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self-analysis

In transit from Norfolk to Seattle, via Detroit

There’s something unsettling about an initial descent and final approach in the fog of cloud cover. You can feel the plane descending, but you don’t know where the ground is. I always get this suspicion that the world may have fallen away and….and that’s it, the plane will just keep descending and I’ll be stuck in my small chair, and I won’t be able to get out of my small chair because it’s against FAA violations. I’m just stuck in my seat defending forever.

But then, the clouds break and the ground becomes visible. All of a sudden, you remember your suspicions…your fears; are foolish.

I’ve had 3 or 4 drinks and my head feels heavy. Disoriented a tad, but I’m always disoriented. I’m never oriented with clarity. My gaze is always shot through and blurry with desires, concerns, and distractions.

Leaving is mostly disheartening…or, this weird type of privation of domestics comforts (the routines that make “normal life” boring become sought after when those routines are unavailable or disrupted), but depending on where you’re going, that feeling can be offset a bit. However, right now I just want to be in the hotel room.

No matter how much fun tour is (and it’s a lot fun), if I’m without my wife and my daughter, I have no paddles. I can enjoy the currents a bit, but it’s informed by helplessness and a toothless jouissance.

<turbulance>

An hour or so out from Seattle, a few more hours out from rehearsal. Right now, I’m worried about finding a ride to the hotel. I have three guitars, a pedal board, and a suitcase.

When you’re 37 going on 38, tour is an uncomfortable canoe.

above atmosphere clouds flight

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

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The feeling I have most consistently could be described as insecure uncertainty.

It creates its own disposition. Generally speaking, I’m grateful and I try my best to be kind; however, I continually feel a suspicion of everything (myself most of all), one that isn’t necessarily rooted in a distrust of someone or of people, but a distrust of evolving circumstance. The conditions of our social environment necessitate an awareness that is rooted in self-interest and varying degrees of ambition, such that the latter is inseparable from the former. It creates a mental and emotional space that is vulnerable to various possibilities that, at any moment, could force a change in direction – a change we initiate ourselves, a change that someone else initiates, etc. This dynamic is ultimately underscored by a lack of control.

As a critical point, and as unwise as it may be, I reject the encouragements that suggest one shouldn’t waste time worrying over things we can’t control. Regardless the roots of this wisdom, be it Christianity, Buddhism, Jess from Gilmore Girls, it misses a fundamental point — it is the very fact we don’t have control that is the source of insecure uncertainty. It’s not about a particular bad thing happening, it’s about something, anything at all happening, that could fundamentally alter how I live and how I engage in the world. I simply don’t understand how one could not be impacted by this apparent reality – more so, I don’t understand how one could be vitalized by this apparent reality, i.e. the excitement of the unknown. Filling out the spaces that surround and inform these ephemeral commercials of happiness is a larger palette of indescribable, and inexplicable, melancholy and pain. Maybe it’s not acute pain, maybe it’s not physical pain, maybe one is even lucky enough to avoid a direct collision with injustice (be it divine, social, or economic) – even still, I am of the position that positive emotions only gain their meaning against the fabric of an otherwise indifferent (not evil, not painful, not metaphysical) existential matrix.

This is my lens. And while I am concerned over it, it’s also a source of comfort – not as a vice, but as a mechanism that doesn’t let me get too far ahead of myself.

Put simply, it’s Kierkegaardian anxiety.

This is the map of my brain, the brain that was forced to consider a question put to me and my friend Jacob one night in Atlanta while I was on tour with Mae in November – “Why do you still do this?” That is, why do I still tour after 18 years?

That question seems easy enough, and it seems straightforward enough – but I still haven’t given the friend who asked, or myself, a satisfactory answer.

