I was originally going to use this post to dissect the music and words of Josh Ritter's song The Temptation of Adam from his album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. I've posted a video above of him playing it by himself. Lately I've been listening to it a lot and have really grown to have a lot of respect for his songwriting. He seems to have this ability to write songs and combine words in a way that is very artfully crafted and has a unique way of describing situations and feelings. It allows the listener to really understand what was going on in his head or the characters head at the time. In this case it is a hypothetical situation wherein two people get trapped in a missile silo during wartime and are unable to leave. Due to their close proximity and general situation they end up getting together and falling for each other. Although as Josh so eloquently describes, the man is afraid and nearly certain that their love would never have half-life on the surface and so he has his thumb above the button because he is completely happy being with her and wouldn't want to be with anyone else. I just really like the lyrics, the whole situation that he creates, and the music itself and guitar stylings is great. I'm not quite sure exactly why but in my head I always compare this song with the movie Inglorious Basterds. It must be because it takes place during WWII and has similarities with characters and ... frankly I'm not sure why but I like it. I love that movie and I love this track and forever in my head they will be married together.
The other day I was reading a chapter in Chuck Klosterman's book IV and stumbled upon a chapter that I found really interesting. I think the reason why I found it so interesting is because the latent points being presented in the article are things that I've thought about many times. It covers a few different ideas but the overall umbrella topic is about people being betrayed by culture. The chapter starts off with a quote from a British essayist, Edward M. Forster, who once wrote, "If I had to choose between betraying my country or betraying my friend, I hope I have the guts to betray my country." As Klosterman says, if we've learned anything about dead British essayists they make better drinking buddies than spies. Anyway, going back to my point [and Klosterman's] ... if we took this question and flipped it around and asked: What depresses you more - being "betrayed" by an individual or being "betrayed" by your own society?
Why is it that people always feel the need to inflict their thoughts on other people? There is a disconnect between how people exist in the world and how they think the world is supposed to exist. People can't accept the important truth about being alive. As Klosterman explains: "Culture can't be wrong". It doesn't always mean it's right, nor does it mean you always have to agree with it. People can be wrong, and movements can be wrong. But culture - as a whole - cannot be wrong ... it's just there.
For some reason people always not only hold their values; but they want their values to win. And this is the wrong mindset and probably the reason why people get betrayed by art, consumerism, and culture. As Klosterman says, and basically what my whole point and the things I think about are, is that if you want to be happy, don't get pissed off that people who aren't you happen to think Paris Hilton is interesting and deserves to be on TV every other day. This is Chuck's example obviously. But, the point is, in this example, the fame surrounding Paris Hilton is not a reflection on your life, unless you want it to be. This is your life and this is your world, no one elses. Your feelings about culture, what TV shows you like, what bands you listen to, it's not a universal consensus, it's your opinion and no one elses. If you let it get to you ... that's when you feel betrayed. And it will be your own fault. You will feel bad, and you will deserve it [Klosterman said that]. As Chuck explains, if you disagree then you are probably someone who thinks you're an idealistic [A person who wants to inflict their values on the way other people think; their disappointment with culture latently proves that they're tragically trapped by their own intellect and good taste]. They think their betrayal gives them integrity, it does not.
If you really have integrity you will live life by your own ideals, and those ideals dictate how you engage with the world at large - you will never be betrayed by culture. You will simply enjoy culture more because you will find it interesting that people watch Paris Hilton's show. If there is a review for an album or a movie that you really like and its reflected thoughts are different than yours - you will care, but you won't care. Because you're not wrong, and neither are they, or the rest of the world. You just accept that those two things aren't really connected. And that is something I think about regularly. I think being conscious of those thoughts and living your life on a day-to-day basis with that in mind can lead to much greater happiness. If you live your life the way you want, that is all that absolutely matters. Those other things don't have to have an impact on how happy you are, because your core beliefs will always be with you, and no one can change that. People will try, but you don't have to let them in if you don't want. And you have the right to listen or not. Case in point, I was at a friend's house a few weekends ago and we were sitting around playing cards, listening to music, and having a lot of laughs. I had a great time actually. I hadn't laughed that much in a while. Anyway, I had my iPod playing and had Dr. Dog on random. One of my friends, who apparently hadn't ever listened to Dr. Dog before, asked "Who is this?", "His voice is terrible". My other friend looked at me as if I should have some kind of horrible reaction and then proceed to have some kind of fit and alternating conversation about how awesome they are and how wrong he is. But I didn't. I just accepted his opinion and kept playing cards. Now this little situation I just spent several sentences describing may not seem like anything, but inside I consciously thought about everything that I [and Klosterman] explained earlier in this post, and that is that not everyone has to like Dr. Dog. I love them. There is no doubt about that. But not everyone has to like them. Who knows, maybe he'll like them in the future if he listens to them more. Maybe not. But it doesn't really affect my world, unless I let it. And in that instance, I chose not to let it. And I think by consciously making that decision in my head I made the right move. Let's look at if I would have made the other decision. I would have started a pointless argument that would be resulted in raised voices, back-and-forths about something that doesn't even matter, because at the end of the conversation he'll still have the same opinions and so will I. And that is what life is all about. It's what makes things and conversations so interesting. And you only have to let it get to you if you want.
