20201103

20201103-Smokey

Election Day.  I’m staying the FUCK away from it, or trying to.  Every website. Every television is blasting this shit into your head. Doesn’t matter if it’s social media, games, shopping sites.  All of it. It’s fucking insane.

The blank page is getting to me something fierce today.  Hell I’ve been here 45 minutes and have only written this much.  Listened to the Far Cry 2 tapes a few times in a row.  Just switched over to my writing playlist, hoping it’ll help snap my brain in to gear. 

The amount of caffeine ripping through my system on a largely empty stomach has got me positively twitchy.  So, you know, that’s not really helping today.  Plus this damned Hemmingway is plugged as fuck. 

It’s all I can do to stop myself from grinding my fucking teeth.

I made a deal with myself this morning that if I did all the dishes I could come here, smoke a few cigars and get some words down.  So, of course, I blasted through my dishes with “Cut The Cord” by Shinedown on repeat, in about…15 minutes tops.  Score.

Check out this thread: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1320971632144363520.html

In case it’s not there, it’s about Worf from Star Trek who apparently didn’t grow up with Klingons (I’m not a TnG guy.  Kirk > Picard) but understood “Klingonness” through their image, their mythology.  So he, in an attempt to be authentic, spends his life trying to live up to that ideal, though he discovers over and over again that the ideal he’s trying to live up to is “just” mythology, that the heroes of that culture fall short continually.  But because he can’t (or won’t/doesn’t) let go of his image of the “True Klingon” he manages no small amount of success in striving to live up to that mythological stature. 

This reminds me of something I encountered quite starkly the last time I was in NYC, a couple years ago. 

I’d flown in to NY to meet my sisters and deal with the issues of my Father’s estate. We had The Meeting on Friday morning at 9:00 and all met there.

Liz showed up at 8:30 where I was waiting, on the street corner.  She called Laura, who said she was still driving in.  We looked at each other and shook our heads.  Liz, like me, is a frenzied neurotic mess.  Laura takes life as it comes, rolls the dice and shit SEEMS to just fall in to her lap. Well, 8:45 showed up, we’re looking at our watches and pacing around.  She found a parking spot a block away and wandered up at 8:50 something. Liz and I just shook our heads.

“How the fuck does this always HAPPEN?” I wondered aloud.

“I….I don’t know. It always does though.”  Liz said. 

And it was in that moment, 26 months ago, that I realized my middle sister had the right of things and it was the two of us who were wrong.  All that anxiety. All that “preemptive worry” was nothing. It was just taking up cycles, aging us prematurely, and getting in the way of everything we thought it was helping us do better.  As opportunities flew by, even sometimes stopping to check in and see if we were interested, we were too busy worrying about the downstream effects to actually just get off our asses and follow or take them.

Well we get out of the meeting, go grab something to eat and Liz says “So what time is your flight?” meaning my flight back to Nashville.

I smiled… “2:30.”

Laura noticed the twinkle in my eye and said “Wait…what DAY is your flight?”

“Tuesday :)”

“You’re just gonna hang out in the city for four days and you weren’t gonna tell us?”

“I…don’t think you’re going to want to come with me where I’m going.  But if you want to hang out I’m definitely in to it.”

They demurred.

Well, the plan was to hit a bunch of my old haunts, get ripping drunk and just reconnect with My City.

Rewind a decade and a half.

I used to take my notebook and head to the Chinese Calligraphy section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sit on a bench and write.  Sometimes I’d go to the little garden they had set up right there and write…there.  It was fun, quiet, meditative, and pretentious as fuck. 

So on that Saturday I did.  I went to the met, drank deep of the Arms and Armor exhibit (which is exquisite, by the way) and made my way up to Chinese calligraphy.

I sat down on a bench in one of those dark quiet rooms, having spent an hour just staring at and photographing brushwork and I pulled out my notebook.

I was struck, a couple pages in (I don’t know what I was writing about. I s’pose I could find it) at how THIS time it was an absolutely honest experience. 

The pretension of the past became the authenticity of the present.

I was living up to the mythology I had created for myself so many years ago. 

So when that Worf thread came up last week it struck a chord.  It was kinda the same thing.  A story, roughly told, interpreted over time by people trying to live up to it. 

It reminded me immediately of two things:

“Authentic Recipe” gatekeeping.  Think about pizza, hot dogs, philly cheesesteaks, or chili.  People will go to war arguing about what makes an authentic New York pizza, or REAL chili. 

But those recipes didn’t come from anything like that. They’re just what people made, the way they made them.  And sure, it’s all a little too contemporary to say “because that’s what they had.”  But the point is the same. 

The pattern emerges and it’s then taken as gospel, given FAR more power later on than it ever had in the moment. In that moment, it becomes mythology…

WHICH brings me to the other idea that’s kicking around in my head about it all. 

Is this not LITERALLY the mechanism by which myths are created and become religion?  To say people have religious wars about the right way to make chili or pizza may not even BE a fucking metaphor.

It’s admittedly a half baked thought. Or, more properly, a thought half baked into language. But it seems the exact same mechanism: Repeated iterations of a story becoming more and more strictly codified and…becoming more of an ideal than a story over time, eventually crossing a threshold where people hold up the story as an ideal.  It becomes myth, completely independent, if not in spite, of it’s reality.

What I need to do is finish Peterson’s “Maps of Meaning” where he talks (among everything else) about the evolution of mythology.  I expect he’s done more research on the topic than I’ve done thinking.

See, it seems to me that I should have more than a paragraph or two to say about that. But… I don’t.  That’s the idea. 

Is it not the case the aspirations of humanity is to a necessarily mythological ideal? 

I know people get pissy when you take the wind out of their religion. But the story of the resurrection, for instance, is a couple thousand years older than 2.  Christianity is just the latest iteration. If you’re a believer I envy you. I say that with no snarkiness or scorn. Really. It must be amazing.

But I’m not. I don’t. And the likelihood that I ever will be is functionally zero.

But I wonder if it matters, if it matters at all.  The value of a religion isn’t in whether it’s true or not, but in how it inspires us to behave, in what it is we strive towards.  Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, or Taoism.  At their best they’re cultural appropriate templates overlaying personal ideals, no?

I’ve admittedly done more agonizing about the meaning of life than I have just grabbing something and running towards it and life is about doing rather than knowing.  So, as nice as it would be to be sure of something regarding the ultimate truth of the universe, I’m not sure it’s…important.

See that turns my mind to Alexander Cortes’ continual, dead on admonishments to stop worrying about deciding and just pick something. 

Pick the mythology and strive to fulfill the ideas it exemplifies.

So…if my conclusions are correct, insofar as they go, and Nietzsche was right when he said:

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

(which he unarguably was)

then does picking a damned mythology to replace what we have lost not remain our best hope for an ideal we can strive to?  All these kids out there pretending they’re jedis or wearing star trek officers uniforms.  They’re easy to laugh at and…I personally believe they deserve some derision.

But…can we really blame them? Do they not have a point?  They’re not pretending it’s all real.  Well, they’re pretending it’s real, but not in that they’re deceiving themselves. 

I can’t help but think about the modern mythology of Iron Man doesn’t present an amazing example. Is there a better hero in modern fiction for our modern age?  Self centered narcissist, humbled to turn to his late father for answers, striving always to make the most of the Promethean gift, to redeem himself against his past failings, at the very least, then to finally sacrifice his own well-earned peace for all life?

I submit, no, there’s not.

Scorsese can eat a dick.

(Surely you didn’t think I was gonna end this with an “I am Iron Man” reference, right?)

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