I used to wear ball caps to hide my face. Now I use a beard. It gives me confidence, a safe space separating me just enough from everything. There’s a battle royal waging in a deep place in me. Everybody’s beating the piss out of everybody else. Character’s hanging tough but keeps getting thrown out of the ring by the tag team of selfishness and fear. Commitment seems to have an iron jaw. Haste, having it in for patience, just threw a chair in the ring. I hate that guy. Courage is poised bear chested in the center pointing at each combatant. He calmly utters over and again, “Stop being a little bitch.”
Why do I cry for no reason in the middle of my day sitting at a table barely big enough for one person in a Starbucks on a boulevard in Buffalo, New York? You probably can’t characterize it as actual out loud, tears cascading down into your overgrown beard crying. This is what people mean when they say crying on the inside. I get it now.
There I go again.
Your vision gets a little cloudy for a second or two and then you suck it back because people can see you.
The Germans have a term, schadenfreude. It’s shameful joy, feeling good when you see another fail. That’s not what I’m feeling but it’s probably a cousin once or twice removed. I almost-cry because I’m trapped. I feel like it, anyway. I’m trapped inside of myself. I swirl in my chest. I swell in my heart. I claw my way out but I never get out. You can see the score marks on the interior walls of my ventricles. They’ll be discovered by a farmer thousands of years from now as his cattle graze, soaking in the cave winds near those chambers. People will pretend to know what those scrapes mean. They’ll be wrong.
The feeling that I’m always feeling even when I’m not feeling it is triggered by witnessing someone else being themselves in art. A song. A video. A work of writing. I know when you are being who you are, when you are powerful beyond restraint. It makes my throat hurt.
Here I go again.
I breathe it back through my nostrils and then banish its exhaust peacefully through and past my teeth. It shatters like protonic particles of light under and then around and over my lips.
I almost-cry because of longing. I’ve little magnet-responsive shards woven into my flesh, into my marrow. It summons me. I could say there’s no direct line to it and that’s the pain. That could be correct. I could say it’s nothing if it isn’t a direct path pile driving my body through every obstruction between me and my polar beacon punishing my pleasure receptors. Then it would be correct to believe this determined line is the pain antagonist. It hurts the same, either way.
To be moved, that is being alive. To move, that is living. Not to simply act, that is one kind of movement. Rather, to act upon others, to make your environment flinch for the delight of purpose herself. This is the kind of living that will bear upon others.
You and I, and everyone, are in a “we” generation. It’s about being in this thing together. Perhaps that’s where some of my almost-crying springs from. Where is my “me” in a time like “we?” I’m afraid it may never condense to a potent form. Not that I crave the self-indulgent freedoms. I seek to satiate my daily value of influence for goodness and eternity. Like I am being drawn, I seek to draw others for their peace not my glory. The only glory I will ever achieve has already been achieved by a much nobler man and I had nothing to do with it.
I hope I’m not being a whiner.
I am acting. I believe most of it to be contrived regurgitations, but I’m acting.
I hope I cast a long shadow that enables others to flourish. Wouldn’t that be something?
Below: The 17 Strangers are an ad-hoc band of Wizard Academy alumni who met one evening, got some training the next morning, then wrote, practiced and performed 14 completely original songs over the next 48 hours. Wizard Academy is the most interesting business school in the world. (Last week, one of our Magical Worlds cognoscenti was a fellow who writes musical scores for movies. Cool, huh?)