1. The Beginning of Discontent
There comes a time in the evening, after nine or ten o’clock, when I cannot force myself to do any more “work” for the day. I have read my quota, and written for about the same amount of time; if it is a good day, I have written more than I have read. Some days are bad, where I can write only meaningless drivel, just for the sake of filling a page. These are days when I cannot force myself to work on my various projects, the dilemma I face being not enough “into” them, so that if I tried to edit or worse, to write, I will wind up having pouring that meaningless drivel into my work, thereby contaminating it. The problem is that this is the only work I am capable of doing at this time of night, having long since emptied out the contents of my soul during the course of the day, so I make certain corrections, or add words that only wind up being cut later, or I find myself in a state of paralysis of knowing that I should be working, but unable to work at all. I always have so much work to do that my situation leads me to deep guilt for not desiring to work, for not being as dedicated as other writers. Or I will open a document and scan it or read the first paragraph and find myself either satisfied or totally disgusted to the point of being unable to add or change anything, and these two feelings, while opposites, compose reverse sides of the same coin, neither become too powerful, taken together or one at a time, they coat my guilt in a veneer of paralysis. At this point I look for Genna, listening for the click of her typing; if she is writing, her doing so will fan the flames of my not-writing guilt, and I will try to do something else, thinking all the time as to how I should be writing.
2. The Extremes Defined
The reason I have described my work is that it is analogous to my life. I alternate between phases of extreme monotony, evenings such as the one described above, for example, and total deviancy, where given the chance I will spend the early morning dancing and singing and drinking and smoking, and although this is bad for my health, it is good for my spirit. What is really at stake here is the distance between myself and my self. My self, the self, in fact, is a very fragile thing, which can be disturbed and colored by new experiences, which, once understood, can be valued for their newness; there is also the monotony of routine which further engrains one in a set state of selfhood. Do you follow me?
3. Where Extremes Come From
In other words, there are these two extremes in my life. Always I have been a writer of extremes, probably due to my parents, who, if you have ever met them you would wonder how they could have possibly been together, though now, upon reflection, upon my desire to describe them to you, it is impossible to describe them without making them sound alike, but perhaps it is best represented by the fact that my mother is the dancer, singer, drinker, and my father is the editor, the reader, the student. These two extremes are my existence, I have no choice but to embrace them; if I chose one I would die from either suicide or exhaustion, and I think you can figure out which way of life would cause the corresponding way of death.
4. The Faux Comfort of Materialism
The other night I came home at two in the morning and thought to myself, my god how bourgeois my life is! I have a steel colander, an unfinished bottle of red wine, and various pieces of Ikea furniture. Look at me! Look at this path of normalcy, and I laughed to think at the guise I was showing to the world and myself. I don’t need ANY of this shit, I thought, as I proceeded to drain the red wine into a crystal glass from West Elm.
5. Knowing Less Now Than Then
These books I read, these examples through history prove to me that humanity has become worse off as we gain a longer history. Like this girl I knew in a writing class. She was pretty, blue Asiatic eyes, fair skin and thin wrists, Brazilian by descent, meaning that she spoke perfect English. She was thirty-one, she had a literary agent and she seemed to have no understanding of what she wanted out of life; she was trying to break into advertising though she had no experience, and despite her having an agent, she wasn’t even sure she wanted to write a novel; she was single, having broken up with her former love who gave her a baby she aborted, she confessed that when she was my age, she thought that she knew things about life, but over the next few years, her experience and emerging apathy made her realize that she knew less at thirty than she did at twenty-five. I pitied her for wanting to start a new career and not following through with the novel she was supposed to be writing, according to her agent. I told myself to never be in that position of knowing less now than I did then, but sure enough, here I am, approaching a self where a state of pure comfort is repulsive to me at times, because this comfort I equate with warm indolence and letting life continue the way it did before you were born without adding anything to the world, which is really the point of life, after all, to change the world as much as we possibly can through a manifestation of our willpower and love. Yet the notion of renunciation is so drastic, so large and looming that I can only find myself stuck in this position in the middle of these two feelings, trying to enjoy my spaghetti bolognese and “friends” who “grab a drink” with me to help me mask how totally and furiously alone I am, and yet at times I wish I could be even lonelier. The thing is, if I actually were, and here is where I become actually maybe a little sick, or entirely normal, which are really the same thing depending on my mindset and concept of self, if I were totally alone, I would want exactly what I had given up, a different variation, of course, a different neighborhood with a different girl and a different different. Rather than occur these changes, I settle into contentment, which is actually a state of approximate happiness.
6. Being Content and Settling
Being content is one way to live a life of extremes. You can be happy at moments in a state of contentedness, but until the moment comes when you have to choose one extreme and still not want the other or want to sample the other in your imagination or in moments of freedom, oscillating wildly between these two poles, until that moment comes, you will not be truly happy.
Another way to escape being content and to reach happiness is to renounce one life, one state of approximate happiness, for another that’s totally different, a la Gauguin in Tahiti, so that even if it’s not better than the life you left, the state of knowing that is enough to produce an approximation of wisdom, which is a higher level of happiness-approximation than contentedness. And then, of course, there is the other option for dealing with extremes and being content; it is that most final option, which, personally I don’t think is worth pursuing unless you have already done something with your life that is a manifestation of supreme willpower and love. If you haven’t, then you have to put up with being content, which, let’s face it, most people don’t mind, and perhaps isn’t that bad at all.