“The greatest thing about having a child is putting yourself second in your own life. It’s a massive gift to be able to say that you’re not the most important person to yourself.”
“Why is that a good thing?”
“Because that’s always gonna let you down, you know what I mean? The idea that ‘I’ve gotta get me right, I’ve gotta get what I want’; that’s never gonna quite work, you know? Life just isn’t that satisfying. But if you can be useful to somebody else, that you can actually accomplish. You can go, ‘I did a pretty damn good job today as a dad. Pretty good, best as I could’; that’s worth so much more. (>>)
“Freud said, ‘What man wants most in life, his primary desire, is pleasure’, but Frankl said, ”What man wants most in life is a deep sense of meaning, and when he can’t find meaning, when his life feels meaningless, he distracts himself or numbs himself with pleasure.’ ” (>>)
“Recently a young woman told me that she was breaking up with her boyfriend, and when I asked her why, she said it was because he never did anything on his own. He never took the initiative, either in their relationship or in the rest of his life. He was always a follower, never a doer, never proactive about anything. She was the one who always had to suggest things to do and places to go. He was always attentive and caring, considerate and cooperative, but he never came up with a new idea and asked her to come along. Slowly she lost respect for him as a man, and in the end, she pitied him. He had no male energy to challenge and energize her own energy.
“I know a number of women who pity their husbands. They cannot admire them because they never do anything to arouse their wives’ admiration. The men go to work and come home dutifully every day. They take out the garbage and do whatever the wives ask them to do, but that’s the extend of their energy.” (>>)
“In the early days of his career, Tucker had collected stories of musicians’ bad behavior as if they were baseball cards. They fascinated
him not because he wanted to emulate the musicians concerned, but because he was a moralist, and the stories were so unambiguously appalling that they served as a useful piloting guide: in his line of work, it didn’t take much to gain a reputation as a decent human being. As long as you didn’t hurl a girl out of a window when you’d finished with her, people thought you were Gandhi.
“He’d even gotten into fights a couple of times, in a pompous attempt to protect somebody’s honor — a girl, a roadie, a motel receptionist. Once, when he’d punched the obnoxious bassist of an indie-rock band that ended up filling stadiums, he was asked who’d died and made him fucking king.
“The question was rhetorical, of course, but he’d ended up thinking about it. Why couldn’t he let these young men behave like young men? Musicians had been assholes since the day the lute was invented, so what did he think he was going to achieve by pushing a couple around when they’d had a drink?
“For a while, he blamed the kind of novels he read, and he blamed the decency of his parents, and he blamed his brother, who had managed to kill himself by driving into a wall when he was drunk. Books and parents and a tragic fuckup brother, he felt, had given him a solid ethical grounding.
“He could see now that he’d always been heading for a fall. It turned out he was the kind of moralist who abhorred the behavior of others because he was so scared of his own weakness; the more he whipped himself into a frenzy of disapproval, the harder it would be to cave in without losing face.
“He was certainly right to be afraid. When he met Julie Beatty, he discovered there wasn’t very much to him aside from weakness.” (>>)
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (>>)
“If you’re dating someone, what kind of man is he? Does he demonstrate that he’s the kind of man who would die for you? What is his posture toward the world? Does he serve, or is he waiting to be served? Does he believe that he’s owed something, that he’s been shortchanged, that he’s gotten the short end of the stick, that life owes him something? Or is he out to see what he can give? Does he see himself as being here to make the world a better place?
“These are the big questions that you need to ask yourself.
“Take him to a family reunion. Do some sort of service project with him. See how he interacts with people he doesn’t like.
“Does he have liquid agape running through his veins?
“A friend of mine was engaged to a man, and some of her friends were not excited about them getting married. As the wedding day approached, one of her friends decided to say something to her. He said, ‘When a woman is loved well, she opens up like a flower.’
“She broke off the engagement soon afterward. In one brilliant sentence, her friend taught her what agape is and what it isn’t.
“What does he expect of you? Does he expect you to sleep with him when he hasn’t committed to you forever? Does he want all of you without his having to give all of him?
“Can you tell him anything? Is he safe? Can he be trusted?
“Can you open up to him, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, knowing that he will protect, not exploit, that vulnerability?
