January Books: Part 2

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

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Ah, the book that gets thrown around with Desert Solitaire as one of the best pieces of wilderness literature. I was hesitant to read this book because of all the praise that it has received, and when I picked it up I was still feeling hesitant. Fortunately, I was not disappointed. I read this at the right time. If I would've read this a year ago, I'm not sure I would've enjoyed it as much. There is something in each book that requires a certain mindset, and this one requires a mindset of peace to enjoy. Because there is a satisfaction that I latched onto during reading. He describes the land in a way that is able to convey his emotions. Not many writers can achieve that level of connection with a place within their writing.

But, the part that struck me most was not the part about nature, but the internal journey that Matthiessen goes on during the book.

“The absurdity of a life that may well end before one understands it does not relieve one of the duty (to the self which is inseparable from others) to live it through as bravely and genrously as possible. I feel great gratitude for being here, for being, rather, for there is no need to hie oneself to the snow mountains in order to feel free. I am not here to seek the “crazy wisdom”; if I am, I shall never find it. I am here to be here, like these rocks and sky and snow, like this hail that is falling down out of the sun.

That is the key. For certain personality types, it is exceedingly easy to look at the times in life when one is not actively "exploring the world" as times of decay. Happily, Matthiessen reminds us that what we are looking for does not lie in the far off places, regardless of how much we may love those places.

 

On Mysticism by Jorge Luis Borges

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I'm not exactly sure what I expected from this one. I supposed I expected a 100 page essay on his views concerning mysticism. Instead, this little book was filled with short stories and a few short essays on different aspects of metaphysics. In many ways, this is made reading a grander joy than originally anticipated. I have read a Borges before, but as it was in Spanish, I missed out on some of the more difficult concepts. The problem with reading Borges in a different language than English for me is that he incorporates deeper meanings that only make sense while accompanied by a full mastery over the language. There were too many quotes that hit the nose, but I keep coming back to one from The Circular Ruins, one of the short stories that opens the book:

“He understood that the task of molding the incoherent and dizzying stuff that dreams are made of is the most difficult work a man can undertake, even if he fathoms all the enigmas of the higher and lower spheres—-much more difficult than weaving a rope of sand or minting coins of the faceless wind. He understood that initial failure was inevitable. He swore to put behind him the vast hallucination that at first had drawn him off the track, and he sought another way to approach his task.

I have never read a more compelling few lines about accomplishing dreams than this one right here. However, being Borges, he buried that quote in a long meta story about a man coming from nowhere and attempting to dream another man into existence.

I'm going to be wrestling with all the meanings that are nestled inside the essays and shorts that Borges has written here. In fact, this may be one of the few books I decide to buy as a reference. I don't buy many, usually once is enough, but some books require time and another look to fully absorb.

 

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

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“I want to marry a girl,” I told them, “so I can rest my soul with her till we both get old. This can’t go on all the time—all this franticness and jumping around. We’ve got to go someplace, find something.”

I don't see what those beats were trying to run after. Jack was not telling anyone a story of triumph and exuberance, but one of self-contempt and striving for an ideal that may not exist. I may have missed something big, but many times Jack could hardly stay in one place before itching to move on to the next. He never seemed content, and he was always striving for a new place. Unfortunately, and I am quite sure that he realized it, the running to and fro wasn't serving him in any emotional capacity. There were stolen cars driven through mountains, sunny days in Mexico, and chance encounters with lovers; but there were also pointless jobs, dozens of quarrels, and strong hunger. Seeing his progression through his three most well known works (On the Road, The Dharma Bums, and Big Sur) makes me wonder if Jack felt that it was all worth it. I hesitate to say that he was a man without regret. He seemed like a man who stood at the forefront of a movement that he never wanted to start.

 

The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

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“Happy,” I muttered, trying to pin the word down. But it is one of those words, like Love, that I have never quite understood. Most people who deal in words don’t have much faith in them and I am no exception—especially the big ones like Happy and Love and Honest and Strong. They are too elusive and far too relative when you compare them to sharp, mean little words like Punk and Cheap and Phony. I feel at home with these, because they’re scrawny and easy to pin, but the big ones are tough and it takes either a priest or a fool to use them with any confidence.

I don't know what I expected from Hunter S. Thompson, but it definitely wasn't this. I was expecting more debauchery and less introspection. Quotes like the above are more plentiful than I originally would've imagined from a guy who, over his lifetime, tried almost any drug he could get his hands on. I often forget that this man engineered a new style of journalism that still lives this day through programs like Vice News.

