Tuesday Tuneup 51

Q.  What’s been bugging you lately?

A.  The Tuesday Tuneups.

Q.  Why?

A.  They’ve lost something.

Q.  How so?

A.  I think it started around about the time it would be a nice “game” to ask my readers to select a question for me, rather than me selecting one that I knew would work.

Q. How would you know?

A. Because I’ve been doing the “tuneups” since 1987, though not online, and not always on Tuesdays.   So I’ve accumulated a compendium of questions that do work.

Q. So are you going to select a new question for next week?

A. No.  I’m going to discontinue them for a while.

Q. Why?

A. Overloaded.   I’ve been dealing with what I call “Mainstream Stress” and it’s affecting my sense of integrity.

Q. Mainstream Stress?

A. The kind of stress one gets only in the Mainstream; that is, when one has multiple commitments, and has to show up at many specific places at specific times, prepared to conduct oneself according to an expected fashion.

Q. Are you trying to say you’ve been working too hard?

A. Something like that.  But I’ve always worked very hard.  I just haven’t done it to deadlines, or under pressure, in recent years.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I don’t believe that deadlines and pressures are good for the human spirit.  I also believe that my not having operated according to these Mainstream values is what has kept me generally happy and healthy over the years.

Q. And you are not happy and healthy now?

A. Still healthy, though at risk.

Q. And happy?

A. That depends upon what is meant by happiness.

Q. Why are you evading the question?

A. Scripture equates happiness with God’s blessings.  I have definitely been in receipt of God’s blessings.

Q. Then why aren’t you happy?

A. Because, apparently, I have been seeking happiness from a source other than God.

Q. What source is that?

A. Art.

Q. You have a friend named Art?

A. Um, no — I do know one guy named Art, but he’s only a casual acquaintance.   I’m talking about Art — as in Music.  Writing.  Singing.  All the things I have turned to in order to give beauty to an ugly situation.

Art


Q. What situation?

A. I can’t answer that.  I am sorry.  It’s too deep and too personal.

Q. May I then therefore be excused?

A. Not just yet.  Let’s decide when the Tuneups will recur.

Q. When would you like them to recur?

A. October 1, 2019.

Q. Deal?

A. Deal.

Angel and demon deal Vector Image #131294 – RFclipart

 

The Questioner is silent. 

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Tuesday Tuneup 24

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater certainty.

Q. Why do you need greater certainty?

A. Because uncertainty makes me uneasy.

Q. But isn’t the world, in general, quite an uncertain place to be?

A. It is, yes.

Q. Then how can you expect greater certainty?

A. I can’t.  At least, not from the world.

Q. From where, then?

glass darklyA. From heaven, I suppose.  I’m reminded of the famous Scripture: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then, face to face.”  (1 Corinthians 13:12.)

Q. Are you saying you would like to be in heaven, rather than on earth?

A. Well, I think that goes without saying.  Both at once would be preferable, but hardly likely.

Q. Why not?

A. I don’t know.  It just doesn’t seem to ever happen, somehow.  I mean, we can pray “thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” till the cows come home.  But does that ever really change anything?

Q. Why wouldn’t it?

A. Because the world is by nature uncertain.  Impermanent — as the Buddhists say.  You see a guy alive today; chances are he won’t be alive a hundred years from now.  Everything is in flux, and constantly changing.

Q. But isn’t that beautiful?

A. It can be.

Q. Can’t you just roll with it?

A. I try to.

Q. And when you fail?

A. When I fail, I have a tendency to be contrite, remourseful.  Or at the very least, contemplative.  At those times, I turn to God more easily.  I seek certainty from the Source of it, not from my fellow human beings, who are —

Q. Fickle?

A. I wasn’t going to put it that way!  Evidently, I expect too much of them.  I even expect too much of my own self.

Q. How so?

A. I expect a kind of consistency of purpose.  A continual adherence to my calling.  Instead, I see myself being torn this way and that, by the ebb and flow of circumstance.  My supposed calling, if I even have one, means very little to me now.

Q. Why?

A. Not making money.  It gets to you after a while.  All this hard work, for what?

Q. But isn’t the work its own reward, in and of itself?

A. Only when I’m on fire.  Only when I’m motivated, inspired.  Then the money, or the lack of it, ceases to matter.

Q. When did you stop being inspired?

A. About ten days ago.

Q. What happened then?

A. Not sure I want to elaborate.  Something in the general category of a traumatic event,  involving a near-death experience.  Not sure it would be healthy to discuss.

Q. Near-death experience?

A. Not sure how else to describe it.  Everything started spinning; I lost my center; my consciousness; my identity; my sense of self.  My “I” was being ripped out of me.  It’s never happened to me before except once when I was under the influence of LSD, long ago.

