Youth Wasted on the Young


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There was a time when I was better looking and so was everybody with whom I hung around. I could stay up late abusing my body with alcohol, tobacco and drugs and still function the next day. I showed promise. People cut me slack based on that promise, and maybe because they felt I wasn’t evil, just stupid.

 

They were right, I wasn’t evil, just arrogant and self-centered. Blindly egotistical. All the while I simmered with a quiet rage that I hadn’t been given the reward I was due. Why were other people prospering while I wasn’t? Where were my just desserts?

 

Turns out I received just as much acclaim and support as I was due. If I wanted more, I should have worked harder. Simple, really.

 

I don’t even have any advice to give the young, because the world has changed so dramatically that I can’t imagine how any artist, musician or writer can fit in or get ahead in an era where all content is delivered instantly, for free.

 

Good luck, young people. Take care of your taut bodies and enjoy them while you can. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

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Keep Trying No Matter What


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I write a lot. Blogs, Kindle Books, things that I shoot out onto the worldwide web and then…nothing much happens. So I do it again. And again. Two or three people notice. Every month I sell two or three books. I’m actually losing money at it, because I’m using Amazon ads to boost sales. So far my book Retire Cheaply and Finally Relax has been seen 140,000 times, resulting in three sales. Hmm. I spent $35 to earn $9. Not much future in that.

 

But I will not give up. I will continue to promote these books and blogs because…what else am I gonna do? I’m retired, living on the other side of the world. Last time I checked, I was unemployable. In the years before my last attempt at holding a teaching job, I kept proving and reproving that fact.

 

I’m good at hanging out and doing what I want to do, which isn’t much. Today I accomplished shockingly little. I met with friends and swam a kilometer at my swimming pool. I took a nap. I wrote a couple of blog entries and painted a very small picture. I took a short walk. I spent far too much time scrolling through Facebook, posting funny pictures which I copied from other people’s posts.

 

No, I can’t do any less. If I had some inspiration to try something else, I might be able to do more, but first I’d have to have some guidance as to what that might be. You can’t just do more of the same things you’re already not succeeding at. Well, you can, but that would be obsession. Compulsion. Insanity.

 

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What Do You Do, Anyway?


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The real answer most of the time would be “wait for guidance,” or maybe “seek inspiration.” In order to create an artistic product, you have to first of all make yourself available.  If you’re a writer, you have to stop scrolling through Facebook long enough to perhaps allow something bubble up inside you. If you’re a photographer, you have to take the camera out of its case and point it at things.

When you have little you have to do in order to exist, it puts you in a weird space. Instead of having a list of obligations to be met, and ticking them off as you meet them, you simply exist. You wait until you decide what it is you want to do and then even then you may not do it. You may simply choose to wait even longer.

When I was younger, I was terrified of being bored. If something promised to take a long amount of sustained attention, I would avoid it if I could. Waiting in a doctor’s office was agony, so was standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

My mother, a retired schoolteacher, would sometimes fly to see her children, and she always brought a book with her. If there were a four hour layover between flights, she didn’t mind, because she had her book. I remember being in awe of her ability of simply accept such inconvenience. Now that I am the age she was then, I can imagine it all too well. There are many things that no longer interest me.  Shopping is a bore. I would rather be hospitalized than go to a nightclub and watch live music. I no longer drink or smoke, and I’m not living under the delusion that young women may suddenly find me interesting.

So bring it on! Boredom is OK!

the author reading this piece can be found by clicking here

The Gingerbread Man in Zombie Land


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THE GIFT OF ATTENTION

Lately, ever since I discovered Facebook, I’ve been finding it hard to give myself the gift of my own attention.  I am constantly trying to concentrate on five things at once, and so I end up unable to really focus on anything at all.  I am like a computer thrashing or hung up on an endless looping operation and no longer capable of doing any real work.

There was a time when I flipped on the computer in order to create. That time seems long ago, now that I am constantly receiving trivial inputs from multiple sources. I used to have ideas, some original, often synthesized from reading and prolonged thought.  Again, that was long ago and this is now.

Lately, I’ve found that I can write again if I simply close Facebook so that it doesn’t make a noise to snag my attention every time somebody “likes” one of my posts. These are called “alerts.”  They serve to rouse the somnambulant. Writers have always experienced the difficulty of sitting still long enough for the creative process to begin and then managing to stick with it long enough to realize a product.  Every excuse imaginable pops into a mind facing a blank page or screen. Hmm, I haven’t polished my shoes in a while. Wonder what those new lime-green Oreos taste like?

When I am afraid or unwilling to sit still long enough to develop some sort of one-mindedness, by the time I reach the middle of my day I  find myself exhausted and demoralized.  Better to fire myself up with a few cups of coffee early and then get as jazzed as possible before my blood sugar plummets and I become so irritable that I run screaming from my house.

When I analyze the emotion that led me to this place, I realize that I’m afraid of my own unhappiness.  I fear that if I don’t run fast enough through the tunnel of distraction, a real accounting of my situation will finally catch up with me and I’ll simply succumb.  I’ll die. It will kill me.

“Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man.  I ran away from a Little Old Lady and a Little Old Man, and I’ll run away from you, I can, I can.”

Running, especially running away, has a way of becoming a full-time job.  Part-time dalliances don’t pay off as well as concentrated efforts.  Gotta slow down.  Gotta choose my battles. After all, isn’t today a gift?  Aren’t I in reasonably good health?  If not now, when?  If not me, who?

Surely nothing good can come from a half-hearted effort.  If I try to read a book, talk on the telephone, play the piano and watch television all at the same time, I will excel at none of these. Last night I went to an enormous coffee house here on the top floor of a trendy shopping mall near a university. It was jammed with maybe two hundred students who were silently staring at their laptops.  No one was speaking.  It felt like church.

I remember skipping classes in order to hang out in the student union, drink coffee and socialize, but it was nothing like this.  As I recall, somebody kept playing “Leaving on a jet plane” by Peter Paul and Mary on the jukebox. I’m sure my friends and I were yapping on about something or other, but compared to that, this student scene forty-five years later was positively eerie. One might dare say creepy.

Maybe these were good students deeply engaged in their homework.  They seemed hypnotized. Someone deep in thought can look that way, but often someone who is thinking or reasoning deeply is moving about, sketching or talking to himself.  These people were staring at their laptops and making small movements with their mice. The only noise was mice clicks.

If all the young people are hypnotized, who is going to create the new products that can be streamed to a zombie audience?  Won’t they get tired to watching or listening to the products my generation?