Okay, here’s the question for the day: What is uh…’winning’ when it comes to life? I mean, if you have this life fraught with turmoil and strife; maybe you get touched by the guy at the comic book store as a kid and you grow up totally fucked up and you even end up sucking dicks for nickels or crack or bags of gold huffin’ paint; you do some time, you get out and you’re old and spent up and used and you’re bitter but maybe you get a job at the grocery store and you’ve got some kids and your kids don’t hate you and you’re a good parent and you eventually end up the manager at the grocery store, and you live to be 80 and you don’t die of some horrible disease…do you win? Is that enough of a consistently upward trajectory that you’ve had a ‘good’ life, or is the pain that came before the ‘redemption’ (which frankly, is kind of a half assed redemption, innit?) so crushing and total that it’s the bad bits that ultimately define your life?
Conversely, what if you grow up with a great childhood? Hell, maybe you’re the kids of the grocery store manager from the previous paragraph. Your parents kind and sweet and instill the value of hard work and you’ve got a good outlook on everything and people like you and you work hard and it pays off, but then BOOM! Lymphoma hits you in your 30’s and you crinkle and die and everyone around you is devastated (financially and emotionally) and though nobody would ever say anything bad about you, you kind of left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth on the way out. Where does that end you up?
How bout Joe Francis? That guy has made a lot of girls make pretty bad decisions, he’s also made a lot of teenaged boys really happy. He’s also made millions and owns an island and bangs beautiful girls on bags of money and he’s spent a pretty decent amount of time in jail. He’s a scumbag, but he’s also doing the lords work (I know, come on…relax) and he’s honest about his intentions. He’s probably unable to have a meaningful relationship with someone who can trust him who he can trust, but he probably doesn’t care. Does he win even though people with wildly differing opinions of the place of sex in popular culture all think he’s a total shitstain? Does that matter at all? Is there anything that makes your life a win?
I guess that’s why we have jesus and stuff, eh? Because it’s hard to understand the true perspective that life is kind of more Tralfamadorian than we can comprehend. Events in time very rarely effect other time, soul wise. The moment you’re dying of cancer, that night spent banging the seven Hawaiian tropic models is a distant and unimportant memory that may have just as well been a movie you saw somewhere and the moment you’re up there watching your son getting sworn in as the president, that night a few years back where you sat there and contemplated chugging the bottle of drano because you were so broken up about your job seems likewise a dream.
The only things that really tie it all together are unproductive and shitty emotions like regret and anger. Happiness is like being hot. If you’re hot as balls and you’re sweating and about to just pass out and you can’t even see straight, you can jump into a pool or walk into an air conditioned room and BOOM! You’re no longer hot. You’re readjusted. Happiness is that fleeting.
Sadness, anger, regret, despair, and depression (which of course is a chronic and highly resistant cousin of these other negative emotions) are like being cold. You can get indoors, crawl under the blankets, or scoot into the hot bath, but you’re still cold. The residual shivers still get you. Your fingertips burn and you’re left with the unshakable physical reminder that you were very, very cold recently. Happiness rarely can trump something shitty happening right on its heels. SO, you get a promotion but your brother gets thrown in jail on the same day, you’re gonna be sad. If you find an out of print record you love in the bargain bin but some douchebag spits on you from the moving bus window, day’s ruined. That’s why sorrow is so enduring in this world. People remember it, and they want to because for whatever reason, the bad stuff seems like the stuff that defines us, not the good stuff.
But that’s fucked. The good stuff is usually what defines us to others, at least as much as the bad stuff. You first and foremost remember that Mozart was a reckless genius, not that he was a scumbag who died of syphilis and was buried in a paupers mass grave. You remember that Freddie Mercury was AMAZING, not that he was sick.
I mean (and this is an extreme example, folks) , look at Roman Polanski. He suffered an incredibly devastating loss (the senseless murder of his unborn child and wife) and then he drugged and raped a thirteen year old girl. Those are hugely negative things, one that he’s a victim of and one where he’s the monster. He’s also a highly accomplished filmmaker, and that’s a huge part of who he is too. Now, I’m not suggesting that people should look past a rapist’s uh…alleyway pastimes and focus on the fact that they’re great cooks, but what I AM suggesting is that life is rarely THAT dire. We all get caught up in the tiniest things that no one gives a fuck about and we blow it up to be something that at times seems so insurmountable that the notion of going to live alone in Alaska or even harming yourself seems like the only option, but that’s fucking crazy.
It’s not a big deal to get fired, or be gay or have been a hooker for a couple of years or to have been a gangbanger or to be actively opposed to war when you grow up in a military family or whatever. It seems big because it’s you and you are personally invested in you more than you could even comprehend. You are a myopic dumbass that doesn’t realize that the world is so big and so vast and so full of beautiful things and people that understand and places that accept you and want to help you and generally don’t give two fucks about your dumb regrets or fears (not because they don’t care about you, but because in the big picture they’re not worth caring about) and so you tag yourself as a loser, a failure, a freak, doomed, damaged, fucked up, beyond help, too old, too stupid, too riddled with STDs, whatever. We all do this. It’s not fun, but here’s the thing:
No one wins life. Everyone dies and everyone has a great and fascinating list of successes and failures, joys and pains and unbearable ways that they’ve been fucked over or fucked someone else over and it’s all really nothing but the rich pageant of what being alive is (to paraphrase M. Stipe). There’s no reason to think that you’re fucked or there’s no way out because of some pressing immediate issue that you have. There’s one way out of this life, and you can’t get back in afterwards. And everyone goes there and everyone leaves dissatisfied if they don’t work actively on focusing as much on the good as they’re naturally inclined to do with the bad.
And there’s SO much good stuff here- You wouldn’t even have the ability to think about how bad you think you have it if it weren’t for all the wonderful things you love that seem to be endangered by whatever your issues are (and we all have these issues)- that the notion that you need to sequester yourself from joy to deal with the fact that you need to sit there and focus on your sadness is inhumane. It’s monk style shit. And here’s the part that everyone forgets, or chooses for some crazy reason to ignore: it’s COMPLETELY SELF IMPOSED! No thanks.
People think that the secret to winning in life is skating through without anything bad happening to them, but that’s bullshit. That’s impossible. Life shits on everyone. It’s not how little happens to you. It’s how you deal with what happens to you. That’s the measure of a person. That’s winning. Just saying. No one is alone. Kay? Good.