I wrote the following to a co-worker today and thought I would share… just seemed appropriate to me.
December 21, 2012
After I began reading “A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again” I realized that I had read this over a decade ago when it was originally published in Harper’s. When I was on the Luge team in the mid-nineties my girlfriend had a subscription so I would get a copy every month after she was finished. I still love the magazine but haven’t read it in some time.
I love Wallace’s humor and his use of footnotes, but upon reading his work in my thirties (as opposed to my twenties) and being aware of his suicide, his work took on a much darker tone. He kind of reminds me of the Kurt Kobain of the literary world (whose work I also have a hard time enjoying in my adulthood).
I think there is an interesting parallel between the two. I was reading an old copy of Spin at Cheechako Taco a few nights ago while waiting for some burritos. The cover story was talking about Nevermind 20 years after its release. The article was a collection of brief commentaries by musicians that were contemporaries of Kobain when Nevermind was released. As I read the observations, I thought about my own experiences of the music and found myself identifying with the many accolades of Nevermind’s profundity, its status as a voice for a generation, and its timelessness. At the same time, I couldn’t help but recognize an acute pang of pain I felt in thinking about the album and Kobain’s life. I recalled that I had felt this pain before when thinking about Nevermind and I began to consider why, of all the Nirvana albums I own, I had sold Nevermind and had not listened to it since 1995.
I stopped listening to the album, not because it was played out, but because it was so clear to me that it symbolized the fame and public obsession with celebrity, that in my opinion consumed a young man’s life in a very disgusting manner. To me, it was our culture that consumed Kobain’s life.
Reading Wallace again, I felt it was the same phenomenon, minus the fame of rockstardom, that lead to his own demise. In a sense, Wallace’s circumstance is more tragic. I indentified so strongly with his observations in the mid-ninties. Though I did not immediately recall reading his article, he’s attitude represented a certain disposition and disdain for American culture that I strongly embraced, especially given that I spent half of each year abroad primarily in Europe at that time.
I feel the essay is a bit overwrought with detailed observations to come to the relatively simplistic conclusion that returning to a work-a-day reality is preferable to his week of “fun”. Nonetheless, his wit abounds and his interpretations are razor sharp, but they are fueled by nihilism. His lack of faith is evident (and by faith, I do not mean a religious faith or theism, but faith or hope in the face of defeat, or worse, oblivion). Without faith I could not have made the Olympic team. Without relinquishing my sense of control and desire I could not have achieved the physical and mental capacity to transcend the competitive and material pressures that are placed upon athletes to attain my own childhood dream. In a strange sense I had to give up my dream in order to realize it. I had to give up control to maintain it. I had to embrace paradox in order to visualize any semblance of certainty. I had to embrace faith.
I think this is where Wallace, Kobain, and in a larger sense, my generation have failed. Douglas Coupland aptly titled his follow-up to Generation X “Life After God.” Indeed, my generation is living a life after God. We rejected our national culture of pride and dominance and instead developed an inferiority complex fueled by low-self esteem and self-deprication. We adopted atheism and relativism intellectually but at the cost of diminishing our own spirit to the point that we have lost the ability to be inspired. We will never have another Kurt Kobain because we have lost our ability to believe in idols. He was the last true Rock Star and because he rejected the role and abandoned us we feel abandoned by God.
I imagine a lot of people will be having this same feeling today when the world does not end. But what I have come to realize by my own experiences in the 90s and now in adulthood, is that we were not forsaken. We just needed to believe in ourselves as true culture creators. In a sense, by watching Kobain and Wallace collapse under the weight of the world, we must realize that the job of changing our culture and society is now too great for one God, for one Icon, for one leader. We must all aspire to be as great as Kobain and Wallace in our art, in our work, but we must accept that recognition is not as important as creation. For our culture to survive and for our future to be light instead of the darkness that consumed Kobain and Wallace, we must all become idols while simultaneously being invisible. We must be nothing to be everything.
When we have the faith to do this we will transcend the barriers in our minds and in our hearts that divide us and disable us from creating a future culture, society, and environment that we will be proud to bequeath to our children.
Today, on the most anticipated date of the apocalypse in human history, perhaps the world of gods is ending and the world of humanity is just being born. I hope so. That’s why I get up everyday.
I was just trying to send someone an example of some production work I’ve done and found this video of Tides Aurora on YouTube. Nearly 40,000 views! It was kind of a neat moment for me. It’s pretty rewarding to know that 40,000 people have heard a record I produced. It’s been AGES since I’ve seen Donnie, Auggie, and Rob. I miss you guys and hope you are well…
Enjoy this trip down memory lane to 2005!