Support Local Inspiration

I wish I could be like Bieber and is that Kanye West? I want to be like him too. Image via justinbieberneversaynever.com

Justin Bieber has a new movie called “Never Say Never,”  whose website promises, “Find out what’s possible when you never give up,” and gives this synopsis:

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is the inspiring true story and rare inside look at the rise of Justin from street performer in the small town of Stratford, Ontario to internet phenomenon to global super star culminating with a dream sold out show at the famed Madison Square Garden in 3-D.

Seeing the Bieb’s movie made me think of a funeral I went to last night for my friend Clemente.

Clemente died about a week ago.  He was only 50 or so, but had been dealing with numerous ailments for a while.  Though his death was well within the realm of possibility, it was still a shock.

Clemente was a complicated figure I knew through a 12-step community. He was an outspoken advocate for taking newly sober people swiftly through all 12 steps.  He ridiculed the “easy does it”/“don’t drink and go to meetings” approach to getting sober, thinking it homicidal for someone who needed real relief from his demons.  His rhetoric was not hollow.  He practiced what he preached.  In the 5 years I knew him, I saw him repeatedly give his time and energy to countless men and women, many of whom seemed like lost causes.  Many of these people have stayed sober to this day.  Clemente saved lives.

His charity didn’t buffer an edge about him.  He was a pissed-off man.  He thought other people were doing things wrong and he let them know.  He was controlling and unyielding.  He felt misunderstood and ostracized and carried a major chip on his shoulder; this disposed people to misunderstand and ostracize him.   He was pedantic and self-righteous.  When he got deep into Roman Catholicism in the last couple years, his righteousness was turbocharged.

Yet in all his complexity, in all his abrasiveness and anger, Clemente was an inspirational figure in my life.  Unlike the Justin Bieber’s of the world (or his more sophisticated equivalents), he wasn’t an abstraction or a snapshot.  His trajectory to greatness was not linear or nicely packaged.  He wasn’t handsome.  He made weird grunting sounds due to his medical conditions.  He lived with his mom and got fired from his last job as a doorman because he was supposedly overheard saying he hated rich people (he confessed to me that he thought that, but never said it).  Yet more than most people, he “never said never” when it came to giving himself to those in need.   He was a pissed off Puerto Rican who showed me what is possible when you never give up. I’ll miss him.

I like to keep my inspiration local.  I’ve got many people like Clemente in my life—highly flawed people who kick ass anyway.  Many of these people, like Clemente, are not young, handsome, pretty, rich, famous or charming.  And yet it is through my intimacy with them—through knowing the specifics of their challenges and how they surmount them—that my admiration grows.  It is the reality of them that inspires me, not the fantasy.  I don’t need movies or magazine profiles to show me that people can overcome obstacles.  I’ve got phone numbers.

With this in mind, here are some things to consider:

  1. If your primary source of inspiration comes from people you don’t know, get off it. It’s easy to love people from afar.  Go local for your inspiration.
  2. If you don’t have many inspirational people in your life, don’t ditch your friends, start inspiring them. You’re probably a downer, so start sourcing inspiration.  You’ll attract inspiring people and help the people already in your life.
  3. Start looking for inspiration in the people in your life. Everyone’s doing their best.  Find that best in them and acknowledge it.

Fuck Your Life

Carpe diem. Image via amazingdata.com

I was having a conversation with some friends about sex and the question was asked, “What do you like about sex?”

I answered that during sex, the division between who I am and who is “other” is broken down.  By penetrating someone I am emotionally connected with, getting her permission to treat her body as my own, touching it in any way I choose, wherever I choose, the confines of identity are loosened.  I am transported to a place where there is no self, no self-centeredness, leaving no one to injure, no one to have problems, no one to suffer.  Only delight.  And I like orgasms too. They feel good.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m re-reading David Deida’s “The Way of the Superior Man.”  The passage I read today is called, “Do it For Love,” where he outlines different ways a man can deal with women and the world:

There are two ways to deal with woman and world without compromising your true gifts or dribbling away the force of your deep being. One way is to renounce sexual intimacy and worldliness, totally dedicating yourself without distraction or compromise to the path you choose to pursue, free of the seemingly constant demands of woman and world.

