Sunday, October 26, 2008
Would You Love, Could You Love to be Ordinary?
This is a list of what I should have been but I’m not This is a list of the things that I should have seen But I’m not seeing you look at me So please won’t you look at me ‘Cuz I’m not seeing you look at me Oh, I will make you look at me Or I am not anything Anything --Counting Crows, “Cowboys” The new Counting Crows album, Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, kind of became my theme music for this weekend. The first half is the party, the second half is the realization that the party always ends and doesn’t leave any answers behind. It was kind of an odd weekend. This past week at work was just absolutely enervating. Nothing was really happening, the office was practically empty most of the time and it was a lot of being there for the sake of being there. Yeah, I got caught up on a lot of work, but that day-to-day sudden change and new, urgent task was missing. I found that I noticed the lack. The weirdest thing that happened, though, came on Friday when I briefly became convinced that a certain individual who has gotten a lot of my mental space recently had suddenly become uninteresting. Someone told me that it meant I was scared to take a chance. That might have been true any number of times in my life, but this time it felt different. The reason that She (aka “Rita” and “the last one”) made such an impression on me when She reappeared in my physical space last weekend is that she has a particular set of qualities that I give the shorthand term The Crazy to. The Crazy is an intoxicating mix of traits that basically mean the person who possesses them is massively unpredictable. I find the crazy irresistible when put in to the right package (oddly enough, for instance, I recently went on a date with someone who reminded me a great deal of Her. There was no second date because The Crazy might have been there, but it was a scary version thereof). Anyway, my problem wasn’t that I was scared of rejection or anything. I was scared that she’d turn out to be normal and I’d end up bored. No, seriously. This is part of the reason I absolutely suck at women. I worry about the wrong things entirely. Also, if there’s a room full of women and a baseball game on television, I will invariably focus on the baseball game. At least, if there’s no particular woman I’m interested in occupying said room. So I decided to see if there was anything interesting going on in my new locality. Friday and Saturday nights I ended up in this dive a few blocks away. They come in twos around here, or so it would seem. There’s the girl and the girl’s friend. The friend is flying on the wing of the girl and it’s her job to get the unwitting stranger to come over and start talking and, probably, buy the girl and the friend alcohol. And there may or may not be eventual hooking up, as it seems like the logical conclusion of such activity. I seemed to be a popular target for this over the weekend, for a hierarchy of reasons that I’ve decided to list in the order of both most to least flattering and least to most likely: 1. Girls find me attractive. 2. Girls in bars find me attractive. 3. Drunk girls find me attractive. 4. I was new blood. 5. I looked like an easy mark (for the record, I’m not, partially because I was there due to boredom, partially because I don’t get much dumber when I’m drunk, and mostly because there was a baseball game on the TV last night). Either way, I learned on Friday night what uninteresting really looks like. Uninteresting is someone who is pushing thirty and going out to get drunk at a bar exactly like they’re still a dumb college kid. Starting to worry that an intelligent, educated, attractive woman will be boring from the start is a lot like worrying that the ceiling above my head is about to start caving in. So in those situations I end up talking to the friend. See, the friend don’t give a crap about hooking up, so if there’s any chance that a 27-year-old who’s acting like a college kid can actually be interesting, that’s the one to go with. And the next morning might start with a hangover, an empty bed, Froot Loops, and some DVRed History Channel, but it also starts with dignity. That’s the problem with Sunday mornings. It’s nice to not have an empty bed, but it’s also nice to know the name of the person who’s there. I don’t want to be Charlie Sheen’s character from Two and a Half Men. It seems like a waste of a good life well lived. But, and this is why I love the new Counting Crows more and more, especially after this weekend, that Saturday night high is just a false front. It’s a thrilling combination of alcohol, darkness, noise, and the ability to pretend that everyone is far more interesting and vibrant than they really are. Sunday morning comes around and reality sets in. There’s nothing interesting, there’s nothing significant about that world of darkness and noise. There’s just a whole bunch of people looking for meaning that they can’t find within themselves and who seem to think that other people who can’t find meaning will be able to offer it to them. This is the significance of the Jesus of Suburbia. I don’t remember why, but American Idiot came up the other day on my mp3 player and I realized it’s aged way better than I thought it would. The answers all seem to show up, but at the end of the day the Jesus of Suburbia goes home, St. Jimmy blows his brains out, and Whatshername disappears. It, too, is why religion has changed so drastically over the last few years in the western world. That’s why there’s this strange emphasis on Jesus as your “personal savior.” “You’re trying to find meaning by hooking up with strange guys at bars,” the narrative basically says, “Well here’s the ultimate hook up.” So we have this ancient tradition that’s been ruined by people whose personal narrative and less than life-long knowledge of their own history is the main driving force of the story and who haven’t bothered to learn about religion beyond, “What Would Jesus Do?” (For the record, he’d probably cower in the corner, terrified of jets and Harleys and all of the crazy modern shit we take for granted. Then he’d probably go to IKEA, see the pressboard laminated crap that we call wood furniture and weep for the death of his craft. But that’s just a guess. Although I totally see Jesus being a fan of mission-style furnishings). The thing that makes people uninteresting and religion boring is that the default anymore seems to be taking those things and forcing them in to the framework of our own personal narrative. We’re all like a long-lost civilization that raised a huge barrow mound and thought, “Ah, now they’ll remember us. We are the greatest,” and thousands of years later it’s just a hill. The mistake, I think, is in trying to find meaning in others. We cannot find meaning in another. We can only find meaning with another. It doesn’t matter if that other is Jesus or Roger Clyne (A.K.A. Jesus II) or a spouse or that cute girl on the other side of the bar. They have no inherent ability to give meaning to another’s life. They might give identity and purpose, but those things are as different from meaning as Google Earth is from the Earth itself. This, too, is how an intelligent, educated, attractive woman can become uninteresting. I saw her, I met her, I spoke to her, and I simply added her in as a piece of my own personal narrative. She existed as that woman who gave me purpose, specifically the purpose of the chase. Once the thrill of the chase wore off the personal narrative stopped. I didn’t know what else to do (apparently), so she became uninteresting, at least the she that existed only in my head did. The truth is, when I’m having a moment of sober reflection I really don’t want Her back in my life, even if a part of me keeps insisting it’s a good idea. She’s good for my personal narrative. The Crazy keeps things interesting and the way we were so damn good at hurting each other because we were simultaneously quite different and exactly the same makes for great additions to the narrative. I’m better off without Her around. I can practically guarantee that She’s better off without me around. I woke up this morning and found the newest entry in the Convergences Contest. Go read it, please. Lawrence Weschler’s ability to write and to point out the excellence in another’s art is one of the most pleasurable forms of the written word I’ve seen. Either way, Berger’s idea that art was once used to let us know that the owner had plenty and now is used to let us know we don’t have enough stuck with me all day. That trip out to find something or someone who is better and will infuse us with meaning is Saturday night. The realization that it doesn’t matter, we’re still empty and there are individuals who are more than willing to sell us toys, god, alcohol, drugs, or meaningless sex with strangers is Sunday morning. There is no meaning to be found on Saturday night. There isn’t any on Sunday morning, either. A good life well lived and full of meaning comes from work. It’s not getting a good career, it’s about finding people who are worthwhile on Monday and Tuesday and finding Someone who you’ll want to wake up next to on Wednesday morning and make dinner for on Thursday night. They used to tell me back in my church days that the true test of a Christian wasn’t how I was on Sunday, but how I was on Monday. I think that the true test of how well anyone is living life. Anyone can be exciting on Saturday night. Anyone can be reflective on Sunday morning. The real meaning comes in to play on Monday.