“His family — churchier than Thou — looked down on girls who worked. If I was ever going to get a job, it would only be to annoy them, his parents — his dad, mostly. He was a mean, dried-out fart who defied charity, and who used religion as a foil to justify his undesirable character traits. His cheapness became thrift; his lack of curiosity about the world and his contempt for new ideas were called being traditional.” (>>)
“In my own life, this comes in moments when I find myself angry or selfish and I simply say to myself ‘Hey, youâ€™re doing that thing where you get jealous.’ In other times, I will feel like people donâ€™t like me, I wonâ€™t want to go to a party or something and Iâ€™ll say to myself ‘Hey, youâ€™re doing that thing where you identify as a marginalized person because it makes you feel special.’ ” (>>)
“If we acquire knowledge before we are emotionally healthy, that is if we are insecure, we are going to use it to boost our own ego and compare ourselves to others. The desire for knowledge will be like a need for a drug, then, pacifying a wounded spirit through comparative associations. Entire theological camps have been built and bolstered by this needy, angry, gluttonous desire for knowledge. But if we have confidence, if we are secure, knowledge humbles us. We realize that we did not invent truth, we simply stumbled upon it like food on a long journey.” (>>)
“Half the time, if not more than half, I am full of bullshit. I share what will make me look good. If I am vulnerable, I share just enough vulnerability to be perceived as vulnerable, rather than to actually humiliate myself so that others can talk more openly about their own insecurities.” (>>)
“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you probably wouldn’t cry at the end of the movie when he drove off the lot testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on and sit in a chair to think about what you’d seen. The truth is you wouldn’t even remember that movie a week later, except to feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who got a Volvo. But we spend years living those kinds of stories and expect life to feel meaningful. Maybe that’s why we go to so many movies, because our real lives don’t feel meaningful anymore.” (>>) [PDF]
“So here we are again. I go out with a nice woman. I try to figure out if maybe I can love someone again. And Iâ€™m hauled in front of an inquisition. Everyone else is just running around doing whatever the hell they want. Lying, screwing people over, making mistakes – big ones like affairs and shit – but theyâ€™re fine though. Theyâ€™re just people going around and doing whatever, their thing. No one expects that much from them. But my little ‘Hello, how do you do? Iâ€™m Foy? Nice to meet you. Ha ha, you eat Fruit Loops and have a great smile. How about we have dinner’ suddenly becomes this evil, dishonest, you know, THING thatâ€™s suddenly this whole pathology of inauthentic behaviors and denial and suppression of internal voices and shit.” (>>)
“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obligated to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close.” (>>)
Maybe that part of you dies. The part that was deeper than work and laundry and oil changes; the part that felt like there was something more, and that it was right there, just out of reach. Maybe it dies a little every time another soul subtly begs you to show it to them, and, fearing rejection, you suppress it. Tell a lie. Make small talk. Maybe it dies, or maybe it just lies dormant. Waiting for you to realize and loathe the shallow, malfunctioning person you’ve become; to miss it. And maybe then it comes back to you on a lonely, quiet night when you’ve finally stopped, or been forced to stop, for long enough to notice. And it gives you one last chance, and you can either give up everything and embrace it completely and start living for the first time, and finally reach that which you’ve been desperately pining for your entire life; or, again out of fear, you can quietly reject it one last time, even lying to yourself about the significance of what you’re doing, and pass a point where you can no longer go back, where the only path left is a meaningless, vacant existence spent in bars talking about nothing to people who’ve made the same decisions you have, or in cubicles doing empty work in order to pay for a lifestyle designed to distract you from what you’ve lost.
I don’t think my problem is that I don’t know what I want or how to get it. I don’t know what I want or how to get it, but that’s not my problem. There’s something stopping me before I even get that far. I think my problem is that I’m afraid of… I don’t even know. I’m afraid of trying; of moving; of asserting my desire for greatness. I want to hide. I want safety…
“Sometimes, itâ€™s the people we choose to have in our lives that often bring the greatest reward or life support. …that moment of nuclear clarity when someone comes to you and they have your back and theyâ€™re willing to lay all the truth they can offer to you to save you from the past that might haunt, or daunt you, or turn you into a failing light. Friendship laced with real love and truth can turn all of us into superheroes.” (>>)
“Poor Marny, one of your oldest friends. She meant nothing by it, just an innocent comment. She’s probably the last person in the world who would ever be insensitive, but see, you’re always ready to fight. You’ve got that single-parent rage, that black-single-mother defensiveness, combined with your own naturally ready-be-indignant/aggressive tendencies, inherited from our mom. I mean, tonight, when you finally go to bed, you’ll lie there and think of things you’d do to people who would come in here and do me harm. You’ll picture all manner of murders in my defense. Your visions will be vivid and horrifically violent, mostly you and a baseball bat, with you taking out on whoever would invade our sanctuary the cumulative frustration you feel from all of this, our present situation, the walls and parameters set up already, the next ten, thirteen years laid out, more or less spoken for, and also the general anger you feel, have felt not just since Mom and Dad died–that would be convenient if it were true–but it began well before that, you know this, the anger coursing through the marrow of kids growing up in loud, semi-violent alcoholic households, where chaos is always…
