I have this habit of pushing conversations to a point of discomfort. We’re taught to talk about all the safe topics, things that don’t offend, things that don’t unearth ugly things, things that don’t run the risk of destabilizing deeply held beliefs, and it bothers me. A lot. Perhaps too much, but really, I don’t see the point in bullshitting. The rationalization I typically hear is that it’s part of the needed social glue that keeps our whole civilization running, but in my opinion, it’s far from a bulletproof defense. And our civilization is the glaring evidence.
Conversations start off with politeness, then, depending on your style, move on to include bits of flirtation or bantering or sarcasm about whatever’s the topic de jour. When it moves to start including real things, then the real bullshit starts. The spin. The careful selection of what to say and do based on savvy anticipations on how this other person will or won’t respond, all with the goal of securing a level of social currency.
I get it; it really only takes one moderately impactful rejection to cause most of us to consider never opening up again. For a while, you might withdraw and think to yourself, “I just need to get better at figuring out when to make myself vulnerable, when it’s safe,” but sometimes that withdrawal spirals into a much more dangerous thing: You decide the world is just unsafe, that people are cruel and awful and shallow, that there is no place for the most honest part of you. You might shut down completely, or in a series of pained alterations, become someone else altogether in order to function among humans. To avoid being that person you were in that moment you were humiliated, rejected, or ignored, you seek only to put a million moments, a million alterations between you and that terrible moment, between the you you will construct and the person you were.
The reality is that it’s never 100% safe. There’s no such thing as flawless dynamics, there’s no such thing as soulmates, there’s no such thing as perfection and no ounce of beauty can cloak all the levels of the tattered, ridiculous human frailties and flaws underneath. It’s an impossible standard for any person, relationship, or friendship to uphold.
Sparring online or on Facebook or whatever feels like cheating. I mean, I can do it, and I have done it, but there is something completely different about looking someone in the eye and explaining to them what brought you to a particular point of view, having to walk through your experiences, having to watch someone else watch you as you squirm through uncomfortable feelings and thoughts, as you try to express yourself as a naked sole entity, not as a representative of a community, of a forum, of a thread, or of a thought sandwiched inside a sequence of tweets. It’s not the same.
I’ve just heard a lifetime’s worth of spin and bullshit, and that cup runneth over. You don’t have an alcohol or drug problem, you’re just a social person who likes to have a good time. You don’t have anger issues, you’re just a passionate soul. You’re not in denial of how much your abuse fucked with your head, you’re just a shark who has to keep swimming forward. You don’t have poor boundaries, you’re just a pacifist who doesn’t like conflict. You don’t avoid wrangling with certain areas of your life, you’re just really busy.
And you know, as much as I highly value personal responsibility in dealing with your own shit, I can’t help but see the ridiculous cycle that is perpetuated at large. What’s the point, right? What do we value as a culture? What behaviors fuel the economy and pay the bills? What kind of conversations build the infrastructure of social circles that yield the kind of opportunities everyone is working towards? What’s the social currency at the root of all of it? Ah yes. That’s right.
“It’s all bullshit.” –George Carlin
We need to rethink the definition of social engineering. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting in the conversations on the other side of comfortable.
I was once very close to someone who considered himself a staunch individualist. I admired his courage in the face of indifference, and his defiance in the face of blind acquiescence. He was a powerful beacon for valuing your own uniqueness and a roadmap to prioritizing your energy expenditure appropriately based on your goals. Sacrifice, hard work, being results-driven and unafraid of conflict or dissent were essential. I took on those traits. Or at least tried.
I was once very close to someone who considered harmony and agreeableness the highest of virtues. People come in all shapes, sizes, and points of view, and she felt it crucial that compromise and finding common ground take precedence over strife or personal ambition, regardless of situation. I admired her capacity for restraint and for choosing her battles, and her seemingly infinite compassion. I took on those traits. Or at least tried.
Neither set of traits comes without cost, and the path to self-respect is one that is sometimes invisible to others. But in the end, you’re the one who will wake up at three in the morning to answer for your decisions. I figure as long as I can get back to sleep by four at the latest, I’m right where I need to be.
Well, it’s been an outwardly quiet year but I’m excited to say I’ve been very productive and prolific behind the scenes. It looks like I’ve written about two albums worth of new material (not counting the Poem to Song series, which you can find on my YouTube channel in its own playlist, as well as some very rough demos of some of the new songs.) I also wrote my first novel (much to my surprise), rekindled my love for drawing, have gotten better at (mostly) consistent blogging (including vlogging), and am almost done preparing for the next conceptual photoshoot hopefully happening some time this month. I feel like a lake that’s turned over five times within one season, and although I feel a bit like a sock left alone in a dryer for too long, the personal growth and resulting creativity has been exhilirating.
I spent some time today updating my Official Website as I move to the next set of projects, and it struck me how distant my last record feels compared to where I’m at now. It’s been a year not without its share of emotional battles and difficult situations, but I’ve clearly been doing something right that my resilience and ability to field obstacles are a distant cry from where I was four or five years ago. When I revisit the headspace I was in when writing and recording the songs for my first three studio records, it makes me even more excited to get back into the studio.
The new album is tentatively titled ”The Girl Who Said Too Much,” after one of the new songs. I’ve been quiet on the performing front, but am super amped to start playing again. I played a long set at a Halloween Party last week and had a chance to introduce some of my new songs; I had a blast, and am starting to consider putting together a band for live shows. I miss playing with a drummer tremendously, so that might be in the works.
For now, I hope you enjoy the new site, the blogs, and the rough demos of the new songs.
See you out there, and hopefully see and hear from you soon!