I find it ironic that for the the first time people are actually reading this blog and I have nothing for them. I apologize. I have been reading Dante in the bathroom, From Dawn to Decadence in the living room, and 48 Laws of Power at work. I have written two episodes of a comedy series I hope to produce. I have one and a half chapters of a novel that will probably never see the light of day. I have been “working” but I have come to find that becoming a writer is a bit like building a house. First you have to lay the foundation, then put up the framing and ductwork, the floors and pluming and so forth. What people see, what they would call a house, is only really the facade put on at the end. The pretty delicate decorations that we mistake for the structure itself.
I have come to find that I am still in the foundation stage.
With that in mind I wrote this short essay on failure. The second part of the post “The Island” is an example of that failure.
What you will read in “The Island” is my attempt at what Dante mastered in his “divine comedy”. The synthesis between abstract and concrete, ether and ocean water. Dante was a scholastic, his views medieval, he valued the ancients and viewed moderns through a nearly satirical lens. Yet his characterization feels modern. The way he impresses values onto spectra, commingles idioms with folklore, and uses sociology to bolster fiction are all modern concepts.
One cannot help but notice that the original text is lost in the translation and each stanza is filtered through the hope of making classical consumable by moderns as well as the hindsight of a few hundred years of literary invention. Yet the strength of the story, the linear theme, and character development suffers little. Because the characters in Shakespeare seems of a more distant type and time than the characters in Inferno. This, I believe, is a true litmus test of effective writing.
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Churchill
It is not bad to fail. There is a huge stigma attached to it, but it not bad. Failure is necessary. In that we must learn what we cannot do before we can learn what we can do, or possibly are good at. My generation of Americans were raised on, what I like to call, that Barney system. By Barney I mean the big purple dinosaur of my youth. The thing in and of itself is a pretty good representation of how much bullshit we are fed from an early age and how it is designed to captivate us.
I would have loved to sit in on that pitch meeting.
Network: What have you got?
Producer: Kids love dinosaurs.
Network: No to scary.
P: What if he’s purple?
N: Ok good.
P: Ok and he is going to sing songs.
N: Learning songs, like Sesame Street.?
P: Ya sure. But he’s cool and funny. He’s Sesame Street for a new generation.
N: I don’t know, I don’t think people will be on board for a prehistoric purple animal playing with children.
P: We can give him a silly voice.
N: Perfect, yes. Imagine the product potential.
This is aside from my point.
What I mean by the Barney system is that were are told, now more than ever, that we are all special and can do whatever we want. Which is obviously not true. This deception sets the tone for what kind of advice society has for the young. Sure there are exceptions but in most cases people are born with a very limited range of things they can achieve and probably 90% of them are not special.
What this coddling has generated is a huge fear of failure or of being left out, not fitting in. It seems absurd to go against the grain. Freedom of thought is only for wonky rebels, self aggrandizing iconoclasts, criminals, and idiots. Fear herding us all into the safe zones of society like a bullwhip. Into the corporate sector or subsidized network channels, the mall, Facebook, Applebee’s, church pews, and the seats at football stadiums.
Lucky for me, I guess, I have been pushed towards failure my entire life. Even when I succeeded I was made to feel that I had failed. Which used to bother me. I remember asking on a regular basis why I couldn’t be more “normal”. In my youth I protested against what now seems to be my strongest virtue. The ability to look at things from many sides. Empathy to an absurd level. Which can only be achieved, I believe, through failure. In that I am not hopeless but I know what it feels like to be hopeless. I am not raging against the machine but I understand why you would want to do that. I wouldn’t fight to the death for my ideology…. actually maybe I would. But, had I never faced failure and realized that afterward nothing catastrophic happened to me I don’t believe I would feel this way. It is my failures that crystalized my view of what perfection is and also stripped me of my fear of imperfection.
So in the spirit of this thought I give you a failure. Not because I think its terrible. In reality it is probably about par with what I normally post. But after reading Dante and studying Barzun I set a higher standard for myself. But I have come to find that I am closer to digging the foundation that I am to painting the walls.
Hopefully getting this out of the way will allow me to think about something else.
Thanks for reading.