“And best of all, for you at least, you finally have the moral authority you craved, and have often exercised, ever since you were very young — you used to go around the playground chastising the other kids for swearing. You didn’t drink alcohol until you were eighteen, never did drugs, because you had to be more pure, had to have something over the other people. And now your moral authority is doubled, tripled. And you use it any way you need to. That twenty-nine-year-old, for instance, you’ll break up with her after a month because she smokes […]
“…but it’s the way you’ll tell her, the way you’ll sort of shame her, mentioning that not only did your parents die of cancer, your father of lung cancer, but that you don’t want the smoke around your little brother, blah blah, and it’s the way you’ll say it, you’ll want to make this poor woman feel like a leper, particularly because she rolls her own cigarettes, which even I admit is kind of doubly sad, but see, you want her to feel like a pariah, like a lower form of life, because that’s what, deep down, you feel she is, what you feel anyone tethered to any addiction is. And now you feel that you have the moral authority to pass judgment on these people, that because of your recent experiences, you can expound on anything, you can play the conquering victim, a role that gives you power drawn from sympathy and disadvantage–you can now play the dual role of product of privilege and disenfranchised Job. Because we get Social Security and live in a messy house with ants and holes in the floorboards you like to think of us as lower class, that now you know the struggles of the poor — how dare you! — but you like that stance, that underdog stance, because it increases your leverage with other people. You can shoot from behind bulletproof glass.” (>>)
“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in the casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.” (>>)
“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.” (>>)
“Itâ€™s about a kid who learns to not be ashamed of whom he is. In the beginning, he is ashamed of his faith. He feels that faith is socially and intellectually inferior so he wrestles with loving his community while still not wanting to be a part. When he goes off to Reed, he finds escape from that, but through a relationship with Penny, has to confront the reality that faith is larger and more encompassing than he had judged. And he has to face the fact that he is a poser and is as judgmental as those he would consider to be his enemies.” (>>)
So say you’re feeling kind of sad and anxious, missing some girl or whatever, but you’re not totally depressed. You could go either way. It’s two in the fucking morning and you have to wake up in four hours, but you can’t sleep. Obviously you’re going to put on a record–or open up a playlist, you damn whippersnappers… but what do you choose?
You could listen to a sad song, something old and smooth and emotionally self-destructive, something by Otis Redding or Patsy Cline. That would be true to your feelings and comforting in a familiar but unhealthy way, like that bad relationship you kept going back to until your soul resembled Leonardo DiCaprio in the subway bathroom scene from Basketball Diaries.
Or, you could put on something new and fast and irrelevant, something with clever production and loud guitars. Something to numb your heart and distract your mind, like when Americans see pictures of genocide on the news and flip over to Desperate Housewives or ESPN. Motion City Soundtrack or maybe some Hot Hot Heat.
Because these choices are important. “Which came first, the music or the misery,” you know? Wallowing in beautifully harmonized self-pity starts to get a little pathetic by the time you reach your mid-twenties. But is it healthy to manipulate your feelings in order to be, well… healthy?
Maybe there’s a reason all those shallow preppy kids are so happy driving around in the BMW convertibles their parents buy them, listening to Britney Spears or N*Sync or whatever the hell the music industry is shitting out these days. But do you really want to live like that? I mean, those people acquire our contempt for good reason.
So, what do you do? Hunch down in the closet with Otis and a bottle of red, waiting for the voices to tire themselves out, or play Solitaire on your laptop with Britney until she bores the hell out of you and you can go back to sleep?
Or maybe you just make up a mix of both, sort it randomly and write something slightly neurotic for your blog.
“Excuse me, did I do something wrong? I get invited, then ignored all night long.”
“I’ve been trying, I’m not lying. No one’s perfect, I’ve got baggage.”
“Life’s too short, babe, time is flying. I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine.”
“I should tell you…” (>>) [MP3]
“I am an affectionate man but I have much trouble showing it.
“When I was younger I used to worry so much about being alone–of being unlovable or incapable or love. As the years went on, my worries changed. I worried that I had become incapable of having a relationship, of offering intimacy. I felt as though the world lived inside a warm house at night and I was outside, and I couldn’t be seen–because I was out there in the night. But now I am inside that house and it feels just the same.
