I am not the fine man you take me for

I am not the fine man you take me for.  No no.   I come in April to sell a string of horses and try my luck in the streams.  What I got for the stock I lost at the wheel, and the flake I washed up I drank the fuck away.  I don’t know as I’ll get home at all.  I sold my boots.  I owe $9 to a whore.

~Deadwood

There is something that troubles me about blogging.  What troubles me is that we choose what we post, what we share about ourselves, how we present ourselves to others.  I wouldn’t have it any other way; relationships with other people online are ill-defined at best, and as much as I like many of you, you are by and large strangers.  You are not entitled of more of me that I choose to give you, which is a two-way street, of course.

Like most of you, I try to be intelligent, thoughtful, and courteous when I post.  I hope that I succeed more than I fail.  But what I think is that being smart or being nice doesn’t mean that I am good.  I don’t know that I’m a good person, and I don’t know that y’all are either.

I’m not the son I’d like to be, not the lover I’d like to be, not the adult I’d like to be.  I am not the man I hoped I’d be.  I am fortunate to have good and patient family and friends who love me and care for me, but there are wrongs there that I cannot ever undo nor fully be forgiven for.

Since I was a kid, I’ve always empathized a bit too much with the TV.  I remember watching The Wonder Years with my family, and when that kid (Fred Savage?) was about to make a fool out of himself, I’d get so uncomfortable I’d have to walk out of the room.  Today its easier; with VCRs and DVD players, I can simply pause it until I’m ready to handle it.  I do this a lot; watching the last four episodes of Friday Night Lights, I’ve had to pause at least ten times already.  It is a bit better if I’ve seen it already, but not entirely.  I don’t think I’ve made it yet through an episode of The Wire season two.

I love stories.  I love that moment in stories, when even if what is happening couldn’t be further from your life or your experience, you hit that moment of recognition.  That moment where you feel what the characters are feeling, where you know it like it was your own.  That feeling, I believe, is the moment of being all people, that knowledge that while each of our stories is uniquely our own, what we are part of – the grand tale of human love and desire and hope and fear and loss and friendship and despair – is an interwoven tapestry.  That moment allows us to see plainly how insignificant and yet beautiful we are; one solitary note played on but a single instrument of a vast orchestra, yet a part of a grand and tragic and gorgeous symphony.

There is another feeling I feel coming up unbidden and irrepressible when I’m watching the TV.  I am afraid of this feeling; so afraid, in fact, that I’ve never admitted it to anyone and can barely imagine saying it here: spite.  I feel spiteful to the people who make things I enjoy and admire.  I am jealous of their ability to make those stories.  I am scared that I lack their talent, and that I cannot do what they do.  I am bitter at their success and that I do not share it.  I hate this feeling.  I despise myself for having it.

Sometimes I think it is just that I am getting old, or even that I am getting successful.  When I was young, David Lynch and Tom Fontana and Federico Fellini were heroes and inspirations to me.  But now, I consider David Milch and Joss Whedon and David Simon as, well, not competitors exactly.  I am not that arrogant.  But they seem to me like the mechanical rabbit at a dog track; constantly out of reach, exhausting me and taunting me and filling me with rage that I cannot catch up to them.  But in my heart, I don’t think it has anything to do with getting old, or with success.  In my heart, I think I’m just afraid.  To reach the top of anything, to get the opportunity to truly do what you’ve always hoped to do, you have to be as fast as the rabbit.  You have to not only have talent, but the discipline to work your ass off and to give everything to doing the best you can, and the will to catch the fucking rabbit, no matter how out of reach it seems.  And no matter how hard you try, you must be willing to do so in spite of the fact that your absolute best might yet fail.  And in my heart of hearts, I fear that even my very best will not be good enough, and so I do not try my best, so that I will always have an excuse.  If I had just gotten my shit together, gotten disciplined, then I might have succeeded.  I think I choose the torture of never knowing and blaming myself, rather than the excruciating yet finite pain that could come with measuring myself against greatness and coming up short.  And I think that is why I find myself hating those who did not lack the courage to find out.

I don’t have a clue why I am telling you this.  I suppose a big part of it is selfish; if I tell you, I can’t take it back.  I can’t keep it secret within myself.  Part of it is that I cannot stand the reaction that I get sometimes from things I post, those comments letting me know I am admired somehow, or respected.  Part of it is because I cannot stand that part of blogging which is about the best of ourselves, where we can represent ourselves as the persons of moral sentiments simply because we are learned, reasoning people with ideas about how we can make our country and our world a better place.  I am just another petty, mean asshole with something to say, coming to you and hoping you listen in spite of all the other bullshit.  Knowing that I’ve done a million things too shameful to say, and that I am just as stupid now, but in a different way.

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  1. ….it is incredibly arrogant of me to even think this is possible, but I’d ask that this not be front-paged by anyone.

    Enjoy your weekend.

    • Edger on April 11, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    You’re human, you mean? 😉

    How is this…

    What troubles me is that we choose what we post, what we share about ourselves, how we present ourselves to others.

