There is such an obsession in society—and headlines—with who “crushed” someone, or “destroyed” them, or “owned” them. Says a lot about us without meaning to.
I am scheduled for this vaccine. I wasn't going to get it, but CVS texted me today, saying I could walk in, so figured might as well.
Walked sixteen miles. Ran the Boston College stairs ten times. The real vaccines, for which the ampule is labeled, "Zulu warrior."
My wind was good today on the stairs. The Alyosha-style haircut helps, and instead of being layered up like usual, I wore only a T-shirt and shorts though I did leave at 6 AM and it was cooler. I was initially not recognized by Anthony of Anthony's.
I came up with a major story in my head as I walked and wrote most of it. Down to the first sentence. The last. The dialogue. Turns of phrase. Metaphors. Similes. It's about race in America. And more. Then I came up with another one.
As I was walking today after my stair workout, drenched in sweat, I texted this to someone: "You know what I'd love more than anything right now? To be sweaty like this. Rich. Known everywhere for my work. Beloved. Knowing I was making the impact on the world I believe I can uniquely make. And walking back home to my house in Rockport after a workout like this, to spend the day alone, in peace, in my beautiful home, listening to amazing music, reading great literature, watching awesome films, watching playoff hockey. That feeling, that reality, would be heaven to me. Not exposed to anyone. No evil, abusive people in my life, no abusive family members, no publishing bigots who control a single fucking thing in my life. That is what heaven is like to me. Knowing where I stand and that I arrived where I wanted to arrive. Knowing if I write the masterpiece tomorrow it gets seen by a lot of people. Smelling the cut grass as I walked, and the brine, my own sweat because I was healthy and worked hard even in something like this, the Saturday morning workout. Whereas what I'm in now is worse than hell could possibly be. If and when I have that walk back to my house that I just described, I think that would or will be the happiest a human being has ever been. Just me walking in my sweat. And that's my day. That's what it is."
This is Lefty Grove's Diamond Stars card from the mid-1930s. Lefty Grove is probably the fourth best pitcher ever behind some order of Walter Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Christy Mathewson. His Diamond Stars card--I started collecting Diamond Stars a long time ago, and though I have not added any in recent years, one of my plans, as soon as I get out of this hell, is to complete the set--is the hardest card in said set to find in good condition. Why is that? Because it was the #1 card. Cards have numbers on the back. What happened was kids would put their cards in piles by number, and then secure them with rubber bands. So the first card would take the most wear. The card is sufficiently striking that one is on display at the Met.
This is Massive Attack's "Safe From Harm." Useful thought. Useful reminder.
I know some people who could know certain truths. People do not like truth. Many are so weak, and so quick to anger, so consumed by anger, and lacking any strength and direction to assess what needs fixing, and then work to fix, that you could never speak to them about truth. You'd have better luck conversing with an insane bat. There is no word you can say or write, no deed you can do, that could ever break through that sickness and get to them as something they'd understand. Because to understand, they'd have to be able to look and reach within and make admittances and changes. A part of them would have to start over. It is easier for them to hate. Because they know they cannot start a part of themselves over. What they are--no matter how base or evil--is their ride or die. People are not strong enough to absorb a blow. Truth is often a blow. Growth is work. It requires a degree of bravery. Deep feeling. Often the feeling of pain. An unsettled feeling. It can be a hopeless feeling. That's part of the work. Dealing in that pain. That doubt. People are seldom brave. How many brave people have I known in my life? The answer may be zero. I've known people who were not cowards. But this is different. I know two people who are similar in many ways. One is toxicity incarnate riddled with rage. They are more anger than human. No truth could penetrate their walls because they would never allow it. They've failed in ways they can't face. In theory they could address these things, but in reality they never could. The person who is quite similar to them in who they are, and the make-up of their life, differs in one vital way: they are kind. They are not cruel. Nor laden with wrath. They don't seek to hurt. To kill, even. Now, this person could know certain truths. But they wouldn't. They wouldn't elect to pursue the process of cognition. Because that's what it is--a process. Like becoming stronger by lifting weights. Or running stairs, to put it in my terms. You don't just start running 2600 stairs. You have to dig in and work at it. Build it up over time. It's a process. You have to engage the process. It doesn't just happen, just as, for most people, things don't just come to them. I spoke to someone else about this second person. They said, "Well, it's about what you'd expect from them, right? It is what it is." This was true. But it's also sad. You'd like to expect more, when the standards are already so low, and more is possible. But more will also probably never happen. And you go about life, and have a perfunctory relationship with them that they are unlikely to know you are having with them. How do you respect them? How do you trust them? How do you truly count on them?
