Friday, April 24, 2015

Late in the Fouth Quarter

This blog will see it’s 10th anniversary later this year. In the past nine-plus years, I have written far more than I ever did in the previous 40+ combined, and (conservatively) more than half of that was written for no other reason than to write. Although writing became a regular, integral part of my life just a couple of yeas before for the inception of The 25 Year Plan, I did not consider myself a “writer” until about ten years ago. By the time I fully embraced this defining art, this veritable core of my aesthetic essence, I was on a roll. I wrote a lot and the number of entries in my archives over the first couple of years are an indication of just how gung-ho I was. I still enjoy writing immensely, I am improving and while I do not do this type of writing for anyone else, I do appreciate the feedback I receive. I don’t know that my luster has faded, but my output certainly has.

Since sometime in early 2003 and continuing to this day, I have also written quite a lot for others. I have written for money, for class work and as favors for friends. I would say that I love that sort of writing as well, but the truth is that I don’t; I never have. Even when it was for money, a motivation that should be sufficient, I can now say that it is really nothing more than part of the game. That is not to say that I hate it or even dislike it, and in most cases I derived a lot of satisfaction from it, but I am much happier writing for myself and only myself. There are a number of reasons why I do not do this sort of writing as much anymore, the fact that my required writing is much more demanding is only part of it. I think a much bigger part of it is that my overall mood, my general contentedness or my baseline “happiness” is not what it was in those earlier years. The subtitle of this blog, Perspectives, Purpose and Opinion, is an indication of what one will find here. My perspective, while still positive, is now less so, my purpose, while once focused, is now fuzzy and my opinions regarding the outside world are no longer informed enough to document them in sufficient journalistic detail.

I am on the edge of not caring about much of anything anymore.

Disillusionment? Maybe. Disenchantment? Perhaps. Frustration? Likely. Futility? Probably. And all of that applies not to just the sorry state of affairs in the world generally, but it also, especially, applies to my own internal state. It very well could be that my early writing was not so much a reflection of my general content, but rather a cause of it. These internal reflection pieces explore who I am, not to explain myself to others, but to discover more about me. Maybe I gained so much insight in the beginning that I feel I have learned enough? I don’t know, I didn’t explore that facet of myself in writing, so, paradoxically, I have not arrived at “enough.” I suspect I never will. I don’t know about anyone else, if others are constantly fighting to understand themselves and I don’t know if those who appear so confident and self-assured really are. I’m only know that I am not.
I am staring down the barrel of another monumental failure. I’ve had quite a few in my life including a recent short-lived marriage that was a foreseeable mistake from the start. This particular potential one is professional in nature, is probably tangentially related to the recent turmoil in my personal life, but as far as failures go, it is different. If it goes that way, it only means a failure to complete a journey that was necessarily marked by significant success. Like the team that gets to the Super Bowl, it had to win its conference just to be in the game. However, no member of any team that ever came in second place, especially in a close game, felt like a success. My PhD is a dissertation away, but at the moment it might as well be on another planet. That could (and hopefully will) change, but I am already feeling the sting of second place even though that hasn’t happened yet and despite that fact that the “season” has produced a BA, an MA and, if I fall short on the PhD, a second MA at LSU. Those degrees all spell “success,” but placed in context, it is still second place. I haven’t lost yet, but it’s late in the fourth quarter and I am behind. And if I don’t get the ball back soon, I will not win.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Faith - Revisited

In August 2005, almost ten years ago, I wrote an essay titled, “Faith.” I posted the essay in my blog in February 2006 and, today, I do not remember why. The piece predates the inception of The 25 Year Plan, and most of what I wrote for my blog was actually for my blog. That is, they were usually new essays written with the intention of publication in my blog. Of course I was writing well before my blog’s birth on December 18th, 2005, and it is likely that I pulled some prior work into it on occasion, but my blog fundamentally dictated the type of writing I did for it. With a only a few exceptions, its genre of choice is the so-called “personal essay.” It is essentially a more formal version of a journal.

