It is so often said in this society that life is what you make it. But this is not completely true for one’s life is equally what others surmise it to be. Admittedly as influenced by its lack of virtue or polar opposite as demonstrated by one’s own actions. A false turn or unadvised move can set one on a course that affects your existence adversely despite your best efforts to realign it. To further complicate the dilemma is the fact that it is increasingly hard to know one’s own true self beyond the confines of the present. The larger ‘we’ are awash in mind warping propaganda wafting down from every corner of our environment in a multitude of forms from physical billboards, business signs, television and regular mail to persistent virtual Internet pop-ups. The same collective we are sold from birth on the proposition that their fate is dependent upon wresting the disclosure of some well hidden secret or ‘tried and true’ methodology whether it be some inventive material element or an age old well thought out practice. But learning is still never a final guarantee of success as the current dearth of employment so brutally demonstrates. To add insult to injury there is a new factor of mechanical persuasion employed within our heads by electronic means of newly offered cutting edge commercial technology to instill voices in our thoughts under the once secure dome of our craniums. Perhaps simple trial and error garnished with a healthy portion of persistence is the best guide that we can hope to possess. In the end we all must eventually fail though mistake of disease or age or finally death. This likens one’s life to a ballistic curve where we ascend in some form of arc only to descend after a peak is ultimately reached after which we descend. Though we may strive to continually re-invent ourselves, we are fated to conform to this strange trial of earthly presence that as our powers fade becomes increasingly confused as to what it was all about in the first place. It is at that point one can really comprehend what they are truly made of.
Old men are on their own nowadays. Those of us who try harder have to try harder still. And face the fact that results these days are even farther and few between. Perhaps this is a lament based on loss? Perhaps this is something else? The vagaries of one’s dealings with the outside world are never held to useful scrutiny as they are in youth. Lie an old used car, there is little market in same overall. the one thing that there is plenty of is the inertia of too many decades of assembled thoughts and actions that are aligned in a singular direction, crystal hard. You see that the world is changing and definitely slipping far away from your own possibilities of further direct participation. Unless you have fully thrown your life on the ever smoldering embers of useless Capitalism the pittance of any amassed wealth fades away along with you in equal measure. The folly of this all too regimented society falls away from your eyes as a veil of truth is lifted from your eyes that you have been written off. And in turn, you write off the rest of society in kind as it can no longer understand you or take your part if events come to a situation of crisis.
I saw a middle aged white woman of some five hundred pounds or more sitting quietly alone by herself in obvious despair within an abandoned food court section of a local movie multiplex. Alone and by herself she stated at the setting sun gripping a half finished paper container of popcorn while young black and white teenagers zipped by in a manner that demonstrated their scorn for her obvious sloth. If you have ever seen someone die before your eyes then this might be the next worst experience of the dissolution of life. Outside a mental manufacturing plant where illusions are built, modified and maintained lay the wrecks of former models of past vintage now abandoned to the emotional scrap heap. Normally such sights are reserved for emergency workers who are called at the end of some final conclusive act of God or man. Yet there is a power in seeing such a thing that goes far beyond anything that Hollywood or the government inspired press can muster. Someone who is on their last legs , begging some small unexpected act of kindness in a desert of same simply in the last throes of death at its lack.
If life’s real lessons are taught in a manner that one must from a certain point forward continue to ponder them nightly in the midst of sleepless night after night. And then be carried along from that point on an unspecified distance like a silent but omnipresent toothless phantom, then what? Sooner of later that unrelieved burden weighs one down to a point where the wolves of our society tear what was remaining of the sum total of our paths completely asunder. This is the emptiness that one can too often see in any asylum or nursing home with little effort. In this culture, you don’t die in your beds but on the streets and in the solitary privacy of the sand castles of your own homes. No faith or religion or unexpected intervention deus ex machina can ultimately save your self from the realization of yourself of just another unrecognizable face in a crowd of same that have endlessly come and gone.
The passage of years and the acknowledgment of advancing age produces some interesting phenomenal changes in one’s perspective. The natural process of gaining wisdom is of course a real and error basis which at its worst finds one making endless series of mistakes until one day like magic after expending energy in committing every possible variant of wrongful judgement, it is impossible to do anything but what is successful in the positive sense of that issue. I imagine that most people refer to this as doing things the ‘hard way’. When you are a child and finding your way you have to run a gauntlet of running your hands through flames, falling out of a tree, etc. It you survive the experience you get to go on to solve the next set of puzzles in getting along with the impossibility of others and of course, your parents. When you are a young adult it becomes that, challenges presented by that labyrinth known as love and marriage and the indifference of the world to your personal plight. Those who are too easily seduced by the undertows of power games get carried along with becoming champions of the underclass or alternately representatives of material success. But at a certain point after tasting a sip of almost everything that mankind creates to convince himself that he alone is the creator of everything worthwhile and good, one finds that they no longer really hold any real investment in continuing to advocate what they once so easily took as incontrovertible fact anymore. The repetition of the same old prejudicial behaviors espousing what has become over many decades tired concepts that have lost any meaning beyond the tiresome familiarity of the physical voicing of same. Things change in a world that is marked by ascension and then decline. Each of us is a lens that with time grows foggy and indistinct and towards the end reflects upon the cumulative experiences of ourselves alone. For if one is to be considered a sum total filled to the brim, it is impossible to go no further lest that container be emptied and the process in some unacknowledgeable way begins again.
