I recall that I just wanted to become successful when I was in high school. Someone that had power, smarts and other people looked up to as same. Little did I ever realize that others within my small group of friends that seemed less likely would reach those height of above average conventionality. To hear me now, a half a century later, you would think that the term success had never been coined for me within my own customary lexicon. Yet, happenstance birthed of boredom had revealed over social media that this very situation had come to pass. A gentle unprepossessing fellow seemingly indecisive and socially inept now on the other side of years of study in select universities had climbed the corporate ladder. I had not. He ran a major corporate division directly effecting the lives of tens of thousands and I had been found wanting in reliably functioning within my own. He was by the standards of this day a dynamic and trendsetter. And I for all my efforts could not influence anyone save for some occasional temporal pity for my own tenuous ongoing situation in a protracted history of serial lifetime failures.
It was a shock of sorts to wake up to such a bitter realization. And I began to weigh myself accordingly against my approximation of what I imagined my friendly rival had achieved over the intervening years. What had he given up and how had he been changed by that subsequent path through life? What would have remained that I could recognize or relate to in terms of who he formerly was? Who then was the fool that had gone to rot? And who was the sturdy hand upon the wheel that had kept their humanity throughout? It would have been easy to dismiss his achievements as falling prey to the evil false material focused gods of the day. And then toss them off to their being but a corollary of a larger more self-destructive demented mentality fostered by current society. One that seemed Hellbent on convincing the entire planet to consume itself out of existence. But the many decades of my own varied existence within another portion of this same fishbowl suggested that reality of one’s expectations had to take into account personal survival within that equation. Monetary success aside, the ability to build relationships while fending off the aggression’s of a myriad of competing rivals was a notable achievement of its own to be celebrated. And what had I to show over that same period of time but an uncountable number of ideas and false starts that all eventually petered out to go nowhere.
Could it have been any wonder that this adulthood of my own had mirrored that same fantasy world of a childhood bound adolescence in constructing a protective shell of self-delusion? One that daily suggested to me that the true path of sanity rested within my own notions alone? Now, having unexpectedly been taken aback that someone that I once knew and had not taken note of had become a meteor on his way to the top, there were grave doubts. As far as society was concerned I was the Jason Robards character but without the support of the Broadway theater crowd’s acclaim. The measure of my own beam no different, if not insubstantially much less, than all the many faceless entities throughout the planet that lived out an innocuous existence only to go quietly unnoticed back into the vast anonymous pool of eternity. Though one could equivocate that all the great works and wealth of countless ancient undiscovered empire lay within the dust on one’s credenza, the sting of the personal awareness of devoting so much effort over the bulk of my life considered frivolously misspent by common standards weighed heavily. The individual self had been too routinely catered too and satiated at the expense of everything considered respectable by that larger unspoken covenant of society that set the rules by which all humans in civilized society abide.
But then, what could this mean to me? Could it explain the persistence of an isolation that marked so many years of friends and acquaintances drifting away as their lives progressed passed all the many milestones of conventionality? Each successive era’s shifting viewpoints evolving passed what remained forever static and immutable in my own case. That unchanging focus upon one’s self alone come of unrelenting solitude clashing more and more with those others around me who were slowly building families and banding together in small communities to shelter and protect them from radical characters like me. The only thing left on my own side of the equation to recommend some validity being simply the fact of myself. So what if there was no equity of existence because there was no immortality! So what if all the material works that one had struggled hard to produce would end up unacknowledged save by a municipal worker hoisting them from the curb into that waiting maw at the back of his garbage truck for a one way ride to oblivion. So what if all one’s intellectual postulating and long winded redefining of human experience that had taken in from ‘outside the box’ would mean nothing to the average ‘schmo‘ or ‘schmo-ette‘! The world was chaos and constant war! And society was, and would always be for better or worse, the roof over one’s head no matter how hard one tried to ignore it! Better to be a captain in Hell than a slave to an illusory paradise!
Did that mean that society was absolutely right and I was completely wrong just because it was the only game in town? Even if the people with the worst sense of human nature represented in their stated goals seemed to be in totally charge of it? Was my friend of yesteryear on the leading end of so many others of our own misguided generation that had been spirited away by a false call for instant Utopia? But had been struck by reason and relented to embrace common sense rationality? One that stated in order to survive one had to ‘go along to get along‘? The price of everyday survival did possibly include a willingness to chip off pieces of your own free and unbounded soul and trade them in for a piece of the action in a lion’s share of a perpetually entrepreneurial spirit. In spite of same, I myself would continue on writing my own daily editions of incendiary angst ridden sonnets belying what freedom meant in my own terms. Feigning cleverness in leaving liberal clues gleaned from my own occasional forays into the ‘straight world‘, most of them now twenty years long past stale. The overreach of current times setting loose upon all mentally stultifying stratagems both physical and psychological. Regiments of successive versions of trendy little boxes in varying dimensions. Some with handy headphone jacks that could fit in the palm of your hand and take along with you. And some with four tires that one would pay for each month for the privilege of keeping washed and waxed to stay shiny in a garage. The overload of overlapping everyday conventions needed to be observed in order to get ahead beyond crushing to the sensibilities of someone who not only did not believe in them but abhorred them.
It was hard now to clearly resurrect any lucid memories from better times under all this mounting scar tissue. That projector bulb in picture box within had grown too dim to the point that even old familiar shadows were now unrecognizable. The hardest most bitter reality of one’s existence being an increasing inability to maintain ownership over one’s own daytime’s. And not just simple sovereignty over increasingly frequent sleepless empty black angst ridden night. What counterbalance could I offer now to that mounting banality of unexceptional sameness that presented itself each day all around me beyond a constant sense of conventional competitiveness with myself to try to outwit it for the sake of preserving animal survival within a technologically oppressive system based mentality that treated you like just another disposable commodity? But business is business! And there was no longer any surviving community that noted a God in the heavens to reprimand this earthly paradise of man’s initiatives to care one way or another what might be right. The only law now in force being one of survival. And ultimately not getting caught! That old term, ‘Law of the Jungle‘, redefined from one of being stalked by a hungry tiger to satisfying the monthly demands for prompt payment of one’s bills on account. The true art of modern ‘success‘ being the preservation of some form of individuality while also doing one’s best to forestall those many institutionally imposed inevitable’s that like a mighty unstoppable Juggernaut would eventually crush one in the end. True respect in the popular sense of the same being reserved to those who could muster an exceptional degree of endurance to persist beyond the efforts of most all other cogs to survive this perpetual machine.