The fact that I wrote that sort of writing prior to my blog should come as no surprise (to me). I did and I even kept a hand-written daily journal for about six months in 2003. But I typically do not go back into my archives – electronic or otherwise – and, in effect, plagiarize (not really, I did source it) myself. I cite my older pieces sometimes, I quote them sometimes, but I don’t often reread them in their entirety and, when it comes to pre-blog/Internet material, I think the “Faith” essay might be the first one that has been so appropriated. Since my blog’s inception, since MySpace and then Facebook, I have re-posted things through hyperlinks, but not a total cut-and-pasted essay in its entirety. That I found - and posted - "Faith," was a weird happenstance that is even more so today.

This morning I got to thinking about faith in much the same way I must have ten years ago. I was experiencing a lack of it and it got me to thinking about writing something about it. Writing almost always helps when I am uneasy about something – anything. I figured it would be blog fodder, so I searched my blog for the keyword, “faith.” I was pretty sure it was the title of a past post and indeed it was. I didn’t plan to do more than scan it to see if my views have changed much and, more importantly, to see if I have anything new to add to the discussion. And although it is among the longest essays posted to The 25 Year Plan, it sucked me in… and I remembered what it was that inspired what are some of my more profound reflections. It’s one of those pieces where I’d say, “Man, I wish I’d written that,” except with this one, I did.

At the time I was emerging from a particularly dark period in my life. I was 42 years old and the past three to four years were chaotic, to say the least. It painted a picture of emergence, an enlightenment, a point in my life in which I finally got past much of the denial that was ruling me. I finally accepted my world as I had created it. No more finger pointing, a huge reduction in ego and some much needed humility were all key components to that particular “awakening.” In that old essay I went to great lengths to qualify faith; I looked at many things that faith might or might not be. I sincerely attempted to look outside the box, to view the world from a more metaphysical perspective. I believed what I wrote.

Ten years later, my beliefs have changed. It’s not that I no longer have faith, indeed, that faith is stronger than ever. However, it is far less metaphysical than it once was. Regardless, my faith still wavers sometimes and this morning it did just that. I was looking at circumstances - my distant past, my recent past, my immediate future and my distant future – and I became profoundly ill at ease in the present. And it hit me. More often than not, when I am feeling that sort of uneasiness, it is precisely a lack of faith, but I rarely ever know it. I am much more likely to identify this thing that happened or that thing that didn’t and from that project into an inevitability, or at least a likelihood, of what those things foretell. Obviously, if the “signs” point to what I want, I’m cool. But if they point to an (imagined) outcome that is not what I “want,” I am decidedly not cool.

The revelation? Simple enough, even if it did take 52+ years to come to it. Life itself is a gamble. Everyday the world is out to get me, the things that can stop me, the things that can kill me, the things that can shatter my dreams are literally everywhere. Yet, everyday, I get up and go on. I move about my day knowing the real risks involved – something is likely to go “wrong” and the chances that I might not survive the day are real. I make a bet everyday. I bet that I will survive it and, more importantly, that in the long run it will be worth it. It is a bet I could not make if I didn’t believe that I had a good enough chance of winning.

I used to gamble at casinos a lot. I did it not because gambling is so much fun, but because I believed it would be worth it – I believed that I would win. I had faith. Sometimes I did win, but after losing enough over a long enough period of time, I no longer have any faith that casino gambling will pay off. I have lost my faith in casinos. As a result I rarely ever play anymore and when I do I am done at $50 – and often not even that. I don’t believe I will win and once it stops being fun (again, $50 tops), I’m done.

I think that if I ever felt that about life, I would no longer be here. In that respect I think that even those with very little faith must have enough to go on one more day. The risk must be worth the gamble. So what is faith? It is much simpler than I ever thought it was. It is simply the belief that no matter what happens, I will have enough reason to place that bet another day. That does not mean that any specificity in that bet will necessarily pay off. It does not mean I’ll get that job, that house, that contentment, that love, that relationship, those friends, the health or even the serenity I hope for. It simply means that I still believe I could and it is worth one more day of trying.