Read it in the Strata
I am starting to realize that I am living two lives, and that they are grossly incompatible. They are not Detroit and Boston; I’m not so malleable as all that. But they are certainly exemplified in their respective places, for any art must inevitably concede the will of raw materials. On one hand, I love human beings. I could build and justify an entire personal philosophy on the grounds of maximizing my interactions with good people. I want to sit around campfires and drink and smoke and laugh. I want to wake up in the sand, build spears and hurl bottles of rum into the inland sea. I want to yell and jump and beat makeshift drums. I want argue about your quirks and idiosyncrasies and marvel at our differences and then resolve them with laughter. I want all of this every day, and I want every rigid tick mark of calendar time to relax and dissolve into day and night.
On the other hand, I demand the solitude that wrings quantifiable progress out of every passing second. I can spend weeks and months in a cycle that’s strict and rigid and wrought with challenges, and it doesn’t rob of the human will to impulse and distraction, but brings it to the fore, teaches control, and makes life feel real and vibrant and raw. Life is capable of dealing extreme highs and lows, and by placing at regular and frequent interval the inevitability of exhaustion and stress, of pain and suffering, and the high probability failure and shame, you can achieve glory to put every intoxicant to shame. I want to read the books others cringe at and write the papers others couldn’t. I want to think hard and mutter and twitch until these abstractions take shape for me. I want to fight for the insights no number of hours will get you, but only the achievement of a new level of concentration. All this just to watch the respect and disdain brew unwillingly in the core of peers and superiors. I want to run and throw weights and release raw-throated and primal distress calls through the gym. I want to positively cower in the face of the tasks ahead of me, and then drive through them with mindless exertion, all because when I drop the last impossible weight, its clambering to the ground over my breathe speaks some epic fuck you to everyone and everything, and I mean it. This mode of life isn’t about people, it’s about me. It’s not about ego, but action. It’s about weakness seeping out in the sweat and the ink.
The merging of these two lifestyles seems to me impossible. Take any compromise between the two, any average behavior, and each philosophy is ruined. My solution has been (and this by no conscious planning of my own) to segregate them into distinct periods of time. I charge full speed at every test and trial for weeks, and then I forget it all, let the progress fade, and run off on great and irresponsible binges, enjoying whatever company I can find and relearning culture from only the most random and unexpected participants. And over time the dividing lines between these two have become darker and deeper, the transitions sharper, and the executions more extreme. I can’t help but wonder what I’m barreling towards here; what inevitable reckoning lies down this path. I may have found a passable solution to these dual urges of mine, but I’m more than a little unnerved by the fact that I am not converging toward anything stable, but fluctuating ever more wildly. Then again, I’d rather go down in flames than fade and atrophy in the middle ground.