The other way is to “fuck” both to smithereens, to ravish them with your love unsheathed, to give your true gifts despite the constant tussle of woman and world, to smelt your authentic gifts in this friction of opposition and surrender, to thrust love from the freedom of your deep being even as your body and mind die blissfully through a crucifixion of inevitable pleasure and pain, attraction and repulsion, gain and loss. No gifts left ungiven. No limit to the depth of being. Only openness, freedom, and love as the legacy of your intercourse with woman and world.

If we are to buy Deida’s conceit (and I do), we should examine and choose one of the two ways (note:  this lesson is not strictly man-centered, though it is directed to people who identify primarily with their masculine energy).  While the choice might seem obvious for most of us, there are some who lean toward the first way, i.e. the way of the renunciant.  We are done (or wish to be done) with worldly stuff, with its junk, competition, struggles, pleasure and pain.

If this is your choice, choose it, commit to it.  This does not mean you have to become a monk or a nun, nor does it mean you must abide in this place forever.  It just means that you should honor that inclination and not pretend like the accumulation of worldly pleasures is your chief aim in life.

For the rest of us, fuck we must. Continue reading “Fuck Your Life”

Are You a Wuss?

Sometimes you just need to man up.

When I was two, my parents divorced.  My mother received custody of me and my brother, making us a single-parent home.  Mom became the woman and man of the house, and dad an every-other-week presence with an ill-defined sexual role.

I learned little about being a man from my mother’s hermaphroditic parenting outside of the inference that if mom could take on both roles, men and women are probably pretty much the same thing excepting some anatomical differences.

Most other notions about what a man was came from TV.  BA Baracus and Hannibal from the A-Team and Magnum PI seemed like real men.  They got shit done.  They drove fast, bedded women, solved problems and fired cabbages at bad guys.  Unfortunately, they provided no instruction.  For that, I just had mom.

If you want to guarantee a boy never becomes a man, hold up a woman trying to be a man as a role model.  You don’t make the boy a man.  You make him a wuss. Continue reading “Are You a Wuss?”

Does A 14-Year Old Run Your Life?

Based on this photo my one and only high school dance could have been worse. Image via Metromix Chicago

When I was 14 a girl named Liz asked me to the Turnabout Dance (aka Sadie Hawkins Dances, where the girl invites the boy to be her date).  I jumped at Liz’s offer.  I was new to my high school and completely incompetent with girls.  I missed Homecoming and the Winter Ball, relegated to staying home alone, searching for nipples in the scrambled images of the Spice Network.

Fate and genetics conspired to have Liz pull me out of my dungeon of isolation.  Like me, she was a gangly 14-year old.  She was 6-foot and I was a couple inches taller.  This specious bond constituted sufficient cause for partnership.

I bought a corsage and was dumped off by my brother at Liz’s place before the dance.  Her father, a 6’7”, barrel-chested, grey-buzzed-haired monster with a voice as deep as the Marianas Trench, greeted me upon arrival.   Despite his appearance, he didn’t intimidate me.  I had no devious plans with his daughter.  I wasn’t attracted to her.  Ours was a relationship of mutual beneficence:  I would serve as a date she didn’t tower over and she would get me on the first rung of our high school’s social ladder.  Liz, being a field-hockey player, was far more popular than I was.  Though she wasn’t terribly cute, she was well-liked.  A glaze of associative affection couldn’t help but improve my nonexistent social sheen.

Her dad drove us in his Lincoln Town Car to the Tivoli restaurant in Chicago Heights, the south suburbs go-to joint for octogenarians and pre-formal dancing teenagers.  We had an innocuous dinner before being driven to the dance.  I had never danced before, so all I could muster were a few awkward turns during the slow dances.  The night went as well as could have been expected, until the end. Continue reading “Does A 14-Year Old Run Your Life?”

