MGMT, dead cows, and having it all
this was how it was for me and sandwiches. all my friends ate sandwiches for lunch. when i went over their houses, their parents made sandwiches. school lunch was pizza. which is not a sandwich, though similarly carb-heavy, but the carb debate is another subject entirely. the point is that i used to eat sandwiches. but i never felt full, and i always thought there was something wrong with me cus sandwiches never hit the spot but its what everyone was eating and no one else seemed like they were not feeling satisfied. i dunno, maybe the world was full of unsatisfied sandwich eaters and we were all bein weak and not speaking up. regardless. it wasnt until some time later when i started eating differently after reading some books about food that i realized sandwiches never filled me up cus they werent what my body wanted. now i listen to my cravings a lot more, i listen to my body when i eat, and i eat a lot healthier and better and just feel better about everything.
and if you were thinking this was not just a simple story about a powell and its sandwich you were correct, smart ass.
we all have moments when we do things because other people are doing them, or for whatever reason we think we’re supposed to/we are supposed to/we want to get something other than immediate satisfaction out of it. this can be all well and fine and this impulse (or set of impulses or whatever, im not trying to step on any psychologists/evolutionary behavioralists/smarter peoples toes here) is probably why we as a species have survived and built skyscrapers and whatnot. im not even saying this is in and of itself a problem. but what if its the root of a problem. the problem of why we’re so dissatisfied (ok, fine why IM so dissatisfied) with life sometimes.
so let me lay it out. this is how i used to do things (and how i still do things sometimes, though i am in the painstaking process of extricating myself from this system. …extricating yourself from this system while in law school, you ask? YES WHILE IN LAW SCHOOL OK WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO? one step at a time.)
to continue. this is how i used to do things. i would eat a sandwich, and i would not feel satisfied. i would then proceed to do one of two destructive things: (1)* tell myself that a genuine, authentic feeling of liking something doesn’t really exist. there is only the lukewarm eh; no one ever does something and says, man, thats exactly what i wanted, that feel soooo right. or (2) i would re-calibrate my expectation for what that genuine, authentic feeling should feel like: if this is what i feel when i eat a sandwich, and im supposed to feel this great feeling of satisfaction afterwards, then what i do feel must be a great feeling of satisfaction.
this is a sneaky little pernicious thing. worse than depression, which is a fucked up little pernicious thing. you can at least sometimes catch depression walking boldly through the front door like it owns the place. this guy always come through the back. like the slut it is. just kidding, i dont use that word. its offensive.
why is this thing pernicious? it is pernicious because (a) the things we end up doing are usually objectively important, so when we apply rational thought to our behavior were like, oh shit everythings fine (which doesn’t seem like a bad thing at first, but trust me, it can be); and (b) because it makes us think that there isn’t something real and authentic and genuine out there. it slowly it whittles away at that something that makes us happy, makes us free, makes us feel like people, but that’s impossible to locate and define rationally. that thing that we feel when we look up at the sky and see all the stars and are like, oh shit. or when we think about dying and everything suddenly seems so clear, like, oh, this is life, if i am sitting in this seat in this lecture, and this is a minute of my life, i better be doing this for a good reason, i better know why i am not just standing up and walking away. or at least, i better be aware that im alive and that i will die and this powerful feeling of being hits you…and youre like, how do i do this? how do i be a human? how do i balance everything. how do i take care of the shit i think i need to take care of (or that im at least not totally convinced i dont need to take care of..like my student loans), and still maintain this awareness of life? that thing that silly people call melodrama, because if you make it silly and theatrical and foolish, then you can hold it away from you with your pinky in the air.
and the answers we give are like…because you paid tuition, you want to become a lawyer, you want to be a public defender, there are people in jail. and these are all great (a) answers. but they aren’t really answering the question right. why is it important to be tied to tuition and money? why is being a lawyer better for anyone (you, the people youll be defending, your family, the world), than you walking out of the classroom, walking down the road, and experiencing everything you can before you die.