    …different than what we do when we walk down the street in the “real” world?

    • OPOL on April 11, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    A few words about envy:

    Sometimes a feeling overwhelms you, you don’t choose it, it chooses you.

    Other times we can choose to feel one way or another.

    People respond to the success of others in one of two ways (or some variation there of), they resent it or they celebrate it and are inspired by it.  I find that I prefer to be inspired by the success of others and so choose to be.  By doing this I find that any resentment I may feel dissipates.

    Choose to be inspired.  Inspiration is noble, envy is petty.

    That being said, we are all people and people are complicated mixes of good and bad, negative and positive, honest and not so honest.

    This was honest.  Dig it.

  2. David Whyte said something in a speech I heard once. He’s talking about following the rules vs following your heart and the risk we take by doing the later. I won’t be able to quote it exactly because I haven’t read it anywhere, but it goes something like this:

    If you fail by following the rules…its the rules that fail. If you fail by following your heart…its you who fail.

    Here’s one of his poems about it.

     

    The Soul Lives Contented

       by David Whyte

       The soul lives contented

       by listening,

       if it wants to change

       into the beauty of

       terrifying shapes,

       it tries to speak.

       That’s why

       you will not sing,

       afraid as you are

       of who might join with you.

       The voice hesitant,

       and her hand trembling

       in the dark for yours.

       She touches your face

       and says your name

       in the same moment.

       The one you refused to say

       over and over,

       the one you refused to say.

    • Robyn on April 11, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Novel concept.  Whether in 3-D or online, I should maybe try it some time.

    We carve who we are by the pathways we travel and the available medium.  So be it.

    • kj on April 11, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    In my heart, I think I’m just afraid.  To reach the top of anything, to get the opportunity to truly do what you’ve always hoped to do, you have to be as fast as the rabbit.  You have to not only have talent, but the discipline to work your ass off and to give everything to doing the best you can, and the will to catch the fucking rabbit, no matter how out of reach it seems.  And no matter how hard you try, you must be willing to do so in spite of the fact that your absolute best might yet fail.  And in my heart of hearts, I fear that even my very best will not be good enough, and so I do not try my best, so that I will always have an excuse.  If I had just gotten my shit together, gotten disciplined, then I might have succeeded.  I think I choose the torture of never knowing and blaming myself, rather than the excruciating yet finite pain that could come with measuring myself against greatness and coming up short.  And I think that is why I find myself hating those who did not lack the courage to find out.

    I live with this every day, and I hate the feeling, I hate myself for not ‘applying myself,’ I hate myself for disappointing the people who are patiently waiting for me to get my shit together and I hate myself for thinking, “I’ll start this weekend.”  And I dread the moment of clarity I might have before I die, the one that ends with my life with the whisper, “You were just damn chicken.”  

    • kj on April 11, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    that I’ve set the bar so low I’m bound to trip on it. But the truth of the matter is the exact opposite, I’ve set the bar so  high I’m afraid to take the jump.  So I revel in my very minor personal success and then take a few moments here and there to explore what I love to do… what I’m good at doing… and then tuck away the ‘greatness’ that at least oughta be attempted to be developed. I love writing, love it. And conversely, deny myself the joy.

    So, that’s a lot more than I’m comfortable posting on-line.  But if you’re going to be that open, so will I. It’s a way of marking the stone. Whether that mark will motivate is up to each of us.  

    What a way to start off a Friday! Damn you, Jay! 😉

    • kj on April 11, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Jay (am obviously not through with this subject!), isn’t it normal to have a bit of spite for our competitors at whatever level we find ourselves?  Isn’t it part of the motivation?

    Okay, a story.  🙂

    So, there was this celebration/open house/poetry reading for a small press publisher I know.  Every regional ‘name’ showed up.  I came with a small town local writing group, mostly older women who wrote about their days on the farm. I was the only so-called ‘poet’ (and lemme tell you, those farm wives held no truck with work!). Everyone was dressed in their poet best… women with their I Am A Poet Earrings and men in their turtlenecks.  It was a shark fest, even if small, and regional.

    I read everything by everyone beforehand.  I want to be able to point to a particular line or piece of work in case they bothered to say hello me.

    Sat next to a woman about my age.  Her book had been heralded and I’d read it and basically scoffed. She wrote a poem about Schroeder’s cat which I still can’t spell without looking it up. So, after we all sat down but were still waiting for the reading to begin, I spoke to her. Hello, how are you, I’ve read your work.  She ignored me!  This TRAMP that DARED to write about PHYSICS when I knew damn well she didn’t understand any more about Schroeder’s cat than I did IGNORED my little polite banter!  I was incensed.

    She read right before me.  Eh.  So I went up and honest to god, blew the doors off.  If there is one thing I can do well in this life it is to read my poems aloud.  And as I sat down, to the “Who the hell was that?” feeling in the room, I was just a bit smug when I had to step by her to get to my seat.  

