So the 30 day blogger challenge didn’t work out too well. I’m gonna try again, but big things have been going down drawing all of my time. I’ll update you later. In the meantime, enjoy some existentialist dread from Matthew McConaughey here.
Today on the Blogger Challenge I’ve been doing, I’m supposed to meditate on death and what it means to me.
What does death mean to me? To answer this question, I defer to the autographed picture of Ike Turner on my friend’s dad’s wall that says,
“What’s love got to do with it? NOT A DAMN THING! ~Ike Turner“
Death is so nebulous and unreal to me. I mean, sure, I know I’m going to die. I’ve had important people in my life die, so I know it touches all of us. But for one day my existence and perceptions to just stop is really something I don’t give any thought to for 2 reasons. For one, it doesn’t sound like something I’ll need to care about after I’m gone. Second, it doesn’t sound like something I can prepare for or even comprehend until it is upon me.
If I die, I’m gone. It will come and I won’t exist anymore. That will be it, while that look into oblivion might be scary in some ways, really it’s the same as good sleep where I don’t dream. I wake up and go, “Okay” as though it never happened. I imagine death is the same, just on a more permanent basis. And if that’s true, why should I care about it? What does it really matter to me?
Might As Well Ask Heaven What It Sees
In Interview With a Vampire, a young reporter asks main character Louis what he saw when he opened his eyes for the first time as a vampire. He replies, “Might as well ask Heaven what it sees. No words can describe it.” There is no frame of reference for dying, save perhaps if you’ve fought what was thought to be a terminal illness almost to the point of no return, and miraculously recovered somehow. The look at true oncoming oblivion is not something you can every really prepare for. It’s too removed from knowable experiences.
I had a kidney stone hit me out of the blue 2 years ago. I woke up in the most excruciating pain I have ever felt. It literally felt like my insides were bursting open and I’m not even slightly exaggerating. At the time, I laid there and, between screaming bouts of pain, I wondered if I should put forth the effort to get to the phone a few feet away or just let the death that must certainly be overtaking me come. But the point here isn’t the choice; the point is, before that experience, I had no clue I could even feel that much pain. And before that experience, as erroneous as my perceptions may have been, I had no clue what truly being upon death would be like.
Another time, I was in an extremely bad car wreck where my car rolled several times, destroying every single part of the car….except the driver’s side. Call that divine intervention if you will, but I remember careening towards a mountain wall with no control over the car thinking as I was most certainly going to slam into a wall at 90 miles an hour, “Well, I’m gonna experience death. Interesting.” It was one of those “everything’s in slow motion” moments. I walked away without a scratch. Again, divine intervention if you like.
Those two experiences are both kind of ridiculous when you think about them. My response to what I perceived to be certain death was someone comical. Both times, I was kind of like, “Death is here. Man, this sucks. Oh well fuck it.” Not the heart wrenching Lifetime movie I was always expecting. I can only imagine what I will think when it actually does come.
So, Ike Turner was right (that statement alone makes this post awesome): what does death mean to me? NOT A DAMN THING!
I’m more conceded about the lives of people I’ll leave behind. But that’s not death, that’s their lives. So, in the end, I’m more concerned about life even when I’m dying. That’s nice isn’t it.
Then again, I do worry about the process of dying from a medical standpoint. I don’t want some dbag doctor getting all of my money in some prolonged incurable fight against a disease while incompetent nurses that just want to get back to their cell phones so they can see what Kim and Kanye are doing stick needles in me and forget to change my bedpan after I’ve pissed myself for the 5th time on a given day. Yeah, that kind of sucks.
A little explanation first: Joseph Cambpell is most famous for his books and theories comparing religions and mythologies. Ultimately, Campbell comes to the conclusion that there are human truths that are intertwined in religions and myths that transcend spirituality itself. By that, he means that the collection of individuals that worked out the rules of their religions included things that pop up in other religions and cultures. Those things that run through all religions are the truths, according to Campbell, we should really pay attention to as they are telling us something fundamental to our very humanity. Another way to look at it would be to note that dogma about any one religion misses the point about the truths of humanity and living as the truly valuable things are hit upon over and over again in every religion.
As another philosophical nerd aside, I think Campbell’s whole theory is a good answer to Nietzsche‘s point about God being dead. Nietzsche’s point about God being dead was that science and societal progression was happening at such a rate that a deity would not make sense as a rule maker for morality anymore, and he worried we would not have a framework or reason to follow morality at all. Campbell’s point might seem to reverse the question. In his mind, it could well be that religion comes from morality more than the other way around. The truths transcend and are there regardless of what frame Nietzsche sees us employing to express it. (Nerdgasm here ended).
