Saturday, November 25, 2006

An Addendum


I neglected to address in my previous letter to you this notion of missing God. I want you to know that I am giving it my full consideration. It is doubtless a very important issue, which I will address in due time, although my current state is such that I find myself clueless as to what to say in response. I will, however, say this. I think that I started out missing God and never found it, at one point giving up the search. I'm afraid that this makes my sympathies rather bleak. Your examples are things that I do not associate with the divine as I conceive of it, and so it seems clear that I need to reconsider what it is that I do feel is responsible for those things in order to understand better what might be the differences between your conception of God and mine. I think that this is a very weighty issue and will have more to say after letting it stew for a bit.

Much love,

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Curse of Generation X

Dear Anne,

The busy week for me was this past week. I think that I haven't had a week like that in a long time. I'm ready to have my own solitary festival of tears. Today I woke up feeling slightly depressed and it has spiraled into a fairly complete funk. I don't even know exactly what it's all about, I only know that it sucks and I feel really shitty about myself right now. I wonder to what yardstick I'm holding myself. For some reason I feel like I'll never measure up. What generation is it that never knows what to do with itself? I can't remember why I'm here or what my goals are. This is the curse of Gen X isn't it?

My therapist keeps telling me that it's okay not to know what I want to do. But I don't think she understands the scope of this. I'm okay not knowing what to do with my life. But I'm not okay not knowing what I want to do this afternoon, for instance. I feel like I can characterize particularly bad uses of my time, but I keep finding more and more that most of the other uses, if not bad, are merely disappointing. I'm disappointed with the way I'm using my time. And I don't know what would be better. I think that my values are either a) all messed up or, b) too easily swayed by every passing fancy that I have that I never develop proper goals or desires even. I think I'm so hyper-aware that I don't know what I want, that I simultaneously want everything and nothing.

But this is the height of apathy, is it not? For, despite being both capable and intelligent, I am producing nothing. I want to produce something. This much I do know. The one thing that I knew would always make me happy was the feeling that I got from looking behind me while mowing the lawn and seeing all the cut grass. It wasn't that cutting the grass was particularly fun, of course--it allowed me time to think and walk--but it provided a very clear feeling of accomplishment in seeing that, at every turn, more grass had been cut. It was this aspect of the task that I liked best.

I guess that's a first step: The recognition of the fact that, in order to feel good about what I'm doing I have to be able to look behind me and see that I have accomplished something. Perhaps I am unable to look behind me and quantify what I have done. That, however, brings up another question. Am I more focused on the quantity of my accomplishments than their quality? Could it also be that I just have not found a good way to measure either of these attributes? It seems logical to me that prior to deciding which is a better metric of accomplishment for a given task, I would have to define each term in the context of each individual task. The final question is this: What am I doing? I am afraid that this is the question that stumps me in the end. A proper characterization of my activities eludes me, leaving me completely unable to explain what I'm doing and how well I'm doing it.

I spoke earlier of desires. I suppose that it is appropriate at this time to ask myself the question, "do I want to characterize my activities, or my life's work?" What I mean to say is, do I want to be able to say that what I'm doing is X, where 'X' is a well-understood category of activity? Thus, what I am is an X-er, if you'll pardon the sardonic choice of letters. Well, leaving open the question of the value of each of these choices, I would simply answer yes, I would like to be able to characterize my activities. Perhaps it is because for years I have been uncomfortable with this ubiquitous question of "So, what do you do?" It frequently seems unconscionable to be unable to answer that question. How is it that I do not know what it is that I do? It's just not possible to live a life while remaining oblivious to its contents! And even if possible, it would certainly be shameful.

But this is only half an answer for the question itself is seriously flawed. Rather, it seems pretentious to expose the ridiculousness of this notion that the answer to a single question will reward the asker with some sort of bird's eye view of a person's goals, desires, or ideals toward which she is working. It is a trap! In truth, by answering this question, I all but hand the asker a box and demand that I be sealed up within it.

When I consider the subsequent generation I cannot help but feel that they are better prepared to succeed in whatever they choose to do. You and I are on the cusp, you see, just between Generation X and the younger Generation Y, which I refer to as the Disney Generation, partly because of the movies that they watched growing up and partly because of their strange, veiled conservatism. Perhaps it is this conservatism (call it consumerism, if you like) that enables them to be successful in the world our parents have left it.

There's more to that last thought, but I feel I've said enough for one day. I hope you are better this week than you were last week. I hope next week is even better than this week.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Dear Mike


friend. whoah. what a week last week was. i feel thrashed. lowercase 'i' kind of thrashed. last night i was in bed and all of a sudden just started heaving and sobbing. no particular reason why. just a buncha stuff all shook up by an intense week - poor chris had to just hold me in silence. there wasn't anything to say. it was nice to find your letter amidst the end of it all . . .

there are so many things that i want to tell you. i don't know where to start, the little things perhaps: a homeless woman asked me this morning to sing at her wedding, she knew the words to one of my songs; the drummer of our supporting band on friday night threw his whole fucking kit out in the street in front of thee parkside in a rock star rage (it was amazing); yerm ahm is not done yet . . . this issue is taking the longest yet, but it's ok. just a zine. no stress, right?

the bigger things are bigger. they'll take longer to explain.

i also feel the lingering longing for something i can't identify or explain. it has moved into my body. maybe it's part of living in a city. san francisco is so much kinder than new york no doubt. for one the winters here include new growth, greening parks, and a whole slew of new flowers. for another, people say hello to each other, often know each other, or know people who know people who know each other etcetera. it's a small city.