Plato’s children sit quietly in the dark. They each old a bit of rock in their hand. They got the rock from a larger pile of same that sits respectively before each. These piles, one to a customer, cover their legs and they are in the process of passing them among each other back and forth. Thus the piles that encumber each of their legs never diminish but seem only present to keep them pinned down facing the wall. This activity goes on without cessation. There is a flicker of light that seems to be emanating from behind them, but none of them pay attention. Occasionally there is a great commotion capped off by strange animal like sounds that thunder and echo throughout the enclosure, but as each of them are fully engaged in passing these stones, nobody seems to be too alarmed and they all ignore them. In fact, the scarier, the better. One or two eventually of the multitude, get tired of the heaviness that restrains them and they simply stop passing the rocks. They see the lights and shadows before them on the wall. They toss the rocks at nearby others to get their attention which reduces the amount. The other’s just grab at the large pebbles that bounce off them and disturbed by the violence of this minority simply ignore them. Life for the main group consumed by this endless exchange goes on as it always has as before. Thus the piles restraining these few pariahs diminish and eventually, now having been fully outed by the crowd, they simply crawl away.
The cycle of human life from beginning to end encounters a pattern of ascent and then descent where one’s habitual patterns of self-survival are developed through the trial and error of circumstance and then eventually discarded by infirmity. Self-delusion of one’s place, position and purpose often accompany this progression for as events change in the individual’s experience, personal attitudes tend to lag behind somewhat like a sea anchor to stabilize the direction traveled. This inertia of travel from a long recalled point ‘A’ to Point ‘B’ and all points in-between makes up the context of the philosophy of life. For better or worse, one struggles to consider the sum total of their existence as increasingly rational and reasonable. Even when it becomes obvious that the continuation of life will soon be untenable one becomes temporarily blinded by the continuum of past rituals of continued habit rather than address the fact of imminent mortality. How does this reconcile the greatest survival tool available to all, in terms of a constantly shifting truth about ourselves ceaselessly frozen into view within the instant of the present? At key points it seems to become a spinning compass needle. When useful illusions are peeled away, one by one, by the reality of the currency of the situation where does this leave one? Hiding or paddling forth further into the unknown?
This it seems is the essence of existence where angst and acceptance are deceptively difficult and eventually impossible to reconcile. All the parables and maxim’s derived from the life experiences of others while they might comfort with the possibility of hope do not vouchsafe one’s likelihood of survival. Especially when the physical casing that houses the force of will begins to fail. This test is inevitable for all. At a distance it seems self-evident as a path but it is the pinnacle of the personal definition of each life. The scales upon which the sum total of life experience of each life is brought into play and tested to provide the final most accurate definition of that person’s soul for that eternal temporal register of the universe.
That transitional time when the light of the sun skips off the landscape and bounces back in smaller reflection off a distant moon. Things blandly ever present are redrawn into sharper focus by the shadows that are cast. This nightly drama refined perhaps by occasional clouds or the filigree of rows of overbearing tree branches gives one pause to rethink what otherwise seems ordinary. It is the play of lightness and darkness that brings one’s view of life into sharp focus. Something that you cannot find readily upon a flatscreen. Something that Hollywood at its best can only hint at. The prize for the ultimate expression of beauty will always rest around us in the abstract chaos of nature and not the constructive tedium of mankind. We can only hope to go on building mirrors in steel and stone to reflect our insatiable egos yet they crumble like paper in the constant rain of decades.
It is only within our own phantom paradise of our dreams that we are transmuted to gods, having a say of how things look or need to be. The impressions of the day woven craftily by that anonymous entity within into a quilt that we refer to as our lives. And like the myths of the ancient heroes of old, we are condemned by a fate that is woven into our self-fulfilling destiny by this ‘silk’. Rough or smooth, we wear it through the rest of our short existence on this planet until it becomes over worn and threadbare. And then with a last breath, it exists fleetingly evermore in those shadows of those that for better or worse knew us. And when their light descends these fragments become lost as well. How now the workings of the ocean’s waves lapping up upon an island’s sands. Ever present and yet fleeting to the point of offering no recognition of anything but their endless repetition. That is the vision for one flickering moment, afforded every night at dusk.
That certain special someone that you try to avoid dreaming about in the dead of night deferring inferences, names or direct glances with in those nightly shadows. Even if you have long ago learned to not care at all anymore. Signs of a failed romantic plunged into irrevocable despair? Or that there are just no options left. Looking back upon the wreckage, is it better to have loved badly than never to have loved at all? But then can you even call it ‘love’ if it simply consumes all your energy but gives nothing back in return? Its grip still rooted deep into your heart?
So years later at some undisclosed moment when it is least expected you get these easy feeling that really shouldn’t be there. Usually at the hands of some off the cuff occurrence that was totally unexpected by anyone. A mundane act misinterpreted as a lasting form of kindness. You stick your hand lazily within an apple barrel expecting to find bottom and then skin your knuckles upon a fresh batch.