July 5, 2008

Thinking so much differently

I've begun to accumulate unfinished drafts of blogs: a business trip to Las Vegas a month ago, a recent weekend in Philly, babblings about cycling... In working on each, I've suddenly reached a point at which I've wondered what the fuck kind of bullshit I was spouting, and why? I have nothing new, original or profound to say, really. Does anyone? Centuries of writers have said it all before. So those of us saying it now are just repeating the same stuff, except that some of us fake it better than others. Some have a way with words that makes it sound new and fresh, or that reminds us of how profound such rambling thoughts can be, or that's at least entertaining. Every now and again I fancy myself to possibly be a decent writer, or at least one of those who can fake it reasonably well, but in the moments in between I'm sure I'm just fooling myself.

Sitting on the square at Fells Point earlier today (literally, as I had forsaken nearby benches in favor of the curb), watching the masses of tourists who sprouted out of nowhere when the overcast skies suddenly cleared, I couldn't help but question (yet again) the concept of inter-connectedness. In my shorts, t-shirt and hiking boots, I blend visually with the crowd, yet the association ends there. I feel no kinship to the young lovers, young parents with infants and toddlers, older parents with teens, or to any of the middle-aged folk who would be my chronological peers. Worse, I have little to no interest in being connected with any of these strangers, yet at the same time I wonder just where that leaves me in this paired-up, species-perpetuating world.

My Buddhist readings tell me that this sense of separation is an illusion, a construct of my mind. The "self" that feels so alienated from the crowd does not truly exist, it's merely a story we tell ourselves, a costume, as it were, that we wear for our time on the stage. And when I think of what's beneath the superficial surface, when I imagine the muscle and bone and organs that make us all up, I do see that we are indeed all the same. But that mental construct, that "personality" that we each create, is a strong force. The thoughts, feelings, and actions of that creation cause us to not only feel separate and different, but cause others to often perceive of us in that way, as well, and to treat us accordingly.

Pardon Me

A decade ago,
I never thought I would be,
At twenty three,
On the verge of spontaneous combustion.
But I guess that it comes
With the territory,
An ominous landscape of never ending calamity.
I need you to hear,
I need you to see,
That I have had all I can take,
And exploding seems like
A definite possibility to me.

So pardon me while I burst into flames,
I've had enough of the world
And it's people's mindless games.
So pardon me while I burn
And rise above the flame.
Pardon me, pardon me.
I'll never be the same.

Not two days ago,
I was having a look
In a book and I saw a picture of a guy
Fried up above his knees.
I said, "I can relate,"
Cause' lately I've been thinking of
Combustication as a welcomed vacation from
The burdens of the planet Earth,
Like gravity, hypocrisy,
And the perils of being in 3-D,
And thinking so much differently.

So pardon me while I burst into flames,
I've had enough of the world
And it's people's mindless games.
So pardon me while I burn
And rise above the flame.
Pardon me, pardon me.
I'll never be the same.

Well, that helped. Incubus in 80's rock band regalia on Mad TV (go back and watch the video) brings a smile to my face, no matter how deep into dukkha I've allowed myself to descend. Plus, I've been wanting to write about this song for a while. It's still one of Incubus' most powerful songs, and the perfect soundtrack to a dark mood. Cranking the stereo and shouting out the chorus is one of those wonderfully cathartic experiences that music so frequently provides. Yet, as with so many of Brandon's lyrics, there's a sense of hope behind the frustration and angst. It's not a suicidal song by any stretch. While it seems to promote immolation as an escape (figuratively, if not literally), the line "pardon me while I burn and rise above the flame" implies a phoenix-like renewal. The explosion of emotional "flame" is a cleansing one that allows a return to a more sane, balanced acceptance of the world's burdens.

So what's behind my latest (surely temporary) batch of depression? Crappy, unpredictable, overcast weather on the three-day holiday weekend, for one, making it tricky to go out and hike, bike or kayak. The possibility of getting rained on is one thing. I'll hike in rain because I only have myself to dry off and clean afterwards, but I'm none to keen on cleaning a wet, muddy bike. And kayaking is not a terrific idea when there's a supposedly high probabability of scattered thunderstorms. I can think of a dozen excuses to not get out and do something on grey days such as we've had this weekend. I practically had to force myself just to drive up to Baltimore for lunch today. So, not only am I suffering from endorphin withdrawal, I've begun to suspect that I may also be susceptible to S.A.D., though it seems to affect me any time the sky is overcast rather than just during winter.

Additionally, work has been incredibly boring again and the tea-shop/restaurant idea is back on the table. I finally got the 2007 financial statements from the owner of Shaharazade's, along with an explanation for the delay (waffling as to whether they really wanted to sell, then a family crisis that re-convinced them that they do need to). So I'm back to hunting for a financial advisor to help me figure out whether this thing would be financially feasible (especially in the current economic climate), and to wishing I had someone who could help me figure out whether I'm prepared to deal with the non-financial aspects of it.

On top of these other things, it seems that Incubus is apparently planning to take a very extended break now that they've finally ended 1 1/2 years of touring for their last album, Light Grenades.

"I'm of the mind to say it wouldn't be a bad thing to disappear for a year or two years," [Brandon Boyd] said. "A lot of people would say culture moves too fast and you need to remind people, but I would argue there's not any rush. Maybe they'll be a sex scandal or an arrest or something to keep us in the news."

While I'm happy for the band to be exploring different territory and learning new things, I feel as if I'm losing my muse. No Brandon for one or two years? There damned well better be a sex scandal or arrest at some point, though I think I'd much prefer a new book. In the meantime, I'd better begin exploring some new territory, myself. To that end, I recently picked up some new music: The White Stripes Icky Thump and The Essential Leonard Cohen.

I've wanted to get into White Stripes for a while now. There's something about their sound that's very appealing to me. Icky Thump's been in the car cd player for a week now. It's great, creative, fun, cool-sounding stuff, though I doubt either Jack White's lyrics or voice will ever move me in the way that Brandon's do (Edit: I should know better than to make such predictions).

It's actually thanks to Brandon that I gave Leonard Cohen a try. During a radio takeover of Philly's Y-Rock radio station, he played Cohen's So Long, Marianne and described Cohen as "one of the coolest mo-fo's out there". A glance through a book of Cohen's poetry in a bookstore confirmed that the guy is, indeed, pretty damned cool. The man's not only a revered songwriter, he's also a poet and novelist, and spent several years in seclusion at a Zen center. His lyrics are wonderfully beautiful, and his voice is flat-out sexy (later tunes are sung in a much lower, more gravelly pitch than earlier pieces like So Long, Marianne). But the music that accompanies his songs, unfortunately, does nothing for me. It's a product of its period. The acoustically rendered tunes are ok, but those with lilting female backing vocals just sound so very dated. I may just have to get into Cohen's books and leave the music alone. Or, maybe that's something Brandon should do during the band's hiatus, an album of Leonard Cohen covers, done Incubus-style...

It would appear that I can still spout a tremendous lot of bullshit when I get going. Being in a black state of mind seems to make it easier. Perhaps tomorrow the weather will allow me to get out on the bike and "burst into flames" and get back to normal.

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