This post was part of an old blog which I nuked. I revied it and realized that I like it, so I am reposting it here.
The Dylan song came at a syncronysticly important moment for me (which by the way, can be any moment that you decide is important while it is still happening – try it!). I have been reflecting on my decision to leave Seattle Public Schools – and how much I hated a lot of what I had to do there, and how much my hating that felt like a lot of other things I have hated in my life.
And I got this sudden insight — what if it’s not me?
I kind of always tried to get the jump on anybody else criticizing me by criticizing myself first, so I have always played the game (at least in my head, I didn’t always admit it) that if there was a problem it was my fault.
I have thought in moment of mania that I was OK — and that possibly I wanted to do things in a better way, and that this provoked a negative response from people who wanted to remain stuck in their own bullshit traditional ways of doing things. But I have always viewed that as a delusion — what if it isn’t?
And I mean, fuck, I have lived almost my whole life second guessing myself — it seems only fair to second guess the second guessing — just to point out (if you are one of those wonderful people who are going to say: “Well that’s all good James, but what about…” What about nothing — what about I take the next 30 years and just go ahead and assume that my own individuality has something to offer the world — and that is something that I don’t need to second guess.
I think that, fundamentally, courage is the willingness to accept the consequences of being yourself. Cowardice thinks that it can trick the world into giving you a better deal than you deserve — that is where that “If only someone had told me how to act.” feeling comes from. If only I knew the secrets — if only I had different traits, if I could work harder, if I was smarter, if I was rich, if I had boundless energy. Well every trait that a person has limits them in some way, closes off some direction — so how about going in the direction that is left?
There is a logical problem with taking this position as an absolute — because what if sitting with your thumb up your ass contemplating your best possible decision is who you happen to be. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it isn’t – I’m going to bet that if you sat there long enough you would get hungry, or it would start raining and you would have something to do. In other words — this isn’t an idea that can be critiqued on the level of language — this is a recipe.
A kind of simple recipe — don’t worry about it so much and do what you want to do. If you find yourself (because, lets face it, a lot of time we have lost ourselves, we are laying in bed staring at the wall, or watching TV, or chasing some sexy piece of tail — and we forget who we are. But if you wake up and realize that you have a choice of doing one thing or another — do the thing you want to do — even if it is going to hurt.
I feel like this idea is tired — like I have heard it before, but it seems pretty clear that fuck all of anybody is actually doing it, so I don’t think that it is tired because it is such a cliche.
Can you imagine – what would it look like if people living the lives they wanted to live were to become a cliche? If you had to be some fear driven robot in order to be original — that would be cool. I have heard a lot of people suggest that that is the case — I have heard it often said that radicalism is passe, or the angry young man thing is overdone — but is it? Most of the people I meet in a day are conformist cowards who look up and down the hall before saying anything that has personal significance to them. Most of the people I know dress pretty much like most of the other people I know. I don’t know a single person (personally) who has worn a clown suit to an interview, and said when asked why he did it “Because I know you have always wanted to do this. Because I know when you had your last interview, you went home and complained to your spouse that it felt phony, and you probably even referred to your suit as a monkey suit or a clown suit, and just for a moment you wished in your heart that things could be different, and then you shook your head and said “But things will never be different.” and I am here to tell you right now that things are different. Things are different right now, and I put my ass on the line to say it — so what are you going to do?”
I don’t (personally) know a single person who has gone to work naked — and why not? We all are naked at some point in the morning. Every single goddamned human being is naked under their cloths, isn’t just a little bit strange that at least one in a hundred doesn’t take of their clothes sometimes at work and wander around?
Is it that bad to be naked? I mean, my god, people actually commit suicide more often than they walk naked down the street — doesn’t that strike you as a problem? People die in car accidents more often than they walk down the street naked. More people have flown planes into buildings than have attempted to walk naked into the White House to tell the president that he has nothing to hide, and can stop being such a putz.
More doctors have over-prescribed lethal doses of drugs in combination than health care activists have staged naked sit ins of television stations to protest the drug company lobby “educating” the public through 30 second animated sequences that posses no actual information whatsoever.
I’m not saying that being naked is the answer to everything. I am saying that it would be better than what you managed to do yesterday, while you were trying to follow the rules. So don’t get all hung up on my metaphor, make up one of your own.
Try to wake up at least once tomorrow and do something that you want to do, without apologies and without regard for the consequences. Just one thing — and make it something you want, and when you have done it, sit down for a moment and close your eyes and think about how it felt.
How it felt TO BE ALIVE.
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