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Sunday, January 16, 2011

the duality of man

In the movie Full Metal Jacket, when the character Joker is asked by his commanding officer why he wears a peace sign pin on his uniform but also “born to kill” across the front of his helmet, he responds:

“I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir”

This always resonated with me. Man is capable of such good and such pure evil, all at once. One reason we will never experience such opposition to war the way we did during Vietnam is because the draft is over. Remember Leonard Lawrence, (the “Gomer Pyle” character from Full Metal Jacket) who was slow to learn army basics and went ape shit one night, killing his military sergeant and then himself? Ya well, we learned our lesson. Only people who want to be in the military go in now. That means no intellectual types like Joker either, who might suggest the duality of man, (and also no more journalist types like Cowboy- to take pictures of combat and the dead bodies arriving home from Iraq). 

I guess it is sort of what I am trying to suggest with this little snippet from my own life:

I have looked down at that sticker many times and thought perhaps it would be better suited stuck to my bike. But then that Full Metal Jacket quote comes to mind, and somehow it feels important to remind myself what I am capable of.  I don’t need to remind myself to burn calories while I’m riding my bike, I need to remind myself while I’m driving. If I stuck that sticker to my bike, I would just be condescending to tell other people how to live. It would be a denial; like ignoring a very real truth, which is: I DO BURN OIL. But by sticking the sticker to my own gas gauge, I am only telling myself how to live while simultaneously reminding myself that I am not perfect. Maybe seeing the sticker inside my car will actually guilt trip me into driving less? That’s the idea anyway.

So why am I so judgmental when I see “I’d rather be …” bumper stickers?  You know, “I’d rather be skiing”, “I’d rather be parasailing”, “I’d rather be driving a golf club” (now that’s at least clever but still): I find myself indignantly saying at their car “Then why AREN’T you?” …”Go hit the slopes already douche bag” …”Just GO parasailing already”…”Then why are you driving a CAR?” Just do what you want to do people! Live in the moment! ….

But now I think, oh I don’t know, maybe those people have JOBS and they’re trying to suggest something about the duality of man.


Speaking of the duality of man, when my dad was my age he cut some bumper stickers apart to create a bumper sticker with a more existential statement: “I’d rather be being.” Soon after my dad was approached by an excited man in a parking lot, “Where did you get that sticker?! I AM A BEE KEEPER!” He had meant really, that he wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'd rather be bee-ing"…sigh. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter how hard you try.

Here’s some more I wrote on December 29, 2010 about life’s little gray areas:

On Mortality

Life’s full of dichotomies. What’s funny is, life is black and white AND gray area, all at the same time. The thought reminds me of that saying my dad likes, “there are two kinds of people in this world. The kind that think there are two kinds of people in this world, and then there is the rest”. I kind of feel like there has been a lot of death lately. ‘Kind of’ because I have been fortunate enough not to have been too directly affected by it but still, a lot of dying it seems. And with death you feel like people are always reminding you how fragile life is and to remember to tell people you love them, because anything can happen. You are reminded to live in the present and not to take things or people for granted. With death you are reminded of your humanity and of what is really important in life. Trivial things melt away and tangible memories with family and loved ones in real time come to mind. You are left wanting to hold those dear to you close and nothing else really matters.

At the same time I have been struggling towards one goal with very little measurable success for years. Working in sales you learn not to dwell on one “No”, and move swiftly to the next opportunity. I have applied this concept to my dreams and goals and decidedly move forward after each set back and don’t look behind. But after so many years it does begin to wear on you. After so many no’s you HAVE to look back. After all, if you don’t you’re bound to repeat the past. You have to improve and refine and adapt as you evolve and continue towards your goal. During this stage of constant flux and uncertainty, I have to remind myself that it would really only take one big good success to feel like I had made it. I have to remind myself that all the struggling and not getting anywhere is WORTH something; that it’s FOR something. I have to remind myself that one step forward and two steps back is not that bad if every so often, just once even, you get one good running leap. I remind myself that things take time. That Rome wasn’t built in a day. I tell myself it’s unreasonable to expect results in 24 hours.

So which the fuck is it? How does one sleep at night? Sure I stopped and smelled every damn rose today but I still didn’t accomplish anything. If you're supposed to live each day like it's your last I guess I'm going to spend tonight crying myself to sleep. How do I not get discouraged along the way if I’m supposed to have my eye on the prize while simultaneously “staying present”? It’s a tall order, staying balanced you know, without going crazy.

Now of course, that thing I have been struggling towards for years without much success is Roller Derby and it has everything to do with the re-evaluating that needs to be done. I don’t have any answers, all I know is that right now I’m just trying not to go crazy.

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