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follow your bliss

This morning, I asked my student to reflect on the following:

“The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are…follow your bliss.   The heroic life is the individual adventure.   There is no security in following the call to adventure.”  (Joseph Campbell)

I figured that since I am trying to keep up my average of words per day, I would complete my own assignment. (I already hit 1,000 working on my novel today, but a bit more never hurt anyone.)

I’m going to break this down sentence by sentence and see what comes pouring out through the cracks.

The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are…follow your bliss.

I heard once that up until about puberty and a few years after, you spend your life trying to fit in, blend with others, be like everyone else.  In high school and the years after is when people become desperate to delineate what separates them from the rest of the world, to be an individual.  But how far do people really go to do that?  So many people spend their lives doing things that make them unhappy or at the very least, bored.  They spend their lives with people who make them unhappy.  They follow the status quo because they feel some sort of obligation to do so or need security in some way.

It took me a long time in my life to come to terms with who I am, and in a lot of ways, I’m still on that path.  It has taken a lot of failings in order for me to get to where I am now.  I wrote not long ago in a letter to someone that I feel like years ago, I was perched on the edge of a chasm.  I could see where I wanted to be on the other side of it, but I had to make choices to decide how to get there.  The first route was the tried and true slow descent down one side and up the other, maybe on a burro.  I could plod doggedly down and up and eventually get to the other side, but I knew that if I took that route, I might end up miles down from where I was aiming.

The other route was the most direct geometrically.  And it stretched out directly in front of me, a rickety rope bridge with punky boards full of dry rot and tattered ropes holding it together.  I gritted my teeth and stepped out onto the bridge, with nothing but those flimsy boards between me and a long drop with a sudden stop.  Looking down at the well-trodden safer path below, I could see people’s mouths agape as they watched me take my fumbling steps out on that bridge.  Some even yelled up at me, “You’re crazy!  You’re going to fall!”

I haven’t fallen yet.  Granted, there have been a few close calls.  A couple of those boards were rotted through and disintegrated beneath my feet like crumbling clay.  Occasionally, circling vultures would swoop down and attack, seeing I was vulnerable.  But each time, I clung to the most solid things I could find and held on tight.  I’ve made a large number of big decisions in the last few years, and they have all propelled me forward.  And the farther forward I go, the closer I get to the other side.  I can’t see the other side from where I am; I have to focus too much on putting one foot in front of the other and staying alive to get there, but I know it’s there.  I can sense solid ground in the distance, getting closer every day.  I don’t know how many steps remain before I get there, but I know there is even more adventure awaiting me after my feet touch the earth again.  And the only way I’ll get there is if I keep following my bliss.  This journey truly has been amazing, and making the choices I have made really are the privilege of my lifetime.

The heroic life is living the individual adventure.

I feel like it would be way too arrogant to call my life heroic.  I could say resilient or bold and maybe go as far as intrepid, but regardless, I feel that my life has been full of adventure.  In spite of all the moves (or maybe because of them), I’ve managed to hold onto some semblance of cohesion within myself.  Sometimes I feel stuck within the confines of what society deems normal, namely the need for money (ew), but I have still managed to get where I needed to go, regardless of how rough the road got.  For that I am both proud and thankful.  Proud that I haven’t completely had a nervous breakdown yet (although I’ve gotten close this year…sorry, John) and thankful for the people who have been there along the way to hold out their hands and help me along.  I wouldn’t be here without them.

I’m certainly not done with this adventure yet.  In fact, I might be setting out on another leg of it shortly, depending on what I decide in the next 24 hours.  There is a big wide world out there, and I haven’t seen enough of it yet.

When I think about it, I often tell my friends that they are heroic for following their bliss and doing their thing, so perhaps I ought to do myself the same courtesy and bestow the label upon myself as well.  I do have a tendency to be much harder on myself than others are.   I should be more mindful of that and stop Emmie-bashing.

There is no security in following the call to adventure.

This one rings so true — I think about the people I know who are pursuing the things they truly love, and very few are actually making any money.  Of course, money isn’t the only way to measure security, but I think that is sort of what Joseph Campbell was referring to.  That and the fact that the term “starving artist” did not evolve without some sort of precedent.  I’m okay with being poor.  I’ve never really had any money, so I actually tend to just give it away when I do have it.

Anyway, all in all, I think it’s clear that I have to do some things for myself. Dolly Parton said to find out who you are and do it on purpose.  I’m not one who usually looks to Dollywood for wisdom, but I won’t turn it away when I come across it.  I know a lot about who I am, but I need to make some purposeful strides into really letting that person shine through.

