Friday, January 25, 2008

Those Days Off Are Going to Kill Me

I took yesterday off from work and most everything else to just sit at home and relax and recharge. I hadn’t had a day quite like that in a while, and I felt as though I deserved it. So I took it. For the whole day I did nothing but play video games and watch shows and talk to friends.

Unfortunately, that was the problem.

I had forgotten what it meant to do nothing. While it’s enjoyable, I fall quickly and deeply into a sort of self-destructive ennui that is staggering in its depth and complexity. And I can’t explain why. I just know that when I set aside time to do nothing, I do nothing and I feel myself slowly start to dissolve into nothing. Time passes, I exist, but it … feels very hollow and dangerous. Like a gaping maw reaching out to claim me.

Over the summer I spent 10 weeks doing nothing, and I wonder if perhaps this is not just a dim memory of that. There is a kind of strange existence that comes when you have absolutely nothing to do and nobody to watch over you. It’s a state of nature where all obligations seem to not exist or matter any longer. Motivation is an idea, not a real thing from outside. The various processes of our lives are stripped quickly down to a simple Maslow-like hierarchy.

And today I’m back to work, and glad to be. One day reminded me of all those others, and what they meant and what they did to me. Alone and adrift, motivation is difficult to carry out. And I still haven’t succeeded yet. What that means for my eventual future of self-employment is hard to say, but I’m learning. And I feel the lack of motivation during this recharge period I’m going through. I can feel the need to find it again growing in my mind.

But work isn’t the solution. It’s a distract, a time-eater, that allows me to gain money and thus to be endured. The real solution is something much more ephemeral, much harder to find. That solution escaped me still, but I need to keep grasping for it. When I find it, things will change again, I’m sure.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Where is Ziggy Stardust?

I heard The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars last year, 2007 in a long line of anno domini. Five years from 2007 is 2012, when the world is supposed to undergo some sort of radical shift, if you believe in ancient cosmological calendars. Some say the apocalypse; some simply say a major world-wide paradigm shift. The moment I heard Five Years, I knew that I had an album that would carry me from then until the supposed end of the world.

For those of you unfamiliar with the album (perhaps the greatest album of all time, right next to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, IMO) David Bowie sings of Ziggy Stardust, a Martian who comes to a doomed Earth with a message of salvation through rock and roll. Ziggy drowns in compassionate excess before being torn apart by his fans in the self-titled song towards the end of the album.

Some days I wonder if sacrificing yourself for the message isn’t the best idea.

The message still exists, however. That Five Years carried far beyond the original message that Ziggy brought so long ago in 1972 means that either a) it’s just a song and the world really wasn’t going to end in five years or b) because of the message we narrowly averted disaster, which remains hanging over us like a bomb ready to drop.

I would prefer A, in a safety sort of way. I really don’t think we’re suffering from impending apocalypse. That just seems silly. People have been playing that “The End is Nigh” card so hard through history that it’s become old hat.

At the same time, we all recognize the possibility. While very few of us believe the end is nigh, we can conceive of the possibility. Indeed, if we think about it, we could easily end up that way fast and hard. We’re eternally perched on a slippery slope where a few bad choices would plunge us straight into end times.

Which is B, I guess. And really, is B so bad? Ziggy asks us to realize what we’re doing, desperately crying out at us to change and become something better. We only have to strive to grow, strive to live, make the right choices that will save us all.

Oh, and stop tearing apart our saviors.

Ziggy is killed and then comes back and sings two more songs. Sort of like Jesus, but with make-up and androgyny and a guitar. Which probably wouldn’t have flown with Jesus being in the desert amongst conservative religious folk. But otherwise, it would have made a hell of an impression. And then Ziggy leaves us, and the decision’s on our heads.

What became of Ziggy Stardust? Where did he go? Here we are, now 35 years after he said we were five years away. Is the clock still ticking? Is Martian time just really weird? A Martian year is only 1.88 Earth years long. That doesn’t account for such a major discrepancy. So maybe Ziggy just gave us a chance, the best he could do, before he allowed us to figure it all out for ourselves. Kind of like Jesus.