Above anything else, for me, The Rum Diary is able to capture the reasons why a person falls out of love with a place: the constant choking feeling that comes with staying in one place too long and the listless stagnation that comes with feeling "comfortable."

 

God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian by Kurt Vonnegut

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When Mr. Pellegrino heard that, he said, “For God’s sake, man—get a tank of propane and a balloon while you’ve still got time, or you’ll never what Heaven is!” Saint Peter protested. “Mr. Pellegrino,” he said, “this is Heaven!” “The only reason you can say that,” said Pellegrino, “is because you’ve never crossed the Alps in a hot air balloon!” Saint Peter said to me, “Not only do you still have time to go ballooning. You might also write a book with the title, ‘Heaven and Its Discontents.’” He said to Pellegrino, ironically of course, “If you’d had crack cocaine on Earth, I suppose Heaven would also be a disappointment.” “Bingo!” said Pellegrino.

I enjoyed this short little book, but it came across as Vonnegut doodling more than a serious work that merits any attention. I appreciated the idea, and of course it has a few vintage Vonnegut quotes like the above, but I can't say that I gained much more out of it other than a half hour or so of relaxing and relatively enjoyable reading. I will say that I'm glad it wasn't much longer, as the layout of the book got a little tedious towards the end.

Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut

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Practically everything was automated, too. Nancy and Mary and the sheriff were lucky to have jobs. Most people didn’t. the average citizen moped around home and watched telvision, which was the Government. Every fifteen minutes his television would urge him to vote intelligently or consume intelligently, or worship in the church of his choice, or love his fellowmen, or obey the laws—or pay a call to the nearest Ethical Suicide Parlor and find out how friendly and understanding a Hostess could be.

More than anything else, Vonnegut is at his best when writing short stories. Most of them are relatively basic, and there is always a moral of each story. I would usually revolt against this as too traditional, but Vonnegut is able to create such intricate and enjoyable worlds in such a short period of time that I hardly care if some of them are a tad moralistic. In addition, him being from the Midwest and having many of the same morals that I do, it is likely that I accept his conclusions easier than someone with a completely different background.

Homo Deus by Yuvah Noah Harari

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Throughout this book we have repeatedly asked what makes humans superior to other animals. Dataism has a new and simple answer. In themselves human experiences are not superior at all to the experiences of wolves or elephants. One bit of data is as good as another. However, humans can write poems and blogs about their experiences and post them online, thereby enriching the global data-processing system. That makes their bits count.
As the global data-processing system becomes all-knowing and all-powerful, so connecting to the system becomes the source of when you are part of the data flow you are part of something much bigger than yourself. Traditional religions assured you that your every word and action was part of some great cosmic plan, and that God watched you every minute and cared about all your thoughts and feelings. Data religion now says that your every word and action is part of the great data flow, that the algorithms are constantly watching you and that they care about everything you do and feel. Most people like this very much. Fr true-believers, to be disconnected from the data flow risks losing the very meaning of life. What’s the point of doing or experiencing anything if nobody knows about it and it doesn’t contribute something to the global exchange of information?

I've read more than a few futurist pieces in the past year, but this one was by far the most distressing. There were innumerable quotes that I could have posted here and each one gives me anxiety. The little bits of relative peace were quickly interrupted by a techno-optimism that created a world I would never want to live in. 

My biggest struggle throughout the entire book was the authors take on free will. He follows the deterministic philosophy which states that every choice a person makes is dictated by previous choices and genetics and other environmental factors rather than each and every choice being independent. In this case, I would agree with him. However, this seems like a false choice. The black and white ones like this usually are.

Where I differ with Yuval is his assumption that because computers that can read our heart rates and biochemistry during every minute of every day, that they will make better decisions for us than we would, and because of this, we will learn to accept the choices of the computer. I find this unnecessarily simplifies even a deterministic free will. He states that a computer will "know us" better than we will know ourselves. While that may be true chemically, he seems to forget the idea of consciousness for the sake of the argument. Until we figure out consciousness, it is unrealistic to me that a computer could do know who we are, as the secret likely lies in a mixture of our consciousness and our chemical makeup.

