Mar 21, 2011

Changing the Flat Aspire

I had a recent conversation with a friend regarding fiction and non-fiction, and we discussed the concept of how each category of book defines and treats the concept of honesty. Their assertion was that fiction treated honesty with a lie - wrapping all truth in metaphor and analogy, like saying "the sky is blue" by actually describing it as if it were brown. My point was that because non-fiction books only talk about the truth, they can be biased by only painting a partial picture of the truth; focusing it through the director's lens, so to speak, and only using those scenes or details which support the writer's objective. I'll grant that the debate was mostly facetious, but in the midst of it all, we stumbled upon a clever observation: that one of the most consistently honest of all books ends up being our high school yearbooks.

At the time, we laughed about it, but it stuck with me. Because, in its own way, the high school yearbook is really just a big wish, a terrible lie. There we are, forever locked in what in many cases would now be regarded as the worst of all fashion decisions, immortalized in the frozen carbonite of one of the most social awkward stages of our lives, our smiles beaming of optimism and aspiration, but our eyes often betraying our deepest fears.

High school may have been many things, but honesty might not have been one of them; although, looking closely at the lies we told ourselves, or the ones in which we chose to believe, we were at least the most sincere about our self-deceptions. We believed it would be the most significant time of our lives, it would be filled with cherished memories, we believed it would determine the paths of our respective tales of success or failure. And yet, I suspect we knew on some level that it wouldn't be any of those things. We knew that with pimples and bad hair, the cards were stacked against us from the outset. Oh, certainly we did the best we could. In some cases, we owned our awkward attempts at social redemption, struggling for the Breakfast Club moments that could propel our sense of self up and over the challenges of our teen years, and some did a fine job of coming to terms with the reality of it all.

Many did not.

The reality didn't really start setting in until later. Now, though, many years later, I look back on it and don't wonder why I didn't know better, but rather how I'll feel when looking back on myself now. You know, in the now when I feel like I understand the me of twenty+ years ago and think I understand myself from then better than I did then.

But if nothing else, our old yearbooks serve as an intriguing time capsule for not just the people we thought we were (and hoped we really might become), but exposed our sense of the definitions of the future. How many of the kids who were most popular in school were selected as Most Likely To Succeed? I think I got "Most Unique" - - which I concede is not really what most kids in my high school would have wanted, but I wore it as something of a badge of honor in that I never really did feel comfortable on the path most traveled. But that's a whole other story, and not even the point of what I was feeling today.

I was looking through my twitter feed today, and just looking at some of the people I follow and who follow me back, and, it's no big surprise that I follow a lot of authors - I'd follow more if Twitter would let me! - and, if you don't already know this, there are some amazing, fantastic and supremely talented authors out there, not getting the recognition they deserve. And strangely enough, a lot of them keep using the term "aspiring author" or "aspiring writer".


I see that word a lot, and yet, I don't think I ever truly analyzed its meaning or historical evolution. So, let's examine it.

If you're not deeply familiar with the definition, it's like Inspiring (which means to breathe in) and Expire (to breathe out) but means the act of breathing. Literally, that's what it means, To Breathe. Now, along the way, it got equated to more of a panting, exerted breathing, and became synonymous with desire - - the kind of exertions... well, you get the idea.

So it eventually took on an applied definition of more that sort of an empassioned, generally focused sort of desire with which we equate it today. But I fear it's being used, perhaps, too much. Yes, I might just be thinking that because I've seen it a lot, but... well, okay, it's not really a big deal.

I guess the deal is that I don't want to just aspire anymore. My friend Jen wrote the other day how thrilled she was to realize that she was no longer looking forward to living her dream, but that she was living it. That's the goal, isn't it?

It got me thinking. See, as much as I've tried (lol - I almost wrote "aspired" there. Oh sweet irony!) to pursue a more taoist mental path, I've begun to see how I have still projected much of my joy onto a conditional set of parameters. You know the deal, where you tell yourself "I'll be happy when..." And though I've been mostly happy with life, I keep leaving this little bit of "extra" happiness for when I'm able to dedicate myself completely to writing and publishing, etc.

It's weird, but looking at that last sentence, I can't decide which thing I find more incorrect. How much of that is accurate, versus how much is only accurate based on how inaccurate it is? It's like, back when the world believed that the earth was flat, they were essentially, completely wrong - - - but that misconception tells us so much about the truth of the world at that time.

Keeping all that in mind, it does point out a very real truth: that I can never place too much faith on my present perceptions. The lens is always biased, as they say. But, in the end, that will have to be enough. Rather than turn the lens, I focus on letting the world happen; letting me happen, whatever that will mean. And while I'm still the Captain of my vessel, I will work with the wind, the great and breathing tides of the universe. But even while I respect and accept the wind and tides, I remain at the helm, keeping my eyes fixed on the constellations and the seas ahead.

Aspiration isn't a bad thing - - we must have a passion for the life we lead - - but the danger comes when we are passion without focus - a sail with no rudder, or a rudder with no sail.

And, trust me, the only person I'm preaching at today.... is me.

Good morning, my friends. Let's get something wonderful done today.

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