still it's a city. and there is concrete in over-abundance. and i step out my front door onto a bustling street, and have to lock both it (the door) and the gate behind me. i have to not-look at certain things on account of who-knows-what-crackheads-do-if-you-interupt-their-cracking etc. and also there is an overwhelming absence of pleasant smells, (like cut grass, rotting seaweed, wood stoves burning) and of subtle sounds, (palm fronds slapping, an oar's bellowing smack against a canoe's side, impenetrable darkness). and i think people like us miss this.

another thing that i miss - against my will - is God. and i wonder if the insatiable longing is for God again to be able to answer my questions. there is a space in me ripped open by rejecting religion after so many years - leaving a feeling of brokenheartedness, an idyllic lover's palpable absence. you know? i was so in love with God. and now i'm trying to speak that name in a way that unlocks faith from my doubting mind - i want to believe that there is someone, or something somewhere that can answer all of this. that has a key to all of the confusion, mystery, and unexplainable. that knows how it makes sense somehow. the war, the dirty campaign ads, the smile on that homeless woman's face, the five inch hand of a boy who touched a wooden dolphin just to be SURE that it was not real. i don't understand.

the wanting pushes me to create. and for that i am grateful. but i doubt my own ability to differentiate between the voice of my Intuition and that of my fear. they both speak quietly and clearly these days. i can't tell whether the longing for more is a fear of the present, and the obsession with the empty spaces a fear of the fullness.

today i have the word GRATITUDE written on my wrist in pen. cause i keep forgetting about that. incidentally you should go here and look at, among the others, assignment #16. this guy, Rob Brezny, has coined this new term "Pronoia" which is basically the idea that the world is conspiring to make your life wonderful, and fulfilled. the assignments are "Experiments and exercises in becoming a mysteriously truthful, teasingly healing, fiercely magnanimous Master of Impartial Passion."

there is SO much more to say about all this, but i've blown off about three hours of work at this point and should really get to it. i do love my job.

much love to you too, (and celine)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Dear Anne

Hi Anne,

I'm glad to have gotten your letter. I don't get good mail anymore--just bills and advertisements. What has happened to the letter? Someone told me recently that National Geographic has always come in the mail with a wrapper in brown paper around the middle of it (like porn does, actually). Over the years that brown paper wrapper has become a publishing medium in it's own right, attracting companies to pay to have their ads published on the wrapper for the popular journal. Nat Geo's utilitarian craft-paper packaging has become a lucrative venue for advertisements to the demographic of its readers. I think that this came up after someone mentioned that guy, who used to sell his chest as advertising space, writing a slogan for the customer on his chest with a magic marker. My nose for irony senses that his performance was intended to call into question the notion that anyone of us was anything more than a commodity, that anything can be sacred in this cultural climate. Somehow, on this blog, your letter is closer to the sacrament that I remember letter-writing being when I was younger.

Tariq Ali's performance sounded really interesting. I think that I don't go see enough stuff around here. For some reason, despite living in a cultural mecca, I manage not to attend events around the city--even the free ones. New York wears on its inhabitants in a way that I'm not yet able to describe. It's as if one is perpetually going uphill, or against the current. New Yorkers are always sailing "by" and never "large." (There's my maritime reference of the day.) Anyway, at the end of the day, I'm always feeling like I have just enough time to get home, get half a night's sleep and get up and start it all over again. Christ, I sound like those older cats I used to pity when I was wasn't one of them...

The Kronos Quartet is an amazing ensemble. I have this LP they released where they do a cover of Purple Haze, by Hendrix. It's just insane. I think I also have a few tracks they did for the Heat soundtrack, but I might have lost that CD. I'll have to look for it.

I was in my studio today talking to an artist I met when we were just setting up last month. He's a teacher in the Bronx and has his studio in Park Slope in our building. (I can't imagine making that commute, although I know that it's not abnormal around here.) We ended up talking about galleries and making a living at being an artist. Now, I'm from this school of thought that I got from being in a band where you bank-roll your own project so no one can tell you what to do. But it's really hard not to get frustrated when it doesn't take off--and it likely won't. I was wondering about the gallery system and how it must change one's mindset to have think about making artworks as a commodity to be bought and sold. I guess there's a mainstream in the art-world as well as in the world of rock and roll. I read this article recently (interview, actually) in Neural magazine that mentioned something like: "you have the mainstream, and then you have the mainstream with better haircuts that we call 'alternative.'" That made me laugh because it's so true. Something that's truly new won't sell well because demand-for is predicated on knowledge-of. This is a major flaw of Capitalism, in my book. Systemic mediocrity is not progress--I don't care what the economists say. And things change (albeit slower than they would without this system) because there actually is a demand for the new! There's that familiar smell...

Do people really want to be told what should desire? Is this self-imposed? Among my many crises of the psyche is this nagging feeling that I'm unfulfilled but have no idea what it is that would fulfill me. What is it that I want? Everyday I'm given thousands of messages designed to tell me what I want and how I can get it. Not only do they conflict with each other, but none of them strikes at the core of me and rings true. Advertisements tell me that I want to be rich. I don't want to be rich. Corporate culture tells me that I want to play their game and get good at it to make the company rich. I don't really care. I don't even want the career path they're offering. I've refused promotions because of this. They don't know what to do with me. I think about leaving to go to another job, but I know it will be the same. I'm told I want to own things--and I own a lot of things--but they often feel like boat anchors, weighing me down and tying me to this lifestyle. People want this? When I ask myself, "okay, so what do you want, if not this?" I don't have a good answer. Just not this.

I'm really tired. This must be the reason for my rambling response. I just want to do something important, Anne. But I don't know what's important.

By the way, Celine is well. She's sleeping right now and I think that I shall join her. Sweet dreams, Anne.