Monday, May 31, 2010

A Year Ago

A year ago, exactly 365 days ago, I was the happiest of men. I know this for a fact because I left a record of my happiness in one of a dozen or so journals I keep. My happiness was unexpected, though desired, sudden and complete in ways that I still can't wrap my mind around. One year ago I found myself re-united with a woman who is maddening, beautiful and so filled with life that a smile from her... well, it was everything and the previous reach of my happiness was eclipsed again and again.

Such was my state a year ago to the day.

But try as we might, we could not screw ourselves to the sticking place, and what suddenly arrived, suddenly departed.

And since then I have been fucked. I allowed my response to the sudden arrival and sudden departure of that happiness to slowly grind myself into a serious fucking. It all has to do with one's sense of identity, one's image of one's self that is held before the eyes and you come to believe what ever it is you see there. Ruptures in that vision - sudden arrivals and sudden departures - can tilt the process, locking it up because you've been trying to make it do something it cannot do: move backwards in time.

Happiness, contentment, joy, satisfaction all leave echoes of themselves when they disappear, or slip away, and that echo is something of a siren's song calling you to the rocks. Odysseus plugged the ears of his men and had himself tied to the mast so as to have no chance of steering them to their doom. Circe, Odysseus' lover, a witch who had the power to turn men into animals, described what happens to those who follow the song:

"If any one unwarily draws in too close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the sweetness of their song. There is a great heap of dead men's bones lying all around, with the flesh still rotting off them."


I have warbled a great fucking for myself - the echo of my happiness joined to my desire to be with her again having the net effect of freezing me up, immobilizing me, turning my life into a fucked life.

* * *

UYL Rule #4: You know you're fucked when you spend all of your time looking in the rearview mirror.

* * *

We all suffer. It mostly has to do with love - our desire for it, the absence of it, the dying of it, the belief or lack thereof in it - and that is the very stuff of life. To ask to avoid it, to take a pass on it because the downside can be incredibly damaging to our sense of self, our identity, that vision held before our eyes, is to miss the very meaning of our days.

A hundred years ago someone very wise told me my purpose here on earth was the same as anyone else's: to learn to love God. I would change that some. We are here to learn how to love. How to give it, receive it and grow large enough in it to fold our losses in without ever being stopped by those losses.

You want to unfuck your life? Love it. Love it all. Even the parts that suck.

I chose to stay fucked because the maddening, beautiful woman wasn't with me. But I got that exactly backwards: she is with me still, part of me - I was the one who left myself on the side of the road.

And now I have some ground to cover.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Have Recently

I have recently read Sir Kenneth Robinson's book The Element. The Element, in Robinson's words is, "The meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion." The book is, in many ways, a direct call to listen to the lion, to be exactly who you are regardless of anyone else's opinion, judgment or limitation.

It is a further re-use of Joseph Campbell's dictum to follow one's bliss.

It is hard to argue against it, but I will anyway.

It is not the idea behind the book that I'm arguing against, in fact, just the opposite. I so believe in the idea that its representation in the book runs to dangerous inadequacy because its examples are of the rich and famous, because it places a premium on what one does for a living instead of how one lives.

Though its intention was noble - the book is an exhortation to be one's self - I can't shake the feeling that a further fucking is in store for the fucked who read it. Another marker of the fucked (I really should start keeping track of these things) is the endless comparison between themselves and the seemingly unfucked.

Imagine you are fucked. See it. See how fucked you are. Now see someone who is unfucked. Someone you know. Some one you don't know. Some one from history, just see someone. Got it? If you are fucked you'll focus on your inadequacies and not on their inspiration. The famous are worst of all because their money and fame act as proofs of their unfuckedness.

Fuck that.

Robinson makes great use of Paul McCartney's story as proof of being in one's element. Fine. But is that helpful to you if you are fucked - to compare yourself to one of four men who re-wrote modern music 40 years ago and changed the fucking world because of it?

Fuck, no. Fuck that.

Robinson's book speaks only to the products his examples create. And that is important, no doubt, no argument, but the larger picture, the one that matters to the fucked is how one lives - not what one does for a living.

Yes, who we are economically plays a massive role in our lives, but if you reduce your Self to money only then you are fucked. If you ignore the reality of money then you are fucked. The unfucking comes when the economics serve and support the Self.

* * *

So, yes, please, find your element. But don't confuse money for being unfucked. How you go about your life day to day, moment to moment, the opportunities for choice that fill your life, that is the truer element. History seems easy or inevitable after the fact. It is a different thing while it is in process and that process is all we get to work with. To get yourself unfucked you have to be awake to your own potentialities, your own innate unfuckedness.

Read all you want about the famous, but they, like you, are more than the sum of their works. How did they live is a better question than how much do they have in the bank. You can work at any job/career/position if that gig supports your larger vision of what your life is about.

