Human life is a queer phenomenon. It’s just really fucking weird. It’s just… God, how we all go through and not come out on the other end utterly stark raving mad is beyond me! It’s just so strange, all of it. So, OK, I’m supposed to be writing an 8-page paper analyzing the 1964 Japanese horror film Onibaba (a fascinating endeavor I wish I’d started earlier) and I read this fantastic xkcd strip and something just clicked where I just went, What the fuck! Life is strange! And it made me think something I often think, about how we get so absorbed in the moment, in whatever we’re doing (or worse yet, have to do) now, and we forget to put everything in context. We are but new, additional people doing the same things, more or less, that everyone’s done for all time. Happening over and over again. Time marches on. Ashley and I discussed a lot today, and went through a lot of emotions, and one idea i started thinking about was – just the idea of giving yourself some distance, some detachment, and looking at all the bullshit being thrown at you every second of your life and going, What the fuck! Life is strange! It’s just incomprehensible. It’s just unbelievable.
And I’m reminded now of this blog entry from Amanda Palmer that we read the other day. The crux of it? Art is important. It’s not just that, well, if we’ve got some food and shelter and mass-produced comforts that mean we don’t have to worry about infant mortality – well, then, maybe we’ll write some poems and paint some pretty pictures. No: art is an essential part of coping with life on earth. How could we get along without it? Apparently Socrates once said that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” And all these beautiful art forms we have (and are constantly adding) are different lenses we can use to examine our lives. See them in different ways. Peer into our own souls by borrowing someone else’s looking-glass. Tell stories to pass the hours and make those hours worth something (I’m just now finishing up a class on storytelling, after all). I have something, somewhere, that I wrote about superheroes that I want to repost at a later date. It was about how superhero comics are a valid, interesting medium and art form, and its medium-specific attributes – for example, due to the length of its publication and number of authors. Comic books are just more stories. They can be about anything. Often they’re about superhumans having all kinds of outlandish adventures. What’s so unusual or unacceptable about that? The Greeks, the Aztecs, the Vikings, the Hindus – they did it millennia ago and their stories have been used as the basis of great art ever since. Hell, what’s the Iliad or the Ramayana but the ancient analogue of X-Men and Justice League? Sure, I’m exaggerating and oversimplifying, but I’m making a point. We’ve told crazy stories about fictional people for as long as anyone can remember. It’s not going anywhere. Gilgamesh, Samson, Achilles, all those epic heroes – their stories are a necessary part of building up human civilizations and cultures. So I think I’ll write a blog featuring that essay I wrote at some point.
Anyway, life is strange. It’s inexplicable, it’s confusing, and it’s frightening. It’s frequently absurd. It’s usually unfair. To be honest, I don’t really get it. But I feel compelled to talk about it endlessly. And if we’re already prisoners of something, I see no reason to imprison ourselves further within boxes of close-mindedness, of convention, of tradition, of needless, endless labor. I want to be as free as I can, within the constraints of my mortal existence, and I refuse to lock myself within the jail cell called “everyone’s expectations.” I was contemplating this the other day, and I wanted to write about it: the expectations that everyone imposes on us. They assume we want to become wealthy, obtain money, marry, settle down, have children, own a house, own two cars, have pets… have everything everyone else wants for themselves. Presumably we can and want to become rich and famous. Who are “we”? I don’t know. Us human beings trapped within this little ring of existence, this plane dominated by the value sets I’m laying out. You are not allowed to lay out your own future, say the voices. Use one we’ve already drawn up. These futures are so pretty and we’ve been telling you from birth to follow this path. It’s like, you know, the Game of Life. Everyone follows the same path and everyone ends up the same place: dead and alone. No matter how much money or how many children they have. One of the more interesting, insightful parts of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I think, was a line from Benjamin’s last will: “I will go out of this world the same way I came in, alone and with nothing.” It’s more or less true (and a sadder fact than the movie ends up admitting). It reminds me of this brilliant, depressing Mark Newgarden comic:
We all die alone. Even hillbillies. Hey, what better way to deal with despair than stare it in the eye and laugh? But my point is that I’m sick of being expected to follow this path, that path, take the road less traveled by or more traveled by or whatever. I’m also sick of the world being set up so that there are a finite number of roads to travel. But enough of this wearisome traveling metaphor. My point is that I want to set out for the territories à la Huck Finn, whether these territories – the ends of charted space – are physical, metaphysical, ideological, cultural, what have you. I want to set out for them and fulfill my dream, in high school, of ending up “on the cutting edge of something” within the next few years. I don’t know what I want my lifestyle to be. Watch some movies, eat enough to stay alive, don’t freeze to death, read every once in a while… what more can you ask for? Love someone. Create something. Even if it’s just an origami flower (I wish I could make those). Or a sketch of a stick figure getting eaten by something big and unspeakably evil. See, I’m giving myself ideas!
At this point in my life, naïve or not, these are the points I keep repeating: Love someone. Create something beautiful. Hell, leave the world a better place than you found it! Apply that old campfire adage to the your presence in the world as a whole. Don’t be an agent of change for its own purposes; do it to make something better for someone, no matter how small the difference. I’ve been looking for a quote lately. I think maybe an activist or journalist said it. I don’t recall it exactly, but this was the gist of it: Give comfort to the hurt, and hurt the comfortable. Basically, if someone is complacent and settled and totally in acceptance of everything, well, upset them a little! But if someone is all tangled up and confused and out of balance, then give them solace. I like to take this thought into account. And God, I want to know what the actual quote is. I really want to get involved in alternative media. This is something that’s so, so important to me. It’s not just that I have an egomaniacal urge to let the world know my every thought. I want to try to introduce and spread alternative viewpoints, suggestions that maybe there are paths we haven’t quite charted yet. It’s just depressing to look at the mainstream media and see so much utter shit, in theaters and bookstores and on radios and televisions. So we need other voices (possibly in other rooms) to let us know about all the other options out there. This is what I believe. I may be wrong, but at least I believe it.
So life is strange. So this is my 3 am why-aren’t-I-writing-my-paper blog that vaguely ponders the meaning of life and then lets me go back to my frenzied little personal hamster wheel. I don’t know. Just take a step back and gaze down on all the emotions suspended in the air around you like clouds of smoke. Glance around at the tiny lengths of thread connecting you to every other human being with whom you’ve ever interacted. You may go into and out of this world alone, but here and now is your chance to be with someone else and do selfless, pure good in their life. Don’t fuck it up.