I’ve been getting a lot of text messages lately asking if I’m ok.
It’s a funny thing to decide that other people should hear the thoughts that exist in your head. I didn’t ask anyone if I should do this, I just kind of started writing thinking that it would be cool to maybe one day share it with people and eventually one afternoon decided to go for it. I didn’t think a whole lot about how frightening it actually is to give people that kind of access to yourself. Every time someone says “Hey I read that thing you wrote!” I tense up and wonder which thing and if they are someone that I would want to have that kind of insight into my life. The answer is usually no but that’s showbiz, baby!
Generally speaking, any time that I put something sensitive on the internet it’s because I feel compelled to produce something that I think would have maybe really helped me at one point or another. We’re all out here sharing Jeffrey Epstein memes and talking about how fast our kids are growing on the various social channels but not a lot of people are taking a risk to say “hey I’m sad” or “hey I’m not sad!” or any other variation of the hey/sad phrase. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about why I would spend any time doing this and I think that’s the best answer I could come up with.. Maybe someone needs to laugh or to commiserate or read about Fugazi or whatever just to keep going and even if it’s only one or two people, that’s alright because this is good for me too.
A few weeks ago I got angry and wrote about how dumb everything is and it was just kind of a bunch of nonsense about Nietzsche and abortion and terrorists and whatever else. I liked it then and I still kind of do now, but the weird thing about doing this is that we as people can grow and adapt and soften or harden our views over time but that thing I wrote remains stuck in time. The Ryan Meyer of October 9, 2019 will exist there until I decide he shouldn’t anymore, this is kind of the case with anyone that creates anything. Jackson Pollock was a surrealist painter for a while until one day he was like “I’m gonna just start throwing paint and you’re going to love it.” Even though he’s famous for the splatters, the early stuff still exists and always will as a testament to the artist that he was at that point in his life. Almost every interaction you’ve had with people in one way or another stays frozen in time in their minds, and that might actually be really bad news. I spent 12 years in a relationship and silly shit from like 2009 still pops up sometimes and I’m like “damn that really hurt” but it’s a decade old, just floating around waiting to make an appearance for some reason.
One of the strangest arguments that I ever came across was the idea that denying the existence of an afterlife means that everything that happens in this life is virtually meaningless. What’s the point of all the toil and hardship and joy and energy spent on this or that if when you die you just go into the ground? If you’re not working towards an end goal of eternal reward then why bother with any of it? I was tortured by this idea growing up because I think a part of me always felt a little iffy on some of the afterlife stuff, but rationalizing it was really tough. But now I’m an adult with a few years of life experience and I’m about 90% sure that when we die we simply become worm dirt. Vonnegut famously wrote in his memoir, “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, don’t let anyone tell you different.” I read this in college just around the time that he died and it made me really sad because I was still holding on to this idea of an afterlife and that trying to be a good person was a means to an end. What I have concluded about Vonnegut’s work and life in general is that there is likely nothing after this life, and that is exactly why everything is so important.
Think about the ways that you spend your time. How much time we spend on something is basically the entire measure by which we decide if it is important or not. Watching my kids grow up is terrifying and exciting at the same time because every year older they get is one less year that I get to watch them grow. When we make time to see friends or romantic partners or whatever else, that time is special because we deliberately set it aside to spend on the people that we care about and want to be around. These are finite things, things that carry a time limit and will one day expire, and that’s why they are so valuable to us. We are here for a very short amount of time and then that’s it, lights out.
The current media landscape is kind of wild due to how many options are available to assault your senses at all times. You can wake up in the morning and watch the news or listen to music and then get in your car and listen to a podcast about literally any topic imaginable, followed by you get it there is a lot of media and it’s easier than ever to find. From the standpoint of learning history, you can really take your pick of ways to learn about all of the great and terrible men and women of human history. I recently set out to learn about the second world war in a way that would help me understand the nuances of Pax Americana. It definitely feels like world peace is going to get a little shaky in the near future, but diving into how we got to where we are has been pretty wild. Essentially, every madman on earth in the 1930’s decided that that was their time to get the respect they deserve. Japan snuck their entire navy across the ocean to bomb Pearl Harbor and then tried that shit again with Midway just so they could continue taking over all of Eastern Asia without us getting involved. Hitler had his men taking crystal meth so they could march for days on end without taking breaks. The French would make defense plans based on two week travel times and then a day or two later they’re under Nazi occupation. Absolutely wild shit, but the thing about this period of human history that is so fascinating to me is all of the very big history-defining events. There were just so many big important events and each one claimed hundreds or thousands of lives. The ones that made it out have spent the last 7+ decades wearing hats with their rank on it to memorial day parades where they’re asked to relive the most horrific and difficult experience of their entire life in order to honor the ones that weren’t as lucky as they were. These men were fully defined, either by life or death, by these battles in which they fought.
As ridiculous as the “ok boomer” persecution complex situation is, I kind of feel for the members of that generation who watched life in this country move from post-war America to new current everybody-is-going-to-be-brown-soon America. Maybe it was a case of “we didn’t think all the land of the free stuff would go like this” or whatever, but these folks that grew up in booming 1950’s USofA are now looking around at a country that they don’t recognize and I bet it’s scary. These are people that grew up hearing the stories of heroic acts by heroic men in heroic battles that led to almost no bloodshed between the world’s super powers for several decades afterwards. A majority of the world came together to tell Hitler to cut the shit and that’s pretty cool if you think about it. My point is that these big moments were easily identifiable beacons of meaning for two generations. Another entire generation faced a draft to go fight in Vietnam, we’ve had troops in Afghanistan for 18 years, etc forever and ever. But what about those of us that don’t have a major historical life event to tie our meaning to? Do we just fart around for a handful of years and then get lowered into the ground by our kids who aren’t actually that far behind us? I mean, yes but that’s actually the opposite of bad news.
We, as people, have the amazing gift of being able to give it our best shot. We mostly get to spend our time how we see fit, create our own existence to a certain extent. We are not afforded these opportunities in order to prove our worth for the next plane of existence, but instead it is to prove our worth for this one. The finality of this life, not the promise of the next one, is what makes everything you do here so much more important that you think.