Monday, January 29, 2007

the smartish few

“Throw yourself into whatever it turns out you’re good at.” That’s what your old man used to tell you with a half-read newspaper open in his lap, and one hand on the television remote, click, click, clicking. An ever present, teetering stack of dog-eared political books rested on the table beside him keeping company with a tottering pile of thick-covered poetry compilations. “You find one thing,” he said, “one thing you’re good at, and you stick with it. Go wherever your passions take you.”

So you did. No-one can argue that. You found you were really good at trying, so you dedicated yourself to that for awhile, trying to make it on your own in the worn out flats of deserted cities around the country, working in the soul-sucking company of better men that you. You tried and you tried. You tried so hard that you very nearly lost your mind. Suffered a collapse of sorts. Committed yourself. Got better.

You then discovered a knack for school, and decided to stay there for a time, haunting the halls of that dusty, echoing sepulchre, listening and learning, memorising and reciting. Stayed there perhaps a little too long with your old man’s words ringing in your ears. “A man’s got to stick with something,” he said. And you tried. God, how you tried. Kept residence in the crypt for so long that you began taking on the lifeless appearance of your fellows. Speaking the words of men long dead. Thinking the thoughts of those same. Writing their words. Got a couple nice pieces of paper for your trouble, and found yourself suddenly outside in the land of the living, blinking in a too bright sun. Drenched in its life giving light.

So now you’ve gone and immersed yourself in your work, accepting new positions, taking more money, doing less work, and really shooting up to the top or somewhere. Double cuffed shirts, platinum cuff links, and seven-fold ties – yes, you sure have become a reasonable facsimile of a successful man. Heads turns when you walk down the street and everyone now knows that you are, indeed, a man on his way up.

And your old man’s so proud. “You’ve really made something of yourself, my boy,” he says, clicking that television remote with one hand, absently leafing through a literary journal with the other. “You’ve really become someone. Just have to stick with it, right?”

And his tired eyes close just for a moment, and for that moment he is asleep and you’re alone with only an idea of a man before you. Then his eyes flicker open and his lips move once more. “Yes, my boy, that’s all a man’s got to do,” he mutters, “find something he’s good at and stick with it. You’ll find happiness and purpose there on that path to becoming one of the smartish few.”

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