Transform Your Life for $550 (or not)

I don't know what this image has to do with this post, but I thought it was cool. Via sfist.com

In the fall of 2003 I was pretty lost.  I had just been spit on by my recent ex-girlfriend—an emotionally unstable, 10-year-my-senior, ex-stripper with an adolescent child—having finally broken up with her after 5 unsuccessful tries.  I was calling myself an actor and model, but would go on a casting or audition once a month at best.  I was trying personal training to make money, but that didn’t seem to be going anywhere either; I hated the work environment and didn’t feel like I was helping anyone get fit.  Everything I did seemed to turn to shit.

My main pastimes at this point were walking around Chinatown looking for interesting food and hanging out on the steps of Union Square.  I was doing the latter activity one day when an acquaintance named Rob walked by.  Rob was a perpetually tan, shaved-head Texan who seemed to dress exclusively in clothes from Barney’s Co-op—clothes that were meant to look downtown cool, but you knew cost $1200.  Though I thought his taste in clothes garish, I liked Rob.  He had a cool, slow southern demeanor.  He always seemed to be doing things like Muay Thai boxing and feeding starving children in Africa.  I thought, “Maybe Rob knows what I should do with my life.”

I asked Rob and he said I needed to go to Dallas.  I’d never been there, so I listened on.  He said that all of the results in his life came out of workshops run by an organization called Millennium 3 Education.  He claimed the workshops would get me in touch with the roadblocks in my life, of which I had many.  I don’t recall him telling me anything specific about what would happen in the workshop other than an assurance that it would change my life.  I said I’d think about it. Continue reading “Transform Your Life for $550 (or not)”

Are You an Individual or a Follower?

Do you believe like these guys believe? Image via bvibeacon.com

Right now I’m reading the autobiography of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and watching a PBS documentary about the Mormons.  Aside from mutual obsessions with the afterlife, you’d probably assume that these two parties have virtually nothing in common.  The Swiss doctor, famous for writing “On Death and Dying” lived a free spirit, constantly eschewing conventional female roles, disobeying an autocratic father and becoming an iconoclast in the annals of modern psychotherapeutic theory.  Conversely, Mormons as a group, are models of conformity, preaching a blind devotion to their scriptures and prophets.  In one of the documentary’s interviews, an LDS (latter-day saints) elder says that Mormons should not question their leadership even if that leadership is clearly in error.

Yet reading and watching the accounts of these two parties, I found some overlap.  The first was a clarity of purpose.  Coming of age after WWII, Kübler-Ross couldn’t wait to serve refugees in war-ravaged Europe.  She fed the hungry and nursed the sick in concentration camps and decimated villages all over Europe.  One can assume that her purpose is to meet the needs of others.  Likewise, the Mormon’s ostensible raison d’être was and is to be like Jesus.  Though some of their tactics like conversion (pre-and-postmortem) might seem questionable in their utility, others like an internal welfare system and disaster relief are not.  Like Jesus, the Mormons clothe the naked and feed the hungry.  In other words, their purpose is to meet the needs of others.  Yes, yes, they’ve made some glaring missteps—Mountain Meadow Massacre, the exclusion of black people until deep into the 20th century—but I don’t think these missteps applied to a collective body are necessarily worse than those of an individual.  I’ve done some pretty stupid, harmful stuff (no murder fortunately); if there were a few hundred thousand of me, my stupidity and harm would be that much greater. Continue reading “Are You an Individual or a Follower?”

Diary of a Mad White Man: Addendum to Yesterday's Post

Madea and David Friedlander
Don't mess with me or Madea.

Yesterday I wrote a post about Peter the bore.  It was essentially a diatribe about his inauthenticity, his desire (and resultant failure) to impress, his lack of interest in those around him, and so on.  It was a warning to all the boring people in the world to straighten out and fly right.

I was pretty proud of myself for such lucid thinking, deconstructing the aggregates of boringness.  I thought I did a real mitzvah to all the bores or potential bores of the world.  They could read my post and reflect on and alter their behavior.