January Books: Part 1

Originally, I had planned to put the details of each week of training and the details of the books I was reading into one post every week. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I just don't find the training journal to be productive, I had given up entirely on critically analyzing many of the books I was reading. In order to stay away from that kind of passive reading, I am playing with coming out with a list just like this one about the books I read and my reactions. I'll keep doing it as long as I find it useful. If you get any enjoyment out of it that is a bonus. I'll likely have heavy spoilers in all of these, so if you care about that sort of thing I would tread carefully.

 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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I had a long drive back to Boulder and was not looking forward to listening to podcasts the entire time. Most of my favorite ones take a rather large break during Christmas and re-release popular episodes. This is a recipe for making a long drive longer. Rather than trying to somehow find 8 hours of podcasts to listen to, I decided to download my first audiobook. I had been prodded to listen to a book with Neil Gaiman's narration and have been waiting to read this one for a while, so decided to go after it.

I had no idea this was a children's book until I started the piece. I have spent the last couple months reading primarily heftier history/biography/literary fiction pieces that are an occasional pain in the ass to read. Finding myself wrapped up in a mystical story which required little critical thinking was a pleasant change. I was concerned that the book would fall flat, as a lot of these children's books lack a certain amount of honesty that I have come to enjoy from more mature stories. But Gaiman managed to level out the platitudes and truisms inherent in a story aimed at a younger audience the way only a good author can. 

The heavy dose of magical realism that seems to mark an enduring children's story is present from the beginning of the book when a poor baby has his whole family mysteriously murdered and the baby escapes into his local friendly graveyard filled with all sorts of inhabitants. Thankfully, the exposition is well paced for not being a true en media res story

Without going through the plot of the book, I appreciated how well Gaiman crafted my care for the main character. I felt his actions emotionally, which is difficult for an author to accomplish; although perhaps connection is easier via the audiobook. The protagonist, Bod, made some stupid decisions, but I never felt mad at him. Rather, he seemed so justified that the majority of the time I found myself agreeing with his decisions to act. This is that emotional honesty.

Maybe I should read more children's fiction like this, although I doubt there is much exactly like this. Listening through this book and hearing the moral of the story, I was reminded that I'm still about 47% child anyway. Maybe that means I can read 47% more children's novels. 

 

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac

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I feel like the most disgraceful and nay disreputable wretch on earth, in fact my hair is blowing in beastly streaks across my stupid and moronic face, the hangover has now worked paranoia into me down to the last pitiable detail.

There is no better way to explain the extreme loneliness and sadness that holds the heart of this book. 

I have a confused relationship with Kerouac. I almost always dislike the first 50 pages of his books. I find the lack of structure unwieldy and the plot plodding. But then, somehow, before I realize it, I am rushing through pages and feeling in sync with the character. Sure, it isn't perfect, but the stream of consciousness writing style tends to evoke emotion in me. It is like taking a long train ride. The inescapable speed of the train after it hits top speed and maintains for hours on end. I simultaneously love the style and hate it. I feel the same way about the content.

Big Sur is different from the other Kerouac works I have read. He finally has self-awareness. He lives the actions of his old life with a heavy dose of despair. I found myself connecting with him much more than in his younger years. Is this due to me becoming more cynical? Probably, but it also seems as though he is writing with a bit more truthfully. 

Did I love it? No. Hate it? No. Like it? I think so, although even then I'm not sure "like" or "enjoy" is the word I would use. Is it pretentious to say I appreciated the art of it? I'll leave this with one of my favorite quotes/chapters of the book.

To complete this crazy day at 3 o’clock in the morning here I am sitting in a car being driven 100 miles an hour around the sleeping streets and hills and waterfronts of San Francisco, Dave’s gone off to sleep with Romana and the others are passed out and this crazy nextdoor neighbor of the roominghouse (himself a Bohemian but also a laborer, a housepainter who comes home with big muddy boots and has his little boy living with him the wife has died)—“What?” he yells, a big blond husky kid with a strange fixed smile, “man I used to drive the getaway car! come on down I’ll show ya!”—So almost dawn and here we are cutting down Buchanan and around the corner on screeching wheels and he opens her up, goes zipping towards a red light so takes a sudden screeching left and goes up a hill full blast, when we come to the top of the hill I figger he’ll pause awhile to see what’s over the top but he goes even faster and practically flies off the hill and we head down one of those incredibly steep San Fran streets with our snout pointed to the waters of the Bay and he steps on the gas! we go sailing down a hundred m.p.h. to the bottom of the hill where there’s an intersection luckily with the light on green and thru that we blast with just one little bump where the road crosses and another bump where the street is dipping downhill again—We come down to the waterfront and screech right—In a minute we’re soaring over the ramps around the Bridge entrance and before I can gulp a shot or two from my last late bottle we’re already parked back outside the pad on Buchanan—The greatest driver in the world whoever he was and I never saw him again—Bruce something or other—What a getaway.

