Go with a smile!

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Groundhog Day

I don’t know why but it seems that punks don’t age very well. Johnny Lydon had two great bands - Sex Pistols and Public Image Limited. But after that he struggled a bit. No members of the clash ever scaled the heights they used to scale after that band broke up. Husker Du broke up and Bob Mould made 1 more classic album with Sugar before regressing to the mean and mediocrity. Iggy Pop had a turbulent but productive 70s and you could say after he broke from Bowie he never made another truly great album. Kurt Cobain never saw the age of 30. Courtney Love stopped trying after the age of 30.

Elvis Costello managed to extend his career by branching off from punk. It’s telling that one of his greatest late career albums was that collaboration with Burt Bacharach, which is about as unpunk as you can get.

At some point, that element of shock and awe that you can summon up as a young punk will no longer conjure its special magic. You got to change the game.

The winds are blowing against me. Parents getting old. I’m getting old. Getting tired of my current life. Already got what I wanted. Still no music career. people getting tired of me. Computer conking off. Friends deserting me. Well at least vanishing from our lives.

The things I discovered at 20: a little bit of resilience. Sex. Jazz. Scholastic aptitude. Romantic love. Cooking. Living alone - Spiritual independence. Financial independence. Books.

The things that I cared about around 30: all going one by one. Hanging out at Borders. Long distance running. Beer. Coffee. Football fanhood. Songwriting. Computer programming. Blogging. A new life in a new country.

Then there is the rest of my life, and thinking about how I’m going to adapt when I grow older. the next step, maybe the one that I’ve not taken. A whole life of having to keep on giving until it hurts.

There were things that I cared about during my younger adulthood that I no longer care about. And I have to chuck them out. My life has to be more pared down.

I used to wait for things to happen, and there was a certain logic about it, because you think that when you grow older, you will get wiser and more capable. But once you’re in your 30s, you know that’s not going to happen. What you got is what you got. If you’re going to struggle at something now, it’s going to be something you will struggle at indefinitely.

I used to care about football, I don’t anymore.

I cared about leaving Singapore and coming to “Mexico” - I just wanted to move to the USA, and live my life here, but also I hoped that I would find something - well I don’t really know what. But it was a dormant desire for most of the time I was in Singapore and working for the “factory”, and became an active one once I decided to set things into motion. But that motivating factor also disappeared once I achieved my aim.

I cared about collecting music and movies, but there’s only so much you can consume, and before long, you’re surrounded by boxes and boxes of the stuff.

I cared about reading lots of books and collecting lots of random knowledge, but then I realised that as you get older, reading more books does not make you wiser. I’m wondering if life is a lot like surfing, if surfing wasn’t a matter of riding an endless series of waves that swell and crest.

I contrast the experience of blogging when I was young and blogging at this age. It’s incredibly been 15 years since I started blogging. When you’re younger, you see the small things very clearly. Your knowledge is more specific, although it is limited. While you’re clear about certain things, in the larger picture maybe you haven’t arrived at the truth. When you’re older, you’re probably nearer to the truth, although you could be further away from it, if you’re not careful.

When we were younger, we thought that knowledge acquisition was always good, because you learnt something for the future. This idea swelled and reached its zenith when I was in college, and my first aimless work years. I remember my 30th birthday, when I just took leave and wandered around Singapore and ended up reading at Borders for a few hours. I think about all the things that have happened since then - the long distance running, the grad degree, the changing of countries, writing 100 songs, the coding job, I think, not bad, but maybe those are things I should have done in my 20s?

We always think that things are moving forward. Every year, things are better. Maybe not. maybe I’m on some crazy treadmill where I’m going to learn something and then forget it again later on. Maybe the shitload of books I read when I was in my 20s don’t amount to anything, although I have to say that I’d rather have been a bookworm in my 20s than in any other stage in my life. But maybe I shouldn’t be reading so much anymore. I should be thinking about what would be more influential on my future and doing that.

The problem with the acquisition of knowledge, and this is something that becomes more apparent when you start to age, is that you don't remember everything forever. When you're young, you form the impression that you do. When you're 40, you're still moving forward, but you're no longer accelerating. And eventually there will be a time when you're not even moving forward. So it used to be the case that I could tell myself that I was building for the future, but in actual fact I wasn't really. In fact, there's really only one thing that's sorda permanent, and that one thing was alluded to in the movie "Coco". That is to make people have some reason to remember you.

The acquisition of knowledge has diminishing returns on investment. Once some semblance of a world view takes form in your head, you don’t have to do that much other than revise it every 10 years.

I cared about finding a girlfriend, but ………… well I watched “The Terminal”. It’s not that the Catherine Zeta Jones character isn’t well fleshed out, she’s no better or worse than the other secondary characters. But she’s always treated like a prize to be won. For a while, there was this attractive lady working in my office, and the thought did occur to me. But then she got fired pretty quickly (the guy who hired her got outed as a sexual predator and was himself fired a few years later, so I’m just wondering if he hired her because his dick was doing the talking instead.) She was a single mother… which is kinda unattractive because I’m barely up to dealing with women, let alone their kids.

So here’s the thing - in a way I still view women as prizes, but no matter how sexist you think that sounds, there is this element that a guy somehow has to be judged as being deserving of the lady. How do you get there? Maybe it would have been easier to get there if I had stayed in Singapore, and I can’t avoid the uncomfortable issue that I came here as some kind of an easy way out.

I cared about making music. I still write music from time to time. But I also understand why peoples’ outputs decline in quality as you get older. Something that Michael Stipe said was true: as you grow old, to a lesser and lesser extent, you directly experience the music, and instead you go by your memories of your younger self engaging with it.

I cared about getting along with my colleagues. During my first few years working with the “factory”, it just seemed so important for me to be part of the gang, even though I never thought I was truly one of them. But the friendships were real, and the good times were real. As time went on, the “gang” dissipated. There was always this notion that we were just passing by towards our next destination, that we were inevitably bound for bigger and better things, although it was not certain that we would end up in a better place.

I feel like I’m living out Groundhog day, and I will not escape my dreary existence unless I make some kind of a breakthrough. Maybe I came here half knowing that I had to change my lifestyle into something else and find that something else, because it just wouldn't do to carry on indulging in what I was doing in the past.


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