On that note, kiddies, sleep tight.  Bite the bedbugs and smile at your neighbor.

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zombies, gender stereotyping, and really soggy feet

so today finds me contemplating any number of important factoids.  for instance, i’ve remembered precisely why i gave up on white socks so many years ago (my feet got soaked and the socks got stained/ruined), discovered quite the fascinating array of fungi to appear after a maryland rainstorm, and have guzzled nearly a gallon of green tea, which is a lot.

but onto more important things.  this blog entry will encompass two very important subjects that have been weighing heavily on my mind in recent days, so do prepare yourself for some deep thinking.  i’ll go in alphabetical order, and since both subjects find themselves rather toward the end of our 26-letter string, we’re starting with w.

women in pop culture
can i just say….annoying?  i can’t count the number of times i’ve sat down to watch a movie recently and been utterly pissed off by the obnoxious depiction of 21st century women.  allow me to sum up.  according to hollywood right now, women are:  whiny, overbearing, controlling, manipulative, obsessed with fashion, obsessed with shopping, vapid, obsessed with shoes, obsessed with being attractive to men at the expense of their personality and individuality, and generally really fucking annoying.  the message is that women only care about securing a man, pussy whipping him, and then keeping him on a leash and forcing him to give up his hobbies whilst she whines about shoes and spends hundreds of dollars on pointless designer crap.  and whines in general.  where on earth do these women come from?  i suppose they exist in real life.  actually, i know they do.  but we’re not all like that, for god’s sake.

i saw the hangover last night.  after the first scene involving stu’s girlfriend melissa, i cringed.  when phil made some pompous remark about getting away from his wife and kid, i cringed more.  doug’s fiancee had this martyred, pitiful expression in the opening scene as well.  i braced myself for a movie that would continue to depict that women are nothing but clingy, whiny creatures who wish nothing more than to keep their husbands/boyfriends from having any amount of fun whatsoever, to the point that to escape their grasping tendrils, the poor, downtrodden men must lie to get away.  i was pretty relieved that it didn’t really go that way and ended up being an awesome movie, but it made me think about how a lot of women have been portrayed in movies lately and in pop culture in general.

is that how we want to live, women?  really?  i for one don’t want to ever be those women.  i never want to be so insecure in myself that feel the need to curtail my significant other’s life in order to feel like i’m in control.  i’m my own person.  i don’t want to be defined by a relationship — god, no — i want a relationship in which i’m more a partner in crime than a distressed damsel.  i’ve never been one for damseling.  what on earth is wrong with being yourself?  i do desire love, but it’s not all i desire.  and i believe pretty firmly that if you’re being yourself, doing your thing, you’ll meet people who like you for you.  that’s the most important bit.  too often i think people (not just women, this applies to men as well) try so hard to fit themselves into a mold they perceive as attractive to the opposite sex that they lose themselves and end up miserable and misunderstood.  i mean, what on earth do they expect in that scenario?   i’ve done it before.  i only hope i’ll never be stupid enough to do it again.

i’m intensely fed up with seeing women in movies who have no aspirations greater than obtaining the newest louis vuitton handbag.  how utterly assinine it makes them look.  women are so much more than that.  i would love to see a movie with women having an adventure that doesn’t revolve around fashion or shoes or whining about men.  in fact, i’d like to see a bromance style comedy where the women are fun, interesting, and there for the ride, not sitting at home with a quivering lip wondering why their significant others would rather be off doing anything (and anyone) but them.  look at the cool women in movies — princess leia is a perfect example.  she’s got a mind of her own.  she’s doing her thing, trying to save her world, having an adventure.  she doesn’t take any shit, but she doesn’t try to beat anyone down, either.  and the untameable han solo doesn’t have to get tamed.  they can have an adventure together…which they do.  that’s what i’m talkin’ about, ladies and gents.  less lovelorn damseling, more independent kickassery.

seen fanboys yet?  zoe is a perfect example of said independent kickassery.  she’s fun, smart, and no-nonsense.  she doesn’t sit in the corner sniveling about how things aren’t going her way; she jumps in the fray and does her thing, not wanting to miss out on the action.  and she’s awesome.  so there.  and for all you dudes out there, which sort of girl would you rather have in your life and your bed?  the one who freaks out if you don’t call her every hour on the hour and only cares about paris hilton and/or gets pouty and resentful when you want to do something cool?  or the one who’s out doing something cool anyway and wants to join in?  in the end, i’ll tie this subject into my next subject by saying that for me, the ideal dude to have around would be someone i’d want by my side (not shielding me and pushing me behind him, mind you) in a zombie apocalypse.

