Saturday, October 18, 2008

I'm not a fan of Biographies

The other day I was having a conversation with an individual about biographies and Buddhism; wonderful pairing I know. In the process was revealed something about myself relative to my taste in books; which is, I have no love for biographies. I never gave it much thought until after I teased him (this individual) a little bit on a couple of books he had read.

Off hand I know one was on Malcolm X, Jack Keroack, and another about a guy who was the first to climb the tallest mountains in the world. I remember saying, “eh, big deal, I’m not big on those sorts of books.” I didn’t insult him as we know each other well enough; however on my ride home from work that day (this conversation was at work) I was bothered by the whole situation. “What’s wrong with bio’s?”

So last night I had a few beers, sat in my garage, puffed on a cigar or two and thought about it.
“What’s wrong with bio’s?”

Glamour is the first thing that came to mind; glamour, bio’s are all about glamour (beer #1 down). You take a person who did something “great” and you write a book about it. We all read it and become inspired because we have such boring and uneventful little lives.

At the core, I think (beer #2) we all have the same basic set of emotions, we all feel, or have the potential to feel, the same way. Which isn’t to suggest that we do feel the same way (at any given time), or even want to feel the same way. Put one man at the open door of an airplane with a parachute on his back and serotonin is immediately released into his system; he’s scared shitless. On the other hand take a completely other individual and put him in that same situation and dopamine is released; he’s about to experience an adrenalin rush which is, in his case, his drug. In the same way one man feels lust and passion in the arms of another woman – yet another the same way in the arms of another man. Certainly we’d like to think that, relative to objectivity, we should all feel the same way. Men should only love other women, jumping out of planes is a rush, tickling makes me laugh, stake done medium rare is succulent and a flavor sensation, God is in the Bible, fun is a day at the park, boring is reading a book, asshole is my neighbor. But these things never seem to pan out do they….. As already stated, my wife say’s I like “ghetto food”, this is true.

(beer #3, lets have a cigar, “Backwoods” are my favorite)
I imagine if someone were to write a biography on Robert Pirsig it’d (as Pirsig would say) “be as dull a ditch water”. Of course objectively, he didn’t really do anything all that “great”. Nonetheless though, he did climb mountains, however the objective nature of this fact can never be shown in some spine tingling bio about climbing mountains, or in the personal struggles over a civil rights movement, or in the misadventures of some beat nicks travel across the United States. The mountain he climber of course, was in his head, it was rationality itself; the modern day dogma of human thinking.

There isn’t anything glamorous about me. Although I’d surely say I have the same obsessions and struggle along the same roads as anyone who has seemingly done something “great”; that fact goes for anyone in life. It just so happens, or so it seems, that in order to achieve a specific state of mind from individual to individual requires varying degrees of objective involvement. We call people great who’s struggle involves everything that surrounds them; a mountain, a movement, a war. If that struggle involves the lively hood of others, even more-so the magnitude of they’re greatness. To me this shows the selfishness of human kind in that, you’re not great (considered great) unless you benefited me. Is greatness a factor of utility?

That all sounded somewhat bitter (which was intentional), but not a reflection of how I feel about it. The point is simply that, no matter the objective setting of man, the human struggle is the same. Whether you’re scaling the side of a mountain, casting a jig onto a rock pile, replacing an old carburetor, playing with your kids, watching TV, whatever the case may be; we’re all climbing a mountain. Although sure enough many choose to camp in the foothills; this is another problem entirely.

Perhaps though, the image of a man risking his life is inspiring enough to get some off the foothills of life. Perhaps objective struggle, objective suffering, is what some people need to move they’re sole from the lost slumbers of evey-day-ness. Perhaps I’m being unfair, or perhaps I’m simply saying, “I prefer peanutbutter and jelly over ham and cheese.”

(beer #4, that usually does it for me)
Glamour, it doesn’t inspire me, it doesn’t move me; that’s just the way it is. I suppose I’m inspired by the mundane. If you can’t find life in the mundane, the Buddha on the park bench watching your kids, then perhaps there isn’t any life to be found. In this way Camus was perhaps famously correct in saying that the only serious philosophical question is whether or not to commit suicide. If you’re not asking yourself that question then you know you’re having fun, then you found the Buddha in your quest for reason, or in your work, or in your play, and he was smiling. Don’t be fooled by the seriousness of philosophical questions, there isn’t anything serious about them. The seriousness exists, like the side of a plane, to give one that rush, to let one know he’s still alive and that that is life’s purpose.

Off track here, but on a side note:
It was said to me relative to my philosophical inquiries, “you’re just doing this to make life more interesting.”
EXACTLY! Which is the same reason people climb mountains, the same reason why people tinker in garage, and the same reason why people start movements. Call it interesting, call it purpose, call it meaning, it’s fun, even when you hurt for it. Surely we need "great" people, and also a measure of greatness that isn't necessarliy a reflection of objectivity - the ability to recognize greatness as it simply sits under a tree.

if you think bio’s are cool, read em’. I’m not a fan.

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