I think this is a key to happiness that a lot of people don't realize. It seems really simple, but in life it can take many forms. My friends and I like to say that those people "get it". It's that ability to take a step back and think about things in a different way. Some people get so caught up in little things, creating arguments and negative vibes for no reason. For example, my [defunct] soccer coach has such an argumentative and negative tone-of-voice every time he talks. Everything he says comes out like he's yelling at you, or arguing with you, and I think it's this exact thing that has torn our soccer team apart. We're not a cohesive team because he just yells at everyone all the time. This leads to blame, not taking responsibility, and focusing on the wrong ideals. Now right there I touched on a few things that don't have anything to do with a "tone of voice" but somehow, as a reflection of that and a conversational tone, it leads to things like a lack of responsibility, blaming others, and not focusing on the right things. Why is that?
You'd be amazed at the difference little things can make day-to-day; being polite and always using please's and thank-you's. Looking people in the eye and smiling. How many times have you gone through the line at the grocery store and not even looked the cashier in the eyes? Next time look them right in the eyes and give them a smile, most likely you'll get a smile back and you'll both feel better. It's things like this coupled with the conscious ways of thinking I talked about earlier that can really make a difference. I find all of these little nuggets and facets of life really interesting, and I love thinking and talking about them. I miss talking about things like this with my friends from back home. I find that I don't have many friends who can talk about things like this like we used to ... either because they don't care or they just "don't get it".
On that note I'm going to finish that thought and leave this post with a few images from this really cool blog I found yesterday called letters to dead people.
Tomorrow Never Knows is a phrase that will live with me for the rest of my life, literally. It is three words that have been etched into the surface of my skin on the underside of my right forearm. It is also a phrase that will always be true because we never know what's going to happen. I think that is one of the aspects of my life that is so exciting and to others kind of scary. For those less fortunate and those more fortunate than others, what tomorrow brings may be very different. But it's that element of surprise that keeps us going. Of course we're all hoping that tomorrow brings all great things that will improve our already flourishing lives. I don't think I could have ever predicted some of the things that have happened and that is really exciting to me. There are a few things that I could name right now, right here, this morning as I type out this post [which is my first in nearly eight months] in my sun-drenched bedroom with an iced coffee next to me and a Nick Drake track playing on my iTunes, that I hope to come true. A few things that I am finding necessary in my day-to-day life that would improve my well being profoundly. But like John Lennon [or more accurately Ringo Starr] said, Tomorrow Never Knows.
The last few months I've occasionally popped onto here and started typing out some words. As I read over their ridiculous configuration of letters and meanings I quickly abandoned any effort of writing some thoughtful paragraph comeback that would make up for my absence from writing on this blog. Although not that many people read this, I wasn't doing it for them, I was doing it for me. And from the time I started this thing to now a lot has changed. Like, a lot. My core is still the same, I won't ever lose/change that. But everything else pretty much has. I went through an interesting time trying to hack it in New York City. It changed me for the better and helped me understand a lot of things about life, happiness, and what's important. I traveled with empty pockets but a big heart from NYC to Baltimore to start a new career and life with my sister. Although slightly devastated from having a playground of five boroughs and 13 million people to a working class city with less than a million people and sharing a small row home [and the same bathroom] with my sister. But it was a great transition and I started a new career. I learned to love Baltimore for it's qualities that are unique and that I now miss. Living with a sibling isn't the easiest but I don't think we could have done it any better. An already established relationship and co-respect for each others styles and personalities, we made it work like the best of them. After a year's worth of trials and tribulations with starting a new career, working part-time at a local bar, relationships come and gone, and lacking a set of true friends, somehow another opportunity opened its door.
Yesterday never knew tomorrow had Texas in mind but somehow this was the foreshadowing of the next chapter that is my life. And here we are... one year later, another year in another city in another state, still by myself, still slightly lonely, and still trying to figure it out. Although there is one front that is being established now better than ever before, there are still others that I'm trying to find. I'd say the three cards in my hand that I want to be all aces would be a good career, a solid set of great friends [local], and a girlfriend. I have one of the three. I am on the hunt for the other two.
... I'm not quite sure why I stepped away from writing for so long. I think at first I was getting caught up in living in the South, hanging out with work friends, lounging by the pool, and thinking I was really cool. I've always used this blog to write out the things that were bothering me. And maybe at the time there wasn't anything bothering me or that I felt that I needed to talk about. But as we all know there are "honeymoon" phases and things change. At the time I had a roommate that I palled around with that, if I could still be his roommate here with everything now being a constant, I would. My current state of life is or would be probably quite boring. I would say my life right now and most of my energies are focused on my career. It's sad but I think during the weeks right now I am "peaking" at work. The weekends are a time for me to spend by myself running at the park, reading, catching up on rest, watching movies, doing stuff with and around my apartment, and getting ready for the upcoming work week. I have not been very social with my cohorts and, for the most part, it's okay with me. I've been trying to get out of the habit of constantly hanging out with people from work, and getting drunk. I feel it's not the best thing for me and am really trying to break out of the habit of hanging out with work people and meet new people, establish new friends, find a girlfriend, and have a separate life. Tomorrow never knows but right now that separate life is me doing things for myself, with myself, and my music. And I'm okay with that.