The element is choice.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Freedom Is The

"Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control. We cannot have a light heart if our minds are a woeful cauldron of fear and ambition.

Do you wish to be invincible? Then don't go into combat with what you have no real control over. Your happiness depends on three things, all of which are within your power: your will, your ideas concerning the events in which you are involved, and the use you make of your ideas."


Epictetus, The Art of Living

* * *

The goal is mastery of one's self. You are fucked when the goal becomes anything else. Let me say that again: you are fucked when the goal becomes anything else.

I have paid a heavy price to write those nine words. Every fucked one of us pays a heavy price to learn this.

Epictetus tells us happiness depends solely on things within our control: our will, ideas and actions. Nothing external. But the fucked life is always looking outside for its happiness. It is a true marker of the fucked. Why? Why do we focus on externals instead of things we can actually influence, control and create? Because it is easier to suffer the whims of fortune, to wish for a new life, a better life, than to actually build it one piece at a time. We want the lottery to care for us in old age; we want our broken heart to mend with the return of the one who broke our heart; we want it all to work out in the end, but are simply too afraid to choose our own way through the world - what if we choose wrong?

The goal is mastery of one's self, of one's will, of one's ideas, of one's choices, actions and beliefs. This mastery is utterly unique to every last fucked one of us. Your expression of it will be different from mine, in fact, IT MUST BE. Do you understand?

* * *

I know a woman, lovely in her bones, who is the first person I have met who gets it, gets it at a cellular level. I think she's nuts sometimes and I do not agree with her on many things, but of all the thousands of people who have entered my life, she, above all uses her will and her ideas about the events in her life and makes use of them to create her life. She once asked me, "You know how to do it, right? You set a goal and execute. Everyday. You know that, right?"

No. I didn't know. Not deep down in the marrow of it all. No. Not well enough to move from knowing it to living it. That, too, is a marker of the fucked life: knowing but not doing.

* * *

All this philosophy makes this sound like bullshit, but that is just the fucked part of your brain trying to keep you safe and fucked. Ignore it. You and I have work to do to unfuck our lives. Epictetus and the Buddha, Viktor Frankl and James Agee, Jesus Christ and Joseph Campbell and on and on are all doing the best they can to point us toward our authentic happiness - they point within so we can act in this world and not reduce the gift of our lives to being the mere "plaything of circumstance."

The goal is mastery of one's self so that self can be expressed.

Don't be a fuckhead your entire life. You know how to do it, right? You set a goal and execute. Everyday.

Everyday.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Other Day

The other day my mother, aged 79, a Walmart greeter, told me she saw something at work that really shook her up. She said a young man with his pants half way down his ass, the blue-green ink of tattoos filling his arms, a baseball cap turned sideways on his head, was wearing a black t-shirt that across the back read: FEAR NO ONE.

My mother was struck by the message for she has been afraid her whole life, afraid of someone her entire life - her mother. My mom said, "I thought to myself after I saw that kid and his t-shirt, 'Where the hell were you 70 years ago.'"

My mother told me this as we waited for the doctor to come back into the room and tell us how much kidney function she has left. Turns out not much, but the funny thing is she really wasn't afraid of the diagnosis. She'd known for a while that she was shedding capacity and now hovered near the borderline to get on the transplant list. She had resolved before we walked in that she would not agree to a transplant and might take a pass on dialysis as well.

She chose and in the choosing had lost her fear.

* * *

The fucked, stuck life is a life of fear. We become afraid of the potential consequences of our choices and so fill our heads with worst-case scenarios, with fantasies of dissolution and in the void of choices not made, those fantasies take on flesh and become real - monsters of our own creation that could not exist if we would simply choose.

My mother's mother was a stone cold sociopathic bitch. The fear that woman instilled in her daughter stayed long after the crone finally bit the dust. It fucked my mom's life and she's struggled against it for as long as I've known her. She never broke through, but she never quit either, and now she is 79 with 20% of her kidney function left and a host of other ailments and she reads a t-shirt on the back of some wanna-be punk ass kid and she loses a portion of her fear.

The fucked life ends when you decide it ends.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One Of The

One of the things I want to be clear about is this: there is a difference between being fucked and mental illness. The former is about choice the later isn't. Don't forget it.

In his book, Man's Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl says this about choice:

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's own way.

And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate."


Must the example always be the extremest, the most horrific to get your attention? Doesn't your misery pale in comparison to Frankl's, who lost his young wife to the camps?

It is easy to dismiss your own pain when you compare it others. It is easy to belittle your suffering because it was not the extremest in memory. It would be easy, but incredibly misguided. It is part of what keeps the fucked fucked.

