Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Pieces of puzzles, threads of webs.
Scrolling through Netflix a few weeks ago, my wife stumbled on Pee-wee's Playhouse and decided to see if our three year old would have any interest. After an insistence that we watch the episode "Monster in the playhouse" on repeat for a few days we're now well into the third season and she loves it! When I told a buddy of mine we were watching it he told me about The Nerdist podcast and their interview late last year with Pee-wee himself, Paul Reubens. Among slews of other interesting things Reubens had to say about the development of his career and the Pee-wee persona, he mentioned one thing that anchors it all: he knew from the age of seven he wanted to be an actor. He tells a funny story about how, as a youngster, he hated Ron Howard because he thought he could do a better job than him as Opie. But from that moment on, he took every risk and opportunity to make it happen. For him, that was it.
Somewhere among the fifteen million headlines for Huffington Post articles that show up in my Facebook feed every day I remember briefly scanning one with the headline: The question we should all stop asking each other when we first meet, or something like that. It piqued my interest enough to read the first paragraph to find out that "what do you do for work?" was the author's culprit. He or She argued that it automatically forces us to place class judgments on each other, or something along those lines, leading to potential disconnects right out the gates. Instead, we should ask broader questions like "what do you like to do?" and let that conversation develop. I thought, "Yeah, I'm more than what I do for work, dammit!" And then stopped reading, because I got the gist of it.
Several months ago I started seeing a therapist with the intention of talking about Mommy/Daddy issues. While we've certainly talked through those, the conversation often comes back to my understandings around purpose and fulfillment, and my struggles in feeling those. I speak most about the confusion of never having had a moment where I felt sure I should to be doing any particular thing. Some people find this easy. Some people, like Reubens, know from early childhood what they want to do in life. Some people just enjoy something so much they can't not do it. Some people have life-altering experiences or epiphanies that show them the way. And some people believe the Heavens have decreed their purpose. However this certainty comes about, these people pick something and do it. They're doing their it.
I've talked with several friends recently who have said they feel like they're not doing anything productive, moving toward any particular goal, or they're not where they thought they'd be in life by now. They have a dissatisfaction with themselves. Like they're not doing something more significant. When I asked a friend about her dissatisfaction, she called it her "artistic voice" that's trying to get out. And, as she's an artist, not doing art in a full-time way, it makes sense that she'd call it that. I wonder if there are people who aren't artists in any structured fashion that feel this same nag? As I think of all the people I know experiencing this frustration, they're all artists. So maybe there's something to that.
The grand-picture part of my mind wants to deconstruct our ideas about purpose by relating it to class issues. The fact that survival is not something we have to consider, at least as middle-classers with, I'm guessing most of you reading qualify, white-privilege, changes the dynamic so much. The mere fact that I can sit here and try to wax eloquently about my ideas proves that I have the privilege to do so. I like to think about history and the development of civilizations and how people, as pieces in a puzzle, may have had a much clearer idea about what they're to do in life. Trades were often handed down through generations and only rarely was the glass shattered because people have to put food on the table. It's sort of a cog in the machine viewpoint. The machine must have all its working parts. There's a whole-lotta ugly in that sort of view too. Why should one person die of coal inhalation for another person's Industrial Imperialism? Not saying it's better one way or the other, but perhaps the option-paralysis much of my generation struggles with was not as present.
A friend recently joked about being terrible at job interviews, because he finds it hard to fake wanting to work. "Why do I want to work here? Well, I have time and I'd like to trade it to you for money." When I think of people who are super career-oriented, they are usually willing to give much of their time to their career. It's what they place value on. That or they want more money, which then requires more of their time in order to acquire it. In an attempt to fight against my self-hatred for my lack of ambition, I place value judgments on things outside of the career world. What do I like to do? Or, better yet, what makes me me? Well, let me refer you to the brief bio in the bottom right corner of this page. I am a father, a husband, a writer, a band-dude (quick plug), and so much more, right? Oh, and I'm a cog in Retail and a part-time Massage Therapist. Pieces of my puzzle. Threads of my web. But the image to my puzzle still seems hazy. I've somehow created a world in which there are no other options and have spent all my time trying fit something rather than find what fits me. There is no shoe that fits. So I guess I have fill my time with all sorts of shoes. And because of this, I have knots in my stomach, and scurry about hoping to find the elusive right single shoe. Perhaps the ambitious have the same knots, but on the opposite side of things, being defined by one particular aspect of their lives. We're all struggling with something.
As Greg Bennick, of the brilliant Between Earth & Sky, and of being-the-kind-of-guy-I-wish-I-was put it: purpose is anything we give purpose to. And my mind knows this. But my mind is at war with my history and with our culture.
My dad went to school for Engineering, until one fateful day when God called him to be a minister. There are people like Kayla Mueller who die trying to relieve the suffering of Syrian refugees. And then there's Pee-wee and a billion other examples of people who just knew what they wanted to do, I'm just not one of them, and so I'm doing things, and thinking about more things.
Here's to searching for the elusive it, and to balance and patience.
Image: stolen from google at http://media.cleveland.com/tv_blog/photo/peewee01jpg-537d8351f2470384.jpg