    Did her snub motivate me?  Yeah.  And it got me past my fear of reading in front of these ‘peers’ who were really completely out of my league.

  3. …that others think we are, or that we’d like to be–but then, it gives us a goal to keep striving for, doesn’t it?

  4. We are all One,

    Children of a bored God,

    Playing out our infinite number of movies,

    On the same screen.

    We are all One,

    In our naked ignorance of who we are,

    Always and ever forgetting the provenance,

    Of our Divine Being.

    We are all One,

    Jealously, angrily, lovingly talking to ourselves,

    Learning, forgetting, and learning once again,

    All that We have seen.

  5. being a writer/artist is just this. If you didn’t run the gamut, emotion wise, what good would you be as a creator of stories. There is a fine line between spite, jealousy and respect, admiration. When I was twelve I looked at a drawing by Rembrandt and thought with absolute clarity I can be that good. I will be that good. One still experiences the envy, it’s part of the love. It’s part of learning. One still experiences the envy, it’s part of the love. It’s part of learning.

    The hubris of making art is amazing. I still have it but it’s tempered with the knowledge that I can’t judge my own work that’s not my job. Comparison doesn’t work for me it just makes my work afflicted. I spent years as a commercial artist trying to live up to ‘good enough’ only to be squelched with your just a wrist.  

    A teacher, mentor once said If you painted the perfect picture you would quit. The mechanical dog you speak of is always beckoning and keeps one working. Just be glad you can’t catch it, as then you would be stuck cannibalizing your past chases.

    As for the net I find the mystery of the people I encounter fascinating. The suspension of disbelief is required, persona’s are created, or real, who knows, who cares. They exist and if not the same as real life, just as valid. Your one of my favorites as you are a good cipher. The world may not change because of our encounters but we do and we are the world, the humans who inhabit it. The ones who find gems in the fray.

    As for nice well your nice enough.

     

    • Pluto on April 11, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

    Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

    And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    • RiaD on April 11, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    someone here (i’m thinking NlinStP but i may be wrong) showed me this…. i printed it out and put it on my inspiration wall…..

    it is part of what allows me to share myself, my deep personal beliefs (that were so misunderstood by those living in my vicinity) with all of you here….

    it is definately what allowed me to post the ‘got yer ducks in a row?’ essay…

    i hope these words will touch you as they did me….

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?

    Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

    It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

    — Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech, 1994

    and a favorite song for your soul….

  6. He used the word pseudospeciation in an interview and my head snapped around to zone in on what he was saying. Milch is an Uber Freak.

    If it’s any consolation, you can take joy in that you will probably outlive him.

    He used to be a big-time heroin addict. William Burroughs claim if he hadn’t been doing heroin for 50 years, he would have lived to be 90 instead of the 83 he ended up at.

    Maybe you could start out at Hemmingway or something. 🙂

  7. I know exactly what you mean.  I’ve posted essays here about subjects I would have never talked about to real people.  

  8. … piece of writing.

    This is a good struggle you are having.  Worthwhile.

    Just excellent writing, went straight to my heart.

    • Turkana on April 12, 2008 at 1:13 am

    that anyone ever took you for a fine man?

  9. As npk said, a nice peice of writing.

    See, I don’t give a shit about sentiment, and I’m not even all that keen on politics, most of the time.  I can’t tell what people here are at there worst; some people manage to post here and keep their edges tucked in like untidy shirts, or only show the wild cool parts, like prayer flags on the porch…but we do indeed get glimpses of people’s best.  Your ambition and relentless self critique are clear enough, and your love of wild, jangly beauty, and your craft.  A certain charisma, as well.  At your very best, what I find so anyway, is this…

    love stories.  I love that moment in stories, when even if what is happening couldn’t be further from your life or your experience, you hit that moment of recognition.  That moment where you feel what the characters are feeling, where you know it like it was your own.  That feeling, I believe, is the moment of being all people, that knowledge that while each of our stories is uniquely our own, what we are part of – the grand tale of human love and desire and hope and fear and loss and friendship and despair – is an interwoven tapestry.

    And you see, I think, whatever we use them for, we are stories.  I have no idea who you are, really…but I’m quite absolutely certain you are concerned with what is good, true and beautiful.  What more could I (or any reader, or friend, or lover) ask?

    • Edger on April 12, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Anyone who would try to convince us that he is not the fine man we take him for cannot not be the fine man we take him for because he must be the fine man we take him for or he wouldn’t be trying to convince us that he’s not the fine man we take him for.

    So quit being dishonest and trying to convince us that you’re not the fine man we take you for. It just makes it obvious that you’re honestly the fine man we take you for.

    And you actually thought you could slide that one past us? What kind of man are you anyway?

    Heh! Sorry buddy. I would have thought better of you. Better luck next time!

    • kj on April 12, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    do we all get tickets to the Grammys when you’re nominated?  balcony seats will be okay, but front and center would be preferable.  😉

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