zombie apocalypse
that brings me to the meat of my ruminations for today.  i’ve been reading a pretty kickass book called world war z: an oral history of the zombie war, on loan from someone who — let’s face it — i would actually want around during a zombie apocalypse.  and it’s gotten me thinking.  in case of a zombie apocalypse, one really oughta have a game plan.  because it could totally happen.

this strategy is in its early stages, and it operates on a few basic assuptions:

  • the dead are reanimated due to some scientific phenomena as opposed to metaphysical
  • decapitation will effectively stop a zombie
  • reanimation of corpses will not grant them any sort of preternatural strength or powers
  • the condition will be contagious via saliva or other bodily fluids making contact with a heretofore uninfected person’s bodily fluids (probably biting)

operating on those assumptions, a zombie apocalypse would feasibly take place through the prolific spread of infection, and most of the world would be fucked.  most of the world would panic, and panic would be tantamount to a death sentence.  so here’re my brilliant musings on the subject.

first, be practical.  a massive pandemic of zombies would cause mass hysteria and send people fleeing for the hills.  because of this, the zombies would most likely follow the crowds who would gather and get stuck on blocked interstates.  think rush hour is bad?  put all those people plus some and add a healthy dose of extreme blind panic.  the freeways would be blocked with wrecks in no time at all, and what better place for an all-you-can-eat zombie buffet than streams of people packed up like lunchables in their stationary vehicles?

you’d be better off barricading yourself in a secure location, as most people will flee and get eaten/bitten/otherwise zombified.  it’s not foolproof, but the hordes of undead would be most likely acting only upon sheer primal impulse and driven for one thing only, therefore following the most likely and easily accessible food source:  the fleeing masses.  my rationale for this is that zombies would probably lack any higher brain function, meaning they wouldn’t be able to perform the kind of deductive reasoning that would lead them to go, “golly gee whiz, that thur’s a house.  i bet it’s full of crunchy human delectables just locked away and waiting to be eaten.  come on, guys!  let’s go check it out.”  probably more like, “food run that way.  me follow food.”  so if you have to leave your hideaway at any point, just don’t be a fucking dumbass and lead them back to it if you happen to encounter any of them during your excursion.

so what sort of supplies would you need?  here’s what i’m thinking.  you want function, portability, and efficiency.  obviously food is a given, concentrating on high energy non-perishables.  get a stash of multivitamins and ration them to avoid scurvy or malnutrition.  concentrate on survival first.  fill your bunker with as many supplies of clean water as possible.

in terms of weapons, ranged weapons might be effective, but a gun’s only as good as your aim, and it’ll only last as long as the bullets you have.  firing randomly will accomplish a fat lot of nothing.  a sword on the other hand doesn’t require reloading, and although it does take a certain amount of skill, it’s a lot easier to aim than a firearm.  assuming that zombies would be dependent upon a functioning cerebral cortex, if you can sever the head, the body will die.  messy, but effective.  grenades would probably be a pretty solid idea, but let’s face it — who the fuck has access to military-grade weapons?  besides, an inexperienced person with a grenade has probably just as much chance of blowing his or her own ass to kingdom come as an advancing horde of moaning undead.

a radio is always important, along with a supply of batteries or some other way to charge it in case of electrical failure, which will probably happen.  technicians getting eaten, etc.  some quality rope, a compass, and a good map would be good as well.  basic survival gear is a given.

also, i was thinking about clothing.  if you have to leave your bunker, you’ll want tight fitting clothing with little room for grasping onto so the zombies can’t grab you and bite you.  leather would be good, because the human jaw isn’t really capable of biting through something so tough unless you plan on holding still so the zombies can gnaw through it.  leather pants, jacket, and gloves.  matrix-style.  or, you know.  evil knievel.

so those are my basic survival thoughts in case of a zombie apocalypse.  hunker down, lock yourself up with provisions, only venture out if you must, and never follow the herd — hordes follow herds.  also, get a badass sword and start practicing.  so that’s my plan.  it’s probably got some holes, but what can ya do.  at least i’ve got an idea of what i’d do.  and if worse really does come to worse, well.  you know what they say.  if you can’t beat ’em…a non-life of shambling cannibalism might not be all that bad.  just be sure to go out swinging.