“Do you remember the first time we made love to this song?”
“Why is it every time you start talking, you sound like you gonna cry?”
–George Washington (film)
I haven’t dug too deeply into the secrets revealed by Edward Snowden since he fled the country last year, but I think what’s important about this issue is simply that we are having this conversation. Too many folks insist that by telling us what the government is up to, Snowden (and his compatriot Mr. Greenwald) are empowering the terrorists or endangering our troops or some such nonsense. I don’t buy that. I don’t agree with everything that he’s done, but what I respect about Glenn Greenwald is that his approach to the matter is rigidly journalistic. He believes that it is his duty to keep the people of the United States informed, and so he shares with us the facts that he thinks we need to make a decision about our leaders. Seems fairly reasonable. But the people who seek to discredit him do not play fair. On the contrary, they’ve made it very personal. And I do not approve of that. At all.
I’m trying to adopt a slightly more sanguine attitude towards my current situation. It’s difficult, but not impossible. Most human interaction bores me. I don’t know if that makes me deeper than everybody else or just a jerk. Of course, I’m not going to change anything about how I do things around here, so it’s really on you to decide what you think of that. I’ve started to externalize things that I used to internalize. That’s probably a good thing. After I had that rather negative interaction with a customer last month, I was almost glad when I found out how much I’d upset him. I was having a shitty day, so why should I make him happy? People need to understand that I don’t owe them a smile. And I can get along with just about anyone so long as they don’t treat me like I’m broken.
I often have a problem when I’m writing, which is that I have all sorts of prepared bits that I’m trying to work into a single piece. Obviously, I rarely succeed. Because that kind of top-down mentality kills all creative thinking. You must be able to take a project in unexpected directions (or let it take you, if you like) if you want to be surprised. A good general rule for me is that I keep doing things for as long as they are fun (or at least rewarding in some fashion) and stop whenever I feel like moving on. This gives me a sense of perspective. These days, my dreams are closer to nightmares than anything else. I can’t seem to turn that off. So I have to extract whatever lesson I can from them. People come and go; I abide. You can’t depend on anyone else to make you feel whole, but I’ll be goddamned if there aren’t people around me who seem intent on knowing me only as the person they want me to be. I must fight that. It’s rare, but sometimes I get what I’m looking for.
The problem with telling young people to enjoy their youth is that it causes us to worry about whether or not we’re enjoying it enough. I was told that high school would be the best four years of my life. When I realized that wasn’t true, people told me that college was, in fact, the best four years of my life. It didn’t take too long to figure out that that wasn’t true either, but now that I’ve been through both of those and grad school, what now? Oh, I have some ideas. I don’t want to write as a career. The more I do this, the more I think of it as a sideline. It would be useful to have some sort of day job, preferably one with flexible hours that could accommodate whatever the hell else I want to do. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a physician by day (as was Chekhov, interestingly enough). I have no desire to go into medicine, but you see my point. And I keep harping on this, but sometimes I really do feel like a bit of a real-life Sherlock, except with a gift for intellectual debate in place standing in for his deductive skill. I can take apart just about any argument piece-by-piece and put it back together. I just can’t make anyone care.
I’m thinking that I shall get back into the environmental activism game once I return to New York. There is a lot in this world that needs changing, and I’m not out to “solve” everything so much as to find and create harmony wherever I can. I’m not really a follower or a leader, just independent. That sounds great until you realize that I have almost no friends. But you can’t force that. I have figured that much out, and it doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. I find that the things I truly enjoy don’t ever get old. Great art can be experienced over and over again and reveal new secrets each time. (There are a few exceptions, like The Catcher in the Rye and 1984. I think I got what the authors of those were getting at the first time around, albeit for slightly different reasons.)
Sometimes you don’t live to see the fruits of your labor. Sometimes it’s not until after your death that people understand just how much you meant to them. It’s been six months since Philip Seymour Hoffman died, and it still pains me to think about him. If you’d asked me back in January who the greatest living actor was, I would have placed him above Pacino, Day-Lewis, and anybody else you can throw at me. But he is gone, at least from this world. If you’re like me, you can grasp the poetry in that. In my political, creative and intellectual endeavors, I seek only to put the past in the past and show people that they make the future. In the process, I will piss off basically everyone, sooner or later. Oh, well. For a guy who spends most of his time as a shut-in, I would like to experience the great outdoors someday. I hope it’s still there for me when I’m ready.