It’s seven fourteen and I’m standing on the platform waiting for the 7am train. Its late. Again. Next to me the platform is teeming with people of all ages, all in varying states of agitation at the prospect of having to explain with the same old excuses the reason for their tardiness.
Finally the train slides nonchalantly into the station and as I’m walking towards the doors, I notice a man, probably in his early 60s, hair white-grey, his black suit well worn, climb slowly into the waiting coach and slump down in the same place he does every day, seemingly unaffected by the unnecessary delay. He’s been doing this for a while, a really long while, and as I observe him, I’m suddenly swamped by a deep sadness. For him and for myself. I flash forward 30 years and all of a sudden it’s me, the tiredness seeping through my worn suit, comfortable with whatever might be thrown my way in the knowledge that I’ve seen it all before. Surely this can’t be my future? I don’t want to be this old man. I don’t want to be comfortable with this situation. It’s all deeply depressing.
There seems to be this romantic notion that a wholehearted quest for the dreams we lost is somehow easily attainable, if someone could tell us how and if we would just put our minds to it.
In reality, there are very few of us following our dreams – and for good reason. There is a point to be made for following your heart, but in all honesty, what does a 16 year old know of life. Or a 25er for that matter. I’m 33 and I’m still a little short in the tooth. This notion that our dreams are something attainable if we simply try hard enough is a dangerous assertion. The problem is that for the most of us, this hope leaves us unfulfilled and feeling just a little more hopeless.
Dreams. We fill our lives with them. From an early age we’re asked what we want to be when we’re older and as we grow that matures from Fireman to Artist, Ballerina to Musician, but then logic kicks in and everyone we hold dear pushes their agenda on us.
“You won’t make money being a musician” they say and advise us to do something ‘real’, something that you can live on, survive on. And so we adjust our dreams and goals and maybe they become something more acceptable, like being a doctor or accountant or business man, MBA in hand, so you can make your millions and take the early exit into a pre-40 retirement.
If you’re one of the lucky ones and get to study, the truth is, you’ll likely end up working 60hour weeks, struggling to pay for the not-quite dream house, moderately expensive car and your 5 credit cards which are the result of low post-graduation pay, ridiculous student loans and the overwhelming feeling that now that you’ve finally started life you need to start stockpiling shit. And the cycle just gets deeper.
Alternatively, you might find yourself achieving your 5-year-old self’s dream of becoming a fireman. And you’d be the shit out of that fireman. At least for the first 15minutes, afterwhich your uniform will get ripped off to the aural nuances of “it’s getting hot in here” as a troupe of 40-somethings, in much need of dream-revival, ogle your firehose.
Your 5-your-old self is weeping inside. And for all the right reasons.
Lets be honest, how many of us have the guts to do what needs to be done? If we did, we’d have done it already. We listen to the preppy encouraging speeches, the internet memes or endless slew of self help books, videos, courses, tapes, podcasts, series… (you get my drift), because it makes us feel good. We’re apathetic, but it makes it feel attainable, because half the excuses we feed ourselves is that we don’t know what to do. None of it ever really helps, because we are pussies; we’re shitscared. We’re too damn fearful to do the small things like move company or jump a shitty relationship, why the hell would we trust ourselves to ditch our “boring ass LIVES” and follow our dreams? So in turn we’re left just a little bit more depressed. A little more hopeless. And this self help shit seems to simply be a great salf, silencing that inner voice that something is wrong.
Now don’t get me wrong – I love the motivational “follow your dreams” speeches. I am a disproportionately large fan of most anything Tim Ferriss (author of the Four Hour Work Week) – probably one of the biggest life-hackers alive today. I’m drawn to that. I get excited. I get hopeful that maybe I can make my life different. The only thing we can be 100% sure of is that we are alive now. And one day we’ll die. And that day is guaranteed to come sooner than any of us expect. It doesn’t make any logical sense to spend our days doing something we hate just so it can fund us doing it again tomorrow (or in reality, we all-too-often end up working tomorrow to fund what we did today). It doesn’t make any sense.
None. So what are we doing?
There’s something that Bane says in the new Batman movie that’s really stuck with me- and I referenced it in a post about beauty on TiltRepublic – paraphrased, it’s that hope in a hopeless situation is the best form of torture. I think for the most part we are worse off knowing our lives could be better, because it requires decisive action from us when we really don’t want to do anything to change.
However there seems to exist an easier option. I’ve noticed a group of people that simply get down and work, do their time and then find pleasure in something else. Be it family, their veggie garden, Arsenal or the Bokke.
