Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

Empty Space

Too many people, In Conversations with Them, 2007.

“K, why don’t you update your blog [as frequently] anymore?”

I thought I’d sprung back from rock bottom, but somehow comments like that make me want to repeat an exchange from My Cousin Vinny:

Lisa: Well I hate to bring it up because I know you’ve got enough pressure on you already. But, we agreed to get married as soon as you won your first case. Meanwhile, TEN YEARS LATER, my niece, the daughter of my sister is getting married. My biological clock is
[taps her foot]
Lisa: TICKING LIKE THIS and the way this case is going, I ain’t never getting married.
Vinny Gambini: Lisa, I don’t need this. I swear to God, I do not need this right now, okay? I’ve got a judge that’s just aching to throw me in jail, an idiot who wants to fight me for two hundred dollars, slaughtered pigs, giant loud whistles… I ain’t slept in five days. I got no money, a dress code problem, AND a little murder case which, in the balance, holds the lives of two innocent kids. Not to mention your
[taps his foot]
Vinny Gambini: BIOLOGICAL CLOCK – my career, your life, our marriage, and let me see, what else can we pile on?

Of course, Vinny had it worse, so I feel guilty drawing the comparison. I’ve felt a similar type of guilt on numerous occasions over the past several months when the fortunes of others reminded me of what I don’t have. Am I petty? I’ve lost perspective.

I was watching the Extras Christmas special when I had my epiphany on the couch. Andy spends most of the episode focused on the fact that in his mind, he had to “sell out” to achieve fame. In his world, he wants to be an actor that is granted both fame and respect.

It was while listening to Andy’s speech at the end of the episode that I experienced what alcoholics like to refer to as a moment of clarity:

And shame on me. I’m the worst of all, ’cause I’m one of these people who goes, “Oh, I’m an entertainer. It’s in my blood.” Yeah, it’s in my blood cause a real job’s too hard. I would love to have been a doctor. Too hard. Didn’t wanna put the work in. Would love to be a war hero. I’m too scared. So I go, “Oh, it’s what I do.” And I have someone bollocked if my cappuchino’s cold. Or if they look at me the wrong way.

Replace “an entertainer” with “creative” from that quote, and it might as well be my mind’s catch-phrase for 2007. A common justification for the academic lifestyle is that there supposedly exists the freedom to choose the direction and focus of one’s work. Even if this is true, it raises an immediate question. What do I want to do? It’s been a nerve-wracking question for me, but maybe it’s the wrong one. Russell’s Conquest of Happiness might advise that rather than answer it, one should enjoy the things that keep them busy, whether it’s fighting a microbe or starting a crusade against rabbits.

Every episode of Extras closes with Cat Stevens’s “Tea for the Tillerman”:

Bring tea for the Tillerman
Steak for the sun
Wine for the women who made the rain come
Seagulls sing your hearts away
‘Cause while the sinners sin, the children play

Oh Lord how they play and play
For that happy day, for that happy day

The song resonated with me the first time I heard it, but before the Christmas special, I never asked myself why. Maybe I was the Tillerman, and I needed a reward for my hard work. That would be nice, but it’s not true. Was I the sinner? Russell suggests that this type of mentality leads to sadness. No, I am the child playing for that happy day, but I’m trying real hard to be something else. Either that, or I’m attributing too much meaning to random quotes like Jules from Pulp Fiction:

Well there’s this passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.” I been sayin’ that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, it meant your ass. I never gave much thought what it meant. … I saw some shit this mornin’ made me think twice. See now I’m thinkin’, maybe it means you’re the evil man. And I’m the righteous man. And Mr. 9 Milimeter here, he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. Now I’d like that. But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.

My blog’s been empty too often this year, and I am well aware that nature abhors a a vacuum. I will do my best to change that in 2008.

Bonus question: which lines in the above entry did I internalize but not directly attribute?
Hint: all of them come from sources mentioned in the post.

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One response

  1. K

    “experienced what alcoholics like to refer to as a moment of clarity”It paraphrases a quote by Jules.”fighting a microbe”Russell follows the gardener and rabbits example with one of a scientist fighting a microbe.For other items that were not quoted, links should have been provided to either a primary source or a source citing the primary source.

    December 31, 2007 at 7:32 am

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