 

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

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Embarrassingly enough, I was introduced to this character via The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. No, not the graphic novel, which might make my discovery slightly less objectionable. I discovered it through the movie. Ever since seeing the character in live action when I was a preteen, I wanted to learn more about him. Finally, years later, I have finished the book. And all I can say is that it was thoroughly enjoyable in the old time pulpy sort of way. The book didn't teach me anything and I wouldn't say I learned anything. But I was reminded how fun some of these ridiculous and relatively superficial books can be.

 

Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh

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Recommended by most of the podcasters that I listen to, I figured I'd give it a go. Coming into this book, I wasn't sure whether to expect a self-help book, an introduction to Buddhism, or something else entirely. It turns out, it was a bit of a mix.

I found a lot of the short book seemed to tread over well-worn ideas, but lately I've been thinking a bit about South Africa's "Truth & Reconciliation Commission" and how the idea connects with what many Americans need to better understand and connect with each other.  Some concepts included in the book connect to the emotional heart of that commission. The mention of The Soviet Union is due to this book being written during the tail end Cold War (which also means that this book, which is actually a series of lectures, was published well before the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. I wonder if Desmond Tutu read this and gained some inspiration from the ideas?).

The situation of the world is still like this. People completely identify with one side, one ideology. To understand the suffering and the fear of a citizen of the Soviet Union, we have to become one with him or her. To do so is dangerous—we will be suspected by both sides. But if we don’t do it, if we align ourselves with one side or the other, we will lose our chance to work for peace. Reconciliation is to understand both sides, to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side, and then to go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side. Doing only that will be a great help for peace.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

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I am still confused whether or not to call this a comic or a graphic novel. I'm not sure there is a difference. Either way, this was my introduction to the art. I've strayed away from comics because I have always viewed them as being for children: I was above them. But, due to an intense love for the movie and rumors that Alan Moore was the best comic book writer of all time, I gave it a whirl.

At first, the style was jarring. I didn't know how long to take in each frame and I was occasionally confused as to how to read the text bubbles. After reading for 10 minutes I was able to enter into a sort of groove and move with the action. Once I absorbed the pacing of the comic, reading it turned into an enjoyable experience. I began to appreciate how carefully constructed each frame of the comic was designed and was fully engaged by the material.

The most important part, the story, didn't disappoint either. There were enough changes from the movie to keep me engaged. There is a lot of the ideological thumping on the head as I expected, but my favorite parts were much more subtle. At the beginning of Book 2, the mysterious anarchist "V" is showing Evey a magic trick with a rabbit. He makes the rabbit disappear under a cloth.  

“The rabbit has gone!” “Bring her back” “Bring her back? But what if she is content where she is? Do we have the right to disturb her? Ahhh..but I see you have already made up your mind. Very well. We replace the cloth...like so...and when next we whisk it away..Presto! The rabbit has returned. But now her home has gone.”

These kind of simple metaphors are what Alan Moore seems to excel at. And for me, they are more powerful than the heavy-handed quotes on fascism.

Dreams

Absence can grow appreciation.

It does not always. Sometimes, absence grows grudges. Occasionally, it lessens the stings of emotional trauma. But my main experience with absence is a growth in appreciation of that which is no longer, or never has been, there.

In this case, I’m speaking of mountains.

For most of my life, mountains only existed as an idea. I would see them in photos and on vacations, but I didn’t live with them. They would arise in my dreams as far off places to conquer and beauties to behold. And I while I loved the idea of them, I lived my life pleasantly enough without their figures in the sky.

But then, I left my home for a while. I lacked any feeling of homesickness, but did not necessarily revel at all times in the unfamiliar. I gravitated toward the only things that had a suitable familiarity: my dreams. But this time, my dreams were in front of me. All around me. My dreams were in the sand dunes and the salt flats and the mountains holding waterfalls. My dreams were in the laughter and the decadence of shared food after a long days run. And at some point, I realized that my dreams were my reality.