I find it quite attractive and yet I hate it, because I don’t know how to be content like that. It makes me wonder if the secret isn’t so much in freeing yourself to do what you long for, but rather learning to like what you do or more probable – learning to live with it and finding happiness elsewhere.
We live in a society where we always want more. We always want the grass one field over and following our dreams is that big catch-all. Like Scrat from Ice Age with his acorn that’s always just out of reach or gets taken just as he thinks he finally has it, most of us never quite realize our dreams. We have awesome things happen all around us all the time, but we’re so caught up in the fantasy that we miss it and before we know it, we’re at that age, looking back on life and our dreams are dust slipping through our hands.
The downside of this is that it seems to take a cognitive dumbing down of your own potential and dreams. It really takes an acceptance that we are doomed never to achieve that deep ache within our souls. Only once we have conceded to that can we truly accept mediocrity and find fulfilment in lesser things.
Yet it remains attractive nonetheless. It’s less scary, less challenging and promises a quick win. If only we could lose that nagging itch for greatness.
So I find myself stuck between the two, as I suspect is the fate of many of us – too scared to truly follow my dreams yet unable to fully give up on them. Until I make that call I feel as if I’m doomed to walk empty, never fully enjoying life. A slave to the grind yet not numb enough to ignore that call within my soul. I don’t know how long I can keep on at this knowingly living in the middle. I know I will never truly be satisfied with anything less than following my dreams – my whole being longs for a mythical freedom. Something I’m finding tough to define, I just know I haven’t found it yet.
Strangely enough, I don’t think it’s achieving my “dreams” (the mythical child-born pinnacle) that’s the important thing for me. It’s going for them. Knowing that I tried. And in trying there really is no failure. There is failure in giving up. There is failure in not trying. There is failure in settling. But giving it a good go, finding that freedom to become who I long to be – that’s where I want to be.
I started this honestly thinking there was a way out in accepting the lesser road. I was going to tell you all to forget your dreams and rather throw your energy into being content with less, but fuck that – I can’t bring myself to do it.
To those of you who, like me, are unwilling to fold, but seemingly lacking the guts to go all in, I have this to say:
Place your hands around the stack of chips that is your life and whether determined, hesitant, or with your eyes closed, push those damn things into the middle of the pot. Go all in.
Start being decisive. Start going for your dreams. Just start. Today. Life is great this way – you can always buy back in and the only thing you’ll ever owe is in missed chances.
Yes it’s scary. Fuck it’s scary. I’m fucking scared. But the alternative – being here with the same longing 20, 30 years down the line – is mortifying.
We don’t celebrate the small things enough anymore. There’s an unspoken hurriedness that envelopes us. A desperateness that drives us. We are busy and that busy-ness blinkers us, closing us off to the subtleties that surround us every day.
I sometimes wonder at what drives this numbness. Could it be a fear of failure, of being left behind, of not ‘making it’, of keeping our parents proud as they push us too hard to gain a grade, to make the team, or just. be. ‘good enough’.
Maybe it’s simply the unspoken – but impossible – vision your subconscious devised of who you ‘should be’ or who you wanted to become and you’re just not getting there. It might simply be the necessity of feeding your family or pressure from your spouse – or the Jones’ – to maintain the status quo and it’s become an all encompassing distraction.
So distracting that only the over-exaggerated ever makes an impact. More and more I’m finding that we need a louder volume to wake us up; to break through the fuck-can’t-think-must-just-do that clouds our heads.
For some it’s getting blazed, others drinking more than they should. Maybe it’s something more hectic like a mild Cocain addiction – if you get such a thing. Or even one of the good ones; an over reliance on gym.
Or maybe it’s something more passive like filling our evenings with media. In this regard, the current trend towards the extreme – whether sexual or violent – is testament to this need to escape, a perverse compulsion to smash at our brains harder than ever before. Just to feel. To experience. Something. Anything.
But this continuous onslaught has left us numb; and I propose a different approach: A reclamation of subtlety. To find, again, the joy in the small things. It is a slow process and one that forces us to reconnect with life instead of escaping it. It requires us to be aware and to face what’s going on around us.
And it’s fucking scary.
But, honestly, it needn’t be. We can develop a sort of interaction switch. A way to be selectively sensitive. In this society, the numbness is a required component of survival and we need to learn to live open handed and sensitive to those things that matter and yet keep ourselves protected from those that don’t.
