Chapter Three, The Fragmentation
A postmodern struggle against indifference or a warning sign of something else?
by philip scott wikel
“I should be an actor, a writer, a director, a graphic designer, a singer/songwriter, a waiter, a bartender, a deckhand, a teacher, an escort, a publisher, an agent, a distributor of goods, a clothing designer, a painter, a carpenter, a photographer, any kind of artist; I was born for all of these things and more. I should be all these things or just one or several at the same time. I should sleep more, sleep less, eat better, drink more, drink less, exercise more, be patient, be more active, “just do it,” relax, let the butterfly land on my shoulder, keep moving, move quickly, slow down, be more proactive, read the signs, ignore the signs, decide between what I see and what I know, figure out if I know anything, Give myself more credit for the knowledge I have, realize I don’t know much or nothing, be proud of the wisdom I have, expand my horizons, focus on a tangible part of the picture, give some clothes to the thrift store, shop at the thrift store, hang out, be more social, have some more alone time, spend more time with friends, find a girlfriend, learn how to be alone, go on dates, make plans, go with the flow, be spontaneous, be practical, be ridiculous, smile more, express anger, get a massage, be a stonemason, surf all the time, pay bills on time, don’t take anything too seriously, get focused, care about everything, don’t care so much, use my head more, use it less, follow my heart, be careful not to leap before I look, jump, run, fly, walk, travel, pray more, have sex, sublimate, share, take what’s mine, allow things to come into my life, make things happen, push, pull, stop, go, take a nap,” he thought.
Driving a long the small two-lane highway in Ojai, he found himself once again looking at the license plates of cars coming at him from the other direction. Somehow or another he’d come to believe that on them might lie some message. At first it was just a way to pass the time driving. He drove this road back and forth twice a day in each direction and was tired of the same scenery which passed by not unlike that of the background of Flintstones cartoon. How he’d come to this point of almost believing in the possibility of a real message on a license plate he wasn’t sure. A message from whom, or what? He was still sane enough to question himself about this. A message from whom, or what, and further, why? Why look here?
In many ways he’d all but lost his faith in the traditional modes of discovering his path; through church, meditation, counseling, conversation with friends. He was struggling with the idea that he might now have become a cold hard existentialist. And not just an existentialist, an existentialist without any sense of conviction. Life had all but lost meaning.
“You’ve got to just live it” he’d sometimes think. Find a comfortable pattern and settle into it. The title of a book haunted him since he was 15, “Toward What Bright Glory.” He wondered about this. Where are we going or are we going anywhere at all except maybe just for a ride that we call life. But his dreams had become little more than distant and no longer even romantic notions. He’d once wanted to be a novelist; even recently sending more than a hundred query letters to literary agents. Had the rejections cut him off from this? He couldn’t feel a pull in any direction anymore.
The days seemed a ponderous circle. How nice it would be to be out of his head again and on a mission, warm with the belief of moving toward something, accomplishing something that served an inner need to feel as if there was something to be accomplished.
And then there was music. He was of such a thin skin that every sentiment in every song would sway him. This must have something to do with this or that he would think. It’s meant to tell me something. But wait there’s this song. What am I to see in this. The last one was positive. I’ve got to turn off the radio, it’s not about me he’d think. Leave it off. But the next day the same thing. Sometimes if he was lucky he could fend off this notion for a couple of days and feel some sense of immunity from the radio. But music is everywhere. There have to be bigger signs than these he’d think. And he’d look.
He couldn’t have been born at a worse moment, 11:15 am, October 16, 1980; libra with sagittarius rising and a scorpio moon. Indecisive, tendency to selfishness combined with a dark sense of things and how suspect it all seems. He was, however, intuitive. Far more intuitive than anyone knew or he would let on. But he sometimes went along with things that didn’t feel right; mostly out of a sense of morbid curiosity, just to see how far a person would try and take him and partly because he spent so much time alone he felt he shouldn’t call them on their bullshit ‘cuz then they’d disconnect from him.
It gets to a point when all the dorm-room chat seems like so much sophomoric shit. He felt like he’d seen it all, heard it all. (Done it all?) Life is life and it has as much meaning as one chooses to give it. Maybe it’s about embracing it all, or most of it anyway.
As soon as they got back East all this went away and he was restored to himself. He supposed the test that was Ojai would make sense to him someday.