I was struggling with some concepts not too long ago. Concepts of identity I suppose you could say. We all find ourselves there from time to time, questioning our own navigational alignment, standing in the place where we live, thinking about direction and wondering why we haven’t before.
Apologies to REM.
I was. I was wondering whether or not I was writing the right things. Were my words coherent? Broad? Did they have reach? I was starting to think that maybe I should write a bit more about things that are important, on a national and global scale. Get away from me, so to speak. We have this bizarre national election going on between this brilliant con artist posing as a business success and this corrupt career politician whose waited for her turn, and nobody with any sense really wants either of them in charge. We have bombings in places like Syria and you don’t have to dig very deep at all to find the meanings behind these bombings. They smell like oil and shine like imperialism. We have these racial tensions that extreme blacks are calling oppression and extreme whites are calling fiction. We have important things to talk about. To think about.
But I can’t seem to get myself to write too much about it. To think too much about it. In our daily lives, we’re lucky, you and I. If I have the time to write this and you have the time to read this then we have pretty good lives, comparatively. A lot of folks around the world are losing their houses from bombings and are looking for a place to live. They don’t have time to read or to write only to cradle their children in the cold and wonder how they’ll get enough to eat. It’s overwhelming.
I suppose that’s why I shut it out, some days. I suppose that’s why so many live in denial of the awful truths, wrapping themselves in flags instead and saying that their way is the right way and there is no other way. I suppose that’s why I write about comic books and 168-hour weeks and football and puppies. The other stuff is terrible. Frightening. Dispiriting.
And I can’t live my days and nights dispirited. I’m not built that way. I’m an optimist who is better when his days are bright and breezy. I get more done when I’m uplifted. I write more. I dance more. I prefer the archetypal role of the jester to that of the rebel or the hero. I struggle with that.
A quote I read recently, from the guy who wrote Charlotte’s Web – among many other important things – struck me as uniquely Tom:
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan my day.”
This makes it hard to plan my blog.
I want to change the world, I do. But I also want to enjoy the world for the decidedly limited epoch we get to be a part of it. And it’s a good era we live in. We get instantaneous global communication, mass transit and, with a good battery charge, the knowledge of all mankind at our fingertips. We haven’t evolved beyond our egos so we also still get prejudice, nationalism, and imperial conquest on a global scale. I suppose that’s the trade.
I overcame my recent struggle when a friend said something fairly simple and incredibly wise to me: it’s hard to be a bunch of different things. Folks can’t handle it.
Barfly. Salesman. Fan. Writer. Liberal. Geek. Philosopher. Fool.
I can’t. I can’t be but one thing. Great philosophers of success for the modern era tell me that to be successful I must narrow my goals and focus like a laser on one big thing until I have achieved it.
Whenever I have done that I have achieved success. It’s great advice. At the same time whenever I have done that I have felt limited by the stifling nature of the single path. I like divergence. I like walking off the path whenever I feel the whim. If this makes me slightly less driven than, say, Bruce Lee, I’m okay with that. He spent a lot of time in gyms and I can’t imagine living that kind of life.
So whenever I find myself wondering how I got here, or where in the heck I’m going, I have to remember: this is the path – these are the paths – I have chosen. I’ve got a great family. An amazing wife. The world’s best pals. And I’ve got me, exactly how I imagined I could be.
Now if only I could figure out what to do about Syria …