The Climbing Life: How To Dream Big And Still Be Happy
Inspiration is priceless
and cannot be purchased,
Talent is innate
and cannot be learned,
Desire is learned
and cannot be sated,
Hard work is hard
and cannot be overestimated.
If you want to make it, here's my advice: take someone else's advice. I'm still searching, still trying, still hoping to find that gold-strike poem, story, or catchphrase, if that's really what it takes these days. My dream? What did I say about dreams?
Dreams are tragic
and cannot be fallible.
Your dream is a perfection you imagine, which cannot exist. Mine is this absurdity of making it big. I'll admit—tail between my legs, ready for the scolding I deserve—my dream is to be the other guy. I don't know who he is, but he's not hungry. He's there, has steady work, is respected by his peers. He achieves effortlessly, because he is paid to do the work he knows he has to do. And he's paid modestly enough. If he dumpster dives, drives a beater old peace of shit with great gas mileage, lives in a tiny apartment with another man while his girlfriend works hard to try and make it on the other side of the country because she is dating a man who cannot afford to support her while she follows her own dream ... if he does all of that, it is for morals, not necessity.
He owns a small home with two bedrooms, a kitchen and a wood stove. In his free time he pursues his hobbies, not his demons, which always beg him forward, drawing him closer and closer to the underworld. He tends his garden, climbs when he can, finds hot springs, beaches and alpine meadows to take his lady to. He doesn't spend his waking hours sending emails, sending emails, sending emails, each trying to portray him as something he's not: someone who can afford to get rejected on this idea, on that story, on this piece of writing.
He doesn't lie and lie and put on airs that he isn't unshowered, unshaven, unkempt, and that his clothes aren't full of tears. He doesn't need to, because he doesn't care what they think. Hell, he already knows. They respect him, and his work, and the paychecks will keep on coming. But alas, what did I say about dreams? Other than that you can't eat them, they are infallible. They are perfect, and that makes them unreal. It is nihilistic to yearn for them. I have what I have, and the numbers who would dream of my existence join the ranks of those who would dream of another existence, and together we are all one thronging mass of dreamers who all yearn for everything but what we have already.
I am fortunate for this life, blessed for my health, opportunities and what natural talents I have. I can listen to a good song—although my tastes are specific, and perhaps quaint—and cry because it moves me to tears. I have sobbed over poems, movies, trees, beaches, sunsets and sunrises, clouds, puppies, women, men and the rest. I have sobbed tears of grateful joy for the paradoxical mysteries of the universe, for everything and nothing, and for the ultimate irony of life's futility. That I am able in this life to smile through the tears is as good as a rainbow, as good as oceans and shores, as good as sunny rain.
I spend far more time focusing on what I don't have than what I do. I spend hour after hour seeking, seeking, seeking that lucky man's life. But it's all a blessing. Each moment of difficulty, each day of despair, does at least two things to make my life better. First, it helps minor successes take on the nuance of major breakthroughs. When I publish that article that has become commonplace to the "lucky man," I get to feel an elation he may not have felt for many years. When I find a heap of salvageable food in the dumpster, and bring the box out into broad daylight past the grimacing masses walking into the store, I experience a small victory many of them will not know. When my beater old piece of shit 1987 VW Golf with an 82 1.6-liter diesel vanagon engine gets 50 mpgs, even though there is no heat, no a/c, no stereo, no power steering, and no right headlight (currently), I can pump my fist, knowing I'm at least doing something right. I've got at least one thing figured out—until it breaks down again).
This world is far too variegated, too mellifluous, too abundantly resplendent with colors, emotions, and nuanced wonder to get bogged down in the haves and have-nots of your own particular existence. If anything is sound, it must be existence itself. Unasked for, unbidden, this world gives to us more than we could ever ask for, if we could even imagine how to. Who—tell me who—could have thought up alpenglow, the copulation of slugs, grains of feldspar throughout gray granite, sparkling eternally in a thing so grand as the sun? Who could ever have imagined, having not seen one, to request a rainbow?
People dream of living to a ripe old age, but I hope I simply learn to appreciate the life I have. To me, that is of greater value. I've always favored quality over quantity. All the dissatisfaction in the world must surely culminate with death's never timely appearance. All happy lives will end too soon. I imagine peace is to see death the way Jeffers did:
"With neither dislike nor desire; rather with both, so equalled
That they kill each other and a crystalline interest remains alone."
There will be no mention on my tombstone of what I achieved, how much money I made or spent, how many feathers were in the pillow I laid my head on at night. There will only be two dates and the space between—a short span of time. From a utilitarian perspective, given our current understanding of metaphysics, all efforts in this world, of this world, will ultimately be for nought. Knowing this, I hope not to chase dreams, but to realize I am only living one, always have been, and always will be.
"Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man." -Chuang Tzu