Last night, I headed over to my girlfriend’s where we were to have dinner with a couple friends.  I printed out my post, eager to serenade her with my mellifluous excoriation of the intolerable.

When I got to her place, I asked if I could read it to her.  She said of course.  I read it aloud and after the first few paragraphs I noticed something that I didn’t reading it to myself:  the author sounded really pissed off. Continue reading “Diary of a Mad White Man: Addendum to Yesterday's Post”

Are You a Bore?

If you have to try to be interesting, you are probably not. Image via memegenerator.net

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis, 1905

Last night I ran into an acquaintance at a holiday party.  I will call him Peter.  Peter is tall, muscular and handsome for his age (I’d clock him at 45).  He’s an artist.  He’s a mountaineer with several major expeditions to the world’s highest peaks under his belt.  He’s into MMA (mixed martial arts for you sissies).  He’s lived in New York City for most of his life, but has traveled throughout the globe.  Peter is also a complete bore.

I was already tired when I ran into him last night (see yesterday’s post about burst pipes), but the moment we started talking, my fatigue blossomed.

For a guy who has so many interests, he talks about nothing.  All of his monotonic ramblings were about the accessories of his lifestyles—the real estate deal for his new artist’s studio, his pickup truck, the gear for his expeditions.  He divulged almost no information about himself, about that which was being accessorized.

Peter also did something called “qualifying.”  This is basically when someone gives reasons why you should find him or her interesting.  The reason I know about his rarefied art, his heroic expeditions, his down-home pickup truck and his manly mixed martial artistry is because he talked about them.  But he didn’t talk about them in an organic way.  They didn’t just come up as if they were extensions who he was.  They came up as if each interest was a part needed to construct a specific impression. Continue reading “Are You a Bore?”

What Does the Company You Keep Say About You?

Friends to the (very near) end. Photo via good-times.webshots.com

Then

Big Pete was a rotund twenty-year-old with thinning red hair that reached down to his butt.  He sold and consumed copious amounts of cocaine.  He drove his Jeep on a suspended drivers license.  He gorged nightly on beef jerky shoplifted from 7-Eleven.

His roommate, The Captain, owed his name to his affection for Captain Morgan rum.  The Captain was a bald-on-top, mullet-down-below, goateed, beer-bellied, mid-forties, unemployed chef from Boston.  He sat around his apartment all day pulling bong hits, consuming Captain and Cokes and watching MASH reruns on the FX channel.

Pete and The Captain were my neighbors and, for all intents and purposes, my best friends. Continue reading “What Does the Company You Keep Say About You?”

Are You an Idea Junkie?

[Read below for my limited time offer of unaccredited idea-coaching!  Supply is limited (supply is one actually)]

Ideas I’ve bailed on:

  1. Bike racing
  2. High school debate team
  3. Biking around the world
  4. Become a chef
  5. Modeling
  6. Dramatic acting
  7. Comedic acting
  8. Stand-up comedy
  9. Personal training
  10. Starting an ecologically-minded catering company
  11. Several girlfriends
  12. Mortgage sales (this was a quick one)
  13. Blog journalism (despite the money!)

I was thinking about these ideas a few weeks ago as I watched a talk by Scott Belsky at an event I help run.  Belsky wrote a book called, “Making Ideas Happen.”  In it, he outlines the difference between ideas that come into being and those that don’t.

Belsky explained that when an idea is new, progress is swift because everything is novel, learning curves are steep and we have nothing to prove.  We are willing to work long and hard.  We are unencumbered by pride as there is no shame in screwing up.  We’re beginners and that’s what beginners do.

But then something happens?  We develop some competency and the honeymoon ends.  We are no longer just dating our ideas—we’re married to them.  That’s where the work starts and where most people bail.  Unfortunately, most of us bail before our ideas even have an opportunity to fail (or succeed of course).  Continue reading “Are You an Idea Junkie?”