T for Tom

The Gross Monotony of it All

Posted in Uncategorized by johnsontoms on January 17, 2011

The gross monotony of it all caught me quite by surprise the other night, and not for the best of reasons.  Less than 48 hours out from my ship date to the United States Army, I found, as previously thought, that the best way for me to spend my final hours would be with those I knew and love best: my friends in Austin, the ones with whom I spent my formative years and the ones for whom I owe most of my life.  As it were everything went according to planned aside from the rain and for their presence at my going-away party I cannot thank them enough.  In no small way I learned clearly that the ones who care about the direction of my life were there; sadly, many that I thought were in that group were not present.  That of course is a discussion for another time.

But as I type the remainder of this argument I want first to disclaim anything here – I mean this in no way as an indictment of any one person’s life – for these are the ways that I see the world, and I by no means am an arbiter of how to live; we all have to find out what works for ourselves.

The party, however, started early and went late into the night.  A typical person of our post-collegiate age living in Austin would love it and fit right in. But there I was – somewhere around midnight, tossing plastic ping pong balls into plastic cups in a competitive manner, laughing, drinking, having fun, or so they say. In that moment, though, I realized just exactly what we’re all missing: that each moment of our life is an exact indictment of who we are…

…And for all you who are lonely, sad, lost, depressed, or searching, I ask then why you continue to behave in a way that does not achieve the ends you seek?

I see all around me people in their late 20’s (an age appropriately determined through social and religious mores to establish our future identity) drinking, carousing, and in no way accomplishing or behaving in any way that would achieve their goals.  Now, I for one do not necessarily agree with marriage, relationships, and jobs as they currently exist or even believe that these things are worth our time and expense, but that’s not important to the point. The people who do believe in marriage, relationships, and jobs are still drinking, still carousing, and still not doing anything to achieve those ends.

If you are lonely, why then do you continue to go downtown looking for a one-night stand, something surely anyone would agree could not lead to a lasting relationship?

If you are sad, why then do you continue to stay indoors whittling away the hours watching television and not spent outside where you could fulfill yourself physically and conceivably make friends?

If you are discontent, why then do you continue to work at a dead-end job where you hate your boss, despise your coworkers, and go home to get drunk due to stress?

The most salient point I learned this past spring while in the company of a certain woman, who in her late 20’s was serving tables at a steakhouse and skipping classes she was enrolled in, would answer the question “What’s next?” with “Something will come along.”  I’d bet money that everyone has heard the phrase “something will come along” more times than we can bear and don’t even think of it’s significance to its literal meaning anymore.  Frankly, it’s offensive – to think that something will just “come along” implies that good things are always ahead, and it removes from blame the most important facet of this world: we have only ourselves to motivate and blame for any action, good or bad.

If you don’t like your job, GET A NEW ONE NOW.

If you aren’t happy in your relationship in any way, GET OUT OF IT NOW.

If you aren’t making good grades, START TAKING CLASS SERIOUSLY NOW.

If you don’t like your surroundings, MOVE AWAY NOW.

The sheer notion that we aren’t responsible for where we are is despicable.  Action is the only true way to improvement, because experience is the only way to wisdom and experience is bore through activity.  Do not watch your life pass before you do exactly what you want, be it any of the things I have mentioned.

For myself, it was joining the Army.  The Army itself was not my immediate and most front goal – changing who I was in a drastic and violent way, was.  I was broke – unemployed.  I was lonely – sleeping around.  I was tired – stuck in a rut.  And I was not proud of who I was – the Army would make a man out of me.  To reinforce these points, I must illustrate that we cannot find a fix-all.

I visited a good friend of mine in Phoenix last week.  It was for all intents and purposes a great thrill to see her again.  But what touched me most was that both she and her boyfriend were, in the six months since my enlistment, the first persons to ask me the question that I was avoiding myself: How could I possibly give my life to a cause I cannot support?  That’s to say, how can I become a weapon of death in a war of oppression? The answer is in no way simple, and I point most notably to Book I of Plato’s The Republic.  In it, Socrates has a dialogue with Polemarchus about the nature and structure of justice, and it’s uses when applied to both the individual and the individual’s country.  Here, the most important question is, should one serve himself through pursuing the mind or should one strengthen his soul through service to country?  And though I cannot contrive a singular answer to the question, my service in the Army will attain both goals – by serving the country, I am serving myself.  So back to the question posed by my friends: how could I give my life to a cause I cannot support? Because I was disgusted with myself.  Plain and simple.  I haven’t been as happy as I am since enlisting in a long, long time.  And without going into to expansive detail, the argument here comes full circle – I wasn’t happy, so I changed myself violently and forever.

So I leave with this implicit directive: do something violent in your life to achieve any goal.  Without violent and immediate change, we cannot expect anything to improve or worsen, and surely cannot spend our time waiting for “something to come along.”  The time of our life is not a period of years, but each minute that we’re alive.  Do not spend the entirety of your life attempting to recreate certain moments.

If you want love, stop getting drunk every night.

If you want money, start working with vicious zeal.

If you want happiness, start reading more.

If you want success, practice your craft without abandon.

It is only through action that any end, better or worse, can be possessed.  Because if you don’t use caution, the gross monotony of it all will consume you.