The most pernicious, persistent forms of discrimination in the world now have nothing to do with skin color. They have to do with what happens when a person thinks someone is smarter than they are. More talented. More legitimate. Harder working. More productive. The bigger the gap in those areas between one person and another, the greater the likelihood of discrimination, and the greater the degree. Mediocrity is the new base color that overrides all actual skin colors. That is why mediocrity is in, and mediocrity is revered. Why mediocrity drives everything now. Mediocrity is what makes people comfortable in their own skin.
Because not only are they mediocre, they are often too scared, too lacking in confidence, in faith, in purpose, in drive, to try to become something else. They need to see mediocrity in others in order to exist within themselves with less shame, guilt, knowledge of the truth of what they are and how simple and limiting it is. How scared they are. There is no form of discrimination anywhere close to what the person of extreme brilliance, extreme legitimacy, extreme purpose, extreme productivity, faces day in, day out. There never has been. They are the ultimate pariah. The greater they are in what they are, the greater the need to shun them. They are rendered prisoners, in their lonely cells, entirely because of their virtues, which is one hell of a hell and mind fuck.
The result is that people who might not have been mediocre become mediocre by never striving, and given that everyone around them is, and most people become their environment. And because this is how to avoid discrimination themselves, which is subconsciously noted and absorbed. And to have a life. Not a real life. But a fake life. Which is all that most people have. This person who is discriminated because of these factors is not from a race, per se, so they won't have a community. They won't have an entire race to whom they can turn and say, "this is awful what is happening to us. What can we do?"
No one will say their lives matter. They can't make a home in that community that does not exist, build their business in that community, work in tandem with the members of that community to achieve justice. No one faces a level of discrimination like this person. And if anyone had to live their life for a week, they'd trade it in a million times over to go back to what they thought was their oppressed state, now knowing they don't have a bloody clue what it means to be truly oppressed. They can't monetize that oppression. No one cares, no one wants any justice for that person. They are absolutely fucked, unless they find some heroic, likely historic way to save themselves. A way that goes against the entire grain of how society is now set up, and of whom that grain is comprised. Which is not a color thing. It's a mediocrity thing. An insincerity thing. A soulless hustle thing. A pose thing. A pretend victim thing. A fear thing. A say-nothing-or-risk-your-empty-well being thing. You don't have a Harlem for your community. You don't have a Highland Park, Illinois. Or anything in between. You have yourself, and that's pretty much it.
And there is virtually no one who will want you to succeed or know equitable treatment. Because what you have coming to you is beyond what others have coming to them. And though you earned it, and deserved it, that makes them feel like shit, and they'd rather look after their own. Their mediocre own. And their mediocre hide--and that means their feelings, their doubts, their fears, all of which you heighten to an unbearable degree for them.
That's your discrimination right now. It just doesn't impact that many people. Because this is the minority of minorities.
I came up with this big Pink Floyd feature idea for next year. It'd have to be someone who pays decently or it's not worth doing. But the feature would be about the birth of Dark Side of the Moon, which had a unique gestation. It was figured out live, on stage, in England in January and February 1972. (Recordings of which exist and which I have.) The album didn't come out until over a year later. I can't think of any other record that was made this way, let alone a record so strongly thought of as a purely studio creation. But Dark Side was a rock and roll record before it was anything else, worked out live on stage. I got a letter the other day from a guy who wanted to read a Dylan piece of mine in Rolling Stone. I guess it's behind a paywall? I have no idea. This guy lit Woodstock in 1969, and Pink Floyd's first US tour, among many other notable things.
I sent out the proposal for The Sounds on Dust: Coming Alive to Joy Division to someone.