That began to silently change for good in Fort Morgan first with Richard, then Dennis and our now-infamous ride across the Rockies. I was looking for neither a ride, experience, a "lesson," or... anything. My mind was blank; I just went with it:
...I decided to ride it out, and see where it took me. Part of the journey... part of the story... blah... blah...I think I'm going to look back on that as a significant moment. We'll see.And, see I did. The experience followed, the "lessons" became more apparent later with the benefit of perspective, and most importantly were growing organically FROM these encounters. I applied no preconceived notion to fit them within a tenuous point-of-view, in fact the P.O.V. was amended to "Work in Progress," and some of this from Day #3 will sound very familiar. It's been the consistent foundation beneath nearly every idea:
-5/24/08: "The Road Has Always Led West"
... the [awareness of] serendipity kicked in. I figured out why he picked me up, and then had a pretty good idea why I was now heading west... Again, the conversation- as with the night before with Richard- centered on finding answers within yourself rather than Pink Floyd's "someone or something to show you the way"; or Leonard Cohen's "Waiting for the Miracle": "... The idea's getting clearer.On some level, I was immediately shown that I had been looking in the wrong direction both on the map & in my mind; I started under the wrong impression as to what this odyssey was about, or that I could even know what that was. Any credit I deserve from that point forward centers on that initial ability to depersonalize the mistake, and let the odyssey define itself, which it did almost immediately... with Richard and especially Dennis... although I wouldn't see to what extent for over a year.
-5/24/08: "The Road Has Always Led West"
That first few days was my first cold reminder of a hard-learned lesson; one savagely beaten into my own skull before I had left. All the mental masturbation I can muster is useless without the test-of-action. Action that must consist of an unattached AND unbiased scrutiny of your own actions and ideas. This is one of the few places that outside help is useful, but honest scrutiny, regardless of whom it's from, can only come through a clear lens. One of clarity, application, experience, perspective, and truth. It's applying the scientific method to yourself and it must be done without a personal, sentimental, egoistic attachment to your original thesis or, worse, your "work of art." Otherwise, why bother? Maybe a fantasy novel would better suit.
Rather than being the painter of some intellectual, rebellious "personal truth," I was suddenly struggling to hang on as the lone passenger aboard this rudderless "Raft on a River," bobbing toward "truth" without a paddle and subjugating myself to the role of the observant passenger gawking at the landscape.
All this in the first week. I wish I had put more into the writing. Talk about a mind-fuck!
Chris & I later described it as the "Sidecar," and this is where I consistently meet the most incredible people. Dennis. Cesar. Pat. Ciel. Ken. Pastor Snake. Randleman. Leslie. Joel. Don. Andre. Every single time, I've been in the passenger- state, and have long since, with a few exceptions such as Michigan, tried to remain there. At times I've succeed; at times I haven't. At its best, I am completely unaware of the process! I believe this state of just being has many names, and the one that comes to mind is that which Brian provided: Flow. It's fundamentally impossible to achieve with the ego at the wheel.
Beyond Richard & Dennis, there are other examples of unexpected twists-and-wrinkles that have guided me in directions I otherwise would have purposely avoided. The most remarkable event (confined to '08) as it turned out was this little town in North Carolina. Randleman. Home of Richard Petty. This is one of the more remarkable examples of synchronicity, and odd in that it was the final event of the summer, setting the table nicely for much of 2009. I never intended to go to Asheboro and was taken there, if you recall, by a Guatemalan who spoke little English. I thought he was taking me toward Raleigh! Asheboro (then Randleman) itself turned out to be one of those Sit Down & Shut Up moments, and through sheer unexpected chance and freewill, I found myself with these Motley Crue Christians.
I was absolutely NOT seeking out any sort of spiritual insight! On the contrary. I have an aversion to religion, and avoid their gatherings like the plague. But, this one was different, and through the process of patience, intuition, and freewill, I was handed the seeds that would sprout into some remarkably powerful insights and ideas, and broaden my applicable perspective immensely.
Help me out here if you can, but I'm struggling to see where I have subconsciously engineered this. I'm NOT that clever!
Early 2009 was much the same idea, but the theme had changed. With Chris and I traveling together, ideas were much easier to exchange and develop, but we were also mirroring each other and struggling to soothe our powerful, egoistic identities. That, in and of-itself, was the "lesson" of the east coast while, as mentioned in the previous post, June in Michigan was the culmination of decades spent battling an identity-crisis.
More importantly, June was also the most extreme "test" of my personal armor, and I was confronting frightening demons with a sword I had personally forged. That took an amount of courage that I was surprised I possessed. However, I later realized that there was something more important in-play than the risk of hurt feeling and a bruised ego: knowing. Knowing the truth about this "mythical family" so I could draw accurate conclusions; ones based on fact and battle-tested experience. Excalibur and the armor held- with the help of recognizing something more important than myself.
I believe this says much about what I believe, and my steadily intensifying-intolerance for the excuse-making relativists: Reality Escape Artists. I myself am partially responsible for the time it took to meet my siblings. Partially out of cowardice, rather than "act," I deferred responsibility by offering every variety of excuse explaining The Hens peculiar behavior over those 15-years, and why they kept quiet. I knew all along, but continued deferring with, "Maybe..." this. "Maybe..." that. While in Michigan, I heard many more "Maybes" from many other sources. Through a little controlled confrontation, I offered the opportunity for the Escapist View to prevail. They were dead wrong. As was I for a decade-and-a-half.
Fear, and an abdication of responsibility through victimization while conveniently clinging to Utopian hope were my greatest failings. When deferring responsibility through externalized "hope" fails and becomes a crumbling crutch, one has to attack the responsibility for examining and dealing with raw-reality themselves... or take the initiative to immediately shut the fuck up and accept what comes with submission. This may appear to be a reference to June, but in retrospect it's been something that I've applied in more situations than I was aware.
I violently disagree with the notion that truth is subject to the whims of your ego. Since I've returned home, repeatedly reflecting on these nagging ideas has pushed me over an important threshold. I am moving quickly into a room filled with a rude, abrasive bitch named Personal Responsibility, and away from the escapist fairie tale telling that "The Fates" are so preoccupied and impressed with me, that they only live to teach precious me a lesson-a-minute from their classic: The Magical Book of the Mystically Mundane. No, I suspect we're required to at least occasionally learn without intervention from The Gods.
Fate and Karma are no man's bitch, as I've said many times. They will not be "forced into action" by disguised, self-serving egoistic action, no matter how eloquently they're spun and presented. We were given freewill and the ability to make decisions regarding our instincts for a reason. Yet, if we choose to relinquish our common sense or submit to compulsions thinly veiled by an overbearing, creative ego's voodoo linguistics, succumb to a self-centered and overzealous mysticism, or ignore common sense all together? Well, this isn't a first-class safari trip. To the extreme, the consequences can be as mocking, harsh, and unforgiving as any of the other brutal laws dictated by Mother Nature. Ask Chris McCandless.
I've also finally come to terms with my growing disinterest and shrinking sympathy for the hypnotized masses and my seemingly rude, expanding unwillingness to suffer and/ or encourage repeated rationalization by the self-diluted; those who are more concerned with protecting their comfortable, contrived narrative than knowing even a taste of Cold Truth. They are the modern-day descendants of Don Quixote, and the new objects of my attention.
Often, they are the ones trying to figure out a way to impress you with their past exploits or grandiose plans for the future. I've admittedly been guilty of the latter in particular. It's as though empty, shallow anecdotes of days past or proclamations of days to come reflect on who they are today! Only the egotist needs to display who they once were or who they "will be" tomorrow. They've yet to figure out that "You" are not the road you've traveled, nor is the future guaranteed. "You" are the patch of road you occupy NOW. If they're not sharing a particular experience by request, to entertain, or as an effective comparison to what's in the present, I inevitably hear, "This one time at band camp..."
Does this mean you automatically write these folks off forever? That's up to you, but people evolve until they're dead. And, the actual work needs to be done alone in dark solitude. Beyond sharing ideas, it's useless to try to "educate" or "save" someone, and it's ego of the worst kind to believe you can, or worse: should.
To believe you're special brand of wisdom and eloquence are capable of changing a man's heart for them may be the height of arrogance, and a lust for control. None of us have the right to deprive a man's personal path from him. On the other hand, offering tools or maps, for him to decide rather or not to use, may be the height of charity, and puts the responsibility squarely where it belongs: on the individual.
Finally, there is an important distinction I want to make and be VERY clear about: I have no interest in criticizing or condescending to the man living a life of luxury- while holding no airs of righteous superiority. I can respect the most vile capitalist if he has thought about, and is genuinely happy with where he is; not pretending to be a credit to humanity or Arm of God.
At the end, the successful life is the one that was happy, content, and fulfilled. If wealth and material possessions REALLY grant you that, consider yourself a rarity & have at it. It's the hypocrites, spending all day on the corner displaying a faux-erudition and righteousness, that I refuse to stomach; the trust-fund babies preaching poverty as if on-cue while returning home to the gated community; the sex-addicted priest preaching the villainy of adultery; the naive puppet taking the touristy, guided volunteer "field trip to a poor place," then claiming they have experienced and understand famine and oppression. Fuck... you.
What we fill our own private-minds with is fascinating! As long as it's comfortable (or at least familiar), it's usually welcome. Factual? Who fucking cares! It's easier to digest! However, recognizing this, like recognizing and engaging the ego in combat, is at first difficult, then empowering! And, I don't mean the "burn your bra" brand of empowering. It can help provide a bit of mastery over your habits, emotions, and ego, as well as helping to bring into the open these little narratives we all create in our minds. In short, it's the ability to stop bullshitting yourself, and I'm finally going to use myself as the prop again!
As November began, I was starting to realize and take notice of where I still needed work on this. There are a few examples, but one that was pathetic and obvious.