Okay, so in a book, Campbell talks about the hero stereotype and how this same journey of a hero is taken in some form by all sorts of people in all cultures, which is why we love the stories so much. Coincidentally, this is also something Carl Jung picks up on when he talks about archetypes that run throughout our collective unconscious as things we identify strongly with, our ancestor’s past experiences priming us through evolution to want to hear these stories.
At each stage, our own lives follow this path, though the outcome changes. From Luke Skywalker to Harry Potter to Thelma and Louise….it’s all a form of this same “monomyth” of the hero.
But I’m going to cheat on today’s task.
I have always disliked heroes and icons. I mean, I have people I admire, but really, I think ideas are more important than the people that bring them to us. I would prefer a leadership day to President’s Day. I would prefer a Civil Rights Day to a Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Thanksgiving is a great example. It’s about the idea of giving thanks to others and the universe for all we have. What a great idea. It’s hard to argue with. But if it had been the same sentiment called “the Pilgrims Day,” all we would talk about was how puritanical and racist the Pilgrims were and how they never gave enough credit to the Native Americans. The meaning would get watered down.
In the same way, the hero’s journey is great, but we need no amazing story to tell it. It’s the making it from one day to the next that is heroic: the act of not killing yourself or anyone else throughout your day that is damn near Herculean. In that context my life is like everyone else’s life. See, we’re all heroes of our own stories, even if it’s all too often a tragic hero.
Right now, in my life, our hero is fighting for love, navigating the disgusting missteps of past relationships in order to love and trust someone worth it. And there is a second character that sets the action in motion when she forces a decision to be made. I have to acknowledge the hurt of the past and the fears in order to have a successful relationship. In this hero’s tale, the enemies are my own doubt and visions of the past. Courage and strength are the weapons I wield against them, like Samson forcing the columns to fall down with all of his might. Certainly, my story isn’t quite as action packed as Samson’s (perhaps more pornographically so. Awww yeah!), but it is the same format.
But the drug addict is fighting his own hero’s battle. The overweight woman in the gym everyday trying to lose weight wages her own battle for righteousness. The mom that makes it through the day without smacking her ungrateful child because she’s trying to be a good mom has managed to be a hero for the day. The man that cheats on his wife tragically loses to his enemies in a chapter of his own hero’s journey. We’re ALL in the hero’s tale in some way. You too, you dirty bastard reading this!
And that’s the thing I like to focus on more than anything else. It makes us all equal in a great way. Bill Gates is fighting to do the right thing with his money while Rupert Murdoch is trying to keep the evil forces of the socialist state at bay. And their fight in their own minds has the same emotional intensity as the 11-year-old girl trying to get the other girls to stop being mean to her or the blogger trying to write a post about heroes that connects with something inside his audience that will make them know what he really means (see what I did there).
So, with that, I’ll just leave you all with this obvious anthem:
On Day 9 of the 31- Day Blogging/Journaling Challenge issued by artofmanliness.com, I’m supposed to write about my day as it is. Nothing over the top. Okay, I can do that.
But oh you poor bastards. My day was not like any other day. For today, my magnificent girlfriend has added to her repertoire of wittiness and sexual talents the delicate art of gift-giving. Today, it went down, yo.
It started off like any other day: up and in the shower, brush the teeth, get dressed, off to work and then do my thang all day. One of those rinse repeat days. But then…I got off of work.
I went over to my girlfriend’s place (which is indeed very odd and she stays with me most of the time now). We made dinner together and stayed in. But before dinner was served, I was treated to a present. I opened it and I received this:
I have a few Les Paul guitars. My girlfriend knows nothing about musical instruments. That’s what makes this amazing. I didn’t even know they made these. It was THE PERFECT gift. Not too much. Not too little. But just exactly right. She just knew I had guitars with the words Les Paul on them and thought this was cute when she saw it in a window. That’s like a heaven sent message from the holy one. All hail.
And low a ukulele jam did commence.
I really can’t play this up enough. It’s not just a ukulele…it’s a LES PAUL ukulele. It’s not just a regular ukulele…..It’s an electric ukulele! It’s not just a plain old ukulele….it’s an electric Les Paul ukulele! I plug that mofo in and jam the fuck out no matter where I am. It has begun!
Being a Les Paul, the first song was of course a Guns N’ Roses song. Then I played every song I have ever heard in the world on it. And then I did show my appreciation to my girlfriend….over and over again.
The average girl will make her man a nice meal. The average woman will laugh at his jokes. A good woman will try the rarely tried freak sexual position. But a true woman that’s going for the gold medal….she buys you awesome musical instruments that you would go crazy over if only you knew they existed.
It’s very much like if you had an iPhone 5 and you were raving about the iPhone 6 coming out (I have an Android by the way)…..and then suddenly your girlfriend buys you an iPhone 10 out of nowhere. Well played, madame. Well played.
I know this post wasn’t on topic like it was supposed to be, but come on, a fucking electric Les Paul ukulele. Fuck convention.