It is written that the last enemy to be vanquished is death. We should begin early in life to vanquish this enemy by obliterating every trace of the fear of death from our minds. Then can we turn to life and fill the whole horizon of our souls with it, turn with added zest to all the serious tasks which it imposes and to the pure delights which here and there it affords.
Life being what it is, it seems that the vicissitudes have been more vicissitudinous than usual over the last few months. I have let even my regular posts–music on Fridays and quotes on Sundays–fall by the wayside, let alone original posts of which I have many drafts.
Among the various things I’m going to try harder on in this new year (I refuse to say “resolutions” in this context, not wishing to jinx myself), blogging will be one. As of this weekend, I’m starting back to the regular Friday and Sunday posts; and in the very near future, I hope to complete some of the many drafts I have and get them up.
Wish me luck!
The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
–William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, Preface
If man merely sat back and thought about his impending termination, and his terrifying insignificance and aloneness in the cosmos, he would surely go mad, or succumb to a numbing sense of futility. Why, he might ask himself, should he bother to write a great symphony, or strive to make a living, or even to love another, when he is no more than a momentary microbe on a dust mote whirling through the unimaginable immensity of space?
Those of us who are forced by their own sensibilities to view their lives in this perspective — who recognize that there is no purpose they can comprehend and that amidst a countless myriad of stars their existence goes unknown and unchronicled — can fall prey all too easily to the ultimate anomie. … The world’s religions, for all their parochialism, did supply a kind of consolation for this great ache … This shattering recognition of our mortality is at the root of far more mental illness than I suspect even psychiatrists are aware.
–Stanley Kubrick, Interviewed by Eric Nordern, Playboy (September 1968); courtesy of Wikiquote
Periodically, I post old essays that I wrote on various things. Here’s one from 1999. It’s a true story, and perhaps a harbinger of how screwed up finance has become in this country. My fiancée has now been my wife for over twelve years and we have a nine-year-old daughter, so the frustration described below was worth it. Despite everything, I also still have faith in the Post Office–if I wasn’t the last to have such faith then, I almost certainly am now. Anyway, this essay should clear the palate from the deeper theological and philosophical stuff I tend to post!
Going Postal (Not)
Finally! I thought as my fiancée and I walked through the door of the jewelry store. It was the last full week of June and the fifth month since our engagement, and today was the day we were picking up the ring. My fiancée knew when I proposed that, like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, I was not a rich man. Thus, I gave her a silver friendship ring as an engagement ring pro tem, and laid away the ring with the half-carat rock. After all these months of payments, I had only $700 left. My best friend J. had obligingly sent me the balance, which he’d obtained by a credit card advance. You see, our credit overlords don’t like me too much, but they like him a lot. At any rate, I held in my hand the United States Post Office money order which J. had sent. I’d pay for the ring, and then pay J. back over the next few months. Everyone would be happy, and I would avoid the credit-approval racket.
We went to the service desk and I told the clerk that I was signing over the money order to the store. She frowned and said, “We don’t take third-party checks.” Confidently, I responded, “Oh, this isn’t a check—it’s a money order.” The girl shot a plaintive look at the manager, who’d stepped into the office about this time. “I’m sorry,” he said. “We can’t take it.” Read the rest of this entry
The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.
–Bill Hicks, Revelations (1993), courtesy Wikiquotes.
I’m not a fan, not because I dislike him but because I wasn’t much aware of him when he was alive. From what I’ve read and some short clips I’ve seen, I certainly wouldn’t agree with many of his beliefs, and in his last years he seems to have pushed edginess to the very brink of obnoxiousness, if not all the way over the brink. Still, he had talent, and this quote is quite nice–reminiscent of the Hindu concept of līlā; and certainly a good prescription for the world.