Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Say yes to everything

art by me and Dave Stoner

Here's an interesting opinion piece by one Dave Eggers. I don't know who this man is or what he has contributed to the cultural landscape (probably because I'm Greek) but the piece stands on its own and it got me thinking. These thoughts I typed in on my computer and it is said that the reckless and brave may search for them below.

A noble adventurer you are!

So, the impression I get from this is that Dave Eggers is a happy man. He must have found a degree of contentment in the positive feedback loops that are built into his daily life. The phenomenon he describes (the mental trap of 'keeping it real' and being venomously disappointed in those that don't) I believe occurs first and hardest during one's puberty for the primary reason that that period is characterized the most by inner turmoil and cognitive dissonance between what one desires the world to be and what others pressure one to accept is.

I haven't met anyone that doesn't have some knee-jerk reaction against what they perceive as missteps from the true path in the lives and careers of their favorite artists. I believe that most of all this happens because that distant failure acts as a reminder of our own very proximal shortcomings in adhering to what usually is a strict moral code. A code not borne out of practicality but from a necessary interpretation of causality. This happens because that happened and that's bad. Our morality is based on simplifications and generalizations and that's not the space in which real human beings live.

Humans live in the ambiguity of constantly shifting and complex situations, where the true way is dim and even if one manages to follow it it doesn't always feel as good as one would expect it to be. That's where Dave Eggers lives but Dave Eggers is a happy man because he's successful, and I don't mean this in the strict financial sense, he is successful because he has made sense of his environment and function and has perhaps achieved a degree of inward pacification just through constant, busy reinforcement of positive routines. He can do a little bad (hang out with Puff Daddy) because he's doing a lot of good, is what he's working towards with listing his charity work. I get the impression that Dave Eggers is a huge workaholic also.

For those of us that haven't found our place yet, his words, while admirable, are more distant. His rationalization of how doing is living and not doing and complaining is poison rings true (as many "it's all MY fault" sentiments do) but is no less far away for it. Existential ennui leads to strings of smaller disappointments because second-guessing and dissecting small happenings and paralyzing/analyzing is what people without a work they enjoy and a social place in the world that respects them etc end up do for a living. Well get a job, Dave Eggers might say, say yes to all the things you say no he might continue. Some people don't get asked anything they could say no to, though.

People bitch because they're unhappy, is what I'm getting at, and while Eggers is taking a stand for his own sense of self-worth with the above text, victimizing the complainers doesn't help in understanding. He builds a straw-man, a very comfortable and common one in fact; the disaffected youth who's preoccupied with tearing down his idols and marginalizes a large part of that experience as 'poison'. He doesn't touch on what makes one like that at all. Is there perhaps a social system, a dynamic that creates disaffected youth, is perhaps the modern world not good for one's psyche? This aspect, the difficult aspect of the discussion isn't touched on, instead he explains how saying yes to meeting Puff Daddy is a good thing, otherwise he wouldnt've met Puff Daddy and he's a curious man. It's a sentiment we can all share, wouldn't we rather fulfill our curiosities instead of not? But is life this playground of curiosities to be fulfilled? Is it perhaps also a constant battle for (psychological besides physical) survival where if you misspent your time and effort you might have screwed up everything for good? Not everyone has risen above like Dave Eggers, I mean.

People are unhappy because the world is a suffocating place and not everybody will happen on the blessed circumstance where talent, ambition and luck converge to get a them their comfortable niche. I appreciate Dave Eggers' sentiment and his positivity and I'm glad that he's not successful and also disappointed anymore. if I ever get to where he is I hope I'll be saying similar things. But home is far away right now, and there's doubts and harsh judgments and self-loathing still that cannot be ameliorated with the suggested 'be positive!' mantras. Willpower will not make me a happier man, it is mostly, depressingly, luck that will. Until then I'll make what I make and complain about how this or that isn't true and has disappointed me sometimes, it's not poison in itself, it's a reflection of a world that disappoints. Sometimes when the world doesn't come knocking with beautiful, curious opportunities, the only way to keep sane is to knock on the world oneself.


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