As I’ve started on this journey of rediscovery, I’ve found a few things that really stand out for me, some of which I’d like to share with you in the hopes that I may impart some sense of awe or wonder into your lives as it has been reintroduced in mine:
The running tackle-embrace of my little girl, arms clenched tight around my legs as I walk in from a day at the office, laptop bag still in-hand.
The shy-flirty smile from a pretty stranger as our eyes connect across a room, on the dance floor or simply passing by on a busy sidewalk.
The 5-sense arousal of a perfect blended coffee. For me that’s a double shot of freshly drawn espresso, full-bodied with chocolate & cinnamon undertones, topped with just a dash of steamed – not frothy – full cream milk.
And that most perfect of unions:
The morning shower, warm water cascading over sleepy bones, with a morning pee – warm water cascading over.. you get the picture.
If you take one thing away from this, let it be the knowledge that there are few things more satisfying than a morning shower-pee. The combination of the near euphoria of releasing a full bladder with the warm-hot streams flowing all over your body. It’s truly a great thing.
Water meets water in a consummate union of sorts. The warmth, the release. If you have ever tried it, you’ll know, it is a powerful experience. And if done right, the release together with the warm cascade, it brings a new understanding, a heightened perception of perfection.
I would be remiss to leave out one of the more important points here. For once we don’t need to aim. Or we can aim ANYWHERE. This doesn’t happen often. Controlled by social pressures and loved ones alike, we are forced to make sure we keep it inside the bowl. But not during those bliss filled minutes in the morning when we can cast all fears aside and truly live free. It takes some getting used to and don’t be surprised if, for the first few days or even weeks, you’ll find yourself dutifully aiming at the drain cover too ashamed to broaden your boundaries. But over time, if you allow yourself the pleasure, there will be nowhere within that sanctum of liquid warmth untouched by your exploration. A consummate marriage of warmth and wetness.
The shower-pee is the coup de grâce to the numbness. It is the reawakening of the soul. As the slumber falls from your flesh, so the clouds of distraction are released to swirl away into oblivion, revealing this golden lining amidst the euphoric double-tap of this so subtle a joy.
It is my hope that you allow yourselves this guilty pleasure and that in doing so you may regain the joys of these small things that make living alive.
Whenever I think of beauty, I’m reminded of that scene from FightClub where Edward Norton fucks up that guy, (Jay Leno? – I think he’s in a band), because he felt like destroying something beautiful.
Strangely, the visual impact of that iconic fight left me not able to look at Jared again in the same way for a very long time. It even impacted how I enjoyed 30 Seconds to Mars (until they did this). Beauty, whether unblemished or destructed has the ability to impact us in a profound way.
Beauty is a strange construct. Sometimes it can be sickening, pulling us to destroy it. A sappy, weak thing, that calls a rage from us that we never knew was there. Other times it can make us cry, overwhelmed by whatever our own personal mix of beauty is.
There is beauty in so many things. There is beauty in destruction. In pain. In a field of flowers. In a breath. There is beauty in my little girl as she sleeps. In a duck perched on top of a pole, the rising dawn as it’s backdrop. In the graffiti someone painted all over the carriage on the train I took into work this morning.
When you think about it, beauty tends to conjure up thoughts of peace and serenity. A quiet calm. It’s sublime. Demur. And yet it is these qualities that allows it to persist in the most unexpected of places. Beauty is subjective. I’m certain my personal brand of ‘beautiful’ is very different to yours. For me, it’s got to be a little fucked up. A little twisted. Decidedly tilted. It’s Yolandi Vi$$er. It’s Kat von D. It’s Fight Club. It’s graffitied trains. It’s metal like this. It’s Mix n Blend’s Oppi mix. It’s pretty much all my Pinterest posts.
We may think that destruction is the enemy of beauty. But there is beauty in destruction. The degeneration can be something amazing. It all boils down to our point of view. I honestly think the antithesis of beauty isn’t destruction, it is apathy. We let life pass us by, absorbing but never adding to it, simply perpetuating the 9-5 40hr a week syndrome, as we scramble to pay off our debt, pay our rent and somehow pay for our procreation to go to school and get an education so that they, too, can rinse-repeat the cycle.
Modern society is stuck in a mundane existence. I find myself living vicariously through movies, in music and through those people around me that have managed to buck the system and throw themselves into being beautiful. I want to be beautiful. I want to be known for creating beauty. Instead I’m stuck in a 40hr a week job, doing tiny tweaks on the same thing every day. Ad nauseam. It’s not that I’m not grateful. I get to spend my 120hour months in a pretty cool office. And I get to make something. But it’s not inspired. It’s not interesting. It’s not beautiful.
