Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Distillation of Desire (The Consuming Chapter)

I feel as though I fall between two extremes in most things. This is partly true, and partly the feeling you get from contemplating your place in the world, I think. I do tend towards a middle ground in my interactions, especially given the friends I have around me. I like people with strong opinions and fun lifestyles, and they often are extreme. Not jumping out of a helicopter in an ad for sports drink extreme, just... forceful. I'm coming to understand that one of the reasons I like these friends is that I am not really interested in very much. I have fun with a lot, and I can get interested in what my friends are doing out of a sense of community and shared adventure. But I wouldn't do a lot of it on my own.

I have spent a good chunk of my life searching for things to like. I looked around at what I considered intellectually appealing, and tried to participate. I chose music that was politically stimulating rather than enjoyable on a musical level. I followed writers and issues that seemed to make sense to my mind, and didn't concern myself with my heart. I wasn't interested in what I liked, but what I should like. When I was writing the little bio for this blog, I came to that dilemma. I like tea, and chocolate, and coffee. That was the glib response, the easy silly answer. But it didn't have any substance, because I was afraid to put down the substance. I was so worried about it that I couldn't even think of it. It's troublesome to me how often I've been glib because I didn't want to admit what I really wanted or cared about.

Of course, I didn't realize that I was doing this. I certainly didn't exclusively chose interests based on the intellect, either. Some things that were just fun intrigued me, such as MST3K or Godzilla. My science fiction interest seems pretty genuine. And I don't mean to imply this was a bad thing, either; intellectual stimulation is important, and I needed some of these interests to grow as a person. But acknowledging and accepting what was really fun for me and what wasn't is also a growth exercise, and I've been in the process of doing that for the past few years.

The downside of my process is that I steer away from things I really like. This really hit home with me when I was discussing old cars recently. My son loves cars and trucks and motorcycles. I never got really into them, because as a child I associated liking vehicles with being a redneck. All of my cousins fixed cars and talked about them, and I didn't want to be like them at all. Now I understand that I didn't want to be racist, drunk, and inclined to quote AC/DC. But I did want to be like them in one way: I wanted to play with vehicles. Some strange and stupid part of me didn't see open-mindedness and sobriety mixing in well with cars. I wish I had known better.

I feel like there should be a special support group for people who grow up in rural America. Some way for us to accept aspects of our culture and be at peace with ourselves. I developed this little exercise that opened my eyes to this. It's an exercise about things.

(One of my "falling in the middle" issues is the issue of things. I like things. I don't define myself by things, or go mad trying to get things, but I have fun with them, as the toys they are. I don't feel the need to apologize for my computer, neither do I feel the need to get a great one. I like my computer, it's functional, that's that.)

So, I thought, what do I want? What material things do I feel are really me, and what would I be without. I would want these things: A small house, with a basic house arrangement (ie normal kitchen stuff etc), a truck, a decent Mac, and a motorcycle. I would take my basic black clothing ensemble, a futon on tatami floor to sleep, and that would be good. I think these things get to the heart of who I am. They explain a lot about me. I want to find a way to get rid of everything that doesn't fit into these categories. I'm slowly freeing myself of my books, my records, and all of the other stuff. Not that it's bad, but just for the exercise of clarity. Because I think someone else will get better use out of it. What is really illuminating is what I left out of the above list. I don't care about my writing, my guitar. My books, what few I have left, I care even less to bring. If they are around, fine, but I wouldn't chose to bring them. That's the real value of that exercise, I think. What is extraneous to you, and what is essential to your material comfort or sanity.

I told a friend of mine a few years back that I am no longer going to be embarrassed to like the things I like. I'm going to publicly proclaim Willie Nelson the greatest musician of all time, and dress like Johnny Cash, complete with cowboy boots. I'm going to bother J incessantly for a motorcycle. I'm going to search online for a 1964 Ford truck. (70s Chevy also acceptable.)

I'm not sure how to get from here to there. It sounds so simple, but getting to the person I want to be from the person I am is a circuitous route. Maybe it shouldn't be, but it is. There is a lot to unlearning what you have learned. Maybe a big change, a move, will make the process easier. Starting a new life in a sense, with a renewed sense of who I am and what I want out of life. Remembering the lessons of my past, but unlearning what needs to be unlearned. Yoda would be proud!

PS. Apologies for both the length and the confessional nature of this. I didn't realize where it was going until it careened off the track. But, there you have it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had this same problem. I knew I wasn't like the folks I grew up with. But I knew I wasn't different from them in a lot of ways.

That's a tricky thing, since it often leads to thinking that I'm better than them. But when I look at the things I'd like to take from my rural life (car fixing, gun shooting, family, "fellowship," etc), I find that I'm sorely lacking in that knowledge.

So what I dislike about it, I (rightfully) deny and what I like about it, I'm no good at.

Weird, eh?

But if we're talking extreme, let's try: