Desire

“I’m sitting down by the highway; down by this highway town. Everybody’s going somewhere; riding just as fast as they can ride. I guess they’ve got a lot to do; before they can rest assured their lives are justified. Pray to God for me babe; he can let me slide”Jackson Browne – Bright Baby Blues

I think it was that cheery cherub Buddha who said that wanting was the source of all pain, and while I consider that gem true, it’s not to say we shouldn’t want things. On a dissimilar axiom, for me anyway, and I’m as competitive a person as you’re likely to find within those activities I am naturally gifted at, leaving the others alone, I’ve always felt that seeming to want anything to much was just bad form, since, again for me, I can’t be cool and needy at the same time.

It is in our youth that we strive to accomplish and here I’m speaking of the male ego, an attribute I’m often derisively chided about, but when raised to the very highest level,  I believe without which, we wouldn’t have civilization.

Once we wake to discover we’ve become adept at a young age our life is irrevocably changed from just someone to a serious artist of life. There is a spiritual component to serious art but there is also a warrior ethic; the notion of going places where we are not welcome. This does not have to mean world-wide acclaim; only greatness within the arena we find ourselves deployed.

When in the mix I’ve often felt like a punch-drunk boxer who’s been hit by his opponent and knocked down and gets up and gets hit again and falls down and gets up and knocked down again and finally the bell rings to find me exhilarated and giddy because, though I had been humbled, I got through the fight. Something shifted inside me from that first time and I felt that from there on I would be an outlaw. Those who’ve experienced this phenomenon know of what I speak.

I knew from then on I wouldn’t try to please any audience, critics, or reviewers, I would fight the battles in the rings I felt competitive in and write the books I wanted to write for writing is a rebellious act and artists are rebels. There is something transgressive about being a serious writer. To have it said that no one has done this before, or they haven’t done it quite the way you’re doing it and therefore it has to be wrong; makes it for certain you’re on the right path.

So a writer must have certain resilience and that’s where enormous ego comes into play and is very valuable. At the same time one must possess ardor and passion, a spiritual, one might say a visionary, commitment to the work. I feel that in my writing I am trying to bear witness for people who can’t speak for themselves, for one or another reason they don’t possess the literary language or are disenfranchised socially or politically or may not even be alive or more times than not they’ve had experiences that have rendered them mute.

It’s up to the writer and the artist to give voice to these people. There are two impulses in art: one is rebellious and transgressive; you explore regions where you are not wanted, and you will be punished for that. But the other is a way of sympathy; evoking empathy for people who may be different from us whom we don’t know. Art is a way of breaking down the barriers between people and these two seemingly antithetical impulses toward rebellion and toward sympathy come together in art.

If I never eat in another great restaurant or bed another magnificent woman or taste the best of things this life has to offer I’m sure I’ll be fine with it since I feel like all those hedonistic experiences have been satiated and assuaged and I haven’t missed one pleasure or wasted a minute. But I’m not talking about possessions; things we can buy; but experiences; those things that can’t be bought; the things that don’t end up owning us but the things we own that make us who we are.

They say in astrology that after our first Saturn Transit (cycling every 29 years) we will go on to do something we touched in those first 29 years and that seems about right to me. Once everything has been had all that’s left is to revisit to one degree or another one or some of those things. But after a lifetime of purely hedonistic pursuits I find the practice wanting. This is not to say I don’t enjoy a cashmere top coat or a fine glass of whisky or a captivating woman or any of the other myriad of  self-indulgent gratifications; I do, but the desire to achieve those pleasures has faded to insignificance and I tend to view them as what they are; a joyful indulgence.

I regard extravagant delights as amusements and recreation; like a good dose of codeine and a Camel straight; since I like my poisons pure. But the desire for outward enchantments have given way to what’s best described as the greater good.

Nobel’s and Pulitzer s are not awarded to the richest but to those who gave the most to the rest of us. Each of us has a special gift, something we are naturally good or great at and some can take the 10,000 hours of doing it that Malcolm Gladwell posited was required to get good at anything before they get there. But success is like life; not a destination but a journey. To achieve success at anything we only need to take the first step to realize it. The minute we start on the journey we are a success.

The question that equally fascinates and perplexes me tonight is this: If want no longer holds sway and hiking towards what I consider the greater good to be is, and I have bridged the chrysalis and crossed the Rubicon and am truly on the Appian Way; what great visions will appear on the path to Rome. You could say I wish to know but it’s less than want; I’m just curious; and that, tonight anyway, feels just about good enough.

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About circusinpurgatory
Nick Masesso Jr’s fictionalized short stories, poetry and prose have been published in the Starry Night Review, Elegant Thorn Review, Language and Culture.net and Vagabond Press; the Battered Suitcase. His latest book “Armor of Innocence” and first book “Walking the Midway in Purgatory, a Journal” are available on-line and through bookstores.

2 Responses to Desire

  1. portowingo says:

    However it is nice to here from Nick on a regular basis. He is an adventurer of the spirit and I worry he may get eaten by the local shape shifters if he is silent too long.

  2. James Mcfarland says:

    wild and wholly, 8.4 rating

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