I strongly encourage a slow reading and rereading of Frankl's book. At its core it asks if they, the victims of Nazi genocide, were worthy of their sufferings, could those sufferings be held with dignity and to serve a higher purpose or meaning. If you are fucked, stuck, lost in a maelstrom of your own suffering stop and ask if you are worthy of it. The answer can be humbling.

Frankl was stuck in a concentration camp for years, but he was free because he chose to be.

Do not expect to avoid tragedy, or loss, or the end of love, or the trailing off of health. It is human to bear these events. No, what matters is the choice you make, from day to day, moment to moment about how you will carry your losses, how you will live with what befalls everyman. I love Frankl's phrase "the plaything of circumstance." It denotes a ball being batted about, a life without ballast, without feet on the ground.

To choose can be painful. One thing is given primacy over another. There are sacrifices. One of the reasons I think so many of us are fucked is we are unable to sacrifice, to choose this over that in order to be free.

Freedom is hard. Wallowing is easy. One is based on reality. The other is based on wishful thinking.

To get unfucked you have to choose it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Fucked Life

The fucked life is myopic. It has no sense of proportion, no discernment. It sees only itself and assumes the world is as fucked as it is.

When you reduce the size and scope of life to your own misery, when all that you see is all that you lack, you're fucked. It extrapolates from your puny misery (puny in relation to everything and everyone else) a miserable world, but the logic is flawed. Rewind a bit. Go back to the first entry here. The Dhammapada.

We are what we think
All that we are arises with our thoughts
With our thoughts we make the world


This is where the trouble is. You think you're fucked and then you are. You think the world sucks, and then it does. You think your pain is a badge of honor, your victimhood a blue ribbon, and so it is.

We've all indulged such dark fantasies such as this. We've all nursed our wounds to the point of self-righteousness, but too often we stay there. We get stuck on that wheel. The question is begged: why? There is a payoff for staying fucked and stuck otherwise we wouldn't do it. So what's the payoff?

Here's my part of that answer: we are afraid to let go of what has hurt us. The intensity of that attachment, that hurt, that mind-fucking trick bag of pain is as dizzying as love and we mistake our fidelity to the fucked up life we are living for love.

How fucked is that?

* * *

"According to Buddhism, there are four elements of true love.

The first is maitri, which can be translated as loving-kindness or benevolence. Loving-kindness is not only the desire to make someone happy, to bring joy to a beloved person; it is the ability to bring joy and happiness to the person you love, because even if your intention is to love this person, your love might make him or her suffer.

The second element of true love is compassion, karuna. This is not only the desire to ease the pain of another person but the ability to do so. You must practice deep looking in order to gain a good understanding of the nature of the sufferig of this person, in order to be able to help him or her change. Knowledge and understanding are always at the root of the practice.

The third element of true love is joy, mudita. If there is no joy in love, it is not true love. If you are suffering all of the time, if you cry all the time, and if you make the person you love cry, this is not really love - it is even the opposite. If there is no joy in your love, you can be sure that it is not true love.

The fourth element is upeksha, equanimity or freedom. In true love, you attain freedom. When you love, you bring freedom to the person you love. If the opposite is true, it is not true love. You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free, not only outside but also inside."


Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love

If what Hanh says is true about what we give to those around us (and I believe it is true) then what does that say about the fucked among us? The same four elements of kindness, compassion, joy and freedom apply to you own fucked up self. Only more so. For how can you give something you deny yourself?

The fucked life is myopic. There is no discernment. It confuses suffering with love and wonders why it is fucked.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This I Would

This I would have you know: you are the only one who can unfuck your life. You fucked it. You unfuck it.

I would also have you know this: you aren't the only one to ever fuck up your life. It would be remarkable if you hadn't. No, others before you have been as fucked as either of us. Some of them unfucked themselves. Some were train wrecks. They both left clues. It is part of being fucked to believe that you can use another man's formula/method to unfuck yourself. But that's cheating. On yourself. And that is part of what's fucked you in the first place.

UYL Rule #1 - You have to do your own push ups.

UYL Rule #2 - You have to learn from those who came before you.

UYL Rule #3 - Then you have to figure it out for yourself.

* * *

Listen:

"The light in this room is of a lamp. Its flame in the glass is of the dry, silent and famished delicateness of the latest lateness of the night, and of such ultimate, such holiness of silence and peace that all on earth and within extremest remembrance seems suspended upon it in perfection as upon reflective water: and I feel that if I can by utter quietness succeed in not disturbing this silence, in not so much as touching this plain of water, I can tell you anything within realm of God, whatsoever it may be, that I wish to tell you, and that what so ever it may be, you will not be able to help but understand it."

James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

* * *

I will never forget the first time I read that bit of Agee. I burst into tears sitting at the airport waiting to catch a flight to Seattle where I was headed for a job interview. He had managed to say 20 years before I was born, all I had ever held in my head. It is the entire reason for writing: to be understood. It is also to understand.

