn't it always?

So now that I have given you some idea of where I am coming from spiritually, let's return to the present, shall we? For the sake of both our sanity, I will skip the meta gymnastics that can follow our futile reliance on temporal place markers.  We can stick to 'here' being a place. That makes my Christian identification feel warm and tingly. A place is somewhere we can come from and somewhere we can go to. It really comes down to that, does it not? You just know that babies came from a place they have a strong attachment to. Fast forward to the end and this notion of place becomes essential again for both . What the hell happens in between? Don't ask me. Curl up with a good book. I have strayed far enough from my point as it is.

My 'inner child' still feels like it wants to know where everyone went. It is that place that I call 'here'. At times, life can feel like surfing the Internet. An infinite number of windows awaits but I obsessively keep track of the home page. There are people I meet that I can't even imagine how they arrived at wherever they are. Most people did not settle too far away but that is no consolation to me. Martyrs tend to be the type that venture out and find their purpose is to remind others of where they came from. While I certainly can act like a martyr, I merely brood and channel my angst like a rock star but minus the audience. This is where we can finally begin to explore why, in my experience, being here now sucks.

No one can be here but me. Does that sound lonely? You're god damn right. Sure, I have met and admired plenty who have managed to establish their locus and then cast off for exotic locales. Others travel the world in search of 'here' while some make the greatest journey of all and fall in love. Two people being 'here', now. I still believe in it. It may be all I have left to believe in.

In my last post, I expounded on that bucolic panorama in Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie, with Clark on its horizon. I may have suggested that this is where I feel I have been for some time.
My deep and personal attachment to that film aside, it may be the more recent cinematic incarnation of the original superhero that contains an accurate depiction of my disposition. In Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel, Kal El's adoptive father, portrayed by Kevin Costner, remains convinced, until his dying breath, that his son should not reveal his true nature to the world. In fact, he chooses to die rather than allow his son to do what comes naturally to him. As much as it pains me to confront this, it might be this scenario that now speaks most clearly to my present situation. Jonathan and Martha Kent loved their boy without a doubt but past a certain point, there was nothing more they could do. While I have never been inclined to learn about my birth parents, it would certainly be something to meet one of them in the form of their "consciousness", Russell Crowe's "ghost dad" if you will. In reality, that is just how the filmmakers justified more screen time for Russell. In my case, I am not holding my breath for a hologram to manifest itself and crystallize my destiny for me. If anything, I might just be still holding out for a Lois Lane to believe in me but you know what they say. I have to believe in me first, right?

How does one measure belief in oneself? I know that I have shared 'here' with others. Believe me, I can see that sharing with others is a highly preferable way to make 'here' bearable. In fact, I would say it is how humans survive regardless of what status they are born to. In turn, that may very well be why being 'here' can suck so much regardless of where that is. You remind yourself of any number of things out there that you should be grateful for but one day you realize there is a big hole in 'here'. How the hell do you fill that hole? I just so happen to have read somewhere that a certain lead singer of a certain favorite band of mine has said, on a number of occasions, that an artist can be motivated by the very need to fill such a hole. A performer may just need the outpouring of emotion from an audience just to feel like one of them, for just a little while. On the other hand, all too many have stared too long into that abyss and elected to leave 'here'.

As I wrap this up, I could easily let this conclusion do what conclusions tend to do. It is all too common and perfectly acceptable to find a way to repeat my theme of how much being here leaves a lot to be desired. Believe me, I know, I teach writing. However, I still manage to let students know of the possibility find a new direction in their conclusion. So that is what I feel I should do here. Let's confront my Superman fixation once and for all, at least as far as this blog entry is concerned. As a teacher, I have done my best to catch as many falling souls as the man in the red cape. As a man, I have fallen short of the foundation the big guy establishes for himself on top of the one his parents built for him. That is where my imbalance stems from. That is what I must work on in order to live in the material world.