Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Meaningful Frowns, Meaningless Smiles: Drugs and Digital Photography



I’ve never wanted to do drugs. Every day life is trippy enough. My mind takes me to strange places whether it’s on a supplement or not. It’s hyper-aware and full of rotating fears, perversions, perplexities, colors and caffienations. It’s freaky enough just using my brain normally, there’s no way in hell I’m going to accentuate my thoughts into a heightened state of anything. No sir.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve even feared for my own psychological health. There were days in which I was sure that I was becoming a lunatic, hurtling towards death like never before. I’ve been telling people that I can’t die in Florida though. If the history books say “He died in the Spring of 2009 in Orlando, Florida,” I will be eternally embarrassed. I just know everybody in Heaven would have a field-day with that. I’d get so much shit from Kierkegaard.

A couple days ago, my head started to clear up. It’s nice. But I need to remember that feeling of mental instability. It made for some crazy dreams and bizarre pieces of writing (stuff that you, dear reader, will never see on this blog. I don’t want to give you nightmares, nor do I want to put myself in jail.). And even though it was a scary feeling, it was one that I appreciate having to go through.

For most of my life, I’ve said “Life is good.” I think I must have been an optimist for a while, because I just refused to believe that anyone had the right to complain. On Bob Dylan’s radio show, he played some version of Blue Christmas and introduced it by saying, “If you’re blue this Christmas, well, I’ve got the secret ingredient. You have to spend Christmas with someone who is worse off than you. I know you may feel down, but believe me, there is somebody out there who is doing even worse.” And while I agree with him, I am still at a stage where I don’t even want to be cheered up. If it were Christmas time, I wouldn’t even try to ditch my blues. I’d let them sink in as deep as possible, teaching me how naïve I was for ever uttering, “life is good.”

Naivety is a stage that everyone goes through. The folks who work at Fox News seem perpetually stuck there, but other than that, we all go through experiences that crush our naivety to bits. We realize that there’s good reason to frown sometimes. There is such a thing as meaningfulness, but there is also such a thing as meaninglessness. It’s not merely the existence of meaninglessness that gives us right to frown, but the cruel ping pong game that we play for our entire lives.

There are times when things make so much sense. We experience God. We experience love. We understand. We smile. And these are good things, but there is an all too real converse of this meaningfulness. When times are meaningless, we do not experience God. We experience hate. We are confused. We frown. But! The bizarre part of all this mess is how meaningfulness and meaninglessness need to balance each other out.

“We believe in nothing Lebowski,” shout the nihilists. They hope to live in a way that affirms only meaninglessness. They are half right.

“Life is good!” says a recently acne-free Dylan at age 16. I didn’t believe in meaninglessness. I believed that our Heavenly Father worked everything out for “good.” I was half right.

It’s one of the oldest clichés, but when we hear that life has its ups and downs, we hear wisdom. There are certainly down times, and the ultimate spit in the eye of God would be to pretend to smile in these times. He knows that we’re lying when we pretend to be happy. And I know what it’s like to truly believe that you’re happy when, in reality, you’re not. You don’t think anyone notices your feigning, you think that you’re a model of encouragement and hope to the outsiders. You think you’re helping the hopeless. But believe me, once you’ve let go of your pride and experienced pain, you can spot the fakers in an instant.

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To medicate is to mediate. If somebody is somehow mediating by dropping acid, well great. I’m glad to hear it. But, I dunno. I’m pretty sure that if you’re dropping acid, you’re not mediating. Pretty sure.

Everything I do is an attempt to mediate. If I’m up, I won’t count on getting higher, I’ll assume to come down a little bit. If I’m down, I won’t stay there. I don’t want to revel in meaninglessness just as much as I don’t want to blind myself with meaningfulness. Drugs would be too easy. And in a sense, they’d be too unnatural. Life has its ups and downs, I think I can count on it. Taking matters into my own hands just doesn’t strike my fancy.

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What all this comes down to is photography. Can we PLEASE stop posing for pictures? Sure, it was fun to have this technology back in the Civil War days, but even those poor chaps had the good sense to not fake a smile during such a dreadful time.

Everyone has a digital camera, and that’s great. We’re a wealthy nation. But I think it’s about time we abandoned the concept of “smile for the camera!” Stop looking at the lens. If somebody is taking a picture of you, make sure your shoelace is tied. Check your fly.

The only time looking at a camera should be allowed is at those photo huts at Six Flags where they let you dress up like it’s the Wild West and set the color tint to sepia. But that’s only because it’s homage to the early days of photography. We’re way past that with the digital era though. Don’t look in the lens anymore, stop posing, stop faking a smile. It’s lame.

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