The future belongs to the brave. To grow up and be cut down in. To act in front of the audience. To existing outside the rule of the mob, affixed to a separate set of rules. Immersed in a tragedy at the centre of a modern world. The thinkers and lovers and losers, standing on honest ground. Without the protection of deceit.
A race of children imparted inherent wisdom. Dumb to fear and untroubled by difficulties. Having become used to the missteps and misunderstanding. Realizing the journey from ignorance to knowledge is only through trail. Error is always a sign of progress. Their scars in the skin are like stars in the night sky, each mark telling their story. Constellations strewn carelessly over infinite canvases. Each isolated roaming atom untangled.
They will be far from home. Refugees from boredom. Broken from their mold, free of restraint. Curious to no end. Thirsty for the drink which cannot be bottled. A elixir of life, which requires a conduit. Not bound and not yet yearning for boundaries. Before knowledge and age can cast the pall over time; The empty space of memory populated by lost hero’s and friends. Great or unknown, dead and missing ideas, where dreams interpret the past echoing into the future.
When these brave trod unflinching, they come to understand some context for their our own mortality. A concept in youth that seems remote and uncommon. Yet in reality is the ultimate end humanity distends against. A thread of reality which escapes the constantly weaving mind.
The Island is a touring ground for unbridle youth. A place for breaking in the will. Where a proximation of all things holy and unholy have come to form. From the extreme to the simple. A necessary conduit. The floating vessel of life surrounded and besieged by limitless ocean. Commingling the endless sound of shifting sea and a bitter taste of sand, green fly bites on burned skin, small bikinis, the smell of lime and sewage, smell of gin, sweet colors and desperate coldness; all together.
Some will be searching for life and others awaiting death. The Island is a gateway of humanity, serving bother entrance and exit. The gatekeeper of the old guard awaits their replacement at every post. Standing in recognition of those already lost to the sea. Islands of their own weathering the erosion of time.
On The Island bars become institutions and whores becomes gods. Salt water, cigarettes, sweat, and booze, cleavage, connection, and ambition become currency. Currency becomes a play thing. Our animalistic endorphins fire panic signals, heat stroke is treated with alcoholism, a misfiring cerebellum acclimates towards chaos. An ethos is born.
The lighthouse blinks over a rocky inlet. A sign of vitality reaching out towards the hopeless ocean. A final outpost of civilization, shinning with desperate resonance. The sheen of a metallic brilliance or a grain of sand inside the wave. Both illuminating the pulse of existence. In hope of keeping the cold ocean from flowing over the hard surface of land. To be washed away by time and tide.
The Island stands juxtapose and ragged in geography and character to the mainland. Disproportionate in size to value ratio. A place of economic and ecological watershed. Run and inhabited, loved and protected, by lunatics. All self acknowledged. Unbending in devotion, as a people of the sea should be. With mood shifting as the tides. Desperate and lonely as the moon in a starless sky. Inhabitants striving beneath the black sheet. A darkness obscured only slightly by a yellow fog. Perpetual shade battling the dim of high florescent light propagating through saturated air. Heavy with multiple layers of humidity reaching into the lungs, grasping at a palpable breath. Translucent sheets of stained warm fog blown over the sand. Un-coagulated mist from the endless wave. Smells from burnt butter and sugar.
The old splintering boards creak and give beneath limitless pedestrian traffic. Piling sunk deep in the sand shifting through the scalp of the earth drown in water seeping through the cracks from deep in the foundation. Nature creeping, always ready to reclaim her rock. Where a population dancing through endless day and night happening simultaneously, unawares of their fate. Drifting like sand into the cracks and corners. Pushing tide riding up the side of the barrier. The cold unknowing dangers lurking in the expanse of limitlessness; the night and the ocean.
The island’s interior crumbles like ancient steeps. Graffiti from ten generations of seekers leaves a thick film over every touchable surface. From one step to the next each traveler walks the trodden ground of one hundred failed revelations, successful robberies, and interrupted day dreams. Inspiration permeates up through the plasmic black asphalt into the cortex of dreams; Then is just as quickly erased by domestic disturbances and car horns, the flat hard hiss of brake pads.