I returned home and it didn’t feel the same. There was something missing in the place that had stayed the same. My home now felt empty. I lived there again, but it was no longer my home. It was a waiting room. A city reduced to a snapshot of who I used to be. An interesting reflection, but a museum nonetheless.

I moved. For good this time. To a new home where dreams were filled with the permanence of reality. Mountain shadows spread across the valley floor and made their presence known. I spent days exploring the nuances of the land outside my front door. In fact, I’m still spending days exploring and discovering my new reality. As I come across an Abert's squirrel—one of the black, furry ones that are relatively rare—I wonder if I would have the same longing to explore if I had not dreamed about this place for years. I wonder if I would have the appreciation that comes with being away from something beloved for an extended period. I can’t know the real answer, but I think the answer is a delicate yes.

There must be two different ways to love the mountains. The first occurs when you were born in the mountains. Your parents took you out every weekend and taught you about the rocks and the trees and the bears who come to steal food from your trash at night. You come to love the environment because it is home. It reminds you of the people you love and the thrills of growing up.

The other, is like me: you learn the mountains because they are so foreign. My eyes are amazed by the smallest of hills, no matter how many mountains I have seen. It is the nature of growing up and being able to see for miles in any direction. I come to the mountains with a worshipful attitude. I look at these high altitude beings and think mystically. How can I not when to me they used to be ephemeral images in dreams and on screens. I don’t know the names of many things, I have to learn them. I become a kid again.

And being a kid gets difficult as age creeps up. Opinions are hardened and possibilities float away. If I didn't have this new playground, I'm quite sure I would become an adult. And I'm not quite prepared for that yet.

Loneliness

Loneliness is an emotion which I have ignored. I’ve refused to believe that I deal with it. But over the course of the last few weeks, I have been struck with the unexpected confirmation that loneliness is a strong driving factor in my life.

Due to the fault of no one and without realizing what was happening, I have become lonely. I have become comfortable with the constant companion which is loneliness. In some ways, this is good for a writer. I am capable of sitting in my thoughts and mulling them over without feeling drawn to distract myself with other activities or people. I am reminded of a quote from Ernest Hemingway:

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”

In many ways, the loneliness makes sense for a long distance runner. For a while now I have attempted to understand why exactly I chose to run. The closest explanation I have come to reasons it as some sort of kismet. I dreamt of adventure and the barrier to entry in running was quite low compared to others. Running allows the uninitiated to arrive on mountain peaks and get lost in dense woodland zones and receive the peak emotional bliss typically reserved for climbers and mystics. So loneliness never struck me as a reason. I never thought of this hidden, blocked out emotion as a reason for why I ran. Perhaps I recognized that it lingered in the outskirts of my mind, but I never felt it drove me to accomplish or achieve anything.

But then, of course, I think about what has offered me the most fulfillment in running. And, by and large, it has been when my goals have been achieved side-by-side with others. The antithesis of loneliness. This is a reason why I find social media, when it comes to running, so dangerous and powerful: the modicum of pleasure I receive when a Strava activity receives kudos is strong enough to convince me that I am not lonely, but it only acts as a band-aid. I’ve been feeling empty for a while with my running, and it likely has to do with my lack of sharing physical experiences. I have let the false sense of connectedness replace the real camaraderie that I receive when physically sharing an experience with another.

When I think about my favorite moments in running, I think about my first stage race. I don’t think about in what place or in what time I finished. I think about the lifelong friend I made after running with him for almost the totality of the 155 miles. Amazing how close you can become to someone while sharing those miles. I experienced intense hunger, cramps, complete muscle breakdown, anger, and occasional joy (usually at the end of a day) and yet I never felt one thing: loneliness. Never.

I think about meeting up with another friend and traveling through Patagonia with him. Choosing crazy runs---for me at the time---and bouncing up and down mountains while winds buffeted us at unnatural speeds. Feeling lost in the middle of the snow while not being dressed properly. I felt as if my hands were going to freeze off. But again, there was no such thing as loneliness that existed.

I’m not saying that I chose running to confront loneliness. I don’t think I consciously or unconsciously did that. I chose running because of the possible adventure and the desire to push myself to the limits and quite frankly beyond the limits of anything I had ever experienced before. And yet, through running I have slowly realized that I have a more intimate relationship with loneliness than I ever realized before. I won’t say that there was a certain point at mile 90-whatever when I had a “come to Jesus” moment and realized this. It has been an evolution of my self knowledge that would have possibly taken years longer to realize: largely because of the inordinate amount of time that I have spent alone over the past 2 years. And largely because of the non-traditional way of making friends that comes with the sport.

