a priori/a posteriori

Monday, April 30, 2012

Recording an Album, 5: Why I Matter

In many ways, I’m a lucky person.  There are the easy and obvious reasons - I’m a white male, which is a helluva good start, at least in this culture.  But there are a lot of other reasons, too.

I try to get along with people, and I try to live my life passionately.  I try to allow myself to experience a full range of emotions, and - probably more uniquely - I try to be willing to show them.  I try to embrace emotions.  I’m not totally sure why.  I’ve definitely taken more after my mother in that regard, as opposed to my father.  My father is a stoic dude.  My mother tends to wear her heart on her sleeve.  I lean toward the latter strategy in life.

That means a couple of things.  It means that when I’m happy, I think the people around me can tell.  Which may very well be a nice thing for them - I’m not totally sure, because I’m me, not them.  But it seems like when I’m happy, sometimes I’m able to add to other people’s day, even if it’s only in some small way.

There’s a trade-off to that, though.  I show my emotions.  I experience my emotions fully (or at least I try to).  But that means that when I’m sad, I let myself be sad.  When I’m scared, I let myself be scared.  And I show that to people, in the same way I show my happiness.  I share my emotions with people, which has the potential to impact people in both a positive and a negative way.

Really, those are some of the main decisions we make, throughout our lives.  Who do we open ourselves to, and who do we offer ourselves to.

Two different questions.  I think most of us spend time thinking about who we are going to open ourselves to.  As in, “do I trust Brad enough to really care what he thinks?  So that if he said something hurtful toward me, it would crush me?  Is his opinion worth enough - and do I think he understands the power his words would have - that I’m willing to open myself up to that risk?”

I think we spend a lot less time thinking about who we’re willing to extend that to.  We think a lot about who impacts us; we don’t think nearly as much about who we impact.

That’s part of the reason I think of myself as lucky, I think.  Because I feel like for whatever reason, a lot of people allow me to impact them.  A lot of people have decided to at least be minutely invested in how I’m feeling, and how I feel about them.

This could be an entirely imagined thing.  I could be completely delusional.  And certainly, I think we are all a little bit delusional, when it comes to how important we think we are.  I mean, my entire life, every single room I’ve ever walked into, I’ve been in there.  Every single one!  Can anyone else say that?  No.  No, they can’t.  So I must be, like, the most important person ever!

We kind of have to think we’re more important than we are, or else we’d lose our minds.  With the world over-populated as it is, it’s kind of a dick move for each of us not to kill ourselves.  I mean, we’re not Einstein.  And even if we were Einstein, we’d probably just end up accidentally inventing the atomic bomb, or something crazy like that.  So really, all of us should just realize we’re no good for each other and go jump in front of the nearest bus.  It’s the polite thing to do, really.

But we don’t.  Because all of us are a little bit delusional.  We all think we matter.  And to make sure we keep thinking so, we convince ourselves that a few other people matter, too.

So maybe that’s where I come in, for other people.  I’m lucky, because for some reason, I’m able to make people feel like we both have something in common.  Male, female, straight, gay, trans, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Indian, Asian, healthy, sick, wealthy, poor, free, imprisoned - I’m spending my adult life trying to help people understand that there’s some overlap to all of us.

Often times, I try to use myself as the Rosetta Stone - I may not be what you are, but you and I are still the same.  We are still connected.  And in a perfect world, if I can make enough individuals feel that way, then people can see each other as equals that otherwise wouldn’t have.  Through me.  And if I can do that, then I prove my importance.

So maybe that’s what people see in me.  They see a desire to matter.  They see a need to be delusional. And maybe they see an admittance that I’m delusional - a lack of shame in it.  I know at the end of the day, the world doesn’t need me.  But if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pretend it does, so that I can get some shit done.

I think we all want to get some shit done.  I have friends that are able to just shut up and get to work, and I admire them.  My older brother is that way.  He’s a worker.  He shuts up and gets things done.  He goes to work every day.  He does a good and honest job.  He likes working on his cars.  He fixes them, or he works around the house.  He does things.

I know others who can’t seem to get out of their own way.  They can’t seem to deal with the fact that they don’t matter.  So they go through life feeling shitty.  Because they want to do something great.  But on some level, they also know that no matter what they do, it’ll be a drop in the bucket.  And that’s best-case.  Truth is, most of us will live our whole lives to make a drop, and it’s going to miss the bucket.

Or, as a great philosopher once said:  Life’s a bitch.

So what helps us do our best, even though it won’t matter?  Again:  delusion.  We just have to live our lives as if we matter.

That’s what I’m trying to do:  to live my life as if I matter.  But that’s a tough thing to do, because if I matter, then it means that if I fail, then that matters.

So that’s why I think I’ve been struggling so much, as I try to get my thoughts together, and prepare for these shows in June.  Because I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself, because I want to matter.  And part of the reason I want to matter is because I feel like there are people who I matter to.  And I matter to them, because they see an overlap between themselves and me.  So if I fail, and I don’t matter...then I’m forcing the people who are invested in me to face the reality that they don’t matter.

Wow.  What a weird, warped sense of reality I’ve presented to myself.  If I don’t matter, then it’s proof no one who has ever cared about me matters?

Ha.  Delusion indeed.

Even if I never record these shows, this has been a great experience for me.  I’m being forced to face my fears, and I’m learning about myself in ways I never thought I would.  It’d be nice if I wasn’t so in my head all the time.  But it is what it is.  Better to have it documented.  Sigh.

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