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Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Ultimate Escape Artist Ponders Winds of Change and Challenge, and Notes from Jack Kerouac



In surreal and fleeting moments of gun-to-my-head honesty, I have often wondered if my unrelenting Wanderlust somehow conspires with seductive Back Roads and Boondocks to form a subconscious avoidance mechanism (excuses) that keeps me so preoccupied with what I'd rather be doing that I can't seem to get around to what I should be doing. Chew on that and let me know if you have similar weaknesses






And as long as the "gun" is to my head, let me freely admit that my life aspirations have always been simple and few (BANG). No, it's true, I've never had a five gallon "bucket list" overflowing with excessive travel aspirations to exotic destinations—squalid bug infested places where I must flirt with restless natives, malaria, and, Lordy, microorganisms that want to migrate up my bunghole and propagate—all to "bag" the mating ritual of the Wattled Curassow or sneak up on Jane Goodall's Killer Gorillas in the Mist. Bare-skinned adventures-with-infectious-disease expeditions make me woozy and only serve to line the pockets of non-local Tour Guides Inc. at the expense of my terminally ill Money Tree. I'll leave seeing the entire world to the "Suzannes" and "Goodalls," God bless 'em, because the abundance of nooks and crannies right here in my western backyard that I've yet to lay eyes on, much less photograph, watercolor, or aggrandized in ink is enough to stun Lewis and Clark. 


Look, my Bucket List is so small I don't even need a bucket; I could put the entire contents in the golden Cameo locket my Grandma wore to church every Sunday. I don't need much beyond health to be happy anymore—which is evidently beyond my control, anyway. All I ever wanted to be was some kind of half-assed "Artist" and live in Colorado, a writer, photographer, painter, musician—whatever—and get paid for my efforts. But since most artists starve at some point, I settled for being an Escape Artist. Yeah, I got in line with the other Lemmings, found a real job and put my dreams on a shelf in a dark closet to gather dust. Sound familiar? Marriage and Family has a way of dropping reality bombs on Fantasy Land Dreamers. To me, artist pursuits at least ring of "purpose," as opposed to the unrewarding drudgery of assembly liners. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for the best to go hungry, let alone the mediocre. I really admire the mediocre artist who sicks to his art like glue, eye on the prize, toughing it out in the face of poverty, criticism, and midnight hours filled with self doubt.


 


Let's talk about "Escape Artists." Man, it's so fun and easy to burn a day, a week, months...the rest of my life on the road. I mean who doesn't want to pile in the car with Jack Kerouac at the wheel, get high and go "On The Road" where the past is always behind you and the future lies just over the next rise. There are so many places yet to see and to see again. We, to some measure, were finally able to live that dream—spent years scurrying around from one magnificent feast for the eyes to the next. Mom used to quote me some biblical parable: "The eyes are always feasting but never full." She was right, the Road can be a crack cocaine diversion—a Monkey on the back. I have yet to encounter the "Last Supper," a time and place where I can say I've seen it all, or, at least, I've seen enough. And thus, I never got around to the other—possibly more meaningful—things I wanted to pursue. They got relegated to the back burner, a closet or the backseat...buried under roadmaps, mountain bikes, hiking boots and the occasional assembly line.



I'm truly not the most ambitious person in the world, nor the most astute. But, to borrow a lyrical thought from the Beatles, I know me and I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. We are all human beings with likeminded dreams, and dreams cut through every barrier of geography, culture, ethnicity, religion, race and color. Dreams are our common denominator. “All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together.” Yeah, Kerouac knew The Road was just another drug…another "excuse" to postpone real "life." Again, in angst, “I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night...what it does to you. I (have) nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” Man, does that sound familiar




You can't have it all, so exercise care in what you choose. Choices come with consequences. In "Alone but Never Lonely," Suzanne chose the "world" at the expense of relationships, security, and savings. It's a cruel irony, that if one truly focuses on one passion they end up paying for it with another. If history predicts future events, I'll never choose one thing. As with Kerouac, "I like too many things…" Each additional apple one chooses to juggle increases the chance of failure. It takes single minded focus to rise above mediocrity; ask your parents, ask any Olympian...ask Jack Kerouac. Becoming a competent Artist is hard work. It's a marriage to which one must dedicate their life—be a faithful lover—or else it falls apart.    

It seems to me that if it's in your heart to do something, you really owe it to yourself to do it...at least give it a go. Action is the wheel of good intentions. Lord knows I'm full of good intentions; escape artists always are. A wanderer must travel; a photographer must shoot; a writer must scribble; a painter must take up his brush; a musician must play; a dancer must twirl—it's the only way they can connect "dots," make sense out of chaos, and discover who they are. Left Brainers are usually content to go to work, lucky bastards.

