Tuesday, May 5, 2009
How do you sit on the dock of the bay?
So very blind in your beliefs
Idealizing American Dreams
Focused upon those golden seeds
so much that you just cannot see
Oh, sighing "hard work does not pay"
You blame yourself, "I'm so below the grade"
So you go back to the beginning
Rewriting all the lines for some better story
Try, it, oh, try, it
Try and visualize a different way of living
Try, it, hey, hey
Not all has to have the spouse, the kids, and a mansion.
You've got your Faith when you are down
And if you don't, you're stuck in doubt
But with best friends you'll come around
To understand that life is about
using the hand you're given
Not everyone must cross the same goal line
So when you feel luck has dried out
Remember having everything is not for everybody
Try, it, oh, try, it
Try and visualize a different way of thinking
Try, it, hey, hey
Not all has to want the spouse, the kids, the glory.
Perhaps now you just can't believe
That traditional scenes are not the only things
To have with your time on earth
Being famous, giving birth
Aren't for all human beings
So when you fail
And you're thinking that you
can't do any better
Hold on a second 'cause
You don't need to want like everyone else.
--yiqi Cinco de Mayo 2009 6:43 pm
The above quasi-parody (of this song) was inspired by a conversation I had with a good friend. In light of the economic state of the nation and other factors, a significant amount of chaos has filled her life in recent months. Not knowing where one will live, work, or call home is nothing new for a lot of people. For my friend, a nomad at heart, it has become as familiar as the creases in her favorite pair of jeans.
Her day job has required her to cross time-zones at the drop of a stencil, going from hemisphere to hemisphere more times in the last year than I have gone globe-trotting in my entire twenty-eight years of existence. The physical and mental fatigue that has been building as a result of this travel has left my friend on the lower end of life's highs and lows. Nevermind when your puppy gets hit by a car, when your favorite TV show gets canceled and will not be on DVD any time soon, or when your preferred postman takes a new route, physiological exhaustion pulls the spirit into depths of despair and despondency with greater efficacy than even that which hurts more.
Being on the move, having the stamina to move around geographically and intellectually has taken a toll on her. In conversations over the weeks, I threw out the images of an anchor, a captain, a lighthouse, and a boat. I emphasized the image of the "anchor," as something that she can always go back to...something or someone that will always be there. No matter how crazy life gets, the anchor will be there.
Today, she remarked, "somewhere along the line, I forgot I was an artist--I forgot to engage it. I think that's my anchor. It has to be, because I have to take the anchor with me wherever I go. I'm reading this book about Elizabethan pirates and their boats sank all the time. Stable boat = permanence, but maybe my "stability" lies in the anchor. You can anchor anywhere with any boat".
I expanded upon her comment.
Most people spend their lives getting the anchor, the boat, and learning how to be an adequate captain to a first mate. Even when they realize they can't have it all, they don't realize that the boat can be interchangeable. The boat is school, work, community activities, etc; it is assumed to be the most stable, the first priority, and should be the most long-lasting. First mates can come and go, captains can come and go, but a boat is forever.
But no--a boat is not forever, not necessarily and not for everyone.
The components of the American dream, the conventional aspirations, doesn't have to be for everyone.
My question has always been...well, why couldn't these people just realize it? But life wouldn't be as exciting, would it? if everyone walked around knowing the value, functionality or the quirks of the cards they are dealt?
American values, American traditions promote the desire to be someone great, to do something amazing, and even if you aren't rich, you can leave behind a legacy and change the world. Marrying, having children, traveling, and so on and so forth...you list enough items and you get the spectrum of needs to conventions to luxuries.
So the anchor is actually not whatever floats your boat, but rather whatever keeps you from capsizing. Having a good anchor and being a self-sufficient captain...is crucial. Yes, a first mate would help, a lighthouse would too, but if you can't have both, you could have one. If you have neither first mate nor lighthouse, you'd need a line up of destinations and a stable boat. If you have no particular destination in mind, your boat could be the foundation of your existence, or an implement, a tool.
Living and surviving are about not capsizing in the water or getting swept into sea if you're still on dry land. Society teaches us that we should want it all, and why not, right? But if we can't have it all, we would make do, right? We'd learn how to get on with what we do and do not have. Some people realize this before they're old enough to enjoy lower auto insurance rates. For others, though, it's a lifelong lesson.
The sooner you realize the following, the mission of not capsizing becomes less burdensome:
A. You can't necessarily have it all (nor must you want it all).
B. Whichever pieces you have is as much about where you are (in life) as it is what kind of captain you are.
C. Chance, fate, happenstance, etc. contribute
D. Identify your anchor and know what kind of captain you are.
E. You don't have to be a different kind of captain in order to sail the high seas. If you want to be and work at it, and find positive results, then great. If not, perhaps you need to find another boat (or distribute the weight across your boat in a more efficient manner), a better anchor, or a lighthouse.
I am my friend's lighthouse. She is my anchor. My other good friend is the beach. I hopscotch between water and land. I don't want to "go anywhere," so i don't need a "boat." Actually, I do have a boat, but it's on land. It's like a museum piece, an artifact of a past life.
I ask you, who or what is your anchor? Do you have a lighthouse? What kind of boat do you have?
Unseen forces, your dogs, your favorite sports teams, your grandparents....there is no right or wrong answer.