A person’s development is riddled with misguided expressions which occur as a result of ego. There are a number of causes which light fires under many types of people, but the causes are, in so many cases, secondary. Further down that road of development, a new self-defeating desire invades which serves to neutralize distractions in hopes of giving one serenity. Life is an unwinding and we finally put to bed one grand hope to make way for a more humble hope. Our existence, according to the fervor of youth, is a gradual decline which we foolishly hope to reverse; our existence, according to the complacency and embittering of age, is an anti-climatic autumn of beautiful and dormant “once upon a time’s.” It is, on the one hand, something very bothersome and melancholy; and it is on the other hand very peaceful. It’s as if the world is completely altered in the course of a few years. As Regina Spektor sings, “you’re young until you’re not.” Of course, there can be a condescension in claiming old age in comparison to the silly youth, and I do not intend that. What I’m suffering is the awakening to what was always the case, but what I supposed I was above. I am told that we all go through it, but that is not satisfying because, regardless of what I say, I want to make in impact. The more I try to claim about my own state of existence, the more I realize that I am not alone. For many, a solidarity with others could be comforting, for me, it is depressing. I enjoy having things in common with others, but my rabid insecurity demands recognition above and beyond! I wish to recognize community as an ornament, as a claim to my humility (a simultaneously paradoxical claim on my ego). Ahh, it’s truly pathetic, but even so, I can’t become unique. I merely blend in to the room of well dressed people furiously focused on their treadmills.  We’re all the same, some dress themselves better than others, some understand themselves better than others, some understand their role better than others, some know what they want, most don’t.

I think it’s best to refrain from being creative when emotionally inspired.

As humans, we are surprisingly incapable. Of course, there have been many grand feats accomplished by the glory and industry of mankind. It doesn’t take much research to look down the long list of inventions and ideas which have come to fruition as a result of this gloried tenacity and devotion. One can get all teary eyed reading an Ayn Rand novel–a beautiful adventure and victory of the human spirit, the drive, the good willed indifference, and the talent. Our thirst for advances of the mind, new technology, new art, new ideas to assuage human suffering, new versions of the categorical imperative spoken with a tone of regrettable condescension and dismissal of the spiritual, and let’s not forget the reverse of that–the appeal to spirituality for the cure all. (We have tragically forgotten the words of Pascal who gracefully made the case for the inclusion of both reason and faith).

But ultimately, we are essentially incapable. We know nothing of true value, because true value is masterfully hidden from us. True value is transformed to appear absurd and pathetic. The health of the soul is dismissed and made a mockery of. It’s so easy to become dramatic with grandiose appeals for cultural progress–peace, love, fairness to all people regardless of income, race, or faith. But what do we know of peace, love,  or fairness? We know nothing.  Despite our genuine attempts and well-meaning projects, the soul will remain eternally sick.  The soul cannot be cured through global initiatives, and until the soul is healed, these global initiatives will merely be coats of paint, a temporary fix, a reason for investment (All very necessary, and all fleeting). The value of these projects lies within the transformation of an individual. Success is not exclusively linked to achievement.

I’d like to ask what we are celebrating. The trenches of our psychology go untouched by large events that celebrate a good cause while inflating the wrong vessels.

(a narcissistic turn)

And me? I am no cure.

Ultimately, I am a weak individual who sees aspects of myself in everyone. I’m not even me. I would claim that I am not a true identity, just a creation of one, born from the conditions of my development. Each opinion I have can be traced rather easily to some passing event from my youth, or perhaps an eloquent book I read in college.

So therein lies the dilemma–I do not know myself. I do not know what I am capable of. I don’t know my soul. I do not know what drives me. I only know that I am a narcissist. I am selfish in that I seem to equate value and production. I am part of that new generation that can’t see the connection between hard work and success. I am part of that new generation that has successfully merged altruism, fashion, and ego–while leaving the soul out of the picture altogether.

“Every human existence not conscious of itself as spirit, or not personally conscious of itself before God as spirit, every human existence which is not grounded transparently in God, but opaquely rests or merges in some abstract universal (state, nation, etc.), or in the dark about itself, simply takes its capacities to be natural powers, unconscious in a deeper sense of where it has them from, takes itself to be an unaccountable something.”–Kierkegaard (SUD)