So I'm asking, here—and please don't take this the wrong way because I love my RV demographic to death and count myself among them. It's something I wonder about when I've been on the road too long, or when trapped in a Purgatory Induced State of "Reflection." Does it ever cross your mind like it does mine, that a constant "On The Road" gotta go-gotta go, see-it-all-three-times-over, follow the sun, notch the belt, bedpost, and pistol grip kind of life is…is…well, enough? Again, Kerouac: 
“Sal, we gotta go and never stop going 'till we get there.' 
'Where we going, man?' 
'I don't know but we gotta go.” 
It takes most of us the better part of our lives to understand that patience is more powerful and effective than force.

Who does it serve? What does it serve? Could it be an "avoidance mechanism" for a different, more difficult dream, one that has the power to silence once and for all the hopes and voices that come in the night, the dream you never dared to share with anyone?

This "forced sabbatical" has stolen my primary avoidance mechanism, The Road. It's flung wide open a door of opportunity, to engage other endeavors in my little "bucket" instead of engaging a "clutch" and zooming off in search of something easier. Creative Juices are watered down by superfluous busyness of our own making. Somedays it seems as though I barely have enough time and energy to blog, let alone write a book or pick up a brush after hiking, biking, and chasing horizons.


In hindsight, maybe "enough" isn't the right word. Maybe it's more about priorities, self discipline, and "New Territory" that has nothing to do with horizons and asphalt. You don't have to have wide open blue Montana skies with golden wheat fields bending in the breeze in order to take a "journey." 

Here's the question I ponder. What do I want to have to show for the next five years of my life...five years from now, and do I want it to be the same routine I have to show for the previous five years? It's a very tough question—telling—and it gets tougher the older we get, to avoid becoming a creature of habit, to not rest on our Lazy Boy laurels. Like Kerouac, “My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them...what's in store for me in the direction I don't take?” If we knew that, it wouldn't be a risk or challenge, and if it's not a risk or challenge is it worth doing? At a time when the majority of one's "sand" lies at the bottom of the Hourglass there is little time to act. Make no mistake, I'm not just talking about "Art" here. Insert your own dilemma de jour. 


I'll leave you with this. "In the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” (Kerouac) 


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As you may have guessed, the climb up my "mountain" has begun. I no longer fear the brush or procrastinate the book; they have been relaunched. Actually, I am doing my best to focus on the process—the new journey—rather than "success." The odds against something worthy should not be considered. But to be honest, there are moments when I think "potential realizing and purposeful living" are highly overrated. There are days when I'd rather chuck it all, engage the clutch and take the easy Road... "channel surfing" with gasoline and a camera.  
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“My whole wretched life swam before my weary eyes, and I realized no matter what you do it's bound to be a waste of time in the end so you might as well go mad.”

“Pain or love or danger makes you real again….”
  
“He saw that all the struggles of life were incessant, laborious, painful, that nothing was done quickly, without labor, that it had to undergo a thousand fondlings, revisings, moldings, addings, removings, graftings, tearings, correctings, smoothings, rebuildings, reconsiderings, nailings, tackings, chippings, hammerings, hoistings, connectings — all the poor fumbling uncertain incompletions of human endeavor. They went on forever and were forever incomplete, far from perfect, refined, or smooth, full of terrible memories of failure and fears of failure, yet, in the way of things, somehow noble, complete, and shining in the end.” 
(Kerouac)















16 comments:

  1. I feel like I am finally reaching the point in life that I can enjoy just living without all the other garbage. No big personal goals or productivity goals etc. Just live today. It is wonderful.

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  2. I agree with Barney. No need to have to prove anything, even to yourself. Each day is a gift. Enjoy it and forget all that stuff we're taught about having to do or make things. Nobody's going to remember what we did after we're gone anyway, unelss it was really bad. :))

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    1. Let me join with Barney and Spotted Dog Ranch in saying that I have nothing that I must do nor prove. I may only have little time left to act but do not feel the compulsion that Mark has driving him. I have no need to 'climb that goddam mountain'!

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  3. +melody Kirk read this please!!! Thank you Mark. Icanbarely comment onipad

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  4. Mark- as many of your posts-- way beyond me!!

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  5. As I've tried to write on my blog, I'm tired of driving but not of traveling. I haven't a clue why I'm the way I am. Why I haven't done anything that will leave this world or my little corner of the world better off … not a damn thing.

    To go continually and experience the new ~ adventure ~ keeps me from realizing what a dipshit I am. All I ever wanted to do was experience life and not live it as a young girl was supposed to 'live' it in the 50's … I didn't like it… didn't know what I wanted … just knew what I didn't want.

    been running ever since… with no purpose … no nothing except to not be what I knew I didn't want to be.

    At almost 71? I'm amazed I'm still alive and in, as far as I know, good health. I have had to learn to just truly accept whatever … I live, I die, I explore, I see, I go, I stay, I just do…. and I hate to take up your comments section with a poem by Longfellow but… it's how I feel and about sums it up for me. … for right now …

    By the shore of Gitchie Gumee, 
    By the shining Big-Sea-Water, 
    At the doorway of his wigwam, 
    In the pleasant Summer morning, 
    Hiawatha stood and waited. 