Agee was a fucked up dude: brilliant, drunk and dead too young. Yet the things he left behind - words only - bespeak of a restless and outraged intellect, a hungry desire to know and be known, a luxury with words that is without equal by my watch.

I can only copy and paste his words here. I cannot write them. They are not mine, though he gave them to me by putting them in a public space - a book. They exist outside of my command, yet I am pulled from my dolor and made to sit upright and take nourishment when I am in their company. My work, my words are my own. I can only be moved to action by his, for they do move me.

But perhaps not so much for you. Fine. You're a dickweed. But so what? What does move you? What rattles your bones? What once filled you with wonder or delight? The fucked life says there is no such thing, or that it is relegated to childhood. Don't believe it. You're fucked because you've dropped that thing that once filled you oh so joyously. You've lost who you are and settled on what you've become.

I read Agee, or Calvino, or Yeats, or any one of a hundred thousand hundred thousand others and I am reminded again and again to move, to be moved, to be restored to myself, to take up arms against the fucking I've laid on myself. Books, music, movies, cooking, whatever in the world that thing might be for you there are others who have been fucked just like you are now and they a left a record of their unfucking.

Find them. Pay attention, and then begin.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Here, I Am

Here, I am going to piss you off:

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all try something."
FDR

For the fucked, and I am numbered among our legions, there is nothing so far away as common sense, nothing so frustrating as its invocation, nothing so crippling as being hectored by the seemingly happy and seemingly accomplished unfucked fuckers of our social orbit to get up and get going.

Fuck you.

Except they are right, and there is nothing so needed to unfuck your life than some common sense.

There is an inverse relationship between your level of fuckedness and how much common sense that not only A) you have, but more importantly B) you are willing to apply.

(Please note that I did not say "willing and able to apply." You have to want to catch the ball before you can catch the ball. You have to be willing before you are able. It is just that basic.)

* * *

So, back to FDR. This was a man who knew fucked. He also knew how to deal with it: action. Part of the fucked life is that we make it a STUCK life, forever going nowhere as fast as we can. The trust in ourselves to decide is leached out of our bones by fear of being even more deeply fucked. I am here to tell you friends that fucked is fucked. No matter how big the dick is.

Fear paralyzes us into believing that God wanted us to walk around holding our ankles. We come to accept the fucked nature of our lives as our due, as the way it is, and slowly, slowly but inexorably we lose sight of the fact that we're fucked and no longer fight against it. Hit this spot in your kingdom of fucked and despair joins with fear and the Twelve Labors of Hercules are a walk in the fucking park compared to what you have to do.

And what, exactly, is that?

You have to give a shit.

You have to learn how to give a shit about yourself, about your life. If you can muster enough desire the difference between where you are and where you want to be will demand that you stagger on. I don't give a fuck whether you meditate, or eat a macro-biotic diet, or take up Mah-Jong to organize your life, but try something - anything - and if it doesn't work admit and try something else.

I will offer this advice: start with the basics. Don't get all esoteric right off the bat. Try taking a pass from sitting on your ass and go for a run, or a walk, or a crawl. It doesn't matter at this point. Do something. The rest will come to you as you learn to move again.

Promise.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Not Long Ago

Not long ago, a matter of a few weeks or so, I was on the phone with my brother detailing some of the madness, the absolute bat-shit crazy madness in my life when he said, "You've got to find a way to unfuck your life."

Indeed.

In order to unfuck one's life one must finally admit that one is fucked to begin with. And this is isn't the good sort of fucking - no sweaty knee-knocking, no visions of heaven, no dirty pillow talk - just the fucked, stuck, it ain't getting better sort thing.

We have all used, or heard the phrase, "Dude, you are so fucked" or some variation on that theme. It denotes a screwing as if to a wall, a predicament without escape, a reckoning so direct there is little to do but hold onto your ankles and pray you live through the forces scouring your life. It is inevitable that each of us will find ourselves fucked from time to time. In the main these instances are just that: instances. They arrive and they leave. Our fucking (over, with) has a short shelf life and we move on.

Except when we don't.
Except when we stay fucked.
Except when we let events spiral so far out of control that the fucked life is the only life there is.

Fuck.

* * *

We are what we think
All that we are arises with our thoughts
With our thoughts we make the world


So begins The Dhammapada, The Sayings of The Buddha. It is, for our purposes here, the beginning of all wisdom.

The fucked life is one that has lost touch with this ground-floor perception. I have lost touch with this reality on more than one occasion. It is... debilitating to say the least. It is the fucking that fucks your life, keeps you stuck, keeps you on a perpetual motion machine of making the same mistakes, of tending to your wounds as if they were stigmata and unique in the world. Your misery is just that - yours: self-created, self-fulfilling. No matter what external circumstances contributed to your afflictions, you are always, and always have been, free.

You've just been too fucked to notice.