This post is, was, and always shall be, inspired by the accompanying photograph.
It’s not a dedication. God no, never. Dedications honor notable achievements, notable sacrifices: notable things.
This photograph of me from the late 1970’s is not notable in the sense we think of the word. It would be like calling Richard Ramirez famous when really, infamous toggles the same word for a more relevant and descriptive meaning. It’s the same thing Time magazine goes through when they name some controversial scoundrel as their person of the year and the mass idiocracy falls up in arms because it is unable to differentiate between a neutral description and adulation.
And this photograph of me, though “notable,” is not.
Perhaps we can call it…idiosyncratic.
I discovered it among my digital photo albums that I transferred over to an external hard drive I bought several months ago in an effort to conglomerate all my photo and video files into a single medium. In my normal, slipshod fashion, I’ve allowed all my hundreds and maybe thousands, of jpg’s to become scattered across 5 computers, 2 external hard drives and several memory sticks and SD cards. I’m a decentralized mess of regrettable imagery, and this photo of my shameless, early-teen nerdyism qualifies as regrettable more than about anything I know.
Still, here I am.
Fifty years old, looking much better. I would dare to say I have flourished in middle age. I take some pride in my appearance, and with pride, comes a sense of shame, or ambitious avoidance of it. But now, my life is a mission of trying to avoid avoidance of shame.
In other words, I’m living for myself and slowly integrating the “fuck what everyone thinks” mentality into my fixed personality repertoire.
And I’m pretty close!
At this point in my life, I’ve come about as close to not really giving a shit what you think about me more than any other time in my life, with the apparent exception of my early teen years, judging from this photo.
What on earth was I thinking?
That unruly mop of a hairstyle, those horrid braces, that Hang Ten shirt that begged to be buttoned to the top: it’s clear the opinions and estimation of my peers was not a pressing issue in my young life. “Fuck ’em all,” screams that photo. “I’m my own boy!”
But then, as happens when people get older, I grew up. Most of my young adulthood was spent earnestly seeking to please others and to structure my reality around the charade that involves living up to the standards of society proper. This stage lasted a very long time. I was a soulless creature. I was a tool of conformity and shallow pretension. Once I reached my 40’s, I came full circle. I realized that all my conformity and kneeling at the altar of peer-pressure had done absolutely nothing for me. There had been no rewards, the ostensible payback for kowtowing to cultural playing rules. I could not fake it, and if I continued to delude myself that I could fake it, I would waste my life on an endless series of insincere maneuvers designed to blindly perform on the stage to a world that didn’t care, and furthermore, wasn’t watching.
At the moment of this mature realization, I began to “live for myself.”
I realized, in a fit of cathartic epiphany, that I needed to live for myself, meaning, my motivations in all activity and external presentation and life choices would, of necessity, be inspired purely by those resounding marks of my character which demanded fulfillment and satiety for my utmost self-respect, not from the marks of my character which demanded fulfillment and satiety as defined by the needs and expectations of others.
Living my life to uphold the whimsical demands of others has done nothing for me.
When I have tried to rise by the whorish upheaval of my principles, I encounter blank stares and empty results. I watch as others, more adept in the game, rise quicker and higher. To play the same game cultural institutions have instilled in our collective cultural suicide rush is to shortchange myself. I must play my own game, my own game only. Doing so is my only opportunity to “rise” but unfortunately, when I dare to rise, I must rise alone, for the state of my alienated existence dictates that no others will rise with me.
In my life, the cream rises, but unaccompanied; or the cream sinks, like a morsel of shit, but I have all the company in the world I can ask for…
I’d rather rise alone.