Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Once You Have

"Once you have deliberated and determined that a course of action is wise, never discredit your judgment. Stand squarely behind your decision. Chances are there may indeed be people who misunderstand your intentions and who may even condemn you. But if, according to your best judgment, you are acting rightly, you have nothing to fear. Take a stand. Don't be cravenly noncommittal."

- Epictetus,  The Art of Living

* * *

Mana lapho - Swahili for "Stand Your Ground"

* * *

It seems to me the whole of experience, of wisdom is to stand your ground. Decisions must be made. This chosen over that. Losses accepted in service of other goals. It seems to me the whole of fuckedness to give ground, to vacillate, to refuse one's name, one's utterly unique expression in the world. And to cede that ground for no other reason than you couldn't work up the spit to be heard.

Ah, fuck.

The ways in which justify our "cravenly noncommittal" way of wasting our time, our days, our lives, our fucking gifts reeks of decay, cowardice and false humility. It is the only true sin available to us: refusing Life's call. None of us are bound to succeed. Most of what we do will fall short, but we are obligated to try.

The fucked are perfectionists, and the great thing about perfectionists is they NEVER do anything. They know their efforts will not match their imaginations, their expectations and so don't venture the game because, well, if it is going to be just so, then...

* * *

Many years ago I dreamed the answer to my unique presence in the world. I dreamed it only once and have never forgotten it. I was dressed in a double breasted white linen suit - the one I was married in back in 1986 - and I am standing along side a vast canyon. The sun is setting and the canyon walls glow orange and red before falling off into darkness below the rim of the canyon. I am smoking. I look great.

Out of the silence comes the bustling clatter of a pick up truck backing up to the edge of the canyon, the red brake lights puncturing the falling darkness like burning coals. I step away from the canyon to see the clod who has interrupted my silent, smoking, well-groomed reverie. The driver gets out of the truck dressed in filthy jeans, a soiled t-shirt, battered work boots and a look of derision on his face when he looks at me. It takes me a moment, but I realize the driver is me.

The filthy me says nothing but walks to the rear of the truck which is over-laden with junk: busted bicycles, appliances, broken dolls, boxes, tins, rusted barbed wire, spine-busted books, newspapers - all of the trash you can imagine. The filthy, working me hops in the back of the truck and starts heaving the junk over the edge of the canyon. I can hear it skitter down the walls and come to rest far below. The working me just keeps at it and the truck never seems to empty. The white-suited me looks over the edge of canyon and can just make out a small pile of shit at the bottom. It dawns on the groomed, clean me that the fool in the truck is trying to fill the canyon. It is at least a mile wide and God knows how deep. It is futile. The clean me shakes my head at the uselessness of it.

The working me pities the fool in the white suit and just gets back to work.

* * *

Our live are not measured by "success," or any external yardstick. Die with millions in the bank, or die with none you are still dead. No. Our lives are measured by the effort we give to the living of them. This is entirely an internal process that no one will ever know about except by its effects.

I loved that suit. I loved the woman I married the day I wore it. I loved being the guy who looked good in that suit and cigarette. I loved my faux-cynicism, my delusional wisdom at what was possible and what was not. But that ain't me. Not in this life. Just because the canyon can't be filled doesn't relieve me of my obligation to try and fill it, to live out the particulars of my life.

Nor does it relieve you, my fucked friends, of your obligation to do your work, to stand your ground.

Mana lapho, motherfucker. Mana lapho.


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