Q. And you were not under the influence of LSD?

A. Don’t make me laugh. Not in this chapter of the New Story, nosirree.

Q. How did this loss of self come about?

A. Dehydration.  That’s what the medical report said.  I was going at it too hard, too much too soon, training for a 10-K, and apparently treading the wrong path. In the smoke, in fire season, excessively caffeinated, and insufficiently hydrated. And anxious, and scared. They had to pump a liter and a half of salt water into me at the hospital.

Q. Are you okay now?

A. Physically, yes.

Q. And mentally?

A. I’m basically all right.  I just feel a bit confused, and torn.

Q. How so?

A. I’ve lost all heart for the themes I usually write about.  It’s drudgery to even follow through with my writing commitments.

Q. Why is this?

A. It’s tiring.  Everything I write about homelessness, about classism, it’s all getting stale. People don’t get it.  It’s unrewarding. I’m preaching to the Choir.  And the Choir can’t do anything about the situation.  I start to offend people with money — people with privilege.  This increases anxiety.  I don’t want to offend anyone.  I work on my tone of voice, to try to ensure that I don’t seem too biting, or bitter. But if I keep speaking my truth, it’s inevitable.  I’m tired of —

Q. Of speaking your truth?

A. Kinda.  It’s not getting anywhere, is it?   An occasional paycheck of $25 or $35, $50 if I’m lucky enough to get a two page article published.  For the number of views I’m getting on my writings, offline and off, it sure isn’t translating into making any kind of difference on this planet.

Q. Would you rather speak a lie than the truth?

A. Not at all, sir.  I would rather speak neither lie nor truth, but only speak the Beauty that is Art. I would that I would again be granted the great gift I once was granted.  The gift of letting the Artist prevail over the Philosopher.  Ever since last Summer, when I first started writing for Street Spirit, I’ve permitted the Philosopher to prevail over the Artist.  I even heard a still small voice in my head, when I was sitting in Shari’s Restaurant early one morning, that said: “Let the Philosopher prevail over the Artist.”  I heeded that voice, from that day — why it might even be a year ago, to this date — till now.

Q. And now?

A. I would really like for the Artist to prevail over the Philosopher.

Q. Why?

A. Because the Artist knows how to make a living.  Isn’t that a good enough reason?

Q. When was the last time the Artist made a living?

A. Off of his Art?  It was a while ago.  But the Artist knows how to make a living doing things unrelated to his Art.  The Artist knows how to get through a shit job every day, knowing that when he comes home at night, he will get to crank up his music notation software and do what he loves doing.  The Philosopher, on the other hand, only keeps scratching his head 24/7, taking long walks like Einstein on the beach, and being so preoccupied he can’t focus on a darn thing, other than whatever his life-purpose is supposed to be, his “higher calling,” and all that rot.   Can’t do a lick of work for the life of him.

Q. Why do I not believe you?

A. I have no idea.

Q. Could it be that there are a just a few holes in your story?

A. I suppose it could be.

Q. Then why don’t we each take a week or so to think about it, and reconvene on a future Tuesday?

A. Why not?  And come to think about, we’re both supposed to still be thinking about whatever happened two Tuesdays ago, as well.

Q. Oh my – how could I forget?

A. How could I forget?

Q. I don’t know — how could you?

A. Beats me.   Guess I’m getting old.

Q. May I be excused, sir?

A. (with a sigh) You may.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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“Get a Job!”

The spot where I used to sit on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley was in close proximity to a pub where Cal students would often become intoxicated.  I usually left before this could happen, but occasionally a drunken fellow would emerge in the daytime.

One day I was sitting there quietly, lamenting as usual the fact that too many people were approaching me telling me where the organized meals were, where the shelters were, how to get government “crazy money,” and so forth.  It tended to depress me, because I obviously knew all that stuff already.  What I wanted was some cash and some food for my stomach, so I could smile at them before they moved on.

But then this drunken guy came out of the pub, even though it was only about two in the afternoon.  He was making loud abusive comments toward women, and generally seemed pretty disgusting.  Of course, I probably seemed pretty disgusting too — just the sight of me sitting there — even though I wasn’t saying anything.  (As you know, if you’ve been reading me, my whole gig was to never open my mouth, and simply sit there, holding up an informative sign.)

Eventually, the young man staggered his way toward me, and stopped in front of my sign, staring at it silently, as though dumbfounded.

sign

Lifting up his eyes after what seemed an eternity, he then began to stare directly at me for an even longer eternity. Finally, he spoke.

“Get a job, man!!  Get off your butt!   Get a hustle!!!” 

He then staggered off of my spot just as sure as he’d staggered onto it.  I watched him stagger away, and once he was out of sight, I turned my head and saw another young man.  This new fellow, obviously more sober, was laughing.  Whether he was laughing at me, at him, with me, or with him — I cannot say.   Whatever the case, he apparently found the situation amusing.

I decided to break my rule at that point.  (That is to say, I opened my mouth.)

“You know what?” I said.

“What?” he asked.

“He’s right.”

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