Everything crackles with humanity. Rising and falling away like a wave. A pulse that could be taken without a stethoscopic assistance. Electricity riding hydrogen atoms down the sides of each sweat sodden body. Simultaneously of and distant from the island ecology. The dirty sprawl of modern man always creates distance from nature. Our order is unnatural. Traffic lights and stop signs, parking tickets, meat by the pound, only nearly nude. Walking on the edge of the plausible and the fantastic, the illogical and immoral and the insane.
At the very tip of the island, where the leaky wrist of the ocean bleeds over the bandage of sand, the lighthouse burns angles into the night sky. Mounted atop rocky crags spilling with water coated by a natural slime. Attacked continuously by watery brambles which bubble and spin untouched by sunlight. The one eyed monolith watches over the tidal marsh. Fertile as a tropic annually drown by brackish bay water colored brown from a thick black mud at the bottom of the bay. The shallow pour of water over microorganism grave yard. Turning sludge digesting matter like stomach acid. In these shallow pools and dense undergrowth are sown the ancient fibers holding the ecosystem together.
Up through the willowed reeds and uncut wild grass displaced by nautical figures and rolling footpaths a sheer domestic forrest acclimating retrogressively makes way for the burdensome beast. The brave traverse these greener pastures unmolested by natural phenomena. Any inconveniences parlay perfectly with the existential trial of youth. A summoning of vitality over restraint. Waking a dormant passion, suppressed so ardently by the old, to live extemporaneously. Without the haunting of failure, because no clear goal could ever be established.
Unto the dark city streets full of cracks. Where old foundations of structures erased or ill conceived shackle progress with memory. The old refusing to rest in their shallow grave. Unbeknownst to the brave. Carrying the torch of ignorance in the darkness of knowledge. Through the old memories they trespass to reinvigorate depravity.
They will do this unknowingly. Which is the ultimate test of purity. When the abstract nature of life is meaningless and the act of living paramount. The act of living can only truly be felt at the edge of death. Here at the shoreline. Where the rift between fiction and reality draws a physical line.
The morning always drops like a bomb. Often viewed by eyes unrested. The brave call these thirty-six hour days. Which begin as the first light erodes the blackness. Each star outshone by our own. The deep burgundy and blood red of birth. Each new day pushed through the canal of blackness.
What follows is a seemingly long interval of trepidation. The day begins before the sun technically rises. Light and color precipitate where only darkness and shadow existed. As they watch, everyone always stops to watch, there is a surreal moment of humanity in which one can imagine their most distant ancestor, some apelike African hunter, amongst it’s tribe watching God say good morning.
It is now, in these few minutes before the blinding crest of light slowly rises above the curvature of land into sky, that the thirty-six hour day begins. Sub-conscious addition. A lack of sleep alters perception. After twenty four straight hours awake things begin to take different shapes. Words no longer function properly. From the mouth or in the ear. The vibrations are all wrong.
Primitive fears take hold in this limbo between day and night. When the Sun explodes into our vision, even the brave can only stand to look to long. Which leaves a green imprint on the retina and makes the eyes water. All trepidation and consternation concerning the thirty-six hour day evaporates like the fleeting blackness. A calm ocean of blue floats above the cold gray sea.
The Island never sleeps. She is immortal in this way. Although the sun and moon traverse the open sky , there is no pause in her motion. The brave can hook a ride on this pulse. Plug themselves into any of innumerable outlets that serve as organic institutions. Where the gate keepers hold post at all hours. Hidden like bats in the sunlight, hanging in their cave; Out in the open of the night when they can follow the path of the stars.
In the twilight hours on the long stretches of bleached white sidewalk crowded with crushed figures, patrol cars and vagrants give each other sideways glances. Garbage men and street sweepers, drunks loiter, lovers stumble, woman scream, the brave trod unflinching.
Sweeping past them all somehow running lifeguards. Idiotic with symbology of a bygone era . Where a person could put on a costume and become a symbol. Hyperbole as personality. Remnants of dignity rendered idiotic through pedantry. This is a true symbolic representation of humanities interaction with the ocean. A youthful athletic creature hoping to patrol the toes of a giant. Running at full tilt trying to keep time with the power of the tide. A never ending battlefield where even the brave are perpetual losers.