    All the air was full of freshness, 
    All the earth was bright and joyous, 
    And before him through the sunshine, 
    Westward toward the neighboring forest 
    Passed in golden swarms the Ahmo, 
    Passed the bees, the honey-makers, 
    Burning, singing in the sunshine. 

    Bright above him shown the heavens, 
    Level spread the lake before him; 
    From its bosom leaped the sturgeon, 
    Sparkling, flashing in the sunshine; 
    On its margin the great forest 
    Stood reflected in the water, 
    Every tree-top had its shadow, 
    Motionless beneath the water. 

    From the brow of Hiawatha 
    Gone was every trace of sorrow, 
    As the fog from off the water, 
    And the mist from off the meadow. 

    With a smile of joy and triumph, 
    With a look of exultation, 
    As of one who in a vision 
    Sees what is to be, but is not, 
    Stood and waited Hiawatha. 

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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  6. In the universal laws of cause and effect, my "overflowing bucket list" is in the realm of effect. The cause is "Joy." I don't have to be tracking gorillas to find it. I find just as much joy from the feeling of vibration in my collarbone the first time I draw down a bow across the strings of a violin. Or stand alone in a giant sea of Texas Bluebonnets, their delicate faint, subtle spicy scent wafting through the air.

    The Bucket List is not a road map. It's not even the fuel that propels me. It is merely a compass, so when the urge strikes to go, I don't have to spend two weeks of Libra-like indecision asking "Where?"

    I know it seems like I "collect passport stamps," but I have tried hard not to let that be the case. I always ask myself "If I couldn't tell anyone...no blogs, no stamps, no 'postcards,' would I still want to go?" As long as the answer is "Yes," then I know my intentions are pure.

    I have spent a lifetime in the Travel industry, booking other people to destinations that made up that list. Now, I spend hours reading RV blogs and looking at "postcards," which cause the list to grow. Next year, who knows...it may be art supplies. ;-) I don't care whether it is travel or trails, as long as it brings me joy.

    The Bucket List was not the cause of the sacrificed relationship with "Red" (from the book.) It was the effect. The cause was misaligned ideas of joy. For him, joy comes in the form of sitting in a rocking chair with his old dog beside him on the front porch, wearing his pristine LL Bean hiking boots and talking about trails he would love to hike "one day." Kill me, and kill me now.


    My belief is that as long as we stay focused on the cause (joy) and not the effect (Bucket Lists) then there is no reason to have to ask the question, "Is it enough?" ;-)

    Suzanne

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  7. Weclome to the 60'ies Mark, you are maturing nicely and right on schedule. I have been looking for a flaw in your life and thinking but in the short time that I have been reading your blog you come across as one totally Normal adult male and because your testosterone levels are still elevated you aren't ready for the conclusion of the life cycle. Those levels will be dropping soon my friend & you will see the road ahead quite clearly.
    So you might want to put your energies into one last project that will make you glad you lived.
    Sonoma Co guy (love it all & everyone and you will find your joy)

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  8. Hmmmm....Who promised you tomorrow?...Just wondering..
    David

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  9. Interesting that you feel your travels may be you "running away" instead of running toward, which is how I always view it. I've done everything I always wanted to, in fact I sometimes feel a little guilt over that. Instead of going into it here you've inspired a topic for a post of my own on the subject! It's okay to want to do a lot of different things, and it 's expected that the list will continue to evolve and change...I know mine has in the last twenty years!

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  10. The road doesn't dictate asphalt... it dictates that your spirit keeps moving. Your eyes keep seeing and your heart learns to endure the costs of growth... for all growth requires death. One dream, most often requires the death of another... or it has little value... ironically... the treasure is concealed in the cost

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  11. Methinks you think too much and too deeply;-) We put in our "time" for over 30 years. Don't feel like we're running away from anything at this point, just living in a different and much more enjoyable way than when we were tied to jobs, houses, and the same old friends. We used to live for long weekends and short vacations. Now we just savor the little pleasures of each day, without all the stresses. Never been happier!
    Gayle

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  12. As beings with a certain consciousness, we know early on that we will ultimately die. It's very easy to slide into a mode of "someday" but not today. Adventures are fun but, as you say, can just be a drug or diversion from other things we don't like to think about. Thinking of oneself as some sort of hero leading a heroic life is a nice thought. Personally I think the ultimate test is one's ability to accept their own decline and demise with grace. I have been amazed at the people in my life who seemed so strong and wise yet went out kicking, fighting, and screaming against their own end. I am determined personally not to be one of them.
    Truth is, this isn't it for you. Modern science will fix you right up. Perhaps though, it is a wake up call, one to be grateful for, something we all can be grateful for when these inevitable incidences occur to each of us in our own way.

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  13. Funny, I was thinking about the same things yesterday while listening to the Talking Heads singing about the "Road to Nowhere." You repeatedly call it the easy road but I would think those who don't wander, those that sit at home and watch TV or work a day job - the same job for thirty plus years - would argue they are on the easy road. It is all point of view; if you stop liking the view, change it.

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  14. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, be present.

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