then you think…i dont want to get sick. i dont want to starve. i dont want to be cold. i really do want to become a lawyer, i like it, i like learning, i like doing (sometimes), what about my fam, what about my friends. and these are totally real considerations. so how do you do it. how do you look at the sky and realize what you see and feel is real, and when you let yourself go at night and are lying in your bed thinking about what it means to be breathing, you know this is a real thought. and when you’re reading your property book, you’re like, but shit, this is real too. maybe not real in the same way, but its real enough.
but if you stop there, and you say, ok, i like my clothes, i like money, money is real, i am jack donaghy, jack donaghy is real, power is real and you are not, you end up letting your brain run a coup on your intuition. in fact, its staged a motherfucking takeover.
and thats the problem. the brain is important, do not get me wrong. i love it, i live it, id marry it. but i would also cheat on it. ok let me not take this metaphor too far. the point is, brain cant be everything, and when it becomes everything, we lose out on something else. we lose out on that undefinable, being-ness thing. and to some people, including this person, that being-ness thing is so much more important than that brain-ness thing.
people have walked away into that being-ness thing, in different ways, but those people maybe devoted their entire life to maintaining awareness and its a serious thing to do. and maybe you’re not ready to do that, maybe you’ll never be ready to do that. maybe you want to walk that middle ground. but is that middle ground possible??
and you remember that louis sachar story from sideways stories from wayside school (or maybe it was more sidways stories from wayside school, or maybe it was wayside school is falling down i dunno) when one of the kids is looking out the window and sees a bird on the tree, and realizes that no one is making him sit in his chair in class on the 21st floor of the school, and he gets up and sits on the floor and walks downstairs to the basement and sees the man with the attache brief case who offers him some sort of deal, and he gets scared and goes back upstairs.
so what are you left with? i was talkin to a friend a long time ago, when i was having a similar crisis my senior year of college, and he was like, why do you have to experience every moment of being? maybe sometimes you’re just supposed to be a cog, just going. and it was sort of a relief to hear that at the time. like, ok, i can check out, i can just be on the wheel. but that was sort of like a sandwich (we’re coming full circle here, wait for it). it worked for him, so i thought it should work for me too.
i started telling myself that these questions weren’t important. that there was no such thing as feeling fulfilled and feeling real and authentic and like what i was doin had some real value other than a value other people said it had. and that feeling lasted a long, sad time. then it went away. i started looking at art again and feeling beauty, like, ok, this is real. i feel it. and thats something we shouldnt let go. that feeling we all can have that things are real, and have meaning, and if you feel like they dont, its cus you havent found it yet. you havent found your anti-sandwich.
so, this leaves us with the question. if you have found your anti-sandwich, how do you live with it? because that is the thing abotu sandwiches. they are so fuckin ubiquitous and in your face, that you know you will go through phases of your life when you are eating sandwiches thinkin this is the shit, while that little voice in your stomach/heart is like “this is not the shit!!!”
how do you live knowing you will eat more sandwiches because you’ve happened to place yourself in a fucking corner deli, but still remember to eat some cauliflower and quinoa everyday?
i dont know if i can walk away and just be, at least not yet, not right now. so how do i stay present and me and aware…while still walking that law school line? i dunno, maybe its not possible. maybe, liz lemons of the world, its not possible to have it all.
maybe there are small things to do. such as listening to MGMT and other good music. I think this video is super comforting, though I am aware of contrary opinions. Actually I think pretty much every MGMT song is awesome and comforting.
As a wise person once said, quoting a movie that i dont think actually said this, sometimes you have to stand on a dead cow just to stand on a dead cow. and if you scoff, maybe you are the one who most needs to stand on a dead cow. maybe youll see something youve never seen before.
so maybe thats the first step in walking that middle ground. keep doing things youve never done before, keep standing on dead cows, and maybe enlightenment will follow. or maybe youll have to give up and move to an ashram where youll realize law really was the way to go. check back.
*i have found that parenthetical numbers – (1),(2), etc – achieve what hours of studying cannot in conveying mastery of a subject matter. future lawyers, take note!