My outlook on life is decidedly alternative. It’s different, but even in difference it falls into a predefined set of rules. My brand of uniqueness has just been cloned from everyone else’s. I love that I’m not a commercial being. I like to tell myself I’m not one of the Bieber, Lady Gaga or Parlatone-loving non-thinkers out there. I’m not another one of the mindless many. But the truth is, I am. I may not like Bieber, but I’m a sucker for my iPhone. I buy Vida. I like my DCs and my Von Zippers. I want a Nixon watch. Or maybe a Tag Heuer. I only get tattoos at guys that do awesome work. And one day, when my 40hour work weeks pay off, and I’m no longer over my head in debt, and when I finally break out of this middle-class holding cell, I really want to buy a Ferrari. Why am I any different? I like metal and dubstep. I have dreads. My tattoos are innapropriate in most corporate jobs. I wear sneakers and a hoodie to work. But I’m still a slave to the suck. I like to think my one saving grace is that I’m aware. I know that I’m stuck and in my mind’s eye, I’m clawing my way out.
But my pessimistic side seems to say this might be our truth… Hope. That light at the end of our tunnel. Is there really a way out? I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, pondering on what allows us to escape. There are a few answers, I think. The truest and most obvious is to find a way to climb out; To be your own champion, and somehow through shear will and lack of fear, create a different reality. And there aren’t many who do this, but those that do, achieve wealth and we presume happiness. What seems to be a more achievable goal is to redefine what escaping means. I think it’s in no longer worrying about the light at the top of the climb, in finding peace and our success in our family, friends and the things we can do outside of our offices. In that, there lies an alluring glimmer that seems to say “accept your fate, and find happiness elsewhere”.
But there in lies our apathy. The lie inside the half-truth. It’s learning to both love life now – live fully; connect deeply – and continue to strive to free ourselves from this suck. It’s a unique meld of the scramble and the considered. And it’s about creating beauty.
It’s something that I need to realise. We can all create beauty. We can all learn to really, deeply, share our lives with our families and friends. We can all find something that inspires us to be great, and dive into it. We need to learn to enjoy life. Share it with our family. Leave the 9-5 at the office and be present. We need to throw off the corporate stagnation and create something beautiful. And we need to learn to scramble.
I have realised I’m on a mission to create something beautiful. And then to do it again. And again. My rinse-repeat needs to be in creating beauty; not boredom. It’s creating a brightness where there is something dull. And I urge you to join me. The world is fucked up. Our middle class utopian dream is a nightmare. We’re over our heads in debt, working too many hours doing godawful jobs. It’s time we start creating again. Whatever that may mean to you.
I dare you to be beautiful.
So it seems political grinch -cum- prodigal son, Philip Dexter – Cope’s spokesperson, MP and founding member – is jumping back onto the ANC G-train with what is to be expected from greener-grass chasers: the requisite ankle-biting and ass-licking.
Waxing lyrical when he left the ANC to start Cope a few years ago, this political postulator accused the then JZ-run party of (to quote the Cape Times quoting him) “‘peddling lies’, promoting ‘factionalism, tribalism, violence, misogyny’ and ‘condoning possible criminal activity'”.
Now, leaving Cope, he’s self-proclaimed “failed experiment”, he seems intent on pouring yet more vitriol on the Cope-fire he started back in May when he basically accused his party members of mismanagement of funds, abuse of power and manipulating election results.
The crowd was thick with alcohol, anticipation, and opiates as the chill of the Pniel-driven winds coursed through their limbs. For this throng of dusty rockers, it was the epitome, the dénouement, the finale of festivales twenty eleven.
The focus of their fervor darkened as moments later the twang of distorted chords filled the air. It had begun.
Yes I know my enemies,
they’re the teachers who taught me to fight me
… compromise, conformity, assimilation,
submission, hypocrisy, brutality, the elite.
“Know your enemy” – Rage Against The Machine
I woke to the “gnaaa” “gnaaaa” “gnaaa” of my alarm piercing my head for the umpteenth time. The snooze button had been pressed once too many and at this rate, I was going to be late. In a vain attempt to reign in that metal beast, I threw on the pile of clothes lying on the floor beside my bed, showered the porcelain – I’d showered myself the night before – and “cirque du soleil”-ed my torso deftly into last night’s t-shirt.
Shoving the necessaries into my gym bag, face still wet, my mouth spouting minted morning-breath, I pulled my laptop bag over my shoulder and headed down the stairs.
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