All that to say that I am blessed to be a part of this sport. I currently have a new team in SWAP with my coach David Roche. I am surrounded by a ton of wonderful runners in Boulder. I am beginning to realize what is important. Cheers to learning more through running in 2018. I’m thankful that the sport has already taught me so much.

The Long Term


I've been wrestling with the concept of time recently. No, not in the "here let me blow your mind with how time works" way. There are people who have written about that better than I ever could. I've been thinking of it in terms of taking on big projects and connecting those with a grander life vision.

It’s hard for me. Having a grand life vision and taking on long term commitments require a certain kind of a person. The kind who can settle into a life of relative normality and routine. Unfortunately, I am the certain kind of person who has always rebelled again routine and the normal. There is something that I find inherently evil in living the same life every day, over and over, until death. I find that it doesn’t capture the assertive beauty of life in the most complete way. And so, I have tried to live my life in a way that dances away from the routine and yet, to me, everything I do still reeks of routine.

I find that no matter what I do in my day to day life, the routine grows. I lean into habits which I have gained—good and bad. I tend to wake up at the same time, spend too much time looking at my phone, and go to the same cafe to work most days. Barring injury, I like to spend a least a few hours each morning exploring the front range. Living a half mile from the mountains provides me this opportunity more than many other places could. I love this part of my life. But at my core, I feel normalcy creeping in. I tend to go to the same places in the front range and have the american disposition that feels as though there is not enough time to do everything. I live with people who live quite traditional lives with responsibilities and careers and as much as I internally know that those kinds of constructs aren’t for me, I can’t help but look at them and perceive (possibly falsely) how comfortable and happy they are in their routine.

The issue stems from the fact that I am now having to decide exactly what my life is going to look like for the next 60 years. Back when I wasn’t concerned about looking after myself or the money that is associated with that I was fully committed to living what could be considered a “dirtbag” lifestyle. The reality of living more on the edge resonates a lot with a kid with no worries about the actual world and what that entails.

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And so, I am at a crossroads between two different places. If I go left, I can live what I would call a semi-normal life. I could get some sort of job. I could travel when I get the off time. I could make friends at work. Or I could go right: on that path there is everything and nothing. My dream of waking up under the stars and spending time with strangers who become acquaintances, friends, and then best friends in the course of a couple weeks. Climbing mountains which hold mystical excitement. Relying on my own power for livelihood. This clearly sounds like the better option for me. I don’t value security much, although I value it more than I care to admit. So living in this way wouldn’t be an issue. So what is it? What stops me from doing what I know is the best thing?

I wasn’t sure until I walked in on my roommate watching the movie Jim & Andy. The movie is sort of an analysis and inquisition of individuality and fame and purpose. The rest of the movie notwithstanding, there is one relatively heartbreaking scene where Jim Carrey is talking about his father. His father was apparently a great saxophonist, but when he moved to the United States from Canada, he was scared of supporting a family on that skill. Instead, he got a job as an accountant. A job which his father lost at age 51. Right there, Jim says something to the effect of, “I learned then that it was possible to fail at something you don’t care about. So if that is possible, why not fail at something you truly want to succeed at.” It is a simple idea that I have given thought to before, but was reaffirmed in an unexpected way, which is likely why it struck me so much.

The point of all this being, that I sure as hell don’t want to take the road to the left. And yet for a bit I have been questioning in my life which way to go: left with the general inertia of life or right which is full of active decisions and constant challenge and ultimately more (possible) joy?

The choice remains difficult because the road right is a dream, and dreams are easier to imagine than to achieve. They permit my escape into a world where everything is perfect and I have realized the exact life I always desired. But, if I start trying to live my dreams and life doesn’t work as planned or I completely fail, then I no longer have that dream. My bastion of peace is gone and left in its stead is a feeling of incompetence. In the moment, that is often the thought that leads me away from active choice and leads me toward the inertia of nothingness.

Of course, when I take a step back and take a bird’s eye view, I can see what else the dream will turn into. In time, if I do not attempt to accomplish my dream, then it will cease to be a dream. At some point, it will become a failure. And in the place of a bastion of peace, I will be left with the same feeling of incompetence and failure. When I realize this, the message is clear: try and attempt the dream, because trying and failing is much better than not trying and being left with regret.