“Being alone here now, all of my old fears are erupting–the fears I thought I had buried forever by getting married: fear of loneliness; fear that being in and out of love too many times itself makes you harder to love; fear that I would never experience real love; fear that someone would fall in love with me, get extremely close, learn everything about me and then pull the plug; fear that love is only important up until a certain point after which everything is negotiable.” (>>)
“The whole song is a study of reality through the lens of opposites: inside vs. outside, fact vs. fiction, heart vs. brain. When looking at something, which view shows the soul or the truth of the matter, and which is just a shadow or filter of the truth.” (>>)
“It has been the same in all my relationships. There was always, within me, this demand for affection, this needy, clingy monkey on my back. I wouldn’t be satisfied unless the girl wanted to get married right away, unless she was panicky about it, and even then I would imagine a non-existent scenario in which she finds another man or breaks up with me because of the way I look. I would find myself getting depressed about conversations that never even took place.” (>>)
” ‘Rapture’ may raise some Christian eyebrows with its equation of physical lust to spiritual fulfillment, but it’s a perfect picture of just how low these characters have sunk to bring meaning to their lives.” (>>)
“As we live with people daily, all the anger, hatred, jealousies and fear of others, also the need to dominate, to run away or to hide, seem to rise up … While we are alone, we could believe we loved everyone. Now that we are with others, living with them all the time, we realize how incapable we are of loving, how much we deny to others, how closed in on ourselves we are” (>>)
“Evangelical Christians talk about life transformation by the grace of God. At the same time, millions of people have tried what evangelicals have recommended- conversion, church, prayer, Bible reading, deliverance, worship, discipleship, Christian events, retreats, music and on and on- and remained the same. Unchanged.” (>>)
“…watching TV in his underwear, his empty living room illuminated by the flickering light of a cathode ray tube, his eyes glinting with a sad alcoholic sheen as they gaze into the prison of memory.” (>>)
“Even as he spoke, a deep sadness began to form in the bottom of Solomonâ€™s soul. It was like the sadness a man feels when he realizes that the woman of his dreams was his until he let her go. It was like the sadness of discovering that a hasty decision has destroyed all hope for a wondrous joy that might have been but will never be. It was a regretful, coward-like sadness.” (>>)
“No matter how happy and healthy I am, there is a voice that calls me back to things that are not good for me, things that donâ€™t even bring me pleasure. Itâ€™s like eating an entire bag of Cheetos while youâ€™re watching a movie. You do not enjoy the last three fourths of the bag, but something tells you to keep eating. And you do.” (>>)
“He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, not withstanding corporate worship, common prayer and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from their fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.” (>>)
“You criticize others for being Pharisees. I’ll tell you who the real Pharisees are. They’re you… You think you’re so high and mighty and mature… You find a group to look down on, to feel more spiritual than, and you talk about them behind their backs. That’s what a Pharisee does. You’re a Pharisee.” (>>)
“Tolstoy’s ardent strides towards perfectionism never resulted in any semblance of peace or serenity. Up to the moment of his death the diaries and letters kept circling to the rueful theme of failure. When he wrote about his religious faith, or attempted to live out that faith, the antagonism between the real and the ideal haunted him like a dybbuk. Too honest for self deception, he could not silence the conscious that convicted him because he knew his conscious to be true. Leo Tolstoy was a deeply unhappy man. He fulminated against the corrupt Russian Orthodox Church of his day and earned their excommunication. His schemes for self-improvement all floundered. He had to hide all the ropes in his estate and put away his guns in order to resist the temptation towards suicide. In the end, Tolstoy fled from his fame, his family, his estate, his identity; he died like a vagrant in a rural railway station.” (>>)
“…it was the image of johnny cash sitting out by his pool as his family is leaving him that i strangely felt so very personally connected to. that painful confrontation with yourself, when all the act has fallen away and what you’re left with is something completely unsalvageable and permanently ruined.” (>>)
“As the cold air hits me I wonder for the thousandth time what being homeless feels like. A sinking scary feeling fills my breast. To wander isolated amidst all that holiday cheer has to be devastating. But then again, you donâ€™t have to be homeless to feel that way.” (>>)
“The fierce words of Jesus addressed to the Pharisees of his day stretch across the bands of time. Today they are directed not only to fallen televangelists but to each of us. We miss Jesus’ point entirely when we use his words as weapons against others. They are to be taken personally by each of us. This is the form and shape of Christian Pharisaism in our time. Hypocrisy is not the perogative of people in high places. The most impoverished among us is capable of it. ‘Hypocrisy is the natural expression of what is meanest in us all.’ ” (>>)
“I want someone to pluck me off the side of the road and love me with total abandon. I’m not talking about God here, not something ephemeral, but a woman, a flesh and blood woman. A woman who’ll cast out my self doubt and drive it into the lake to be drowned. A woman who thinks I’m worth everything.” (>>)
“I wanted to fall on my knees, newly born, but I didn’t. I walked back home to Pat’s and got out the Scotch. I was feeling better, less out of control, even though it would be four more years before I got sober. I was not willing to give up a life of shame and failure without a fight.” (>>)
“I’ve been to a lot of huge public events in this country during the past five years, writing about sports or whatever, and one thing they all had in common was this weird implicit enmity that American males, in particular, seem to carry around with them much of the time. Call it a laughable generalization, fine, but if you spend enough late afternoons in stadium concourses, you feel it, something darker than machismo. Something a little wounded, and a little sneering, and just plain ready for bad things to happen. It wasn’t here. It was just…not. I looked for it, and I couldn’t find it.” (>>)