Ziggy Stardust lives on, though. The man and the icon. The icon lives in all of us who have taken up his call. Live like it matters, because we’re all doomed. Dream for something better, to try to save us from our eventual destruction. It’s on the efforts of the few that many are saved—either physically saved or saved in that pseudo-spiritual enlightenment kind of way.

Ziggy Stardust’s message is similar to mine. I don’t need to belabor the parallels. If you’re confused, ask, but you should be following along a little more closely. And the banner I’ll raise is in his name as much as anyone’s. It doesn’t matter if he’s real or not. Our belief in him makes him real. Kind of like God or Santa Clause or Osama bin Laden even. They exist as figures because we believe in them. Without our belief, they are just ideas or notions or (even worse) just some slowly decaying piece of animated meat.

So I ask again, where is Ziggy Stardust? You would think if he’s still binging on his rock and roll lifestyle someone would have caught on. So that can’t be the answer. It could be he retired to some island to live in luxury. Or maybe he’s tucked away in a mountain monastery pondering the deep mysteries of life. These all sound rather appealing, but I don’t really think any of them are true.

If I had to guess, I would say Ziggy Stardust is out doing exactly what Elvis and the black Michael Jackson (not the Space Michael we know now) are doing: lying low, living life, and trying to touch people in a smaller more intimate way.

Ziggy played guitar, but maybe he doesn’t anymore. Certainly not on a stage. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an aging effeminate guy—a little strange and a little crazy but very persuasive—wandering around with a beat up old guitar playing to earn food to live on and maybe a place to sleep. A Ziggy who looks for people who are looking for answers. A Ziggy who waits for someone to finger him but until then will go about his business.

And I’m pretty sure he would explain his life like this: You can’t inspire everyone because everyone can’t handle the message. That doesn’t mean the message is bad or that people are bad, just that sometimes they don’t mix well. I can only be burnt that badly once. Instead, I’ll just try to find the people who are ready for it. That way, I’m not going to get killed again, and maybe I’ll inspire the next person who will step up and risk it all to tell the message to everyone.

Because despite the risks, sometimes everyone needs to hear a message of love, potential, and rock and roll. Living free and suffering hard and loving it all.

Anything to keep that clock ticking. Anything to keep the hammer from falling.

Anything to keep us living.

Leave Taking

So I’ve kind of been taking a break lately. The editing has stalled and I was forcing it and it just wasn’t working out for anyone. The book was hurting. I was going insane. And my poor friends were dealing with sorely tested patience as I went through day after day of frustrated editing-angst.

I eventually just let it go. I’ve been working pretty solidly for a few months after never doing it before. It might be time to sit and let the batteries recharge a little. So I’ve been doing that for two weeks. My brain feels a little better. My ideas machine has started working again. I’m watching a lot of movies and reading a lot and learning more and more. I have entered an absorbent phase.

Right now, I’m starving for input. I just devour articles and lectures and learning. I sit and watch movies compulsively. I tear through reading. And I use it all as food for whatever infernal machine powers the thing that is me. Hopefully, the engine will be roaring soon, and we’ll be back on track, but I’m not really going to hold my breath too much. I kind of deserve a break, and I’m willing to take another fortnight if that’s what it takes.

While I’m doing that, I’m kind of working on the blog, but … my mind and attention is elsewhere. I’m writing stuff, I’ve scrapped a couple thousand-word articles because I felt they were written not with passion but out of a sense of obligation. If this is a job, I’m not going to do it. I do this because I love to talk and think at an audience that is hopefully receptive.

Oh, yes. I almost forgot: Rayne at So Many Stories gave my blog a wonderful little review. Very nice, though I wonder if it’s just because she met me and I gave her a little-known webcomic. That kind of gift tends to inspire insane gratitude. I know I’m very thankful to the person who gave me said webcomic.

Writing other articles. I’ll post what seems most pertinent. Hopefully you’ll forgive sporadic content in exchange for getting content that I really believe in and feel good about. I know I would.