Empty Pursuits

“You just run like a man with no reason to run

And no place to ever arrive.

You must be a prisoner
Look just like a prisoner
You must be a prisoner in disguise”

-J.D. Souther

The moment nothing made sense anymore was the moment he felt suddenly freed from all the compulsions that had hounded him for most of his life. Sex, shopping, travel. For some reason, even though most people recognize the addictive potential of sex and shopping, travel seems to have escaped their judgment. They’re making a mistake. Travel is an expensive and exhausting way to try to run away from yourself. The more you do it, the sooner you’ll realize you brought yourself along for the ride.

Exotic climes and younger women promise more than they deliver. You can never get enough of what you don’t need. But you have to do something with yourself, right? You might still boil with ambition, awash in unexpected and sometimes crazy desire. You simply can’t sit still and do nothing.

Sometimes it seemed like the only way out was to be of service to others. Shift the focus. Other times it seems like the best way to have fun and get ahead would be to deal drugs and carry a weapon. Of course the concept of “getting ahead” is moot at this point. I stopped being of an age when I might have been said to “show promise” a long time ago. From this point on, the only thing ahead of me is the grave.

If I was going to act impulsively, I needed to find a new way to generate impulses that wouldn’t be the same ones I’d used before to spur myself into action. Based on past experience, I concluded they shouldn’t involve sex, shopping or travel. If I could find a way to generate random impulses to action, I might know a new freedom.

Life might become more interesting. I thought of rapidly listing maybe a hundred changes I could make in my life, then find a way to randomly choose among them. A chicken pecking at a piece of paper upon which these had been printed and then covered in chicken feed? A mouse scrolled over a spread sheet with my eyes closed?

I began my list: become a postman, learn Swedish, take up oil painting, learn to play to cello, learn to compose music, write an epic poem, buy a touring bicycle and ride daily, learn to cook, become fluent in a foreign language I already speak poorly…

It all looked so hard! Made me tired just writing the list much less accomplishing anything on it.

My Ressurection

They assumed they had killed me, but I had only been asleep. Even though I don’t remember doing so, in the distant past I must have taken a pill or inhaled a gas that put me in a state of suspended animation, for when I awoke many years had passed. I was painfully thin and my clothes had turned to gauzy rags. Fortunately, even though my limbs were weak my mind was sharp. In fact, I now thought with a clarity that heretofore had escaped me.

No longer did I feel the need to take exercise for its own sake. Purposeless activity was a waste of energy. All energy was potential energy, with the promise of doing great good. Going through the motions was play-acting, and for what audience? Why would anyone go to the effort?

Certainly, no sane person would squander his hours in such a fashion. Even now, months after my awakening, I don’t remember much about my past but I assume I was a person of some importance, otherwise I would not have been kept around for as long as I have. I’m pleased to report that the few people I have communicated with since my resurrection have treated me with respect.

I wanted to know if I was alone in having been put into storage and kept alive after a long time in a moribund state. Were there others in my position? If so, who were they and most importantly, where? Could I meet them?

If there were others, they remained hidden. We, the gaunt and confused kept to ourselves, awaiting an invitation to mingle that never arrived.

I recall being well-liked. It’s all a blur, but I do remember that things began to change unexpectedly and suddenly just before my fall from grace. Women who used to smile at me would no longer look me in the eye or even acknowledge my presence. Those I thought my friends were foes. The transformation had occurred literally overnight.

I wasn’t fired. Rather than anything that dramatic, the phone simply stopped ringing. New offers ceased. No longer in the loop, I wasn’t aware of the parties and meetings I hadn’t been invited to. People looked embarrassed when I stopped to chat. I could almost hear them exhale in relief when I moved on.

I was once offered an administrative position in a rapidly growing company, but I declined because I knew that they would eventually regret their decision and fire me. I can’t handle any more massive disappointments. No more performance evaluations, thank you. Not another case of being escorted out of the building by a security guard, the contents of my desk handed to me in a box as I wait by my car in the parking lot. You can keep your job and all that goes with it. I will enjoy poverty and freedom in equal measure. Never a team member, I don’t expect to suddenly change at this late date.

No one has ever been glad they hired me for any sort of job. Again, I could fool myself and others into thinking that “this time it’s different,” but what would be the point in doing so?

I came across an exit interview I had undergone at the last gasp of my “career.” For some reason, it had been recorded and transcribed, perhaps in case the matter of my severance ever reached litigation, or maybe it was to inform a therapist of the exact nature of my problems.

“Do you know why you’re being let go?”

“Let go. You mean fired?”

“Terminated from your employment here.”

“No, I don’t. Just last week I was congratulating myself on how well I was doing.”

“Why did you think you were doing well?”

“A general feeling. People seemed to like me. Clients treated me with respect.”

“You must have been aware of the complaints.”

“No, I wasn’t. Maybe they were saving them for a future performance evaluation.”

It turned out that no one but me ever thought I was doing a good job. Most of the time I didn’t think I was, but I always thought I had more time to turn it around. Success was right around the next corner.

And then there was the question of who was to blame. Surely this had been brought up at some higher-level meetings in Human Resources. How had they made such a colossal error as to hire me in the first place?

Maybe it’s time to make some radical changes. Would I make a good Breatharian? Just because the explanation on the back of my expensive all-natural shampoo promises to “greatly boost the body’s natural ability on a cellular level to attune with the vitalistic and expansive zero-point field of the quantum vacuum which then brings additional integrity to the body’s meridian network and energy centers” and I don’t know what that means, doesn’t mean I bought the wrong shampoo. It doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve spiritual ascendance.

I can’t tell if the shampoo was worth the money, but I can tell you that using it makes my hair clean. I enjoy having clean hair even more than I hate having dirty hair. So I’m on a path that speaks to me.

Maybe my moment to spread my wings and fly is now. This could be the time to come out of hiding, to take up the mantle that identifies me as one with special gifts. Just what those gifts are remains to be seen, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that they’re not mine.

My detractors, those who scoff at me, the school chums who never liked me much anyway are all eagerly awaiting my final crash. At least I never showed promise to begin with. They will be neither shocked or disappointed by my ruin. In fact, my complete and total failure as a human being will only comfort them. I will have proven them right.