On the Shortness of Ego

I have an easier time writing late at night.  All of my diversion tactics and modes of procrastination to avoid writing have been exhausted by this point in the night. Over the course of the day, all the non-essential ideas and abstract stressors have been siphoned out of my head through one medium or another. I begin the day with exercise, to wring out of the soaking wet towel of my mind that is saturated with the same toxic liquid that stalls engines. I believe the societal and familial conditioning of mind has rendered it unable to digest optimistic viewpoints properly.  The remaining mental energy I have after exercise, I exhaust on ruminating on all of the plans I have for my life in a distant far away land, with a woman I love, who knows me better than I know myself.  The lazily hopeful dream is escapism and delusion.  The future, ideal self of mine that I envision is a cozy play-thing for my imagination, like the teddy bear I had up until the age of 4.

There is an urgency in my fingers as I type at 1 am that I didn’t have at 3 pm today.  I find the same urgency in the habit of setting my watch to military time (6 pm is 18:00), as they do in Europe.  It is a constant reminder every time I look at my watch that the hours in the day are finite.  The same logic tells me that visiting my grandfather’s grave would ping the mortality-awareness meter in my head, but graveyards don’t really do much for me.  It’s just engraved stones and me envisioning the degree of decomposition the body has undergone.  I wonder, is the flesh is completely gone and is he just bones at this point?  How many bodies in this cemetery are still stinking, rotting flesh?  They must be that way for at least a few months, maybe even 7 or 8 months. How long does a fancy casket last before starting to disintegrate?  Isn’t it harmful to the earth to be putting these wooden monstrosities in the ground, by the millions, every year?  Throw me in a hole when I’m dead and cover me with dirt and earth.

I spent the majority of today absorbing the passive entertainment that requires only my eyes and ears.  Television leaves me feeling engaged yet completely paralyzed and wanting for so much more stimulation. I, and many people, have come to normalize this pathology: the anesthetized ogling, envying, coveting other’s lives as if it is commonplace.   We habitually view other’s lives up close, in an intimate way, through channels of social media or television.  In the case of actors and movies, the writers concoct a somewhat predictable sequences of conflict and resolution that poke and prod at the same heart strings that every other TV show has, since we were 4 years old.  We venerate actors and actresses above all other professions in our society, because they have the ability to transport us, to relate and appear human to the Average Joe, and the Average Joe in turn sees in himself the heroic qualities of the protagonist and potential for greatness, i.e. good triumphing over evil.

I have seen a few actors in person over the years, as one does in New York City, on the subway or on the street and I am always struck by how the encounter always fails to meet my expectations. I am hit with the sobering reality that this guy or gal who was a hero in my favorite movie is just a normal guy who may not want to be bothered on the street or the subway.   There is the possibility that floats in my mind that he is boring and lacks depth, with a life completely absent of drama and conflict.

I consider that however relatable on screen he may be, he might be an out of touch gazillionaire who no longer has the patience for the common fan-boy or fan-girl, owing to the harassment that comes with world fame. I think, if I was famous and revered like him, I would make time for every fan of mine and use my fame and influence for helping the disadvantaged. But I highly doubt I would, because this guy is just living his life, he didn’t necessarily ask to be famous. However, the upper echelon of those in the acting field will be in the spotlight and be an integral part of what American cinema has been for a century: the storied folklore that is revered and steeped in the glamour of a beauty-obsessed culture.

I once saw a comedian and actor, David Cross, who is moderately famous, at a comedy show in New York. He was not performing.  He was there simply to watch another comedian’s show. I felt myself drawn into constantly staring over in his direction, it was hard to resist. When I first saw him, he walked right by me on the street outside the theater.  I froze. I was star-struck for a second. Then, instinctively I morphed into blend in/be cool mode.  Standing in the lobby of the Lower East Side Manhattan venue waiting for the comedy/improv show to begin I kept looked over at him, as if I was scratching an extremely irritable itch.   I felt like I was approaching the behavior of a stalker.  It just seemed unnatural to approach him and interrupt his night out with a friend to say something about how I admire his work, the same way thousands of others do.

This experience opened my eyes to the secretive, voyeuristic nature of television that we all participate in.  TV is acceptable form of spying or voyeurism.  It is the peep show for fetishes that are limited to the emotional and intellectual variety.  I can certainly explain away as normal, the 4 or 5 hours of TV that I watch I per day.  Our society has embedded television in our culture the way caffeine has become the acceptable productivity drug and alcohol has become the acceptable social relaxation drug.

Upon leaving the comedy show, I swallowed the sobering reality that an artist’s work can be a completely detached entity from his own identity.  I see this when someone compliments me on this blog. I don’t feel deserving of the compliments or praise because I am simply taking what’s in my head at that exact moment in time and putting it on paper. Also, anyone who listens to praise too much is doomed to fail because it is the enemy of progress.

Regardless of whether the praise is just flattery or actually sincere, I will have a spike in ego, an ego-gasm as I call it. After that 5 seconds or less of my sonic boom of ego and self-love, the conversation resumes and I have that disappointing come-down to earth, similar to the moments following a real orgasm. Because beyond a compliment or disagreement on a social issue, how much can the person really engage with me on these thoughts that I chose to record on paper?  Writing is an intensely personal, isolated and intimate form of expression.  In writing and acting, the artists are being observed and evaluated and it makes me very uncomfortable sometimes; the fact that my writing can only have meaning if it is seen by others.  Once I have finished a post or essay, I feel like I have wiped my hands clean of it and it now lives on its own.  I might be embarrassed about it a week later when someone mentions it. For someone to equate my writing in a post, to making a judgment about me would makes no sense because it is now a piece of work that I have set free. 

If it’s true that many Americans are lonely, and if it’s true that many lonely people are prodigious TV-watchers, and if it’s true that lonely people find in television’s 2D images relief from the pain of their reluctance to be around real humans, then it’s also obvious that the more time spent watching TV, the less time spent in the real human world, and the less time spent in the real human world, the harder it becomes not to feel alienated from real humans, solipsistic, lonely. For Joe Briefcase, as for many addicts, the “special treat” of TV begins to substitute for something nourishing and needed, and the original hunger subsides to a strange objectless unease.

-David Foster Wallace, E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction

“Objectless unease” is the perfect word for the feeling I have after abstaining from TV for a while.

Website Problems lately –  I apologize for the Chinese fire drill that my website has been lately.  I am finding that self-hosting a website is extremely difficult at times.  I spent the last week screaming at Bulgarian software support reps on the phone because I am computer and code illiterate.  Having a website is not for the faint of heart.

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